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Sunday, January 10, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.01.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month  january 07, edition 000397, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul


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





  1. GOOD START TO 2010








  6. '3 Idiots' and the morality of numbers - Shamnad Basheer























































Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's coming visit to New Delhi — her first since she assumed office in December 2008 — will be a defining one for the two neighbours. The fact that bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh had ebbed during the previous BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami regime is no secret. Therefore, with a friendly Government back in power in Dhaka, Sheikh Hasina's visit — which commences on January 11 — will provide an excellent opportunity to put India-Bangladesh relations back on track. The signs over the last several months have been most encouraging. After putting down the mutiny by some personnel of Bangladesh Rifles — it is well-known that the paramilitary force had been infiltrated by Islamists during the years when the BNP-Jamaat alliance was in power — in February last year, the Awami League Government got down to dismantling the bases of anti-India terrorist and separatist groups such as the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and ULFA that had been set up during the tenure of the previous Government. The handing over of top ULFA leaders such as Arabinda Rajkhowa, Sasha Choudhury and Chitraban Hazarika to India is proof of Sheikh Hasina's determination not to allow Bangladeshi soil to be used by terrorist groups. Dhaka is keen to cooperate with New Delhi in combating terrorism in the region; hopefully the issue will figure prominently in the discussions between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina.

The idea is to not only enhance bilateral relations but to optimise ties to the maximum extent possible. This will require flexibility and imagination on both sides. For example, another issue that is likely to come up for discussion is access to land transit routes. India wants Bangladesh to provide transit facilities for Indian goods for the North-East. Similarly, Bangladesh wants India to provide reciprocal transit facilities for trade with Nepal and Bhutan. A mutually beneficial arrangement can be worked out if both sides are willing to overcome what are essentially minor problems. It is welcome that the New Delhi has agreed to extend credit worth Rs 2,300 crore to Dhaka to boost infrastructure. Plans are also being drawn up for India to supply Bangladesh with electricity as well as get into significant partnership projects in the power sector. Further strengthening ties is the news that Bharti Airtel will be acquiring 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom, Bangladesh's fourth largest mobile phone company. Terrestrial telephone infrastructure in Bangladesh has limited reach. It is because of this that the number of mobile phone subscribers in that country has seen an exponential rise in the last few years, increasing from two lakh in 2001 to 5.1 crore in October 2009. Analysts predict that the telecom sector will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years. This makes the Bharti Airtel-Warid deal extremely significant because experience shows that countries which have close economic relations also tend to develop cordial ties on other fronts too.

Nonetheless, cooperation cannot, and should not, be seen to be one-sided. Neither should it come across as charity. This is something that Dhaka is particularly sensitive about and, therefore, New Delhi would do well to keep the fact in mind. For, there is a feeling of apprehension that Bangladesh has when it comes to dealing with its larger neighbour. There are vested interests in Dhaka that have successfully exploited this feeling to their advantage in the past. Thus, every effort must be made to ensure that the twin principles of equality and mutual benefit become the bedrock of India-Bangladesh relations.






After spending the first year of his presidency toeing the line of least resistance to Islamist terrorism and pretending that jihadis no longer pose a threat to America, apart from pitilessly mocking at his predecessor for putting in place a tough anti-terror regime, President Barack Obama really has no reason to berate US intelligence and security agencies for what he has rather colourfully described as a "screw-up" which almost resulted in an airliner being brought down by a bomber over Detroit on Christmas Day. Obviously Mr Obama is now beginning to realise that long sermons peppered with historical inaccuracies delivered from Cairo and Istanbul may fetch him praise in Arab palaces but has done little to placate Islamists in Arab streets (and in Muslim countries) who still see America as a legitimate target and Americans as villains worthy of severe punishment. This has nothing to do with either manufactured grievances or imagined victimhood — the failed bomber proves why profiling of jihadis is virtually impossible — but the ideology of hate which Al Qaeda continues to preach and which still finds sufficient adherence among the Muslim masses around the world; India is no exception. The response to such ideologically-motivated war cannot be either nuanced or soft; it has to be, more often than not, militarily crude. Of course, there shall be collateral damage but an asymmetric war cannot be won without factoring in undesirable losses, nor can a distinction be made between 'good' terrorists and 'bad' terrorists. Mr George W Bush understood this simple fact and in retrospect, his critics, we can be sure, must be wondering whether they 'misunderstimated' him.

Be that as it may, it is amusing to learn that Mr Obama, livid with rage at being let down by intelligence and security agencies, has publicly rebuked them for failing to analyse and leverage available information. According to him, America's intelligence and security system has "failed in a potentially disastrous way", something which he is loath to accept and tolerate. "We dodged a bullet but just barely. It was averted by brave individuals not because the system worked," he told officials whom he had summoned for a meeting at the White House. While it is for the American agencies to respond to the tongue-lashing they have received from their President, it would not be out of place to suggest that perhaps Mr Obama should consider the debilitating impact his Administration's wavering, wobbling policies to deal with global jihad and counter the offensive by adherents of Al Qaeda's obnoxious ideology (which inspires the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan) have had on those who are supposed to be on the frontline in the war on terror. Frankly, the blame lies with the political leadership and not those who take their cue from politicians in power.



            THE PIONEER



New Delhi will be welcoming Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as its first state guest of this decade. Overcoming formidable hurdles, Sheikh Hasina's Awami League swept to a decisive electoral victory in December 2008, winning 230 seats and securing a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Ever since she was sworn in, Sheikh Hasina has not only faced challenges from Right-wing parties including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khaleda Zia, but also the Pakistani-Saudi assisted fundamentalists of the Jamaat-e-Islami, which unashamedly backed the occupying Pakistani Army during the 1971 freedom struggle. This grouping was reinforced by radical Islamic groups like the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh and the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami, which also enjoy Pakistani/Saudi backing. All these groups are united in undermining efforts to improve relations with India.

The greatest challenge that Sheikh Hasina overcame in her first year was the mutiny by the paramilitary Bangladesh Rifles which erupted on February 25, 2008, at its headquarters in Pilkhana and soon spread across the country to 12 other locations. The mutineers killed their chief, Maj-Gen Shakil Ahmed, and his wife, apart from dozens of others. Sheikh Hasina acted deftly in getting a large number of the mutineers to surrender and then permitted the Army to crack down on the rest, using tanks and heavy weapons. While the mutineers had some genuine grievances, it soon became apparent that outsiders from the BNP and JeI were actively involved in fomenting the unrest.

India assisted the Bangladeshi effort by immediately sealing its border and forcing back mutineers attempting to cross over. Reflecting the anger of the Army in Bangladesh, the new Director-General of Bangladesh Rifles Maj-Gen Moinul Islam referred to the mutiny as a "most heinous crime". He added that what transpired reminded him of "the liberation war of 1971". Referring to Pakistan and its friends in the BNP and JeI, Maj-Gen Islam noted that "external enemies still exist" for Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina has, thereafter, acted decisively to force the surrender of ULFA leader Arabindo Rajkhowa, its deputy military commander Raju Barua and others operating from safe havens in Bangladesh. It has been made clear to north-eastern separatist groups that they can no longer consider Bangladesh a safe haven. She has also cracked down on the JMB and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and acted to pre-empt cross-border attacks on India and on the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.

Sheikh Hasina is facing domestic criticism, spearheaded by the BNP and the JeI, for allegedly having sold out to India. She has faced assassination attempts by pro-BNP/JeI Islamists during her years in the Opposition. She will have to show that relations with India are producing tangible benefits for Bangladesh and that long-pending differences are moving towards resolution.

Under the 1974 Indira-Mujib Agreement, India is required to return around 111 enclaves to Bangladesh and in return gets 51 enclaves. It took us 18 years to lease a small corridor of land near Tin Bigha to Bangladesh, which we were required to do under the 1974 agreement. Barely 6.5 km out of the 4,096 km land border remains un-demarcated. Measures need to be agreed upon so that the border is expeditiously demarcated.

Moreover, a political consensus needs to be built in West Bengal to resolve the remaining issues of "adverse possessions" and enclaves, which have bedevilled relations through the past four decades. If the Union Government could get the assistance of the then West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu in the 1990s to resolve the vexed Farakka issue, there is no reason why a similar effort cannot be undertaken now to deal with the boundary issue.

There was substantial progress achieved in moving forward on a number of issues when Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni visited India in September 2008. The most crucial issue for India is 'connectivity', which would involve developing road, rail and river communications facilities in Bangladesh, for promoting access to our north-eastern States. India should invest in the development of the Chittagong and Mongia ports in Bangladesh and agree to provide access for goods from Nepal and Bhutan to these ports.

This could be coupled with approaches to Bhutan for a joint study of projects to augment river water flows. India would also be well-advised to provide assistance soon for the Akhaura-Agartala rail link and undertake action to meet Bangladesh's immediate requirements by sale of 300 MW of power. Indian investment in the development of road, rail and port infrastructure in Bangladesh should be seen in that country to be mutually beneficial.

While Bangladesh has agreed to provide access to Ashuganj Port for the Palatana Power Project in Tripura, there should be concerted efforts to counter propaganda by the BNP against the construction of the Tipaimukh dam across Barak in Assam. Contrary to malicious propaganda by Begum Zia's supporters, even experts in Bangladesh agree that this project will actually help in flood control, in augmenting lean season flows and assist in de-silting within Bangladesh. The BNP propaganda is motivated, considering that experts in Begum Zia's Government, who were kept informed about the project in 2003 and 2005, raised no objections when the party was in power.

Another emotive issue in Bangladesh is the sharing of Teesta waters. Bangladesh has shown a measure of realism by agreeing to 'Joint Hydrological Observations' so that future actions are taken on the basis of realities and not unfounded fears. We should devise mechanisms to address mutual concerns on this issue, as we did in resolving the Farakka tangle.

Sections of the Bangladeshi Army and its intelligence apparatus have been traditionally anti-Indian and supportive of the BNP and JeI. There appears to have been some change in this mindset in the aftermath of the BDR mutiny. New Delhi would do well to strengthen military ties with Bangladesh and encourage greater participation by the Bangladeshi Army in international peace-keeping, which will encourage them to avoid Bonapartist ambitions.

Past experience shows that the political mood in Bangladesh can be volatile and one could well see a return to the BNP order if Sheikh Hasina falters and cannot fulfil growing aspirations. India should demonstrate that while it will assist in the progress and welfare of the people of Bangladesh, rulers in Bangladesh who show sensitivity for Indian concerns can and will receive Indian goodwill in return.







Aal izz well when a 'good' controversy is not wasted. And that is exactly what the director, the producer and the stars of 3 Idiots and Chetan Bhagat, author of Five Point Someone, have learnt in the last few days. Igniting the row, Bhagat claimed that his story had been "Bollywoodised" and hence he deserved a mention in the starting credits of the movie instead of the footnote at the end. Meanwhile the stars and the director of the film maintain that the movie is only "loosely" based on the Bhagat's book.

How much of the film is based on the book is not important. What is important is the timing of the controversy. At an opportune moment, that is immediately after the release of the movie, Bhagat chose to rake up the issue. The producer of the film, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, lost his cool at a Press conference, telling a journalist to "shut up" when the latter asked about the ongoing controversy. Actor Aamir Khan, on his part, maintains that he wants to "distance himself" from the controversy, even though he was present at all the Press conferences and attacked Bhagat through snide remarks. Even the film's script writer, Abhijat Joshi, claimed that 160 of 170 pages of the screenplay were his and rest were adapted from the novel.

All of this sounds more like an implausible film script than a mere controversy, an exhaustive set of events that would harm none but work in favour of all — the actors, the filmmaker, the producer and the author.

It is true that nothing sells like a good controversy. 3 Idiots has grossed about Rs 240 crore in just 10 days of worldwide screening and may even touch the staggering Rs 300 crore figure according to trade analysts. On the other hand, the sale of Five Point Someone has shot up by almost 30 per cent. Apart from this, Bhagat's other books — One Night @ The Call Centre and The 3 Mistakes of My Life — have seen a jump in sales since the controversy started.

To put an end to the week-long controversy, the author has taken to Gandhigiri and expressed in his blog his desire to move on and walk the middle path. As the two parties — after raking in the moolah — reportedly head towards a truce despite threatening each other with legal action, one can readily say that far from being idiotic the controversy was mutually beneficial, though not well-scripted.







The Medical Council of India has recently decided to address the glaring shortage of doctors in rural India. As early as 1996 the Central Council for Health and Family Welfare, had unanimously decided to make rural medical service compulsory for new doctors. For 14 long years every Health Minister has repeated this aspiration, only to have the idea trounced by MCI as 'unfeasible'. The council has consistently argued that doctors cannot function in the absence of "proper infrastructure". Hence the recent decision of MCI to confront the shortage of rural medical manpower by creating a new stream of doctors drawn from rural areas, for rural areas comes as a surprise.

According to reports, these doctors would undergo a four-year course as against the five-and-half-a-year degree course prescribed for MBBS graduates. District hospitals would be used for medical training and the entrance eligibility of candidates would hinge upon continuous residence in a rural area. This way MCI hopes to catch 12th pass science students from rural secondary schools and convert them into 'basic doctors' and keep them rooted there. Is this fair? Is there an option?

There are 6,00,000 villages in the country, tens of thousands of which are located at a distance of more than 10 km from a Primary Health Centre and devoid of traversable roads. The amalgamation of GIS maps and census data portrayed on the website of the National Population Stabilisation Fund shows how PHC's established in more than 300 districts out of 620 districts remain clustered in privileged talukas, even as interminable lists of villages with populations running into hundreds of thousands remain without reachable medical cover. In the foreseeable future it is unlikely that new PHCs would get established to cover the gigantic gaps that exist in the spatial distribution of rural health facilities, particularly in the Hindi belt states. It is even more improbable that new doctors moulded from the rural hinterland would agree to cater to such remote areas for long before the lure of urban practice entices them.

President of MCI Dr Ketan Desai is sanguine that "such doctors would not be interested in learning about kidney transplants and angioplasties and would instead concentrate on local diseases and basic health problems of villages." The inequity of sculpting a second class set of doctors only for rural areas does not seem to have struck the council. As to how overworked, poorly staffed, undeveloped district hospitals that cater to thousands of patients and exist as such in more than half the districts of the country can become training ground for doctors remains doubtful. Training imparted in this milieu can hardly convey the essentials of anatomy, pathology, microbiology and pharmacology which are essential to secure grounding in medicine.

It would have been far more practical to have revived the idea of licentiates a system that was very much in practice in India, before it was abhorred by Sir Joseph Bhore in 1946, who despite strong dissension from several Indian members of his committee abolished the scheme forever. The Western medicine doctors that came into being then became the only source of medical care.

The revival of the licentiate system — preparing a cadre of non-doctors authorised to conduct limited professional practice — was recommended by the National Health Policy 2002 and later by a Task Force on Medical Education in 2007. Nurse practitioners, and medical assistants handle patients in rural areas in Canada, parts of the US and the UK even today. Policymakers in India have not considered this alternative seriously because they are influenced hugely by what the MCI and the Indian Medical Association think and want. The licentiate idea is an anathema to the MCI and the IMA, because both the bodies are strongly political and the only way to maintain and expand the constituency of voting doctors is to keep medical practice confined to doctors. Witness the brouhaha created each time there is a move to involve even the five-and-a-half-year degree holders of Indian medicine.

The way the health infrastructure is clustered in more than half the districts in India, the needs of people living there would continue to be disregarded if a workable alternative is not found. Were licentiates to be re-introduced, they would be akin to diploma holders on the engineering side. They would be eminently suited to give the first line of medical advice, provide basic treatment and to make referrals. They would have no claim to be called doctors but would function as a strong bridge, particularly if the advantages of telemedicine and mobile phones are used imaginatively. Looking at the scale of deprivation that exists in rural areas, there is an urgent need to establish a separate council to regulate the education and practice of such licentiates.

Before Joseph Bhore, two thirds of the practitioners in India were licentiates. We need to reconstruct that bridge instead of creating a sub-caste of rural doctors that will willy-nilly opt for the allurement of urban medical practice sooner than later, leaving the rural populace where they are.

-- The writer has worked in the Health Ministry for over10 years and the views are based on her experience of handling medical education.







The attempt by a 23-year-old Nigerian, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas last year, underlined a harsh fact: Al Qaeda can attack the United States directly despite the department of Homeland Security having spent $ 40 billion since 9/11 in boosting air transport security inside the country and to and from it.

The US Government has appointed roughly 45,000 professional screening officers, installed more than 1,600 machines at airports nationwide to scan checked baggage, and 900 for carry-on bags at passenger checkpoints have been upgraded. Four-hundred and fifty canine teams have been stationed at the US's 450 commercial airports. Following Israel's example, nearly 2,900 transportation security officers have been assigned to so-called behavioural detection teams that observe passengers headed to flights for possible hints of terror plots.

The US has compiled a Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment with the names of about 550,000 persons and a subset of the latter, the Terrorist Screening Data Base with about 400,000 names. In addition, it has, drawn from the latter, a list of 14,000 persons, who have to undergo mandatory secondary screening. Another 400 persons are in a 'no fly' list, whose nomenclature speaks for its function.

A great deal remains to be done. So far, only 40 full body imaging machines have been installed in 19 airports when there are roughly about 2,200 checkpoint screening lanes throughout the US. A hundred and fifty full body imaging machines have been ordered Interestingly, Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport has 15 of these machines — more than just about any airport in the world — but their use is prohibited on passengers bound for the US, where opposition on the ground that full body scans amounted to invasion of privacy, delayed installation of these machines.

The US's Transport Security Administration is years behind schedule on a plan to take over the process of matching passenger names with the terror watch-list, one of the most important recommendations of the September 11 commission. The airlines have been doing it. But the commission complains that they are not as thorough as the Government and do not have instant access to the Government's most up-to-date watch-lists. So far 18 of the about 80 commercial carriers have switched to a Government-run new system; 27 others are still testing it.

The fact, however, remains that breaches in security — and not only of the kind that the Abdulmutallab incident represented — may occur even if all the safety measures recommended are in place. For, the scope for human error, which, more than anything else, enabled Abdulmutallab to board the flight, will remain. Indeed, the first sign of trouble came in August last year when America's National Security Agency, responsible for electronic eavesdropping around the world, intercepted conversations among Al Qaeda leaders in Yemen discussing a plot to use a Nigerian for a terrorist attack against the US.

Though these were translated and disseminated across classified computer networks, analysts at the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington did not synthesise the eavesdropping intelligence with information provided by Abdulmutallab's father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, one of Nigeria's richest and most prominent men, who visited the American Embassy in Nigeria on November 19, 2009 to express concern about the radicalisation of his son, who had disappeared, perhaps to Yemen. He reportedly told officials of the State Department and the CIA: "Look at the texts he's sending. He's a security threat."

US Embassy officials sent a cable to the NTC the following day about the conversation. As a result, Abdulmutallab's name was recorded in the TIDE database and no more. His name was not on the 14,000 persons identified for mandatory secondary screening, to say nothing of the 'no fly' list of 4,000. Nor was his visa revoked.

One is witness here to the same failure to detect a developing threat by connecting different pieces of information, and then act swiftly, that led to 9/11. One cannot rule out a repeat. The message is simple: There can be no safety in a retreat into fortress America when the enemy's goal is the destruction of everything the US stands for. Terrorism has to be defeated in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa.







The nuclear submarine K-152 Nerpa has joined the Russian Navy. The new Project 971U boat is planned to be leased to India, to which it will sail this summer. An Indian crew will undergo training aboard it before the handover ceremony.

Its trials, which began in 2008, were interrupted by a tragic accident on September 8, 2008, when an unauthorised release of a fire-fighting gas killed 20 men and injured more than 20 others. The accident caused a delay in the tests and the submarine joined the Navy several months later than scheduled.

The submarine's lease to India seems to be a foregone conclusion, but also inspires thoughts of the age of Russian naval combat units. The last multi-role nuclear submarine entered service in 2001. It was Nerpa's sister ship Gepard. To date, the Navy has an inventory of 12 submarines of this type, not counting Nerpa. Their average age is over 15 years. The Navy also includes multi-role nuclear submarines of other projects — four 671RTMKs, three 945s and nine anti-aircraft 949As. Within the next 10 to 15 years, they will be decommissioned because of 'physical aging'.

Two multi-role nuclear submarines of Project 885 are currently under construction, with the type ship — Severodvinsk — expected to hit the water soon. But existing plans provide for the building of only six submarines of this type in the next 10 years, and they clearly cannot replace all 28 multi-role submarines in service. As a result, unless some prompt measures are taken, all Russian nuclear submarines will be a force in name only in 15 years, unable to fulfill combat missions.

Strategic submarines also offer a bleak outlook. Shipyards are currently building Project 955 missile-carrying boats. Eight such ships, planned to be built, will be able to perform their tasks, but abortive tests of the Bulava missile are delaying their commissioning. Also, to stay as a compact formation, these missile carrying submarines need a cover escort, including multi-role submarines.

There is little optimism for diesel-powered submarines, too. Their average age is approaching a critical level. Currently, Russia is building a series of Project 677 submarines, although the type ship — St Petersburg — whose trials began in 2007 is still not commissioned and available construction facilities are clearly not meeting naval requirements.

Whether or not a new state armaments programme for 2010-2020 will solve the problem is not yet clear. To maintain the current inventory of submarines required by the Navy, it is necessary to increase sharply their numbers being built, and above all multi-role and diesel ones. But nothing seems to augur such an increase.

In a way the problem can be tackled by repairing and upgrading existing submarines, but repairs do not preclude new construction.

In view of the high costs of Project 885 submarines under construction, a way out could be a low-budget nuclear multi-role submarine, of lesser size and fewer weapons than the 13,000-tonne and heavily armed Severodvinsk. The US made a similar decision in the 1990s when it opted for compact-sized and less expensive submarines of the Virginia type, compared with larger and higher-priced Sea Wolf-type submarines.

A total of 12 to 15 such ships, coupled with the construction of a smaller series of Project 885 boats and the upgrading of the more recent submarines of Soviet manufacture could keep up the potential of the Russian submarine arm.

According to available information, blueprints for such a nuclear submarine are being drawn up at the Malakhit Design Bureau, but whether the Ministry plans to build one is unknown.

Problems connected with the renovation of diesel boats could, according to experts, be solved by placing orders for Project 636M submarines, which have already been constructed in a series, possess decent characteristics and are presently offered for export. The building of eight to 10 such submarines could give breathing space for addressing issues associated with the construction of Project 677 submarines.

But the key factor necessary to build a state-of-the-art Navy, including its submarine arm, is an understanding of the role of the Navy and its importance for Russia by the country's top leaders and their political will to translate this understanding into practice.

The writer is a military affairs columnist based in Moscow.






Miles away from Copenhagen, far removed from international dialogue and action forums, climate change is not a familiar term for rural communities living in tribal areas of Madhya Pradesh. Yet they are discerning a change in their immediate environment, not fully obvious but yet perceptible. 75-year-old Vir Singh, a farmer from Dubdi village around 60 km from Sheopur district headquarters, says, "The only change I feel is that nothing is on time. All seasons have turned deceptive."

This new understanding of farmers has neither come from policy forums, experts, nor from media but from an observation of the changing patterns of life around them and from keeping their ears to the ground.

Climate change is more likely to affect rural regions first all over the country. It would hit agricultural patterns on which the livelihoods of our multitudes depend. However, in this region of Madhya Pradesh, local communities seem to have grasped the fact that all is not well with the world, a world they inherited from their ancestors, a world based on harmony between human beings and their environment.

This awareness has not come from the community alone. They have been guided along in this new discovery of correlating the changes by 3,000 livelihood promoters as part of the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Project. Perceiving that global warming is a potential threat to natural resources-based livelihoods, the project aims to educate the rural masses about climate change issues. In nine predominantly tribal districts of Dhar, Jhabua, Badwani, Aalirajpur, Mandla, Dindori, Anuppur, Shahdol and Sheopur, this 'green army' would help poor families explore livelihoods options.

There is a growing awareness about the role of the gram sabha in addressing the issue. And the livelihoods promoters are aware of the potential to reach out directly to the communities with this core message of understanding and coping with climate change.

Hari Singh Maravi is a worried sarpanch as he understands that with the earth heating up there could be possible loss of livelihoods. Therefore, he is keen on bringing the issue to the attention of the gram sabha which could be the forum to educate the village community or prescribe a code for collective action.

"If poor villagers have to suffer then they have the most effective solutions too," says Dev Singh Varkade, sarpanch of Khudia gram panchayat.

How will it work on the ground? Lamu Singh Maravi, who is panch in Jaltara gram panchayat in Mandla district, has some guiding principles, "Let us simply do what we have been doing for years — saving waters, caring of plantations, making our fields chemical-free, rational energy consumption, conserving available flora and protecting fauna. That is what I understand and everybody should understand."

This is not by design or a diktat but simply staying rooted to what they and their ancestors have always known, a simple dictum of life on the Earth. "Learn to behave well with the Mother Earth and everything will be right," says Bhuvan Singh of Behadvi village 15 km from Jhabua district. He led the village community to undertake massive plantations on 13 hectares of land. For last three years, they have grown fodder worth Rs 50,000.

"We are also managing 15 hectare tank for fishing activity as we have nothing but natural resources to survive on", Khum Singh says. Weary about the terminology that has been suddenly doing the rounds, he adds, "We do not know in what measure our efforts contribute to mitigation of carbon."

Others involved in the project have come to grips with the nitty-gritty. Ram Singh, a livelihood promoter in Tikdijogi village of Ranapur block in Jhabua, elucidates, "We would deliver important information to poor families on how in villages carbon emission can be mitigated. What indigenous methods or modern ones like bio-gas plants, solar energy systems can be adopted while improving livelihoods."

Spreading climate literacy is one of the top priorities of the livelihood promoters. "It has become urgent to orient the gram sabha about the climate change and its dire impact on livelihoods," says the project coordinator LM Belwal.

It is a challenging task to raise awareness on the issue not as an esoteric concept but a subject rooted to the ground through action related to their daily lives. In a way, it is a small but perhaps immensely significant step to enable those at the receiving end of climate change to transform themselves from potential victims to keepers of their own destiny and harbingers of harmony in their environment.







THE weak, almost muted response by the ministry of external affairs to the continued attacks on Indians in Australia is appalling at the very least. This, at a time when the public at large expects, and even demands, that the Centre show some international leadership qualities and ensure that the Australian government takes a hard look at the racism that exists in that society and prevents Indians from being attacked and killed.


Yet, the strongest reaction that the ministry has forwarded is an advisory asking Indians not to venture out at night in Australian cities. This makes no sense. What if the Indian has an evening job? Or perhaps he or she wants to eat out? What if there are evening classes to attend? This is proof of two things: one, that the ministry of external affairs ( or for that matter the ministry of overseas Indian affairs) does not care about its citizens abroad; and two, the people who run the ministry have no courage to take on Australia.


India is one of the biggest contributors to the Australian education system with close to one lakh students of Indian origin studying in that country, spending close to $ 2 billion on their education. In this context, the least that the ministry of external affairs could have done is to issue an advisory asking all Indians not to visit the country.


Threatening to derecognise Australian degrees prospectively may sound like a harsh step, but should a country whose citizens are being brutally murdered tolerate even a single crime against its citizens? The external affairs ministry has been found wanting when Indians needed it the most to stand up for them. Unfortunately, as things stand, one of the department's ministers spends time tweeting while the other is busy reprimanding him for it.







WITH the world's best- known automobile brands not only showcasing their offerings, but even timing the global launch of some new products to coincide with the Auto Expo, India has arrived at the centre- stage of the world automobile industry. It is hardly surprising that the world's top automobile marques are beating a path to India's door.


During a year which saw the near decimation of the US auto industry, hitherto the world's largest, and the bankruptcy of some of the historic brands in the business, the domestic Indian market has been a shining beacon of hope, with most players recording high growth in sales and profits.


Thanks to a historical policy bias, India has also become the world's fastest- growing market for small, fuel- efficient and lowpriced cars. Today, small, cheap, non gasguzzling cars are seen as the only hope for the auto sector worldwide. And India is in the happy position of emerging as the world leader in this segment, especially since arch- rival China's own domestic market is a predominantly sedan market.


This is an opportune moment for the government to seize the initiative and grab the lion's share of the emerging new market in automobiles — that of hybrid, electric and alternative fuel vehicles. The global energy crisis, as well as increasing awareness of climate change issues among the general public, has changed consumer mindsets in favour of such vehicles. By providing the right fiscal incentives, the government can ensure that India becomes the hub of this emerging wave in the automobile sector.






THOSE who regard getting into an institute of excellence in India as the be- all and end- all of education must take note of Nobel laureate Venkataraman Ramakrishnan's revelation that he had failed to secure admission to the Indian institutes of technology.


It is not commonly acknowledged that though the alumni of the prestigious IITs have done the country proud over the years, there are many more from lesser known institutions that have also made a mark in India and abroad. Also, don't forget that a good number of students from the IITs end up in careers that have nothing to do with science or research.


The critical factor, as Venky has outlined, remains the curiosity and concern that drives one to pursue a discipline. It is this rather than just the urge to get into a prestigious institution or even win the Nobel prize that makes for genuine achievement.







I DON'T do quagmires", Donald Rumsfeld had once declared rather grandly. He didn't believe in exit strategies either. Yet, eight years later with casualties rising to a little more than one death a day in Afghanistan and expenses crossing US $ 450 billion, in December 2009 President Obama, referred to July 2011 as the date by which the US would begin to pull out of Afghanistan . This state has been the result of a policy that presumed that military supremacy was an unqualified good born of American superiority. Great though the power of the American military machine might have been, it was not great enough to solve problems such as global terrorism of the al Qaeda variety. America needed help of friends, demonised its own supporters like President Karzai, it chose other friends wrongly and declined others' advice. Consequently, it ended fighting the wrong war at the wrong place with wrong tactics.


The declared US objective has been to take out Al Qaeda from Afghanistan so that they do not become a threat to the US and its allies. Yet the Al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan; it is mostly in Pakistan with sanctuaries in Yemen and Afghanistan. It is the Taliban that is mostly in Afghanistan with sanctuaries in Pakistan, so the result is that the US has been fighting an obscurantist section of an ethnic component of Afghanistan whose objective has been to throw the foreigner out and seems to be succeeding. The Taliban now represent, by and large, the Pushtun sentiment in Afghanistan and they are spreading into Kunduz in the north as well. It is possible now that the US will re- evaluate its policy towards Pakistan following the killing of seven CIA operatives inside the CIA camp in Khost; an attack that originated with the Pakistan Taliban. This act highlighted not only the dangers of counter terror operations but also that the level of commitment in the opposition to the US was very high. The US now wants to achieve something in eighteen months what has not been possible in eight years.


The second review of the US policy by Obama has probably been the result of the failure of the US and British offensive in Helmand last summer accompanied by reports that the Taliban had begun to make inroads outside the south and east which they already control, while the security situation in Herat had deteriorated.


The coalition failure in Helmand has been interpreted by most Afghans as victory for the Taliban and also drew more recruits to the Taliban. It is impossible to distinguish them from ordinary villagers and it would be a mistake to conclude that they are resented by the Pushtun population. Coalition forces have remained far too inadequate and ill motivated to allow for an effective clear and hold policy.


The Al Qaeda's objectives and tactics are different from the Taliban's.


While the Taliban has become an insurgency seeking liberation of its lands from foreign occupation, Al- Qaeda seeks the end of the West's influence in the Muslim world and the end of the West's local supporters and allies. Al- Qaeda does not seek to control territory. But the organisation needs sanctuaries to survive.


Since al- Qaeda seeks Western targets, its operatives need access to training facilities, cities, international connections and the media.


For this reason, Pakistan is currently the main base, with limited sanctuaries elsewhere.



It is difficult to predict if and when the US will change its decades old policy of pardoning Pakistan all its transgressions. What we need to take into account is that one of these days the US will carry out its much vaunted but ridiculously inadequate much delayed surge, declare mission accomplished and thin out. Its longterm policies are dictated by election year compulsions. Once the coalition forces begin to pull out a few things will inevitably happen as other interests try to fill the empty spaces.

Pakistan will naturally assume that its moment has come again and it could now acquire its much dreamt of strategic depth, throw the Indians out and be the overlord in Afghanistan. The Iranians are unlikely to remain idle spectators as a Sunni Wahabbi neighbour is going to be an unsettling factor for them.

The Chinese have already begun to move in with their commercial and resource interests into Afghanistan as they would see an opportunity to move closer to the Persian Gulf, given their steady relations with the Iranians.

They also need to keep the Islamist extremists away from sensitive areas like Xinjiang. The Central Asian Republics and Russia have their concerns about the dangers of Talibanised ideology spreading into their countries. Finally, the absence of a strong centralised authority will only create more confusion in a country that has been run on drug money and foreign doles.



Pakistan's exultation may be temporary.


Unable to control its own territory it is unlikely to be able to run Afghanistan in the way it may want to. It does not have the resources to do so and the US will not sub lease Afghanistan to Pakistan this time.

The other very real danger is that the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line, joined together in a common fight for decades, may well ask if they fought all these years only to end up being minorities in both countries. The departure of the Coalition Forces will only add to the instability of the region and India needs to prepare itself for this eventuality.


There have been subtle suggestions made in recent months that are designed to create illusions of grandeur in us. These suggest that as a power rising towards its destiny as a major power, we should be playing a more active role in our neighbourhood, especially in Afghanistan.


Some have suggested that we could send in a brigade as a token. This is dangerous talk. The cost of maintaining a brigade is enormous and could be as high as Rs one crore a day. Add to this the logistics, air support, artillery cover, not to mention the other vital aspect, intelligence cover. Surely this intelligence would not come from the Taliban. Others suggest that we should have no problem in equipping, stationing and supplying several divisions of troops in Afghanistan. In a series of articles in this newspaper in January 2009, Manoj Joshi had cited reports of the Comptroller and Auditor General to show how inadequately equipped our forces were. The situation could not have altered dramatically since then.


It is true that there is goodwill for India in Afghanistan for our contribution to its infrastructure. This will dissipate rapidly once we are seen as an occupation force. It will not be difficult to create this impression particularly as we have no means of influencing opinion in Afghanistan, there being no media presence of our own there. Instead, we should follow the Chinese model, of gaining influence in Afghanistan without firing a single shot or losing a soldier. We need not make our policies Pakistanspecific all the time.




We should look for a role in the region beyond the current troubles but we need not prove this by sending in our troops hoping to succeed where others have failed. We may develop a two- front war strategy but we are hardly capable of fighting a three front war.


We should be prepared to train Afghans in India, in whatever discipline and numbers they want this. We should

offer additional infrastructure building, taking care to match this with the Afghan capacity to absorb.


We need to ask Afghans what they want and not decide ourselves what we want to give. We need to co- ordinate with Iran, Russia and Central Asia in our endeavours. Post US, there has to be a regional agreement ensuring peace and neutrality in Afghanistan.


The writer is a former chief of the Research & Analysis Wing








AT the 97th Indian Science Congress in Thiruvananthapuram, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that though the Copenhagen summit could make only "very limited" progress, India should not lag behind in developing technologies to mitigate and adapt to climate change.


Scientists from different fields — energy, space, meteorology, ocean and earth sciences, agriculture and so on — responded enthusiastically. Climate became the buzzword, as they chalked out and shared plans to address the issue.


As it happens, Bangalore is becoming a hub, not only for climate research as we reported earlier, but also for monitoring the changes on ground and in the sky, and helping scientists and policymakers respond better.


Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) based here was a key host of the Congress along with Kerala University. Its scientists will play a big role in the monitoring of the government's response to climate change.


To begin with, three new ISRO satellites are on the anvil. They will be measuring different variables like

temperature and winds and their interplay and impacts on ground, in the air and in the oceans. In a year or so they are expected to join the ISRO fleet of satellites giving us a clearer picture of the changing climate.


INSAT 3D will be a dedicated meteorological satellite. It will carry a sensitive instrument that monitors rainfall, sea surface temperature and cloud movements, besides a sounder that gives profiles of temperature and humidity. It will also help in monitoring the path cyclones might take and thereby predict the time and place of their land- fall.


Megha- Tropiques, an Indo- French collaboration, envisages a probe into tropical formations and their impact on climate, as its name suggests. In Sanskrit megha means cloud and in French tropiques means tropics.


This satellite will help scientists develop data set to support climate predictions and validate climate and weather models over tropical areas. It will also contribute to an understanding of global weather systems, influenced by the tropical processes.


In the context of climate change there is a lot of interest in the tropical areas that receive the maximum energy from the sun and radiate it back into space. Atmospheric scientists would say: " The excess energy fuels a thermal engine that provides circulation in the atmosphere and oceans." Then follow rain and thunderstorms! Yet another Indo- French satellite is on the anvil. SARAL aims to observe ocean changes, coasts, inland waters and the surface of continental ice sheets.


It will have a French payload on board to measure sea level on a large scale. It is expected to contribute a lot to the study of sea level rise, a major impact of climate change.


Besides, existing satellites like the INSAT series, Oceansat- 2 and RISAT will also contribute to weather monitoring and disaster preparedness and response.


Meanwhile the Department of Earth Sciences is now planning to club together various agencies and services in the field of earth observation for synergic work. There is a specific project with ISRO to study the health coral reefs that could be hit by changes in the temperature and chemistry of sea water in a warming globe.


That is the climate observation story. Bangalore is also a hub of emerging clean energy technologies — but that's another tale.



IN LINE with the global concern about climate change, Bangalore is also awaiting a season of change. This week the ruling BJP held its legislature party meet to boost the image of the party troubled by dissidence.

Many changes are on the cards — right from the cabinet's composition to the chairmanship of various state boards. Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa is expected to make certain adjustments to muffle the dissenting voices. ' Swalpa adjust madi ( adjust a little, please)' could be his plea to his followers.

Down the line, there could be changes at the different levels of the bureaucracy too. When the dissenting Reddy brothers patched up with the CM, there were changes down the official pecking order. Now with smaller trouble from a larger number of dissidents the whole show is likely to get a bit confusing. There is a general buzz anyway.


The party leadership, however, has put up a brave front. As BJP state president DV Sadananda Gowda said: " We could successfully remove apprehensions, dissidence and confusion."



GUESS who are the two figures that welcome scientists entering the venue of the 97th Indian Science Congress in Thiruvananthapuram? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Latin American Marxist revolutionary Che Guevara. There are prominent posters of the Oxford- trained economist and the physician- turnedguerilla at the Kerala University campus entrance.


Che is the poster boy in Kerala campuses. Budding artists love to improvise on his famous photo called Guerrillero Heroico ( heroic guerilla fighter), taken by the Cuban photographer Alberto Koda. The campus has many posters of the bearded young man, in view of a youth meet coming up.


The PM seems to have been inspired by the juxtapositioning of the images. At his inaugural address he said: "

liberate Indian science from shackles and dead weight of bureaucracy." Does it not sound strangely like the Marxian mantra: " You have nothing to lose, but your chain"? Kerala has always been a melting pot of ideas. Roman, Chinese, and Arab traders could do brisk business here centuries ago. Now religions and ideologies easily coexist.


Some bishops used to quote Marx; many hardcore Marxists go to Sabarimala.


And people have names like Puthukurichy Stalin ( an actor) and Lenin Rajendran ( a famous film director).


max. martin@ mailtoday. in


HAD you landed up at the venue of the Science Congress on the eve of the inaugural in Thiruvananthapuram, you would have been convinced that the theme this year is chaos theory. There was no ' single window' for the delegates — there were a series of desks spread across the campus with volunteers entrusted with specific duties. But apparently there was no single chain of command or communication in the beginning. So some delegates were seen shuttling between desks, muttering.


Apparently, there were some norms to get passes, abstracts, and coupons that only the highly disciplined scientists followed. The design of the Congress website was cryptic at best for lesser mortals.


But then enthusiastic exchanges and the hearty smiles of the volunteers — mostly university students and young local scientists and engineers — helped ease any tension. There was a festive atmosphere anyway.


Many local women were dressed in ceremonial off- white, gold- bordered Kerala saris, and there were a lot of children around. In the evening there were drum beats and dances.








The all-party meeting on Telangana predictably ended in a stalemate. All the eight parties invited for talks reiterated their known stand with only the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS) and BJP in favour of an immediate creation of Telangana. The others were either divided on the issue or in favour of a united Andhra Pradesh. The Centre has taken the easy way out by calling for more discussions. In short, after promising a separate Telangana, procrastination seems to be the name of the game. But merely kicking the Telangana issue further down the road won't help.

There is an urgent need to set in place guidelines to address demands for statehood as Telangana is only one among many regions clamouring for the status of a state. When India became a republic, it was accepted that the number of states was not fixed. This has been proved by successive expansion in the number of states beginning in 1956 with the formation of a States' Reorganisation Commission (SRC). We need a second SRC to deal with Telangana and the other statehood demands.

There is, however, a difference between the original redrawing of state borders and the more recent demands. The 1956 reorganisation, which led to the creation of 14 states and six Union territories, was primarily the outcome of linguistic demands. The subsequent creation of new states was mainly based on language and ethnicity, but administrative concerns and resource sharing were factors in the creation of Jharkhand, Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh. The current demands for statehood have little to do with linguistic nationalism. They are sometimes spurred by ethnicity and geography, but mainly by perceptions of neglect and the desire for economic autonomy. Telangana is an example of the latter.

Whatever the motive of the movements for separate states, we need to have them examined by a panel working with definite parameters. We have consistently said in these columns that smaller units are in general a good idea. Not only would it bring about decentralisation, it would also result in the splitting up of large and poorly governed states such as Uttar Pradesh. Regarding Telangana, the Centre has little room for manoeuvre after committing to statehood. But it must create Telangana in such a manner so as to set down guidelines to evaluate other demands. This can only be done with a second SRC. Otherwise there is the real risk of being armtwisted as happened with Telangana following the fast-unto-death of TRS chief Chandrasekhara Rao.







The events of the past few days sum up perfectly the conundrum that is Jammu & Kashmir. National security adviser (NSA) M K Narayanan's allowing that there was a case to be made for drawing down troop presence in the state was a positive step; it can be seen as an advancement of policy trends seen in 2009. The possibility of troop reduction the NSA held out was predicated on the reduced levels of violence the previous year, as shown by the fact that there had been no fidayeen attacks in the state through the year. And just about a day after this announcement, a gunbattle raged in the heart of Srinagar as terrorists fired upon civilians and security forces. Once again, the propensity of bloody-minded extremism to obstruct any attempt to move towards peace is on display.

The attack's significance is more symbolic than real, of course; it should not be taken as evidence that troop reduction in the state is inadvisable. There are reasons enough to suppose that such a move would pay dividends. As it stands, 30,000 army personnel were withdrawn last year while paramilitary presence in the state has also been reduced over the past few years. This has not resulted in a dramatic upsurge of violence; quite the reverse. Symbolism is a powerful tool and its importance to New Delhi is no less than to the extremists. Visible military presence in the state must be reduced if the siege mentality that derails the political process is to be overcome.

Nor can the lessons learned from this and previous attacks be ignored. The J&K problem has festered for decades, moving far beyond a military dimension, if it ever was just that. Troop reduction is a solution enabler, not a solution in itself. If the tattered social, religious and political fabric of the state is to be mended in a manner that will enable it to withstand extremism - both home-grown and cross-border - political engagement with all stakeholders is a must. So too is a focus on the law and order machinery of the state itself; this must be a prime focus of the Omar Abdullah administration with New Delhi's full support. It may have waned but extremist violence is by no means ended.

Come spring, the real test will begin. Cross-border infiltration is at a low every year in winter because of weather conditions. Any troop reduction is likely to be - and should be - a careful process with drawdown followed by a period of consolidation. But it must proceed. With militant capabilities seemingly diminished and healthy poll turnouts, this is an opportunity that New Delhi cannot miss.








After more than a decade in the doldrums, nuclear arms control could make a comeback this year with a thorough review of the size, structure and mission of US nuclear forces, a new Russia-US strategic treaty, a nuclear summit in Washington in April and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference in May. A compelling roadmap for all four has been provided by the international commission on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, chaired by former foreign ministers Gareth Evans of Australia and Yoriko Kawaguchi of Japan and including Brajesh Mishra from India.

The commission faced two hurdles even before its work was completed. First, Australia and Japan are long-standing allies that have sheltered under the US nuclear umbrella. Second, between the commission's setting up in mid-2008 and the publication of its report on December 15, 2009, the nuclear agenda had been dramatically transformed with US president Barack Obama's commitment to nuclear abolition. The first risk was one of credibility, the second of irrelevance as the commission's deliberations were overtaken by events in the real world.

In the event, its report, entitled 'Eliminating Nuclear Threats', responds to both. The unexpected opening has been seized to outline an action-oriented agenda on when and how to realise the dream; and there is a good discussion of extended deterrence and the need to reassure allies that their security needs will not be compromised en route.


The report's major strength is that it tackles four critical dichotomous policy choices and helps us navigate our way through them to sensible decisions between the world as it is and as it ought to be.

First, marrying realism to idealism, it combines the non-proliferation and disarmament agenda by skilfully integrating minimisation in the short and medium term with elimination in the long but not indefinite term. The case for elimination is updated from the report of the Canberra Commission, which Evans had set up in the mid-1990s, and many passages echo elegant phrases from the earlier report. As long as any country has nuclear weapons, others will want them. As long as they exist, they will be used one day again, by design, accident or miscalculation.

The minimisation agenda seeks to halt and reverse the nuclear weapons tide as a prelude to abolishing them through an international convention. The task is to delegitimise their possession, deployment and use; reduce their numbers to about 10 per cent of present stockpiles for a global total of 2,000 warheads (500 each for Russia and the US and the balance among Britain, China, France, India, Israel and Pakistan) by 2025; reduce reliance on them and their inherent risks by introducing further degrees of separation between possession, deployment and use by separating warheads from delivery systems and lengthening the "decision-making fuse" for launch of nuclear weapons; bring into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and a Fissile Materials Cut-off Treaty; strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency; establish a multilateral fuel cycle; toughen up supply side restrictions, etc.

Second, the minimisation-elimination distinction allows the commission to bridge the gap between the NPT and post-NPT worlds. It argues for nuclear abolition to be enshrined in a universal, comprehensive and legally binding nuclear weapons convention (NWC). It notes that model NWCs already exist, but they fall into the trap of requiring different steps and timescales from the NPT-licit and other nuclear-armed states. It tries to convince "realist" sceptics of why and how security needs can be met by the transitional approach. It tries to persuade "idealist" advocates that an incremental approach is more likely to get us to the desired destination than rhetorical demands and declarations. Importantly, it argues that serious discussions on an NWC must begin now.

Third, it departs from the utterly unrealistic agenda of forcing non-NPT nuclear-armed states (India, Israel, Pakistan) to sign the NPT as non-nuclear states. Instead, it argues that, for all practical purposes, the eight nuclear-armed states belong in the same policy basket.

Fourth, it attempts to strike a balance between the desirability and inevitability of a move towards greater reliance on nuclear energy, and the safety, security and proliferation risks posed by increased nuclear power generation. Those strongly opposed to nuclear power as a solution to the world's energy-cum-environmental crisis will be disappointed; cynics may even detect an attempt to advance Japan's and Australia's commercial interests in selling uranium and nuclear technology. The open-minded should welcome a pragmatic and flexible stance and agenda. After all, the balance between non-proliferation, disarmament and power is integral to the NPT.

The report is comprehensive in covering the full spectrum of the nuclear power and weapons agenda on both the energy and security fronts, including the threat of nuclear terrorism. The writing is careful and modulated, blending passion for the cause with the need not to lose either the realists or the idealists. The conclusions are sober but never discouraging. The commission's blend of military and highest level policy officials from around the world should increase the prospects of the report being taken seriously in the national capitals that matter.

As the report argues, nuclear weapons cannot be uninvented, but they can and should be controlled, regulated, restricted and - in our lifetime - outlawed.

The writer is director of the Balsillie School of International Affairs, Waterloo, Canada.







An encounter with a bunch of 13 and 14-year-old schoolchildren had left me glowing. They were the 12 finalists of the TOI's 'I want to be an editor' initiative, and their bushy-tailed confidence was mood lifting. But, poof!, my euphoria suddenly vanished. In a space of three days, two Mumbai kids hanged themselves.


Sushant Patil was just 12; Neha Sawant, 11, was even younger. Her cocky photograph was more disquieting than that of the pensive boy. Little Neha stood with one hand on a guitar almost as tall as herself, the other on her hip, and a look which clearly told the camera, "Don't go away. You're going to click a lot of me in the future." Then suddenly, she didn't even have a present. And neither did Sushant.


A child should have no reason to know the spelling of 'suicide', let alone to commit it. How does an 11 or even 12-year-old go through the motions involved in hanging oneself? How do her little fingers manage to tie the slip knot? Where does he find the courage to kick away the stool? Do they know the meaning of finality? And can they understand it?


The thought has chilled me. Hanging involves a deliberate set of moves; it's not like impulsively jumping out of a window. And into what hell does the heart of a parent sink on beholding such a sight?


Tuesday's paper, heavy-laden enough with the suicides of Sushant and Neha, also carried the reminder of another terrible fate that had befallen another child two days short of her 14th birthday. Aarushi's face had returned to haunt us; her parents were again under the scanner, now being now asked to undergo narco-analysis.


What are we doing to our kids? Madly, sadly, plenty. Children not yet in, or barely into, their teens are killing themselves. And each other. It may not be with the manic frequency of the West, but just one is one too many.


A Class 8 Delhi boy stabbed his older schoolmate who had intervened in the fight he had earlier had with his classmate over a mere desk in 2005. On December 7, 2007, Abhishek Tyagi, another 14-year-old, was actually shot dead by not one, but two classmates from his Gurgaon school.


Is that rage worse than the greed of the Mumbai boys who, five months earlier, had kidnapped Adnan Patravala, 16, their Orkut 'friend', for ransom money to slake their thirst for highballs in glitzy suburban malls? Is it any extenuation that they killed him only in panic? The same fate befell another Bandra teenager, Mukim Khan, in 2009.


Round up the usual suspects. In the case of the child suicides, these are parental pressures and expectations. Alas, in our fame-fractured value system, reality shows have added their burden to the traditional culprit of exam results.


Neither the Sawants nor the Patils seem to be guilty. Instead of the stupidly beaming parents who turn their children into grotesque performing monkeys on television, Neha's had actually pulled the talented child out of dancing classes so that she wouldn't be distracted (and this was 18 months ago). Sushant's parents never consciously made a big deal about studies. But the malaise of having to be someone, to get somewhere is insidious and pervasive; it doesn't always need a parental hand to help it strike.




In the case of the killings, we had pointed to the gluttonous fangs of consumerism. But these are not just everywhere; they are an integral part of the liberalisation which we cannot discard, nor want to, nor should.


The enemy is ubiquitous, but that doesn't diminish our guilt when children are driven to take their own lives. When they kill their peers, culprit and victim must shame us equally.








Ex-IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj's demand that decorated cop K P S Gill, who was convicted of a molestation charge, be stripped of his Padma Shri will no doubt raise the hackles of those who believe that Gill's crime in no way endangers his status as a top cop. But there is hypocrisy inherent in arguing for the withdrawal of former Haryana DGP S P S Rathore's police medal after he was convicted of molesting Ruchika Girhotra, while simultaneously claiming that Gill's indiscretion is too far in the past and too minor to take away his Padma Shri.

The fact is that both men were convicted of precisely the same crime - molestation. If one act is deemed serious enough to result in a punishment that goes beyond the scope of the crime itself, then the other should be too. The argument that Gill's Padma Shri had nothing to do with his conduct, and that his actions in Punjab and Assam somehow exempt him from facing the same reprimand as another less-liked man is fallacious. Rathore's medals might also be perfectly deserved, in that he may have been a good officer and served the police force well. But his crime in molesting Ruchika has been judged too heinous to allow him to hold on to those official honours. Why should Gill's case be any different?

Indeed, Gill's stature makes his punishment even more essential. Any sexual crime against women who, in general, have hardly been treated well in the past in this country, ought to receive the censure it deserves, in the harshest terms possible. Now that the Central Police Awards Committee has authorised the ministry of home affairs to recommend withdrawal of police medals given to persons later convicted for moral turpitude and for acts that bring disrepute to police forces, it is only just that Gill be made an example of and penalised. Rupan didn't commit suicide, and her family wasn't harassed like Ruchika's, but she was still subjected to a traumatic experience. That's not acceptable, not at any cost.







The S P S Rathore-Ruchika case has raised passions. Sadly, it's in the heat of passion that one risks sacrificing lucidity. It's being demanded that former Punjab DGP K P S Gill be stripped of his Padma Shri. Recall that ex-IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj slapped a sexual harassment case against Gill for misbehaving with her at a party in 1988. She now suggests that, had Gill not been honoured at a time he was embroiled in that controversy, Ruchika wouldn't have been molested. In short, Gill's rewarding "emboldened" policemen like Rathore. While Deol's sentiments are understandable in light of her past victimisation, their subjective nature can't be lost sight of.

For one thing, one individual can't be made culpable for another's conduct without evidence, that too when their cases are both unrelated and separated in time. For another, an individual can slip up personally and yet be appreciated for professional competence. Why conflate the two?

Indisputably, society must be far more sensitive to women victims of our male-dominated culture. But there are social and institutional channels to demonstrate sensitivity to gender issues: pro-women campaigns, policymaking, legislation, education, law enforcement and the courts. In this context, recall that Gill was awarded a jail term which the Supreme Court later converted to a fine and probation even while upholding the conviction. The law took its course. And no one can say the ex-top cop - despite his recognised achievements - got off lightly. Similarly, the judiciary should deal with Rathore's case without external pressure.

It's, however, evident that the demand for Gill's further shaming reflects the stormy mood that prevails in connection with the Ruchika case. Yet stripping Gill of his honours after so many years won't serve any purpose. Wrongs, alleged or otherwise, are to be rectified institutionally, not avenged by public hue and cry or vigilantism. If controversies lead to the habitual raking up of past issues, where will the process of unhealthy exhumation end? Together with dispensing justice, society must also heal old wounds. Else, painful experiences will see no closure.







As we prepare to tee off in the new year, many of us have forgotten that the tiger is actually a ferocious animal in the jungle, not merely a famous sort of ex-golfer who has strayed in the woods. Permit me to set the record right, not least because 2010 is the Chinese year of the Tiger, but also because the real tiger remains our proud national animal. Indeed we are reassured that several hundred of them continue to roam free in our forests. And now we also have a playful Shera as mascot of the forthcoming Delhi Commonwealth Games. The English language, however, takes a number of liberties with the big cat. If you have wild and aggressive tendencies, you could be described as a tiger in your office. On the other hand, if you are unfortunate, you could be riding a tiger or worse still, holding a tiger by the tail. I really do not know why any reasonable person would attempt to hold a wild animal by its tail, but to each man his own choices and happy endings.

Science and medicine also do their bit of disservice to this fine animal. A tiger's tooth is considered a potent aphrodisiac. A streetside vendor once tried to sell me a tiger's claw, claiming it would keep all manner of diseases away. If my wife, a tigress in her own right, had not put her own sharp claws down, one may well have been owning the coveted piece today. Nor does religion always aid the tiger. Many years ago, a grand-uncle told me that the best way to meditate on the Almighty is when one is seated on a tiger's skin. He owned such a skin himself, which he kept securely locked away in his steel trunk. It was actually a clever fake, and my enterprising relative eventually sold it to an unscrupulous wealthy grain trader for over Rs 50,000, thus proving that there are many ways of skinning a fat cat. Tigers have also been used indiscriminately as brand ambassadors by diverse products and people who have no relationship at all with this worthy animal. Thus we have Tiger balm, Tiger matchboxes and Tiger biscuits (regular and banana flavoured). Perhaps the only close match to the animal is Tiger beer, which packs quite a punch. And of course Tiger Woods, who, like his namesake, stands the risk of turning into an endangered species.








Even as New Delhi issued an advisory cautioning Indian students to keep to well-lit areas and not to venture out alone at night in Australia, a second death has been reported. The partially burnt body of 25-year-old Ranjodh Singh was found in Griffith last week. The incident comes close on the heels of the murder of 21-year-old student Nitin Garg in Melbourne in the same week. Even though the jury is still out on whether these two were hate or 'opportunistic' crimes, such attacks seem to be continuing despite promises made by the Australian government. There are over 1.2 lakh Indian students there and as many as 100 attacks against them have been reported in the last one year.


While India must impress upon the Australians that taking tough measures would benefit both parties since Indians form the major chunk of overseas students in that country, it must also look within. The one question that it needs to address is this: why are such a large number of Indians going for foreign degrees, even when many of these overseas institutions are substandard and run by fly-by-night operators. Yes, there is always the lure of a better lifestyle, job guarantee and a foreign degree does have a brand equity in India, yet in many cases these students — especially the ones who don't secure eye-popping marks here — are forced to opt for foreign colleges/universities because there's a supply-demand mismatch when it comes to higher education in India. There are some islands of educational excellence while others — the ones that are accessed by the majority of students — are below par. While the Centre has often talked about opening up the education sector and 15 more new central universities are in the pipeline, there's a need for improving what we already have. Over the years, centres/cities of educational excellence — take for example Allahabad and Kolkata — have been destroyed by politics and mismanagement. Yet, there are many good institutions that can still deliver quality education to many more provided they are given adequate resources and autonomy. In addition, the higher education sector should also introduce new courses that can meet the requirements of the changing job market.


In an interview to a newspaper last year, Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal said his ministry's aim would be expansion, inclusion and excellence. Not an easy task but one that needs to be undertaken without any further delay. If not, our aspirations of becoming a knowledge-driven economy will remain on paper.







If the iconic movie The Party in which a movie extra called Hrundi V. Bakshi finds himself at a bash thrown by a top Hollywood moghul, thanks to a clerical error, were to be remade today, we have a readymade setting. It would be the White House where, unlike Bakshi played to perfection by the late Peter Sellers, you would not even need the benefit of a clerical mistake to be able to attend elite get-togethers. As soon as the White House finished scrambling for cover after a couple were found to have gatecrashed the dinner for the Indian prime minister comes news that a third uninvited guest had also rubbed shoulders with the schmoozers of the Beltway.


Clearly, these were test runs to work out the permutations and combinations that terrorists might resort to in order to have a natter with Barack and Michelle. For example, what if Osama were to nip by dressed in a tacky sari like the Salahi woman or do an impersonation of Duke Ellington as the last gatecrasher did. The secret service was just testing to see whether anyone would spot the odd bods at the party. And obviously the exercise was a great success except that the nosey parkers in the media gave the game away.


So the next time around, if you think you have spotted a suspicious character at a restricted bash, do keep your thoughts to yourself. They are just pretending to enjoy the guacamole and chatter only to refine the filtering operations of the secret service. Oh, and by the way, the gent who you thought was Manmohan Singh was secret service agent Connors just testing how alert you really are. Seeing is not believing, you know.








While travelling in a jungle, two frogs, out of a group of many, fell into a deep pit. The frogs outside the pit told the two frogs that they were as good as dead and should not try to come out.


The two frogs ignored the comments and tried their best to jump out of the pit. The other frogs kept telling them to stop as "they were as good as dead".


Finally, one of the frogs felt discouraged and exhausted. Therefore, he gave up and fell down dead.


The other frog continued to jump with greater spirit. Once again, the crowd of frogs screamed at him to stop the pain and die. He, however, started jumping even harder and finally made it out.


When he got out, the other frogs asked, "Did you not hear us?"


The frog explained to them that he was deaf. He thought they were encouraging him all the time.


Yes, there is enormous power in encouraging words. Our encouraging words can lift someone up and help him or her make it through the day. Our discouraging words can hurt others; they may be the weapons that destroy someone's desire to continue trying. Our words of kindness, praise or encouragement do wonders to people with lowly spirits. We have to listen to our heart and respond positively.


Also, we have always to be careful of what we say to others, especially with people with whom we come in contact every now and then. Just as we don't like to hear negative comments and discouraging words from others, others too don't like such words from us. We should be liberal with encouragement and should make things seem easy to do.


Let the other person know that he has faith in his ability to do things. Anyone can speak words that tend to rob another of the spirit to continue in difficult times. Special is the individual who will take pains to encourage another.


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US President Barack Obama has outlined his revised strategy for Afghanistan. Sending an additional 30,000 troops, he has decided against a decade-long, State reconstruction effort and has set an 18-month deadline for a decrease/withdrawal of US troops there.


For almost a decade, the US military footprint in Afghanistan was confined to just 34,000 troops. The Iraq diversion, locking up about 165,000 troops was responsible for the Taliban resurgence. It's difficult to understand the failure of the US-Nato alliance to raise an adequate-sized Afghan National Army (ANA) to stabilise the nation and take over the bulk of the fighting from foreign troops.


The small size of the US-Nato garrison has meant excessive reliance on air power for survival and protection,

leading to high collateral damage that has alienated the population. Also inexplicable is the miniscule size of the planned ANA, pegged at a target total of 134,000 by 2011, a ridiculously low force level for a country the size and ruggedness of Afghanistan. The US-International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) alliance has been forced to rely excessively on former resistance fighters and discredited warlords. The latter are at the root of the corruption and drug culture, and are undermining the credibility of the Hamid Karzai regime.


The Canadians estimate that, based on a force-to-space ratio analysis, a 850,000-strong force is needed to secure Afghanistan.


It is here that India can — and should — step in. It has a major stake in the security of Afghanistan. In the heyday of the Taliban, about 22 per cent of terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir were either of Afghan origin or had been trained there. India simply can't afford a Taliban regime in Kabul, which will cause the dominoes to fall in Central Asia and Islamabad. What, then, can India do to prevent such a denouement after a US withdrawal?


India can assist rapid capacity-building of the ANA by offering to pay for, equip and train up to two Afghan divisions; and also raise, and arm, an armoured and artillery brigade. This Afghan force could be sent here for training, to be ready before the US withdrawal deadline. Having earlier raised three divisions of the Rashtriya Rifles in just a year, India's up to the task.


After three decades of war and ceaseless bloodshed, and the humiliation of living in refugee camps, the Afghans are yearning to re-establish their state and live in peace. Pakistani designs on Afghanistan, of destroying it through the Taliban to secure a long-coveted strategic depth, must not be allowed to succeed.


GD Bakshi is a former Major General in the Indian Army


The views expressed by the author are personal








'Agar koi problem ko solve karna ho, to khatam hone tak lage raho.' If you want to solve a problem, keep at it until it's finished.


This is sterling advice in a nation notorious for not finishing a job.

We build roads but are too lazy — or simply don't bother — to build pavements.


We build up well towards rival goals in football and hockey, but we are infamous for not getting the ball in the net.

Indigenous manufacturers of cars, including — and particularly — the Tatas, are notorious for poor finishing.


The advice didn't come from a management guru, a sports psychologist, and certainly not from a political leader.


It came from the village of Taj Nagar, a settlement not far from the bright lights of Gurgaon. Through the week, some Delhi FM radio stations called the folk of Taj Nagar to their studios to share their happy tale.


In a rare Indian display of industriousness and cooperation, Taj Nagar built its own railway station. Frazzled by long commutes and anxious late-night waits for family who often stagger home well after dark, and a railway refusal to build a station, Taj Nagar got each family to contribute Rs 3,000, and then persuaded the railways to fork over some land and technical help to build a station on the mainline that passes outside the village.


The railways, charged the village Rs 5.6 lakh, which includes land, four display boards, project reports and supervision.


They also offered a bargain: You build the station, we'll stop the trains there.


So, a 30-year wait is over, and the men of Taj Nagar are the latest Indian heroes.
This is a tragedy.


Don't get me wrong. I loved hearing Taj Nagar's story, but we celebrate it because it isn't often that Indians work together as a community — that's the tragedy.


Isn't it funny how the West treasures individualism yet works wonderfully as a community, and we in the third world treasure our community ties but settle for an every-man-for-himself approach in our shambolic public spaces and public actions?


This question clearly troubled Jay Desai, the CEO of a Mumbai-based company called Universal Consulting. So, after the 26/11 attack, he ran a year-long study that tried to understand why there was so little public accountability in India. One of the questions the study asked: Is a relatively collectivist society as we find in India, a barrier to achieving higher public accountability?


Using a variety of World Bank governance indicators, Desai's study found a high correlation between the West's rugged-individual culture and public accountability. In India, he concludes, the culture of community could be a barrier to better public accountability because responsibility is often diffused among groups.


The same morning that Taj Nagar's people were showcasing their collective responsibility on the airwaves, Delhi's 10th Auto Expo opened with much grandeur.


As you read this, we bask in the glory of being one of the world's fastest growing auto markets, of knowing the big boys honoured us — our willingness and ability to keep buying more cars actually — with 10 global launches.


We are proud that the Japanese, Koreans, Americans, Germans, the British, even the Chinese, streamed in to

pay homage to the Indian customer.


Yet, how horrified they were when they got to Pragati Maidan, Delhi's biggest fairground, and found it a giant garbage dump.


I am not exaggerating.


You had to have the vision of an elephant (they don't see too well) not to see the overflowing garbage bins, waste food, packing material and other trash. As I made my way to some stalls that housed cars with the best of first-world technology, I could not but help wrinkle my nose at the pong of stale urine.


Astonishing, isn't it, how we can send work together to send a spacecraft to the moon but can't work together on creating a trash-disposal system that works?


Of course they still come — many of them sporting masks. India is too important to ignore. They come because India has promise, and they are in trouble. If we don't get our collective act together, they will one day gladly consign us to the anonymity we enjoyed in the poverty stricken 1960s, '70s and '80s.


To truly find our place in the sun, we must change our we-are-like-this-only attitude. As Taj Nagar shows, we need not always be like this only. There are some — sorely inadequate — indicators that we are attempting to pull together as a nation.


One example is the long-delayed attempt at a general sales tax (GST) across India. Today, state finance ministers meet to discuss a Rs 50,000 crore compensation package evolved by the 13th Finance Commission as a sop to states that routinely stonewall attempts to rid the nation of its chaotic, damaging system of cesses, surcharges and multiple taxes, levied by both state and Centre.


The GST is a way of life in almost every country larger than ours. We know it would be a huge boost to the economy and growth, the single most important tax reform since Independence. But we could not collectively meet the April 2010 deadline for its introduction.


Look at the bright side. That we are even committed now to making the GST happen implies the Taj Nagar mentality may slowly be spreading. It must.


Now, if only we could agree on how to handle our trash.








The core duty — indeed, the key characteristic — of a functional modern state has been identified for centuries: it should exert a monopoly over the legitimate use of force within its territory. In other words, no non-state actor must set itself up as an alternative source of the threat of violence. In well-governed modern states, the police and paramilitaries are sufficient to maintain order. But in most, that's not enough: hence the need for private security agencies. But — and here's the crucial point — even where these exist, it must be absolutely clear that they possess no authority of their own, that they derive their legitimacy from the state.


India has 65 lakh private securitymen. Six and a half million, with their number growing at 25 per cent a year. That number should give us pause. It is many times larger than the strength of the Indian army itself. Put together our armed forces, our paramilitaries and our state police forces, and only then do you begin to approach the scale of the pool of non-state security personnel in this country. Naturally, a grouping of this size needs regulation urgently. Not just for reasons of public order and safety, but also because anything that smacks of a retreat of the state from the exercise of its legitimate, core power cannot be allowed to stand. Parliament passed, in 2005, the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act; word came in on January 5 that one of the key provisions of the act, that private guards be registered will finally begin to be implemented in Delhi this week. This is, of course, welcome — if belated — news. Bringing these employees into the registered workforce is good all round: for the security people, for the state, and for prospective employers.


But more needs to be done. Some security agencies — G4S, for example, has 130,000 employees in India, which it claims makes it India's second largest employer — have grown truly large. Many of these have set up internal ranks, as in the armed forces; have chosen uniforms that are close enough to genuine military or police uniforms to fool even the careful observer; and, consequently, have personnel who could acquire an exaggerated sense of their own power and authority to use force. The norms the government needs to enforce must remind both itself and them: the state alone has that right. The difference between private security and those genuinely empowered to keep the peace must be more than obvious.







In a fresh and confusing twist to things, Home Minister P. Chidambaram admits that there is nothing on record against FTII student Neetu Singh, a Nepali national deported last month. Singh found herself inexplicably deported by Maharashtra Police on charges of having a hand in "anti-India activities". Her estranged husband, Amresh Singh, is an up-and-coming politician from Nepal, by all accounts adept at playing every side in the nation's power structure. He is also regarded as something of a power broker in India. Neetu claims that her marriage was on the rocks, and that her husband was using his connections to harass her in India. Back home, she is reportedly being pressured to sign divorce papers. Amresh Singh, however, claims that this is a larger plot by Nepal's royalists to besmirch his reputation and cut him down to size in the peace negotiations.


The details are foggy, the stories counter each other. The demand for Singh's return was filed by her father and brother, and women's groups have rallied to her defence. On what basis was she deported? Surely the men in her life, no matter how influential, could not get away with curtailing her agency and her new life in India simply because of their unhappiness with their choices? If she was indeed involved in "anti-India activities", surely Maharashtra's intelligence and law machinery is obliged to convey the nature of that activity to the home ministry. Whose purposes did she serve? If not, this arbitrary deportation must have come at the behest of a few powerful men, and the Indian government certainly has some accounting to do — how can a foreign national be deported without any inquiry or proof being supplied?


Right now, the government looks complicit at worst, and uncoordinated at best. If the Maharashtra police cannot adequately convince us of the need for Neetu Singh's deportation, then it conveys the impression that the Indian government is manipulable by a powerful man with marital issues. The home ministry would do well to get the story straight, and get it out.







There were no surprises at the meeting of eight Andhra Pradesh political parties called by Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Tuesday. As expected, no consensus was forged on the issue of statehood for Telangana. It is not just that political parties are divided amongst themselves on the demand — barring, of course, the TRS and the BJP, the former being founded on the demand and the latter too thin a presence in the state's politics to worry about taking a strong stand on statehood. It is that parties are internally divided on what is becoming a divisive regional issue.


It is nonetheless progress that there may be set up, without protest, a panel that will hold consultations with all the stakeholders. Even without the kind of emotive divide seen these past weeks on statehood and, significantly, the status of Hyderabad, breaking up a state is hard to do. It is often overlooked that both the original state and the one carved out would be successor states. The demands and concerns of both must be carefully attended to. Besides the necessity of such a mechanism, the process thus begun would help calm the politics over Telangana. It will, for starters, help the Congress regain control over its MPs from and MLAs in Andhra Pradesh. As the party dominant in the assembly and among the state's representatives in Parliament, the political ruptures in the Congress — once the demand on Telangana was conceded by the Centre — had threatened to extend instability in the state. The government must, however, also ensure the widest possible participation in any consultations.


With the air thick, too, with demands for another states reorganisation commission, the panel's experience could clarify the terms and conditions that could inform such an exercise.








As Delhi prepares to receive the prime minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, next week, a big moment is at hand for one of India's most important but difficult bilateral relationships.


After many wasted decades, Delhi and Dhaka seem poised to construct a positive partnership.


For her part, Hasina has done all the right things — offered substantive counter-terror cooperation, opened the door for trans-border power trading, and allowed Bharti Airtel to pick a stake in Warid Telecom of Bangladesh.

All this is refreshingly good news from Dhaka.


What is India giving in return? There is speculation that Delhi is planning to announce a $500 million credit line for infrastructure development in Bangladesh. India is also reportedly working on new water sharing arrangements and other deliverables during Hasina's visit.


Money is indeed important; but it does not buy love. Looking beyond monetary assistance, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should use the opportunity to change the psychological dynamic that had prevented cooperation between the two countries in the past even when their best national interests demanded it. If we can break through that political barrier, the sky may be the limit for what Delhi and Dhaka can do together.


During Hasina's visit it is India and its government that are under test. The question is a simple one. Can the UPA government walk its talk on a good neighbourly policy? Ever since he became the prime minister in May 2004, Dr Singh has repeatedly promised to transform India's relations with her South Asian neighbours.


The results during the last five and a half years have been mixed. India has done well with the smallest countries of South Asia, Bhutan and Maldives, where Delhi encouraged the democratic transitions and strengthened the bases of bilateral cooperation.


With the two larger countries — Sri Lanka and Nepal — all of India's energies have gone into coping with their internal crises and preventing the civil wars from destabilising the bilateral relationship.


On Pakistan, despite the persistent and bold effort by the prime minister to transform the ties with our western neighbour, it has been a steady setback from early 2007. With Bangladesh, there have been few incremental advances in recent years, there had been no transformation.


The Hasina government in Dhaka promises that long elusive breakthrough. It is up to India now to seize the moment. If Delhi wants to engineer a real paradigm shift in our relations with Dhaka, it must articulate four important principles that will guide its strategy towards Bangladesh.


The first is about an unambiguous Indian commitment to an "equal" relationship with Bangladesh. It is always tempting for the Indian leaders to talk about the "special" relationship with our neighbours; nothing irritates Dhaka more.


The Indian political classes that are so conscious of equality in our dealings with say the United States find it hard to apply the same principle when engaging our smaller neighbours. Delhi's long overdue corrective must underline an unflinching Indian respect for the principle of sovereign equality in the framing and implementation of our ties with Bangladesh.


The second is a new emphasis on "interests" rather than "sentiments" in our search for an enduring relationship with Bangladesh. Sentimentalism generates exaggerated expectations and leads to deep disappointments. This has been especially true of India's relations with Bangladesh.


Given our previous history with Bangladesh and the deep divisions within Dhaka's political elite about India, Delhi must make it clear that it has no desire to pick favourites in Bangladesh and is committed to dealing with whoever is in power on the basis of self-interest.


A complement to this approach must be a broad-based engagement of all the major official institutions in Bangladesh and support to wide-ranging exchanges between all the political classes across the border and the vibrant civil societies in both the nations.


The third message is one that Dr Singh has often articulated — that the destinies of the subcontinent's peoples are interlinked. If India recognises that its own prosperity is tied to those of its neighbours, it should be opening its market more generously to products from Bangladesh.


Dr Singh has done quite a bit to liberalise market access for goods from Bangladesh; but not nearly enough. A further reduction of the negative list for zero duty imports, eliminating the many non-tariff barriers, and modernisation of the trade facilitation on our long border would do wonders for the relationship.


The fourth must be a strong Indian endorsement of Dhaka's aspirations to lead the process of regional and sub-regional cooperation in the subcontinent. If it was Dhaka that took the lead in promoting SAARC in the early '80s, it has even a bigger role in promoting the economic integration of the eastern parts of the subcontinent, including Nepal, Bhutan and linking it to Southeast Asia and the neighbouring regions of China.


If Dhaka leverages its geopolitical location into a strategy for sustainable growth, its stakes in a non-violent regional environment and a de-politicisation of trans-border economic projects can only grow. Similarly if India facilitates the emergence of Bangladesh as a great eastern hub of South Asia, it might discover innovative of ways managing our shared natural resources and borderlands.


Together, these four principles should signal to the people of Bangladesh and the rest of the subcontinent that India has turned a page in its book on neighbourhood policy. It is even more important that the principles are understood by our own bureaucratic establishment and the political classes which have had real trouble thinking strategically about Bangladesh.


The writer is Henry A. Kissinger Chair in Foreign Policy and International Relations at the Library of Congress, Washington DC







As we enter a new year, we decided to do a job for old times' sake. The Planning Commission will, I am sure, eventually review the Eleventh Plan. Actually mid-term reviews of policies and programmes have been more useful than the plans themselves in the past, whenever we got out of major problems. This was true of the Fifth Plan after the energy and agricultural crisis of the '70s, and the Seventh Plan after the droughts of 1987 and 1988. The Ninth Plan did not really take on the crisis of the '90s because we were slow in accepting the impact of the Asian meltdown on India, and when the economics literature was flooded with books on the tigers in trouble, losing upto 40 per cent of their GDP, our economic survey still had sagely sections on their achievements. This was remedied by the review of the '90s in the Tenth Plan on the crisis of infrastructure, agriculture and employment. Interestingly in all these reviews growth was not the big issue because India was clearly on a growth escalator from the mid-'70s. The issues were food security and agricultural growth, employment, energy and social and economic infrastructure. This is still largely true but this time round we believe that while growth is still not the most important issue, championing higher growth possibilities is. Are we at a serious level giving up the nine per cent dream, and on making an impact on history, in a vain glorification of mediocrity?


The growth rate in the Tenth Plan was 7.8 per cent. In the Eleventh Plan from 07/08 to 09/10, assuming it is 7 per cent this year, it is 7.4 per cent, say 7.5 per cent at the outside. Now the howl. There were bad agricultural years and bad trade years. Ah, but we are a globalised economy and some (at least one) countr(y)ies are(is) doing better. When we globalised did we not know that there are trade cycles? Of course it is true that only people like me said then that we have not prepared for the impact of an imperfect global economy on our agriculture and we will suffer, which we did with exports collapsing, diversification and profitability and then investment and employment going down. In the Tenth Plan the UPA reversed that, which means it could have been done earlier. But now trade and manufacturing were hurt. This column wanted the stimulus earlier but until September 2008 we kept on saying things were not that bad. An August stimulus when exports were down and manufacturing was in trouble could have saved us upto a half per cent of GDP.


Gross domestic capital formation, which was 28.1 per cent in the Tenth Plan, was around 32 per cent in the first two years of the Eleventh. Central government capital formation collapsed in this period. There is some pick-up in the first six months of this fiscal, at least in investment expenditures, but if RBI figures are to be relied upon, the emphasis on private public partnerships is not showing up at least in the loans and advances of the Central government which trigger them.This is also the time to emphasise again the point that the plan does not have a target and strategy to raise the productivity of resource use, and the work that modellers outside Yojana Bhavan have published on long-term models on required trends in the factor productivity of resource use has had no resonance in policy circles.


More generally there is an abdication of a strategic perspective on the economy. The Eleventh Plan is the first plan in the country without a perspective. Very responsible people give targets from seven to nine per cent, which is naturally seen as media noise, without serious content. Underlying this is a genuine viewpoint that strategic policy-making is inconsistent with the liberalisation. This is a mistake. The last of the strategic planners in India, reformulating the earlier mindsets from the Nehru period, was Rajiv Gandhi — and the current generation of economic policy-makers have taken very critical views in print, earlier on Rajiv and increasingly so on Nehru. This is a faulty perspective. The mid-'80s saw a serious debate between the late I.G. Patel and one of the most influential economic policy-makers today on a strategic policy-planning viewpoint vs project-level decision-making. IG took the position that the difficulty in India was that the Japanese and East Asian experience was neglected on account of an ideological slant that the Japanese were camp-followers of the imperialists. IG's argument was that in spite of considerable achievements in energy and agriculture India suffered since it did not have an adequate framework on an open economy. Rajiv was to remedy that.

The official Indian position, by default against strategic perspective planning and the shallow critiques of earlier strategic policy-making leadership needs to be given up in the mid-term review. We need, badly, popular debates on growth.


The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand





'3 Idiots' and the morality of numbers

Shamnad Basheer


Bollywood's latest "message laden" script is certainly big on numbers. Within the first week alone, it grossed 175 crores! I speak of 3 Idiots, a brilliantly entertaining movie that captures the decay of the Indian educational system, where rote learning is often preferred over critical thinking; pragmatism over principles and convention over creativity. The success of the movie owes to an intelligent script that celebrates the innovator, the maverick and anyone else bold enough to pursue their passions against all odds. But I digress from my numbers' thesis.


Note that the movies' title contains the number "3". And the book on which it is based ("5 Point Someone") sports the number "5". Most interestingly perhaps, the producers of the movie claim that the book contributes no more than 5 per cent to the movie. The author, Chetan Bhagat disagrees, claiming his contribution to be 70 per cent. If only judges were this masterful at numbers and percentages, copyright disputes might have been far easier to crack. But first, a bit of background:


1. Bhagat entered into a contract with the production house (Vinod Chopra Films Pvt Ltd), under which he assigned all rights in any film adaptation to them.


2. As consideration, Bhagat received a certain sum of money, which he admits. In any case, the dispute is not about the money.


3. Although, as contractually promised, the credits right at the end of the film do mention the fact that the movie is based on the book by Bhagat, it crams up the attribution ("Based on The Novel Five Point Someone By Chetan Bhagat") in one line, whereas the contract stretches out the entire attribution to 3 lines.


Bhagat could therefore argue that even contractually, the form of placement was not complied with. This is buttressed by the fact that the credit at the end of the movie was so fleeting that even his mother missed it. Contrast this with the fact that the script writer, Abhijat Joshi was credited right at the start of the movie.


Anyway, what Bhagat appears to be really "hurt" about is the producers' claim that the movie contained no more than 5 per cent of his book. Fortunately, this unfair treatment meted out to him is not just objectionable from a moral standpoint, but is actionable under the law.


Having read the book and watched the movie, my view is that the script borrows significant amounts of copyrightable elements from the book, including the main theme, the various plots and most of the characters therein, including some dialogues. The fact that some new scenes and sub plots were added afresh to the movie does not detract from the fact that significant portions of the book were copied onto the script in the first place.


Therefore, Bhagat is legitimately entitled to be treated as a joint author of this script. Section 57 of the Indian copyright act deals with what are commonly termed as "moral rights" and vests every author with the right to insist that their works be attributed to them. And this right exists independent of the "economic" right to exploit the work. In other words, even if the economic rights are assigned away (as was the case here), the moral right of attribution continues to vest with the author.


One might even argue that such rights were brought into our copyright regime to prevent precisely the kind of harm that this case throws up i.e. a wily production house that buys out an author economically and then attempts to obliterate his status as author altogether!

Bhagat must therefore take a principled stand on this issue and pursue the matter without backing down, not just for himself, but for every small artist who end up getting a raw deal from crafty producers. It could end up cleansing some of the sharp practices that Bollywood has become culturally attuned to now.


Bhagat must sue in a court of law, demanding rightful attribution and appropriate damages. It helps his case that Indian courts have traditionally been very supportive of the moral rights of authors (Amar Nath Sehgal vs UOI).


Of course, it would be far better if the film-makers apologise to Bhagat and settle the matter in a fair manner. After all, even they understand that morality is not really about numbers.


The writer is the Ministry of HRD Professor of IP Law at the National University Of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata








There is much debate in Nepal what China is up to. One line of speculation is that China, after the abolition of monarchy, has been looking for a trusted ally in Nepal. With India's role — right from mediating between the Maoists and the pro-democracy parties in Nepal and abolishing monarchy — so open, China's worries were two-fold. One: not to let India to fill up the vacancy left by the absence of the monarchy and two, define and legitimise its role in Nepal, preferably by signing a Peace and Friendship Treaty similar to one Nepal has with India, and review its earlier line that India has primacy of interest in Nepal.


The Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (CPN-M) was seen as the natural option, as the largest 'legitimate' political force in Nepal apart from Mao's legacy. Prachanda's visit to Beijing a day after he became the prime minister in 2009 was a departure from tradition of Nepali authorities — from kings to prime ministers — first visiting Delhi and then Beijing. It was, no doubt, a definite message to the north.


But Prime Minister Madhav Nepal's recent visit, three months after a similar trip to Delhi has shown that Beijing will continue to deal will the government of the day while continuing its search for a trusted long-term ally. But with the return of monarchy nowhere on the cards, it cannot afford to put all its egg in one basket, and instead wants to expand relations with all political parties.


Last month Prachanda, chairman of the CPN-M, visited Beijing. What gave Nepali Maoists more hope was Hu Jintao agreeing to meet Prachanda's delegation. It was perhaps that hope which triggered a Maoist ideologue in Nepal to write that in a situation where the party captured power and formed a government, recognition from at least one of the neighbours — India or China — will be vital for its legitimacy.


But China punctured that Maoist hope of the Maoists soon enough. Not only did it offer a financial package to the Nepal army in addition to various other developmental activities and infrastructure development — Hu Jintao also extended an official invitation to President Rambaran Yadav to visit China. The current Maoist agitation is based on their assessment and propaganda that the Nepal Army and President Rambaran Yadav have ganged against that principle of civilian principle. In the Maoist view, both President and the army, especially under its previous chief Rookmangud Katawal, had Indian backing in the conspiracy against the Maoist government which led to its exit. Prachanda had resigned as the prime minister on May 4 after the president asked Katawal to continue in the office as the PM's sacking order, made public without any cabinet proposal sent to the president, was unconstitutional and inappropriate.


But China's enlarged support to the Nepal army and official invitation to the president so soon after Prachanda's return 'highly satisfied with the visit' sends a signal to the Maoists that China would not adopt and befriend them ignoring other political parties and the government institutions. At the same time, China is also a key actor in the international initiative in Nepal in the peace process, although India is recognised as its main architect.


However, China made it a point to tell the visiting prime minister that it would want to see Nepal being able to solve its problems by itself. That is being interpreted here as some kind of disapproval of the increased presence of the western countries as well as the United Nations delving into its internal affairs in the name of the peace process. The United Nations Mission to Nepal (UNMIN) that was given a limited role in the peace process has now been labelled a failure and most likely will pack off in mid-May after the end of its freshly extended tenure.

But China also made it clear that it is interested in getting involved in Nepal's hydro-sector at a moderate level now, and perhaps in a bigger way later. India and Nepal have failed all these years to implement and harness Nepal's rich resources, which has cost Nepal dearly.


In the past four years, China has entered the hydro-sector and similar areas which it had previously avoided because it was a high-priority concern. But it has initiated a process of engagement with all the political parties in Nepal including the ones based in Terai, and with those clearly identified as pro-India. There have been high-level political and military visits between the two countries. It is not just China, even top leaders like G.P. Koirala have quietly suggested that India and China should talk and together find a way to stabilise Nepal's politics, peace process and development. That is China's remarkable achievement in Nepal.









The editorial in the latest issue of RSS journal Organiser titled "Sheila and her city of Djinns", says: "Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit it seems, is building the eighth capital in Delhi. From Indraprastha of the Pandavas to the Lutyen's Delhi of the British, Delhi has witnessed seven capitals. One wonders if the making of any of them was as chaotic as the present one! Dikshit is lucky. She does not have to walk the streets of Delhi... Without any coordination and planning, several arms of the government, Centre and state, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and electricity authority and the water authority are all working separately".


The editorial adds: "For whatever ills of the city, Sheila Dikshit is used to blaming the multiple authorities governing in the city. It won't do. Congress is in power in the Centre and the state and she is at the helm of affairs and has been there for over a decade now. She should by now know the ills that plague the city and the remedies that they are crying for. It is public knowledge that construction and repair work offer the maximum scope for kickbacks. Even making allowance for that, what is happening now is not pardonable. The least the government could do is to set up some kind of a watchdog of respectable, senior citizens in the city who could apply some pressure on the quality and speed of work being done. If the government does not act now, Commonwealth 2010 will go down in history as one of the most ill-organised sports events and the city's civic scene would be the biggest contributing factor for it".



In an opinion piece titled "Time to firmly deal with terror" M.V. Kamath writes in the latest issue of the RSS mouthpiece, : "In the last three decades things have changed, but according to a recent study, in the late '90s there were 12.4 lakh unemployed youth in Assam. Unemployment and poor planning apparently have facilitated militancy. The militants, according to reports extract some Rs 32 crore annually from businessmen, tea plantation owners and even government officials to sustain themselves. The Assam of today is a far cry from the Assam of the 1970s but obviously ULFA has got stuck into a mental rut from which it is finding it hard to get out. Unemployment is endemic in different — especially tribal — parts of India but militancy will take those up in arms nowhere. True leaders have to think out-of-the-box to improve the economic condition of their state. Assam is very much part of India, a fact that no one can run away from. All Indians sink or swim together. Consider what might have happened when Partition was in the air and that great Assamese, Gopinath Bardoloi saved his state from being swallowed by Pakistan. ULFA must employ not Kalashnikovs but economic experts to suggest how best Assam's economic conditions can be improved. That is statesmanship. Seeking ISI's help to destroy the unity of India is to insult the patriotic people of Assam".


Kamath adds: "(Arabinda) Rajkhowa must realise what damage he is doing to his own people. He has a great job on hand if he truly has the good of Assam at heart and that is to give up his unrealistic dream as all dreams are, irrelevant for the times and murderous in its execution and get back to the mainstream of life seeking to enrich Assam and contribute to peace and prosperity of the entire sub-continent. We then don't have to go back to those ancient days when India was ruled by a score of petty rulers, constantly at each other's throats and so inviting foreigners to conquer them all. India has a great role to play in the years to come and let it not be said that Assam tied its hands. Rajkhowa does not have to surrender; he has to re-cast his thinking in a positive manner, be proud to be an Indian and so serve the land we call Bharat to make all the citizens proud of Asom and grateful to its sons. Think again, Rajkhowa. Conquer India by your love and service than by your fanatic drive for separatism. India has so much to offer. Think of China and where it is now and think of what India can do in the years to come, and of what your own contribution to it should be. You don't want India to be another Pakistan, do you?"







Surely, the most important, interesting — and, yes, heroic — figure in the whole Christmas Day Northwest airliner affair was the would-be bomber's father, the Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab.


Mutallab did something that, as far as we know, no other parent of a suicide bomber has done: He went to the US Embassy in Nigeria and warned us that text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent, and possibly dangerous, radical.


We are turning ourselves inside out over how our system broke down — and surely it did — in allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber, to board that airliner. But his father, in effect, told us something else: "My family system, our village system, broke down. My own son fell under the influence of a jihadist version of Islam that I do not recognise and have reason to fear."


The Times, quoting a cousin, said the son had sent the father a text message from Yemen in which he declared that "he had found a new religion, the real Islam" and that he was never coming home again.


Finding people with the courage to confront that breakdown — the one identified by the father, the one that lures young Muslims away from the mainstream into a willingness to commit suicide against innocent civilians as part of some jihadist power fantasy — is what matters most right now.


Yes, we need to fix our intelligence. Yes, we absolutely must live up to our own ideals, as President Obama is trying to do in banning torture and closing Guantánamo Bay. We can't let this "war on terrorism" consume us. We can't let our country become just The United States of Fighting Terrorism and nothing more. We are the people of July 4th — not Sept. 11th.


But even if we do all that, no laws or walls we put up will ever be sufficient to protect us unless the Arab and Muslim societies from whence these suicide bombers emerge erect political, religious and moral restraints as well — starting by shaming suicide bombers and naming their actions "murder," not "martyrdom."


I keep saying: It takes a village. The father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, saw himself as part of a global community, based on shared values, and that is why he rang the alarm bell. Bless him for that. Unless more Muslim parents, spiritual leaders, political leaders — the village — are ready to publicly denounce suicide bombing against innocent civilians — theirs and ours — this behavior will not stop.


Just last Friday, for example, a suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden vehicle in the midst of a volleyball tournament in the Pakistani village of Shah Hassan Khel, killing more than 100 people. Most were youngsters. No surprise. When suicide bombing becomes legitimate to use against non-Muslim "infidels" abroad it becomes legitimate to use against Muslim opponents at home. And what becomes "legitimate" and "illegitimate" in a community is so much more important than any government regulation.


All too often, though, Arab and Muslim governments arrest their jihadis at home, denounce them privately to us, but say nothing in public. The global leadership of Islam rarely take on jihadist actions and ideology openly with the kind of passion, consistency and mass protests that we have seen them do, for example, against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Obama should not hesitate to call for it — respectfully but publicly. If he only presses for more effective airport security, which he must, it's a cop-out.


"When you want to foster more responsible behavior in people, you can't just legislate more rules and regulations," said Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book How. "You have to enlist and inspire people in a set of values. People need to be governed both from the outside, through compliance with rules, and from the inside, inspired by shared values. That is why shame is so important. When we call a banker 'a fat cat' for taking too big a bonus, we're actually being inspirational leaders because we are telling them, 'You are behaving beneath how a responsible human being should behave'."


Every faith has its violent extreme. The West is not immune. It's all about how the centre deals with it. Does it tolerate it, isolate it or shame it?







Exactly a year ago, the CEO of Satyam—which was India's fourth-largest IT company at the time—confessed he had been 'riding the tiger'. Shock and dismay spread. Quite apart from the value destruction faced by his shareholders, there was apprehension that his shenanigans would take a toll extending beyond the hitherto highly-regarded IT sector. Other Indian industries, it was feared, would also take a reputation hit. Doomsayers wondered whether Satyam was just a one-off incident, or whether there were hundreds of Satyams sheltering in the winds—of loose oversight, lax regulations and feeble shareholder activism. Would the Global Recession press the explode button on many more? In retrospect, all that panic appears overblown. A lot of things went right for Indian markets as 2009 matured, including global fundamentals that kept drawing investors to emerging regions like ours. A lot of credit for swiftly driving away the fogs of fear also goes to the government. It moved at an uncharacteristic speed to clean up Ramalinga Raju's mess, appointing a new board that then sold a majority stake in Satyam to Tech Mahindra. The latter paid up a 50% premium to the then market price of the former. Between them, the government-appointed directors and their successors have done a very good job of retaining clients and reviving Satyam.


People's cry for justice was addressed by swift arrests of Satyam's former CFO and the Raju brothers. But after this, the state has faltered in quickly prosecuting those responsible for the Satyam saga. Keep in mind that the $65-billion Ponzi fraud by Bernie Madoff surfaced at about the same time as the Satyam scandal, but it took the US system only six months to try and convict Madoff to 150 years in prison. In contrast, the Satyam scamsters were being chargesheeted as late as November 2009. In the interim, there were reports that Raju was awash in special privileges in jail, while investigating agencies continued to scramble to get their act together. Coordination between agencies tasked to track the Satyam fraud—SFIO, Sebi, ICAI and the CBI—remained a bottleneck. Our columnists have pointed out that the big scare remains, that the Indian state is ill-prepared to take action against corporate frauds committed on a massive scale. Key questions about where all the money went and who had their hands in the till await conclusive answers. For a country that aspires to a substantive global presence, but has one of the poorest corporate fraud conviction rates in the world, the Satyam scandal poses less damage by itself than by the fact that its perpetrators are still awaiting conviction.







Base metals are scorching. Aided by strong signs of economic recovery in the US, China and Europe—and importantly, also aided by production disruptions because of cold weather in China—prices of copper, zinc, lead, aluminium, nickel and tin have all climbed to new highs in the last few days. On Wednesday, the three-month Shanghai aluminum futures rose by their daily 5% limit from the previous session's settlement to 18,045 yuan a tonne—a rise unheard of since December 2005, when the metal climbed uninterrupted for several days, before correcting marginally. Three-month copper futures on the London Metal Exchange (LME) hit $7,648 a tonne—that's the highest since August 28, 2008. Similarly, aluminium prices on the LME also climbed to multi-month highs largely over fear that supplies could be disrupted from mines in China because of harsh weather there. On the London Exchange, tin hit a 15-month high of $17,665 a tonne, and lead reached a 20-month high of $2,633 a tonne.


In India, which usually takes directions from the global markets, metal prices are also on the boil. Copper futures locally, for the month of February, touched a contract high of Rs 351.9 per kg largely because of strong global cues. The rub-off effect of the strong rise in metal prices has pushed the Bombay Stock Exchange to a 22-month high. The BSE metal index rose by 233.7% in 2009, while the broader market gained 81% during the same period. Its nearest rival, the auto index, rose by 204.2% last year. Though the share of metal companies corrected a bit on Wednesday, largely due to profit taking, stocks of companies like Hindalco, SAIL and Tata Steel are all at multi-week highs. However, over-building inventories of major metals on the LME is proof that not all investors are buying into the metal story as yet. Copper inventories on the exchange rose to a nine-and-half-month high of 5,07,400 tonne on Wednesday, while inventories of zinc and other metals are also rising. This is because the extent of economic recovery—the fundamental driver of metals prices—remains uncertain. The latest numbers from the US show that though factory orders have improved, new home sales are still not up to the mark. Also, with extreme cold weather, particularly in China, likely to abate in the next few weeks, production disruptions will wither away. So, there may yet be a correction around the corner from the current highs. However, over the medium term, if economic recovery around the world takes firm root, metal prices won't stay subdued for long.








There has been a slight misreporting in some sections of the media about 2008-09 real gross state domestic product (GSDP) growth rates. These reports suggest that at 11.4%, Bihar has shown the highest real growth after Gujarat. That's not quite true, because 2008-09 data are still not available for many states, including Gujarat. Indeed, if one considers states for which 2008-09 data are available, Bihar has grown the fastest. At 10.78% and 10.39%, respectively, Pondicherry and Chandigarh come after Bihar. Out of 32 states and UTs, 2008-09 data are yet available only for 18, with many major states missing. Lest we forget, all-India GDP grew at 6.7% in 2008-09, considerably lower than 11.4%. A better comparison is for 2007-08, when data are available for all but Nagaland and Tripura. The all-India GDP growth in 2007-08 was 9.01%. Bihar registered 8.04%, far less spectacular than 11.4%. Several states and UTs were ahead of 8.04%—Andhra (10.62%), Goa (11.14%), Gujarat (12.79%), Haryana (9.35%), Himachal (8.59%), Chhattisgarh (8.63%), Maharashtra (9.18%), Uttarakhand (9.37%), Chandigarh (11.51%), Delhi (12.48%) and Pondicherry (24.85%). Therefore, one shouldn't make too much of a year's figures, which can be subject to annual fluctuations. More important is the trend over say, a five-year period. The trouble with picking only one year is better illustrated by 2006-07, when Bihar grew by 22.0%.


Let's digress on all-India figures. As per trends, Indian growth rates broke away from earlier trajectories thrice—during the Fifth Plan (1974-79), Eighth Plan (1992-97) and Tenth Plan (2002-07). In the second half of 1970s we began to average 5.5%, in the 1990s we began to average 6.5% and since 2003 we average 8.5%. But if we grew at 6.1% in 1953-54, 9.1% in 1975-76 or 9.8% in 1988-89, those can hardly be described as trends. An event was recently organised at Ficci and the newly-appointed Chief Economic Advisor spoke there. This is what he reportedly said and it is best to put this within quotes. "In 1975, India first achieved 9% gross domestic product (GDP) growth due to the nationalisation of banks and opening of a large number of branches in rural areas, which led to the highest rate of savings and investment that made up 13% of the GDP." To set the record straight, that 9.1% in 1975-76 was preceded by 1.3% in 1974-75 and succeeded by 1.3% in 1976-77. The 9 or 9.1% wasn't a trend. One can debate merits of bank nationalisation and even its impact on savings rate increases. However, 9.1% in 1975-76 can hardly be ascribed to bank nationalisation.


Thus, what is of note is not Bihar's record in any specific year like 2006-07, 2007-08 or 2008-09. Nitish Kumar became CM in 2005 and political mileage is being made of the fact that in preceding year, 2003-04, Bihar declined by 5.15% under Rabri Devi. Ignoring such annual aberrations, between 1999 and 2004, real SDP in Bihar grew by 3.9%. Between 2004 and 2009, real SDP in Bihar grew by 11.3%. Bihar has been a metaphor for much that is wrong with India. The annual decadal (1991 to 2001) rate of population growth in Bihar was 2.8%, though it may be lower now. 3.9% growth means roughly 1.1% per capita income growth, while 11.3% growth means roughly 8.5% per capita income growth. That's a huge difference. Regionally, one of the issues has been that states with higher rates of growth have also tended to have lower rates of population growth and states with lower rates of growth have tended to have higher rates of population growth. Therefore, in terms of inter-state disparities, per capita figures show greater divergences than non-per capita numbers. If a traditionally backward state like Bihar has broken away from past trends, we should be delighted.


Because we are talking about trends and not year-to-year fluctuations, there is no denying that Bihar has broken away from earlier growth trajectories. For instance, in earlier bad years (2001-02 and 2003-04), real SDP declined by around 5%. In a recent bad year (2005-06), SDP increased by 1.5%. Can one ascribe a state's success to a CM? In this case, because the break with the historical trajectory is so sharp, the answer is in the affirmative. Anecdotally, one knows governance, administration and service delivery have improved in Bihar, partly facilitated by a World Bank lending programme between 2007 and 2009. Reacting to CSO figures, the CM has mentioned improvements in agriculture. However, that doesn't seem to be the primary driving force. Between 1999 and 2004, real agricultural SDP growth was 2%, while between 2004 and 2009, it was 5.6%. That's undeniably an improvement, as is the increase in manufacturing SDP growth from -1.9% in the first period to 8.0% in the second. But what is spectacular is the jacking up of construction from 8.4% to 35.8%, communication from 9.4% to 17.7% and trade, hotels & restaurants from 11.6% to 17.7%. Somewhat unexpectedly, services have been driving the growth in Bihar.


The author is a noted economist








Exactly a year ago, we witnessed the spectacular fall of one of the signposts of the success of Corporate India—Satyam. This day a year back, Raju confessed the accounting fraud that he had been perpetrating at Satyam. Accounting frauds constitute a common theme that connects the Satyam scandal with other international corporate scandals such as Enron, Tyco, WorldCom. As we look back at the year that has passed since the startling revelations by Satyam and attempt to develop appropriate policy responses, it is critical to understand the common mechanisms firms use to commit accounting frauds.


Using a sample consisting of firms prosecuted by the US SEC for accounting frauds, Merle Erickson of the Chicago Booth School of Business and his co-authors have examined the mechanisms used by firms to inflate their earnings. They find that reporting fictitious sales is the most common source of income inflation for sample firms. For example, one firm in the sample created a fictitious customer and shipped empty boxes to this customer at the address of a firm employee. Subsequently, the firm sent invoices to this fictitious customer, which made it appear that a sale had taken place, even though nothing had actually been sold. Ultimately, this transaction increases the firm's financial statement net income, but not its economic income. Firms also understate their costs or overstate their inventory.


Who executes the financial statement fraud? For the majority of the sample firms, the CEO was accused of assisting in the alleged accounting fraud. In about 50% of the cases, the CFO was accused of perpetrating the fraud. Other corporate executives accused of fraud by the SEC included the chairman of the board, president, controller, vice-president of sales, chief operating officer and vice-president of finance. Overall, the data indicate that the accounting fraud was committed by the most senior members of management, though it is reasonable to believe that there are many more people involved than those accused by the SEC.


Why might firms pay taxes on overstated earnings? Why don't firms simply choose not to report the non-existent accounting earnings to the tax authorities? Many firms may willingly pay taxes on the non-existent earnings to avoid raising the suspicion of savvy investors, the regulators or the tax authorities.


When firms do overstate earnings for financial reporting purposes, there are typically four ways of accounting for the income tax effects associated with the earnings. First, a firm could choose not to report the overstated earnings on its tax return and classify the book-tax difference as temporary (which creates a deferred tax liability). Second, a firm could omit the additional income from its taxable income and classify the inflated earnings as a permanent book-tax difference (for example, overstating the income of a foreign subsidiary in a low-tax country). Third, a firm could choose to pay taxes on the overstated earnings. Thus, it would not report a book-tax difference in its financial statements. Fourth, firms with tax losses or excess deductions can include the overstated earnings on their tax returns, but use other existing tax loss carry forwards or deductions to avoid paying taxes on the bogus income.


Suppose a firm overstates its earnings by Rs 100. Management knows that the earnings don't exist. If they pay the tax on this amount, no one will notice, because this appears to be the normal course of business. If the firm reports the extra Rs 100 of earnings and doesn't pay the tax, the firm will have to make an accounting entry that shows why it didn't pay taxes on those earnings. At that point, an analyst may inquire about these additional earnings and the fraud can unravel. In addition, if a firm reports higher earnings on its financial statements to the securities regulator, but does not report that amount to the tax authorities on its tax return, it has to file a schedule with its tax return to explain the difference. On the other hand, if the firm just pays tax on the false earnings, that item does not appear on the statements to the tax authorities, and the tax authorities are unlikely to realise that the earnings are not legitimate. Moreover, the tax authorities may have no reason to investigate overpayment of taxes on non-existent earnings.


Thus, managers of some firms will sacrifice substantial amounts of firm resources to make their financial statements appear better than they are. Erickson and his co-authors find that the average firm paid $11.84 million in additional annual taxes, which is the equivalent of $0.11 in additional income taxes per $1 of inflated pre-tax earnings. Therefore, managers that inflated earnings believed that $1 of overstated accounting earnings was more valuable than $0.11 of cash.


From a policy perspective, their results suggest that mandating public disclosure of tax return information will not deter financial reporting fraud because some managers appear to be willing to include the fraudulent earnings on corporate tax returns as well.


The author is assistant professor of finance at Emory University, Atlanta, and a visiting scholar at ISB, Hyderabad







The accent seems to be on 'social media marketing' in the Rs 19,500-crore Indian advertising industry. To target youth, leading advertising agencies are strongly recommending the concept of social media marketing to advertisers. For instance, Arc Worldwide has created a virtual character, scientist professor Narayan Thumbuswamy, who invites friends on social media networks to look for cleaner, sharper images on Godrej LCD TV sets. Arc has also used social media to promote Tata Tea's 'Jaagore' campaign.


Likewise, Ogilvy & Mather has designed social media marketing campaigns for its varied clients, which include Vodafone, IBM and Cisco. In fact, you can see Vodafone's ZooZoo characters crawling all over popular social marketing sites in India. Cashing in on the popularity of ZooZoos, Vodafone has released 'The Making of ZooZoos' online for all to see. The characters created for Vodafone's value-added services have taken on a life of their own in the social media space with the official Facebook page for the ZooZoos.


That is not all. A number of companies are beginning to analyse Twitter feeds to understand what consumers are saying about their brands in competitive markets. Call it Twitter analytics.


Just what's fuelling this enthusing for social media marketing? No huge media spends or great technological investments are required to build a social networking strategy. "This media is currently a hot sector in India as a consumer will always trust another consumer's experience. It's like fishing where fish are," says an ad guru in Mumbai. At present, social media site Facebook has 10.3 million users while LinkedIn has 2.24 million users in India.


Realising the growing importance of social media marketing in India, many ad agencies are training their employees to create maximum impact for clients in the cyber world. Industry analysts point out that the new concept is gaining a lot of momentum in India, as it is cost-effective and highly targeted. As a result, Indian advertisers are increasingly opting for this mode of marketing as there's no media spend involved. Besides, it's a very effective medium in grabbing eyeballs.








The recent meeting of Andhra Pradesh's recognised political parties convened by the central government might have failed to produce anything remotely resembling a 'consensus' on the Telangana issue. Yet, as Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram has made clear, there is no acceptable alternative to the democratic process of holding consultations to narrow down and resolve differences on vital issues — by exercising leadership, showing accommodation and goodwill, and maintaining peace and harmony. No reasonable person can disagree with Mr. Chidambaram's prescription that "children must go to schools and colleges, people must be allowed to carry on their normal day-to-day activities, the government must be able to focus on development and the welfare of the people" and that it is in the interest of all sections of the people of the State that "peace and harmony prevail while the consultations take place." The immediate imperative is the cooling down of passions and an end to the agitations, bandhs, acts of unruliness, and violence that have brought south India's largest State virtually to its knees. To their credit, the eight participant-parties have agreed on this vital point in a signed statement. This should encourage the central and State governments in their efforts to find a way out of the impasse within a "reasonable time frame."


The problem today is not so much that the major political players are divided on the issue of breaking up Andhra Pradesh and forming Telangana State. It is that A.P.'s three leading political parties, responding to the popular mood, are regionally split on this highly emotive issue. True to form, the State Congress has been unable to make a stand, thus bringing the national party leadership in the direct line of fire. The two leading opposition parties, the Telugu Desam Party and the Praja Rajyam, which supported the demand for a separate Telangana right up to December 7 and did a volte face thereafter, have a special responsibility in helping the central and State governments restore normalcy and work towards a solution. Fortunately, all the major parties other than the Telangana Rashtra Samithi have stakes in all three regions of the State — coastal Andhra, Rayalaseema, and Telangana. Fortunately, no party is in a position to exploit the present crisis and it must be recognised that the TRS showed responsibility by participating in the New Delhi consultations. Apprehensions expressed by some parties about Naxalite infiltration of the Telangana movement are relevant but this factor must not be exaggerated to cloud the issues. The democratic process of consultations on the future of Andhra Pradesh can be constructive and fruitful only if it moves away from an all-or-nothing framework and intelligently seeks common ground by addressing the practical issues and complications, including the future of Hyderabad.







It is no exaggeration to say that the recent launch of the world's fastest train service in China 'signals the future.' Its significance lies not merely in the impressive fact that it touched a record speed of 350 km an hour and shrunk distances but in its spotlighting how such trains can become a serious alternative to short-haul flights and long distance road travel. This assumes further importance in the light of the imperative need to cut carbon emiss ions urgently. Although high-speed trains, which exceeded 250 km per hour, were successfully launched as early as 1964 in Japan and adapted in France in 1981, they were not extensively explored. For many years, infrastructure and capacity improvement projects were limited to building more domestic airports and roads. High-speed trains tend to emit only one-fourth and one-third of CO2 per 100-passenger-km that aircraft and private cars do respectively. For the relevant distances, they also offer faster door-to-door connectivity than flights. They substantially improve inter-city travel options. Places as far as 800 km can be reached within an affordable time of less than three hours and this is a compelling reason to promote this energy-efficient mode of travel. As more and more passengers shift to such trains, congestion at airports and roads can be reduced and the spaces released can be efficiently used. High costs can no longer be held against high-speed trains.


The Indian Railways have recently announced that they have plans for 12 high-speed corridors with trains operating at a speed of 250-350 km per hour. As late entrants, they have the opportunity to leapfrog, learning from the successful experiences of other countries and aiming to go beyond increasing speeds. Safety must be the top priority. Japan has shown that this is possible as well as necessary for the success of the system. European countries have demonstrated that it is essential to develop the intra-city transport network and integrate it with the system so that the ridership can increase and travel can be seamless. Improving the stations, instituting sensitive pricing, and putting in place an accessible ticketing system are equally important. High-speed trains can facilitate balanced regional urban development and this is of special relevance to Indian conditions. With careful planning, urban growth can be shifted to and induced in mid-size towns connected by these trains and further crowding of large metropolitan cities avoided.









The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, wrote on his weblog that U.S. President Barack Obama "has not even fulfilled one of his promises" to the Muslim world. He said Mr. Obama is "preparing for a [military] offensive on Iran with the help of his ally, the Israeli regime." Mr. Mahathir is a highly experienced statesman who tends to be far-sighted, but we can only hope that he belies his fame to be prescient.


The growing sense of disenchantment with the youthful U.S. President is not at all a rare phenomenon. Mr. Obama's early promise to overhaul the strained relations between his country and the Muslim world will be on trial through 2010. The Muslim opinion will keenly watch how he navigates to bridge the growing hiatus between the blueprint that he of his own volition laid out in his two landmark speeches last year — in Ankara in April and Cairo in June — and the U.S. policies. To be sure, the U.S. foreign policy's most explosive challenges in the coming one-year period are fated to come from the arc of countries stretching from the Levant to Xinjiang, which the Americans call the Greater Middle East.


For the U.S.' allies and partners, including India, this poses an acute policy dilemma. To what extent do they identify with the U.S. regional policies? To be a natural ally usually means sharing sorrows and joys alike. But close identification with the U.S. policies can provoke a deadly backlash. The big question is: how do you remain a strategic partner of the U.S. and yet insulate from the "collateral damage" of its policies over which, in any case, you have no control? Considering the high hopes that the Obama presidency held out, it is truly extraordinary that things have come to this sorry pass. The latest regulations issued by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration stipulate that travellers from 14 nations would be subjected indefinitely to "full-body pat-down and physical inspection of property" before they can board a plane to the U.S. The 14 countries also include Cuba but anyone with a modicum of common sense will make out that it is a smart cosmetic touch applied in the desperate hope of obfuscating the shocking reality that all the countries in the U.S. watch-list happen to be Muslim — Saudi Arabia, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Sudan and, of course, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The U.S. administration has claimed that the action "establishes a global security system" insofar as, to quote New York Times, "in some countries that have more advanced screening equipment, travellers will also be required to pass through so-called whole-body scanners that can look beneath clothing." Conceivably, machines that look beneath our undergarments do not tell lies and they can be trusted to ensure that the David Headleys of the world don't dupe the U.S. But a startling detail is that even if a citizen of any of the 13 Muslim countries has lived in a western country for decades, he still remains a suspect and will be subjected to extra security checks. In other words, he will be circumscribed by the burden of his religion, no matter his lifestyle or political beliefs. Period. Unsurprisingly, within hours of the U.S. announcement, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown went on record that whole-body scanners would be introduced in the U.K's airports. The airport in Amsterdam is following suit. Winston Churchill could have said, an "iron curtain" is descending.


Mr. Obama had promised to move beyond terrorism and security and to address the U.S.' relations with the world's 1.57 billion Muslims with "mutual respect" and on the basis of "mutual interest." But the opposite seems to be happening. A feeling is growing in the Muslim opinion that Mr. Obama articulated fine sentiments bordering on flattery but hasn't taken any concrete actions. The prognosis is also gloomy. Afghanistan is about to witness one of the bloodiest years of its history as the U.S. troop surge is completed and the NATO-led military operations start accelerating. Ironically, this is even as mainstream opinion in the U.S. strategic community freely admits that it is impossible to defeat the Taliban militarily. Now, the war in Afghanistan is slouching toward neighbouring Pakistan. The U.S. analysts and experts are openly discussing that it is a matter of time before the U.S. Special Forces directly undertake operations on the Pakistani soil.


There has been an exponential increase in the activities of the CIA in Afghanistan and Pakistan — and, without doubt, in the surrounding region too. Iran denounces the U.S. covert support to the Jundullah terrorist group operating out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. While the exact background remains shrouded in mystery, the incontrovertible evidence is that there has been a movement of militants into Central Asia, including Xinjiang. In short, the "pre-emptive" wars that George Bush launched have seriously destabilised a region, which was even otherwise barely coping with acute problems of poverty and nationhood. No country in the region can today consider itself immune to the deepening instability.


However, Iran becomes Mr. Obama's number one test case in the year ahead. He apologised in his Cairo speech for the CIA-sponsored coup against Iran's Mohammed Mossadeq in 1953. That seemed an extraordinary gesture of humility and genuine repentance that statesmen seldom make. Mr. Obama followed up with an offer of engagement of Iran. But he soon came under immense pressure from the vicious Israeli lobby in the U.S. and being an astute politician, he began backtracking. The U.S. policy lapsed back to one of seeking a "regime change" in Tehran. An avalanche of media propaganda has been let loose against the Iranian regime. Last Wednesday's massive demonstration involving hundreds of thousands of Iranians clarified that the social base of the Iranian revolution still remains intact and if history is any guide, the Iranian regime will once again blunt the U.S. assault.


A flashpoint will soon arise when it becomes difficult to fudge that the U.S. policy is in a cul-de-sac. Washington has a terrible choice to make between attacking Iran and acquiescing with an Israeli military attack on Iran, both of which hold the potential to literally trigger a "holocaust" in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the focus on Iran hasn't quite succeeded in distracting the attention from the Middle Eastern crisis, which essentially taps into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the presence of American forces in the region. The Israeli policies of subjugating the Palestinians go to the heart of the Muslim anger towards the U.S. Mr. Obama has so far simply sidestepped or prevaricated on the core issue and taken no solid steps to quell the fury of the Arab opinion. On the other hand, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has successfully ignored Washington's demands that he freeze illegal Jewish settlement activity.


Again, the U.S.' anticipated rapprochement with Syria seems to have stalled and its continuing hard line on the Hezbollah and the Hamas grates on political reality. To quote Chas Freeman, former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia (and Mr. Obama's original nominee to head the National Intelligence Council), "There is a general concern now, especially in the Arab world, that the [Obama] administration is not delivering with respect to any issues in the region. I think there's been quite a difference between how Obama as a person is perceived and how the U.S. government as an institution is perceived. I think what may be happening is that Obama is sinking into the generally negative view of the U.S. government in the region rather than transcending it as he once did."


All in all, what is the balance sheet of the Obama presidency? The U.S. is escalating the war in Afghanistan and it threatens Pakistan's territorial integrity. The slow U.S. drawdown from Iraq barely appears to be on track, as the spectre of renewed ethnic and sectarian violence is rising. The U.S. is actively subverting Iran. The Israeli siege of the Palestinians continues and the U.S. won't jettison its bias toward Israel.


As if all this is not enough, there are signs that the U.S. is on the verge of launching yet another expeditionary war on yet another Muslim country on yet another pretext of fighting the elusive al-Qaeda in the vicinity of the oil-rich Persian Gulf region — Yemen. The drone aircraft have already begun raining death and destruction in Yemen and it transpires that the Green Berets and the U.S. Special Forces are operating in that country. American politicians are speaking ominously about Yemen being a "failed state," meaning the U.S. needn't legitimise intervention. As the ultra-hawkish chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security, Senator Joe Lieberman, put it, "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If you don't act pre-emptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war."


A war in Yemen will also dash the remaining hopes regarding Mr. Obama's offer to repair the badly battered image and influence of American power in the Muslim world.


(The writer is a former diplomat.)








On January 8, there will be exactly a year left to prevent the return of a conflict that was once the longest-running in Africa — Sudan's north-south war, which claimed about two million lives. With elections due this year and 365 days left until the crucial referendum on independence for the south, concern is growing among analysts, advocacy groups and NGOs working in Sudan that the spectre of widespread conflict is once again a reality.


The comprehensive peace agreement that ended the 22-year civil war between north and south Sudan has its fifth anniversary on January 9. Anyone who visited the south during those years, the camps of displaced people in the north, or the refugee camps that sprang up along the Ethiopian border, will know how important it is to prevent the re-ignition of that war.


Of the millions killed, hundreds of thousands were burned to death in their southern tribal villages, with women and children captured and taken to the north of the country. Entire communities were eradicated from the map in a country whose remote vastness hid the atrocities from the eyes of the world.


This week sees the launch of Sudan365, a global campaign, as well as a major joint-agency report — Rescuing the Peace in Southern Sudan — which warns that a cocktail of rising violence, chronic poverty and political tensions has left the peace deal on the brink of collapse. On January 11 Daniel Deng, the archbishop of the Episcopal church of Sudan, and Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, will meet British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to discuss the growing crisis. A new report by the Chatham House thinktank urges the international community to re-engage with Sudan; and Glenys Kinnock, the Minister for Africa, is travelling out there this week


By comparison with past casualties recent skirmishes seem minimal. But with the inter-agency report recording 2,500 lives lost in a single year — a serious spike — the ceasefire is in open crisis. Meanwhile, 350,000 people have been displaced from their homes.


Analysts note that both sides of the divide are now moving into a potentially explosive endgame. And even as trouble grows in the south, in the western region of Darfur and in neighbouring Chad millions continue to suffer daily in refugee camps — seven years after the Darfur conflict erupted. People there are unsure whether their fate is worse than death. Militias surround these supposed places of safety, and women are raped walking for firewood; rations are meagre; and the hope of returning home diminishes with every passing year.


Further complicating the global picture, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is wanted by the international criminal court for war crimes including genocide. He has since taken his revenge by throwing several aid agencies out of Darfur — precisely where humanitarian needs remain critical.


I visited Sudan many times during the war, and have since been to Chad to see those desperate people living in a raging heat surrounded by little more than sticks and earth. In southern Sudan every child had their own story of atrocity, whether the loss of a parent to the swipe of a machete, the burning of their home and their crops by horseback militias, or the long walks across barren nothingness with no food or water.


The lines are blurred by many complex factors, one of which is oil. While the country remains intact, the preferred method of extraction by the northern government has been to burn the tribal peoples from their land. But should the country be partitioned in two, some 87 per cent of oil revenue would be held by the south. Will Khartoum really let those oilfields go?


The consequences of a return to war will be dire not just for Sudan. The northern government is backed and armed by China, which exploits many of the oilfields, while the south is backed largely by the U.S. and other western countries. Meanwhile, the north was home to Osama bin Laden, who lived in Sudan from 1992 to 1996.


With a year left to act, a lasting peace for Africa's largest country may yet be a possibility, but campaigners will have to shout loud to be heard when there are conflicts where western soldiers are currently engaged.


Many Sudanese now feel it is time for U.S. President Barack Obama to earn his Nobel peace prize. After all, it is not peacekeepers or sanctions or soldiers that the civilian population are seeking. The Sudanese understand that only dialogue can now prevent a return to war. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010


(Ros Wynne-Jones is the author of Something Is Going to Fall Like Rain, a novel based in south Sudan)








It is the legend that drew legions of explorers and adventurers to their deaths: an ancient empire of citadels and treasure hidden deep in the Amazon jungle.


Spanish conquistadores ventured into the rainforest seeking fortune, followed over the centuries by others convinced they would find a lost civilisation to rival the Aztecs and Incas.


Some seekers called it El Dorado, others the City of Z. But the jungle swallowed them and nothing was found, prompting the rest of the world to call it a myth. The Amazon was too inhospitable, said 20th century scholars, to permit large human settlements.


Now, however, the doomed dreamers have been proved right: there was a great civilisation. New satellite imagery and fly-overs have revealed more than 200 huge geometric earthworks carved in the upper Amazon basin near Brazil's border with Bolivia. Spanning 250 km, the circles, squares and other geometric shapes form a network of avenues, ditches and enclosures built long before Christopher Columbus set foot in the new world. Some date to as early as 200 AD, others to 1283. Scientists who have mapped the earthworks believe there may be another 2,000 structures beneath the jungle canopy, vestiges of vanished societies.


The structures, many of which have been revealed by the clearance of forest for agriculture, point to a "sophisticated pre-Columbian monument-building society", says the journal Antiquity, which has published the research.


The article adds: "This hitherto unknown people constructed earthworks of precise geometric plan connected by straight orthogonal roads. The 'geoglyph culture' stretches over a region more than 250km across, and exploits both the floodplains and the uplands ... we have so far seen no more than a tenth of it."


The structures were created by a network of trenches about 11 metres wide and several feet deep, lined by banks up to a metre high. Some were ringed by low mounds containing ceramics, charcoal and stone tools. It is thought they were used for fortifications, homes and ceremonies, and could have maintained a population of 60,000 — more people than in many medieval European cities.


The discoveries have demolished ideas that soils in the upper Amazon were too poor to support extensive agriculture, says Denise Schaan, a co-author of the study and anthropologist at the Federal University of Para, in Belem, Brazil. She told National Geographic: "We found this picture is wrong. And there is a lot more to discover in these places, it's never-ending. Every week we find new structures."


Many of the mounds were symmetrical and slanted to the north, prompting theories that they had astronomical significance. Researchers were especially surprised that earthworks in floodplains and uplands were of a similar style, suggesting they were all built by the same culture.


"In Amazonian archaeology you always have this idea that you find different peoples in different ecosystems," said Ms. Schaan. "So it was odd to have a culture that would take advantage of different ecosystems and expand over such a large region."


The first geometric shapes were spotted in 1999 but it is only now, as satellite imagery and felling reveal sites, that the scale of the settlements is becoming clear. Some anthropologists say the feat, requiring sophisticated engineering, canals and roads, rivals Egypt's pyramids.


The findings follow separate discoveries further south, in the Xingu region, of interconnected villages known as "garden cities". Dating between 800 and 1600, they included houses, moats and palisades.


"These revelations are exploding our perceptions of what the Americas really looked liked before the arrival of Christopher Columbus," said David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z, a book about an attempt in the 1920s to find signs of Amazonian civilizations. "The discoveries are challenging long-held assumptions about the Amazon as a Hobbesian place where only small primitive tribes could ever have existed, and about the limits the environment placed on the rise of early civilisations."


They are also vindicating, said Mr. Grann, Percy Fawcett, the Briton who led the expedition to find the City of Z. Fawcett's party vanished, bequeathing a mystery and partly inspiring Conan Doyle's book The Lost World.


Many scientists saw the jungle as too harsh to sustain anything but small nomadic tribes. Now it seems the conquistadores who spoke of "cities that glistened in white" were telling the truth. They, however, probably also introduced the diseases that wiped out the native people, leaving the jungle to claim — and hide — all trace of their civilisation. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010








Surely, the most important, interesting — and, yes, heroic — figure in the whole Christmas Day Northwest airliner affair was the would-be bomber's father, the Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab.


Mr. Mutallab did something that, as far as we know, no other parent of a suicide bomber has done: He went to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria and warned us that text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent, and possibly dangerous, radical.


We are turning ourselves inside out over how our system broke down — and surely it did — in allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber, to board that airliner. But his father, in effect, told us something else: "My family system, our village system, broke down. My own son fell under the influence of a jihadist version of Islam that I do not recognise and have reason to fear."


The Times, quoting a cousin, said the son had sent the father a text message from Yemen in which he declared that "he had found a new religion, the real Islam" and that he was never coming home again. A February 20, 2005, Internet posting attributed to the son and quoted by The Associated Press said: "I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win...and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!"


Finding people with the courage to confront that breakdown — the one identified by the father, the one that lures young Muslims away from the mainstream into a willingness to commit suicide against innocent civilians as part of some jihadist power fantasy — is what matters most right now.


Yes, we need to fix our intelligence. Yes, we absolutely must live up to our own ideals, as President Barack Obama is trying to do in banning torture and closing Guantanamo Bay. We cannot let this "war on terrorism" consume us. We cannot let our country become just The United States of Fighting Terrorism and nothing more. We are the people of July 4th — not September 11th.


But even if we do all that, no laws or walls we put up will ever be sufficient to protect us unless the Arab and Muslim societies from whence these suicide bombers emerge erect political, religious and moral restraints as well — starting by shaming suicide bombers and naming their actions "murder" not "martyrdom."


I keep saying: It takes a village. The father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, saw himself as part of a global community, based on shared values, and that is why he rang the alarm bell. Bless him for that. Unless more Muslim parents, spiritual leaders, political leaders — the village — are ready to publicly denounce suicide bombing against innocent civilians — theirs and ours — this behaviour will not stop.


Just last Friday, for example, a suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden vehicle in the midst of a volleyball tournament in the Pakistani village of Shah Hassan Khel, killing more than 100 people. Most were youngsters. No surprise. When suicide bombing becomes legitimate to use against non-Muslim "infidels" abroad it becomes legitimate to use against Muslim opponents at home. And what becomes "legitimate" and "illegitimate" in a community is so much more important than any government regulation.


All too often, though, Arab and Muslim governments arrest their jihadis at home, denounce them privately to us, but say nothing in public. The global leadership of Islam — like the king of Saudi Arabia or the Organisation of the Islamic Conference — rarely take on jihadist actions and ideology openly with the kind of passion, consistency and mass protests that we have seen them do, for example, against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.


Mr. Obama should not hesitate to call for it — respectfully but publicly.


"When you want to foster more responsible behaviour in people, you can't just legislate more rules and regulations," said Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book How. "You have to enlist and inspire people in a set of values. People need to be governed both from the outside, through compliance with rules, and from the inside, inspired by shared values. That is why shame is so important. When we call a banker 'a fat cat' for taking too big a bonus, we're actually being inspirational leaders because we are telling them 'You are behaving beneath how a responsible human being should behave.' We need to inspire the village to shame those who betray our common values."


Every faith has its violent extreme. The West is not immune. It is all about how the centre deals with it — does it tolerate it, isolate it or shame it?


The jihadists are a security problem for our system. But they are a political and moral problem for the Arab-Muslim system. If they will not address this problem for us, I truly hope they will do it for themselves. Eventually, we will find a way to keep most jihadists off our planes and out of our volleyball games — but they will have to live with them. — © 2010 The New York Times News Service







Ewen MacAskill, Daniel Nasaw and Jon Boone


Long-term weaknesses in U.S. intelligence-gathering have been ruthlessly exposed over the last fortnight by the Christmas Day airline plot and the Afghanistan suicide bombing that killed seven CIA officers, according to former and serving intelligence officers.


They are scathing about the way the operation in Afghanistan has been run and say it is part of an institutional weakness on the part of the CIA and other intelligence-gathering agencies.


The biggest crisis in intelligence-gathering since 9/11 has been brought about mainly because no single agency is in charge, they say, creating a situation in which about a dozen U.S. intelligence agencies fight for their own turf.


The former officers were speaking as President Barack Obama held an inquest at the White House into the communication breakdown between the CIA and other agencies that allowed the Nigerian bomb suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to come close to blowing up a U.S. passenger plane on Christmas Day.


A report published on the eve of that meeting by the deputy head of military intelligence, Major-General Michael Flynn, offered a damning assessment of intelligence-gathering in Afghanistan. He said the vast apparatus there was only marginally relevant. Analysts in Washington were so starved of information, that "many say their jobs feel more like fortune-telling than detective work".


Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and counterterrorism agent, said the CIA had become "sloppy" in its field intelligence gathering, and the suicide bombing at Khost in Afghanistan was part of that.


The CIA thought they had turned Humam Khalil Abu Mulal al-Balawi, a Jordanian doctor, into one of their agents and it allowed him on to the base after he asked for a meeting, promising to provide information about al-Qaeda. He then blew himself up.


A school friend, Mohammed Yousef, said Balawi had deceived family and friends, telling them in March he was going to Turkey for further medical studies when he in fact travelled to Afghanistan to join the militants. He had wanted to die in a holy war, and wrote angry articles on the web calling for jihad against the U.S. and Israel.


Mr. Johnson pointed to tactical failures at Forward Operating Base Chapman in Afghanistan, where the attack was made. He said an intelligence source as significant as Balawi should never have been brought inside the base, because it risked exposing him. Balawi should also have been debriefed by a much smaller group than the dozen or so CIA employees present when he set off the bomb.


He described those errors as symptomatic of a larger trend within the agency of putting desk workers into the field. "You have a lot of inexperienced people being shoved out into the field without adequate mentoring and without proper training," Mr. Johnson said.


The CIA has suffered one crisis after another since its inception in the middle of the last century. One of its high points was its claim to have contributed to winning the Cold War, but a low point was reached with the failure to prevent 9/11. Last year the Obama administration revealed details of waterboarding and other torture, and there were newspaper reports about links between the CIA and the private contractor Blackwater.


Pat Lang, a veteran of military intelligence, who was head of the analysis and clandestine human intelligence for the Defence Intelligence Agency, echoed Mr. Johnson's criticism of the Khost operation. "A number of basic rules were violated. One that comes to mind is you never trust foreign agent assets," he said.


"I think it is a very big crisis. It shows that the level of skill in operations has declined so far that they are a menace to themselves," said Mr. Lang.


According to Mr. Lang, one of the major flaws in intelligence gathering was the failure of the Bush administration after 9/11 to put one agency in overall charge.


Gary Berntsen, a former senior CIA officer who served in West Asia, said a hiring freeze under President Clinton had left the CIA with a lack of experienced senior intelligence gatherers.


"When a bunch of guys like me retired all at 50, there's a gap. And now we've got a lot of inexperienced people coming on who are being forced into senior positions in the field before they're ready."


But he disputed suggestions that the bombing at the base in Khost indicated systemic problems within the agency. "The agency deals with these sorts of things every single day successfully, and this is an individual case where they failed. They got beat on this case, they got beat bad ... My heart goes out to the families, but this does not indicate that the agency is in crisis in any way."


He also criticised Mr. Obama's selection of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, noting his lack of intelligence experience. "I'm sure he's learning every day, but you don't need to be learning on the job. For anyone to say it doesn't have an effect is dishonest." — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010






LONDON: A U.K. government official says Britain negotiated a cease-fire with Iraqi militants in Basra three months before British troops pulled out of the city.


Jon Day told the Iraq Inquiry on Wednesday that British officials held talks with the leaders of the Mahdi Army militia in Basra from spring 2007. British troops withdrew from central Basra in September that year.


The Mahdi Army — a Shia militia loyal to the radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — was heavily involved in the insurgency that erupted after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. — AP









Union home minister P Chidambaram did not intend Tuesday's meeting with the eight main political parties from Andhra Pradesh in Delhi to resolve the Telangana issue. It is not even clear whether it was meant to pave the way for the formation of the new state or whether it was meant to find out from the stakeholders whether the Telangana idea is feasible. But he has indicated what is on his mind. He has alerted participants about allowing Maoists — without naming them — to take advantage of the democratic war of attrition. With the popular mood in the state running high, it was perhaps necessary to have brought everyone to the table.



But talks are not an end in themselves. What is needed is a quick and fair resolution of the problem. There are indications that the Centre and the Congress are playing for time and they are resorting to the tried and tested ways of prevarication and protraction. That may not be the best way of addressing the burning issue. Due to acts of omission and commission of the recent past, Telangana has become a burning question. Putting off difficult decisions may not be the best option.


Chidambaram's veiled reference to the Maoists gives an inkling of one of the reservations of the Centre and the

Congress party about Telangana — the apprehension that the Maoists could gain political prominence in the economically and socially backward and sensitive state. But it would be a grave mistake to decide the issue of Telangana on the assumption as to how it would help or deter the Maoists.


There is of course the question of the status of Hyderabad. Apparently, politicians from Andhra and Rayalaseema are not opposed to the formation of Telangana as they are to Hyderabad being made capital of the new state because the economic stakes amounting to thousands of crores of rupees in the state capital. This is the crux of the matter. There are no easy solutions and no one is going to yield ground. The advocates of Telangana have no doubt that Hyderabad is an integral part of the region. Politicians from the other parts of the state firmly believe that the capital is vital to their interests.


The central government will have to be transparent as well as impartial. What can be done immediately is to place in public domain the findings of the Pranab Mukherjee committee that looked into the Telangana issue during UPA's first term in office. That will help clarifying many of the issues







The issue of individual privacy versus larger social good has become a discussion point again, with many countries opting for more stringent security measures especially after the latest attempt to blow up an aeroplane in the United States. Full body scanners are now much in demand at airports to make sure that passengers are not carrying explosives, weapons and so on. }


Closed circuit televisions are already much in use in public places across the world and together with projects like India's own unique identification number, we are looking at increased state intrusion into the private lives of people. You cannot go to a movie or a shopping mall without going through a metal detector, having your bag searched or being subjected to a body pat down.


However, it is also true that terrorism is the scourge of our times and one body scan might well be the equivalent of hundred if not thousands of lives being saved. Where then does anyone draw the line between individual rights and the greater good of society as a whole? Those in favour of privacy argue that some amount of intervention is fine but the State cannot infringe on individual rights and the idea of Big Brother is untenable.


In an ideal world, that may well be true but the sad fact remains that the State, the employer — or other figures of authority — already make many demands on suspension of individual privacy. The problem is that the principle of individual rights is absolute in itself, which makes it highly impracticable.


Yet, all the objections raised against body scanners are not just about the principle of the thing. Some, for instance, have come from child rights activists in the UK, who feel that the scan might break child pornography laws. Extrapolating from that, naked scanned pictures of airline passengers might also make their way to the public domain, which would be a major infringement of privacy and could also be misused. The US has also been accused of racial profiling as it has focused on people from some countries — mainly where Islam is the main religion — for extra security checks.


The other question is that without attendant social, economic and political change, how safe can such measures make any society? George Orwell's classic novel about a totalitarian state, 1984, painted a very frightening picture of what happens when the State takes over. We need educated and comprehensive debate on these issues before we are asked to surrender our rights.







The end of the Noughties is a good time to think about boys and men. Contrary to what is articulated in the media and by card-carrying feminists, boys need more attention than girls — not because they are special, but because society has more to lose for boyhood gone wrong. When it comes to girls, we know what has to be done: allow them to soar. But do we know what to do for our boys apart from bringing them down to earth?


Do we know how to deal with the crisis of manhood? The issue is aggravated by the deluge of daily images of dysfunctional men: from rapists and molesters of various kinds to the Rathores who use positions of power to subvert the law, from boys who learn to murder for money to perverts who stalk potential victims on social networking sites.


Reverse sexism is not helping. You may not see gender-insensitive headlines like "Boys do better at IITs," but "Girls top SSC rankings again" is par for the course. In short, men have very few positive images to build a reworked future where women will claim their rightful share and men have to do most of the adjusting.


To be sure, men are what they are partly because early human society saw an evolutionary advantage in giving males and females different roles. These roles have now calcified into tremendous advantages for men, giving them unintended power. It has also left them with huge handicaps in dealing with the world as it is evolving now, where networking skills and emotional intelligence are key success factors.


Power corrupts. Male power has, over the past few centuries, been used as much to subjugate as to protect. It is time to change that —and the best way to do that is by focusing on how we need to bring up our boys so that they grow up to be the kind of men we need. Demonising men may be a useful way for damaged women to vent, but it is not going to get us anywhere. To understand why men need to change, we also need to acknowledge evolution's impact on male development.


Fact 1: No species apart from humans has given only one gender extraordinary dominance over the other. Why did this happen? Answer: unlike humans, power is more equal between the sexes in most species. Have you ever heard of rape in another species even though all males in all species have the same biological urges? Probably not. Equality of power doesn't mean equal physical strength. In all species, the male is bigger than the female. But in no species is the female incapable of defending herself well enough to deter over-aggressive males. Why did this happen only in humans?


Fact 2: Humans began to dominate other species because specialised male functions helped generate long-term wealth and consolidated power. Males developed physical strength, risk-taking abilities, and aggression. Females developed the ability to empathise with other humans and built networking capabilities. Tribes with specialised gender roles grew stronger and from this realisation it was just a hop, step and jump away to formal patriarchy and male dominance.


Fact 3: Women, especially Indian women, have played a major role in making men what they are. The typical Indian mother, trying to make up for the emotional deficit in her relationship with her spouse, ends up building up her son as surrogate to step into the void. (While psychologist Sudhir Kakar has made this point several times, a good recent book to offer insights in this area is Shaifali Sandhya's Love Will Follow).


This kind of toxic maternal affection and high emotional expectations permanently scars boys and as they develop their own sexuality, they sometimes develop both deep bonds and deep anxieties about their mothers. Later on, they tend to see women only as mothers or whores, not equal sexual and emotional partners. This is the mindset that sometimes creates rapists and molesters even while ruining spousal relationships.


All these factors have taken a heavy toll of men. The vast majority of ordinary, decent men have limited awareness of their own emotional needs and an even poorer ability to communicate. Half their human faculties have been sacrificed to the cause of evolution.


Today, the relentless cycle of evolution is moving in the direction of female empowerment not only because it is the right thing to do, but because unbridled male power is damaging all of earth. The power imbalance is leading to constant conflict (global war-mongering), and destructive self-aggrandisement (the crash of the global financial system is a male greed issue).


As a society, we have a lot of things to fix. Top of the agenda is a focus on boys and their developmental needs — mental, physical and emotional, including gender sensitisation. A significant chunk of investment must be made in counselling parents and schools, for this is where many innocent little boys become transformed into problem men. There is no time to waste.






If we think of the oncoming of the Cosmic Sense as the rising of a sun in the individual life it becomes clear, carrying out the analogy as we may probably do without fear of material error, that between the comparative darkness of the night of mere self consciousness and the light of the day which is Cosmic Consciousness there must exist an interval of what may fairly be called twilight — a region in which the sun of the Cosmic Sense will give more or less light, although not yet risen and perhaps never to rise in the life of that person.


This twilight is often distinctly traceable in lives that later become fully illumined. After momentary illumination, too, in the lesser cases a glow is left lasting for years, as if the sun, after appearing for a few moments above the horizon, remained immediately below it, very slowly descending, like the physical sun in northern latitudes about the time of the summer solstice. In another class of cases the individual spiritual life may be compared to a winter day within the Arctic circle.


The sun slowly approaches the horizon, its path slanting gradually upward until the fiery ball nearly touches the earth's rim, passes slowly along the southeast, south, southwest, lighting the landscape but never showing its dazzling face — effecting a genuine illumination but without rising — yielding a glow which is in strong contrast to the darkness of night but which is yet infinitely short (in splendor and especially in fructifying power) of that of the direct solar rays.


Today innumerable men and women must be living in this twilight. Undoubtedly many cases of so-called conversion are simply instances of, generally sudden, spiritual ascent from the average self conscious level into the region of greater or less splendor, according to the altitude reached, which lies between that and Cosmic Consciousness.

From Cosmic Consciousness by Richard Maurice Bucke







Arvind and I used to sit on either side of K Laxmi Narayan in Saraswati Vidyalaya, Nagpur. KL Narayan was the bright spark of the classroom, while Arvind (both names changed for the sake of propriety) wasn't academically gifted.


Every semester, Narayan stood first, I managed to pass, while Arvind, who never quite showed any interest in studies, copied copiously from Narayan.


In one particular semester, I failed in Mathematics. I felt that if I had also cheated like Arvind, this would have never happened and I would have cleared the test with flying colours. My mother corrected my notion and said, something I remember to this day:


"Look son, you could have passed, but would have failed the examination of life. Life presents a contrast of good and bad.

While striving for good, as a foil of bad, that life acquires its true meaning. Appreciate the fact that it's bad that leads you to good. If Arvind weren't there, the thought of him doing the wrong thing wouldn't have cropped up in your mind. You now know what to do. Strive hard in Mathematics. Show Narayan you can be better. Prove to Arvind, he is wrong. Decide now." I did and succeeded in class IX.



Recently I met Narayan in Nagpur, who is now the chief bank manager, well settled in his routine assignment. He owns a beautiful bungalow and a sedan and a fat bank balance. I also met Arvind, on an international flight, who is a vice president with a Dubai-based travel company and trots around the globe every month on an official trip.While disembarking in Dubai, I had a stopover, he invited me to his house. The sedan —Audi7 — drove down to his palatial bungalow and I hope he also has a fat bank balance. Now I don't know what school marks have to do with the balance sheet of life and earnings? I don't know who is successful? Arvind or Narayan?







I drew out a list of things to do in 2010. Life is dynamic andwe need to sculpt the architecture of the year ahead.


All of us need to make a plan. Maybe, a lot of what I want to do and feel is what many of you would want. So, it is great to share:


Start the day feeling grateful for the gift of life. Let us not take it for granted. Think of one positive thing before you step out of bed. You will be amazed how your day pans out.


Count our blessings. There may be too many, so keep some for the next day.


Exercise for at least 30 minutes. A healthy body triggers off a healthy mind. It becomes more energetic and creative.


Do one good deed to yourself.


Do one good deed to others.


Be empathetic when others are talking. Listen.


Stop being judgmental about people and events.


Identify one good thing that is happening around.


Try and radiate positive energy with all around.


Allow love to consume us. It is amazing what it can do to the way we see things, people and events in our life.


Read every day. We often push it aside, but it helps us see a new perspective.


Write something every day. It helps you get a focus.


Avoid gossip and anything close to it.


Keep away from negativity of any kind. (Most TV soaps and programmes are soaked with it.)


Eat healthy. Stop abusing the body before it starts reacting.


Do one little thing that can help make our world cleaner.


Save water. Every drop counts.


Save electricity. We cannot afford to live in an area of darkness. If all of us save, it might help many others also see light.


Treat work with respect.

Bring excellence to whatever you do.


Keep the toolbox of your mind open all the time.


Try and think out of the box all the time.


Accept criticism with humility. It is a great opportunity to tweak our lives.


Challenge yourself every day.


Try and become a leader who others will want to emulate.


Try and fail rather than fail without trying.


Ramesh Menon is a journalist and corporate trainer









Soon after his taking over as Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor caused consternation by favouring conscription for the Army. The government had to sternly contradict his stand. The chief of an army as large and responsible as that of India is not expected to shoot his mouth off. But that is what General Deepak Kapoor seems to be doing of late, as reported in the Indian Express. That has caused great embarrassment to the country forcing the government to issue clarifications more than once. In the process, he has ruffled feathers in Nepal, China and Pakistan alike. In Kathmandu, opposition leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" is going to town over his reported comments on the issue of Maoist cadres joining the Nepalese army, accusing India of "naked interference" in Nepal. India's Ambassador in Kathmandu Rakesh Sood had to issue a press statement that "we have seen media reports attributing certain remarks to the Indian Chief of Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor on the issue of 'PLA integration' in the Nepal Army which are highly distorted and do not reflect Government of India's position on the issue".


He had caused similar consternation in Islamabad recently by his comment that "there is a possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang". Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself had to do some damage control in Washington by stating that "any other statement distorted out of context should not carry the weight when I have stated categorically that Pakistan faces no threat whatsoever from our side". Despite this, the Army chief later spoke in a similar cavalier fashion that India was revising its war strategy to prepare for a two-front war with China and Pakistan.


The General would do well to leave the domain of policy statements to the political masters while engaging himself in defending the country to the best of his ability. He should have realised by now that his statements are prone to be "misunderstood". Even now it will not be too late. 








It may appear unbelievable that 1,175 government schools in Punjab have been without principals for a decade, that 30,000 posts of teacher are vacant, 66 per cent schools are without adequate seating facilities for children and a large number of teachers in the border areas and elsewhere sub-let their posts. But those familiar with the way the government functions in Punjab are hardly surprised. Successive governments have neglected primary, secondary and medical education, squandering limited resources on gimmicks like running parallel "adarsh schools" when so many primary schools in villages lack the basic necessities, including blackboards and toilets.


A survey undertaken by a private institute at the behest of the state government has revealed that the experiment

of handing over schools to zila parishads has failed to improve primary education. The mid-day meal scheme

too has come a cropper in Punjab as either there are not enough food supplies or substandard, insect-infested food items are made available for children. Teachers at the grassroots level are paid low salaries and many operate from nearby towns or cities where they send their own children to better public schools. There is an appreciable awareness among parents tp provide the best possible education to their children. Even a family with modest means tries to send its children to a private, English-medium school.


The political parties cashing in on their rural vote banks have failed to focus on this primary need of the villagers, who need it badly to come out of poverty and ignorance. The poor have no means to get their right to quality education enforced. Punjab is among the states that spend the lowest on education – just 2 per cent of their revenue. Lack of money is no excuse as ruling state politicians and bureaucrats are notorious for their extravagance at the government expense. 








The joint appeal for maintaining peace and assisting the Government in controlling law and order issued by participants from eight political parties of Andhra Pradesh at their meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday is a positive step forward in dealing with the vexed Telangana statehood issue. After all the acrimony over the issue, it would have been unrealistic to expect a dramatic breakthrough in the very first meeting held to sort out the tangle. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram who called the meeting can draw some satisfaction from the fact that politicians representing diverse interests at least met without any visible signs of acrimony and agreed to work for peace.


Evidently, there was acute realization of the fact that the situation could well go out of hand with the Naxalites itching to take advantage of the climate of uncertainty. The increasingly aggressive stance that the students had begun to take also drilled fear into the minds of politicians and their parties that they may lose control over the rival movements which they had fuelled guided as much by personal interest as by regional considerations. Whatever may be the motivation, any lowering of the temperature would be welcome considering that the State is losing so heavily on account of the bandhs and other forms of work stoppages and people at large are being so grossly inconvenienced by frequent disruptions. It is a relief that the Congress has been able to rein in its ministers who had submitted their resignations and were staying away from their ministerial responsibilities. The spearhead of the agitation, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi is also veering round to a less dogmatic position. It is time that other parties too work to sort out their position on the contentious issue in the overall interests of the state and its people.


Clearly, the positives from the January 5 meeting are that the political leaders have agreed to meet again within a "reasonable frame of time." It is now vital that this limited gain be built upon and that the 'wider consultations' process be carried forward until a solution is found that meets with general acceptance. 









New Delhi will be welcoming Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as its first State guest of this decade. Overcoming formidable hurdles, Sheikh Hasina's Awami League swept the December 2008 polls, winning 230 seats and securing a two-thirds parliamentary majority. Ever since she was sworn in, Sheikh Hasina has not only faced challenges from right-wing parties, including the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Khaleda Zia, but also the Pakistani-Saudi assisted fundamentalists of the Jamat- e -Islami (JeI), which unashamedly backed the occupying Pakistan Army during the 1971 freedom struggle. This grouping was reinforced by radical Islamic groups like the Jamat-ul-Mujahideen (JMB) and the Harkat-ul-Jihad-ul-Islami, which also enjoy Pakistani/Saudi backing. All these groups are united in undermining the efforts to improve relations with India.


The greatest challenge that Sheikh Hasina overcame in her first year was the mutiny by the Bangladesh Rifles, which erupted on February 25, 2008, at its headquarters in Pikhana and soon spread across the country, to 12 other locations. The mutineers killed their chief, Major-General Shakil Ahmed, and his wife and dozens of others. Sheikh Hasina acted deftly in getting a large number of the mutineers to surrender and then permitted the army to crackdown using tanks and heavy weapons. While the mutineers had some genuine grievances, it soon became apparent that outsiders from the BNP and JeI were actively involved in fomenting the unrest.


Complementing the crackdown by Sheikh Hasina's government on the mutineers was immediate and effective

action by India, which sealed its borders with Bangladesh and forced back mutineers, attempting to cross over. The depth of anger felt at senior levels of the Bangladesh Army was reflected when the new Director-General of the BDR, Major-General Moinul Islam, referred to the mutiny as the "most heinous crime". He added that what transpired reminded him of "the liberation war of 1971".


Referring clearly to Pakistan and its friends in the BNP and the JeI, Major-General Islam noted that "external enemies still exist" for Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has reciprocated India's assistance, by acting to force the surrender of ULFA leader Arabindo Rajkhowa, its deputy military commander Raju Barua and others operating from safe havens in Bangladesh. It has been made clear to North-Eastern separatist groups that they could not consider Bangladesh a safe haven. She has also cracked down on the JMB and the Lashkar-e-Toiba and acted to pre-empt cross-border attacks on India and on the Indian High Commission in Dhaka.


Sheikh Hasina is now facing domestic criticism spearheaded by the BNP and the JeI for allegedly having sold out to India.


She was earlier the target of assassination attempts by pro-BNP/JeI Islamists during her years in the opposition. She will have to show that relations with India are producing tangible benefits to Bangladesh and that long-pending differences are moving towards resolution. Under the 1974 Indira-Mujib agreement, India is required to return around 111 enclaves to Bangladesh and in return get 51 enclaves from Bangladesh. It took us 18 years to lease a small corridor of land near Tin Bigha to Bangladesh, which we were required to do, under the 1974 agreement. Barely 6.5 kilometres out of the 4096 kilometre land border remains undemarcated.


Measures need to be agreed upon that the border is expeditiously demarcated. Moreover, a political consensus needs to be built in West Bengal, to resolve the remaining pending issues of "adverse possessions" and enclaves, which have bedevilled relations through the past four decades. If New Delhi could get the assistance of then West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu in the 1990s, to resolve the vexed Farakka issue, there is no reason why we cannot take a similar initiative soon to deal with the boundary issue.

There was substantial progress achieved in moving forward on a number of issues when Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Muni visited India in September 2008. The most crucial issue for India is "connectivity," which would involve developing road, rail and river communication facilities in Bangladesh, for promoting access to our north-eastern states. India should express its readiness to invest in the development of Chittagong and Mongia ports in Bangladesh and agree to provide access for goods from Nepal and Bhutan to these ports. This could be coupled with approaches to Bhutan for a joint study of projects to augment river water flows. India would also be well advised to provide assistance soon for the Akhaura-Agartala rail link and undertake action to meet Bangladesh's immediate energy requirements, by sale of 300 MW of electrical power. Indian investment in the development of road, rail and port infrastructure in Bangladesh should be seen in Dhaka to be mutually beneficial.


While Bangladesh has agreed to provide access to Ashuganj Port for the Palatana Power Project in Tripura, there should be a conscious effort to counter propaganda by the BNP against the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam across the Barak river in Assam. Contrary to malicious propaganda by Khaleda Zia and her cohorts, even experts in Bangladesh agree that this project will actually help in flood control, in augmenting lean season flows and assist in de-silting within Bangladesh. The BNP propaganda is motivated, considering the fact that experts in Khaleda Zia's government, who were kept informed about the project in 2003 and 2005, raised no objections when the BNP was in office. Another emotive issue in Bangladesh is sharing of waters of Teesta river.


Bangladesh has shown a measure of realism by agreeing to "Joint Hydrological Observations" so that future actions are taken on the basis of realities and not unfounded fears. We should be able to agree to mechanisms to address mutual concerns on this issue, as we did in resolving the Farakka tangle.


Sections of the Bangladesh Army and its intelligence apparatus have been traditionally anti-Indian and supportive of the BNP and the JeI. There appears to have been some change in this mindset in the aftermath of the BDR mutiny. New Delhi would be well advised to strengthen military ties with Bangladesh and encourage a greater participation of the Bangladesh military in international peace keeping, which will encourage them to avoid Bonapartist ambitions.


Past experience shows that the political mood in Bangladesh can be volatile and one could well see a return to the BNP order if Sheikh Hasina falters and cannot fulfil the people's growing aspirations. India should demonstrate that while it will assist in the progress and welfare of the people of Bangladesh, rulers in that country who show sensitivity for Indian concerns can and will receive Indian goodwill in return.








My husband, officer in the Ministry of External Affairs, was transferred to Embassy of India, Vienna (Austria) in September, 2005. As there are good international schools in that city, my schoolgoing son and daughter also accompanied us.


It is needless to mention that like any European country, Austria is very beautiful and idyllic. It is a small country full of historical places, theatres, opera houses, restaurants and whatnot.


Just to two or three month before our transfer to Turkey, I started feeling some pain in the lower part of my

abdomen. The X-ray report showed an ulcer in it. The doctor advised me to go in for an operation to remove it. I readily agreed to his advice. After one week I was discharged from the hospital and advised a rest of one month.


Unlike most husbands, mine loves office more than home. He took leave only of two days to take care of me.

My coaxing and cooing for extending it fell on his deaf ears. Not only that. As was his wont, he used to go to office not in time but before time. My children would return from school not before four o' clock. As a result I was feeling bored and confined to the house.


On one fine morning on a Sunday I asked my husband to take us for some outing. My husband is very fond of walking in forests, meadows and mountains. So not surprisingly, instead of taking us to some restaurant or an opera show, he lost no time in driving us in the car to a forest located on the outskirts of Vienna.


We parked our car near the entrance on the main road and started walking in the forest on a narrow kutcha road

lined with bushes and very tall trees. Willy-nilly we staggered along behind our self-styled walker and went deep into the forest. To show himself as a good pathfinder, my hubby took a different way while returning from our odyssey of sorts. Lo and behold! We lost our way in the forest. Luckily these forests have only bears, deer and other herbivorous animals .We were, therefore, free at least from fear of being pounced upon by the dangerous animals like lions, leopards etc.


I was distraught, dead tired and left with no energy to walk further. At the same time, there was not a soul round

to help us to find our way. After one or two hours, we saw an old couple passing by. We stopped and explained them our problem. They listened to us very attentively and asked us to follow them. They were from a nearby village bordering the forest and going to attend the evening prayer in the church which was also near the entrance of the forest where our car was parked.


We told the couple about our inability to follow them as our children and I could not walk fast. I still had some stitches on my stomach. The old couple also showed their helplessness to slow their pace as they were to reach the church in time. But they proved to be very ingenious. They told us that they would draw an arrow sign after every half kilometre or so, on the path while they walked on and we should follow those signs. We thanked them profusely for their kind gesture and they moved on.


We followed the arrow signs without any difficulty. But we had hardly walked for half an hour when it started raining. The rain water started washing away the arrow signs. We were completely at our wits' end. However hoping that that the same foot path would take us to our destination, we went on walking. To our great surprise, after some distance we saw arrow signs made with wooden sticks obviously by that gracious couple. We followed them and reached our car.


When I recollect that incident, I cannot help thanking that old couple wherever they are. Some people leave a life-long unforgettable impression on our mind through their selfless acts of kindness, help and sympathy.








At a Track II India-Pakistan conference in Singapore recently sponsored by the German Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), not only were Pakistan's internal challenges like Balochistan discussed with astonishing candour, but also the appeal was to talk, not fight, because Pakistan was coping with enormous pressure.


The discussion on Balochistan sourced to its mention in the joint statement at Sharm el Sheikh and a concession to Pakistan was the first ever of its kind. Unfortunately it boomeranged on Pakistan despite the categorical assertions about Indian involvement in destabilising Balochistan, including training of 600 Baluch dissidents in Afghanistan.


A Baloch participant traced the history of grievances, insurgency and alienation which had made Balochistan ripe for another Bangladesh. The demand for independent Balochistan was created by Islamabad's wrong policies and bad governance and also lack of development.


While the assassination in 2006 of Nawab Akbar Bugti became the turning point in the insurgency and alienation, forced disappearances and torture in military custody drove the last nail in the coffin. Excesses by security forces and the dominant role of the Quetta Corps Commander have militarised governance.


The narration of the Baloch tragedy was a major embarrassment for the Pakistanis who, for strategic balance, demanded a discussion on the Maoist civil war in India. The first political and economic package for Balochistan was presented in a historic joint session of Parliament in Islamabad on the very day the topic was discussed at the conference.


Balochistan will not allow gas pipelines through its territory as it has been deprived of its share of revenues from its provincial resources of copper, gas and gold. Royalties for gas came only in 1991 whereas the gas went commercial in 1951, Baloch leaders say, and want the Federal government to pay the province the arrears it is owed.


It is the same story – although the Pakistani delegation did not agree – with Gilgit-Baltistan, (previously called Northern Areas) the Shia part of  Azad Kashmir which has ethnic and linguistic connections with Jammu and  Kashmir and Ladakh and has been under the control of Pakistan for 63 years.


The strategic location of Gilgit-Baltistan – which is sandwiched between China, Central Asia, Afghanistan and India – makes it crucial for Pakistan to prolong its 'occupation' of the region. The year 2009 saw more sectarian killings than the previous two years put together.


When you consider how Baltistan is governed, you are struck by the time warp. Even today Baltistan is neither a part of Pakistan nor an autonomous region or an independent country. The region is ruled through legal framework orders and presidential ordinances and a recently announced empowerment order is yet another ordinance without a constitutional cover.


This package is a prelude to the Governor's rule and will only strengthen Pakistani colonialism since the Pakistani Prime Minister and the Governor will have a veto to any laws passed by the Legislative Assembly. However, the delegates from Pakistan objected strongly to these assertions.


But notwithstanding objections on Gilgit-Baltistan, the Pakistani side showed amazing flexibility on Kashmir. Kashmir, a Pakistani said, was no longer a high priority issue in Pakistan after Gen Pervez Musharraf. But there was consensus that a settlement could be reached on Kashmir.


The four-point Kashmir formula, which was even endorsed by Hizb ul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin as the 'first step', has such wide acceptance among political parties in J&K that the PDP had made it the basis for its autonomy document. It was agreed that a historic opportunity was missed in 2006 to clinch the Kashmir issue.


The session on India-Pakistan relations began with a Pakistani painting two scenarios – the removal of President Zardari and the formation of a national unity government; and President Zardari staying but deprived of the powers under the 17th Amendment. The erstwhile troika was redundant as the Army Chief, Gen Kayani, was calling the shots after the Army resurrected its image post-Lal Masjid.


The new players in what was described as New Pakistan were a fiercely independent media, a strong judiciary and a vibrant civil society. There was also mention that the Pak Army had said 'tauba' (enough) and so had the ISI to dirty tricks. That the ISI had bitten off more than it could chew was the broad interpretation though some Pakistanis did not believe the Army and the ISI were on the mend.


There was a consensus that the joint anti-terror mechanism was not of good design and would not work in its present form. The ISI and R&AW have to engage each other and get the Indian military intelligence also involved. One Pakistani suggested changing the framework for dialogue without mentioning specifics but insisted that some outstanding issues like Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar barrage were ripe for settlement.


Pakistanis were convinced that India would not resume the composite dialogue till action was taken against the culprits of Mumbai. It was said that when even Gen Pervez Musharraf could not discipline Hafiz Saeed, how could a weak civilian government? Pakistanis want to move beyond Mumbai, even Kashmir, focussing on defusing the proxy wars in Afghanistan and Balochistan and discussing the vital waters issue.


For breaking the impasse over the dialogue, Indian generosity was sought and the 'ball is in India's court', it was said. Not so, was the Indian retort. Whenever Pakistan runs out of good Taliban, it invokes India's generosity:  big brother/bigger country and land (Kashmir) for peace deal.


They were told that India had been extravagant in its generosity (and tolerance) in the face of ceaseless cross-border terrorism even after several Pakistani pledges not to allow the use of its soil for the same.


Now that it is reasonably clear that the Western troops will pull out of Afghanistan sooner than later, what should India and Pakistan prepare themselves for in a post-US Afghanistan?  The feeling was that a greater South Asia, that includes China, Myanmar, Iran, Afghanistan should be attempted – Pakistanis said this is a reality that India should learn to live with. They noted with some satisfaction that the rise of China and the decline of the US inevitably meant an eclipse of India.


In the circumstances, there had to be a difference in the way India and Pakistan look at Kashmir. That this was already happening was clear. But this change should be reflected in the conversations Indians and Pakistanis were having on a variety of subjects. For instance, the ISI and Indian intelligence have had some contact.  The Mumbai crisis was handled quite deftly, with restraint. It was, after all the Pakistani news channels that said Ajmal Kasab was a Pakistani.


The sense was that 2005-06 the best period for India-Pakistan relations. No breakthroughs were expected in 2010 but no major Pakistan initiative should be expected because Pakistan was bogged down in problems of its own. The bracing news from the Pakistani delegates was that there was no constituency in Pakistan that sought conflict with India any more. But India needed to be bighearted.


It was agreed that terrorism, Afghanistan, Balochistan and water issues constituted the priority list – Kashmir was an afterthought – and pending revival of composite dialogue, the back channel could be reactivated. Media jingoism and the war of words had to be stopped. Summing up the mood, a Pakistani had the last word: 'If we cannot be best of friends, let us be good friends'.









In the vast American embassy in the hills outside the Jordanian capital Amman a senior US Special Forces officer runs an equally special office. He buys information from Jordanian army and intelligence officers – for cash, of course – but he also helps to train Afghan and Iraqi policemen and soldiers.


The information he seeks is not just about al-Qa'ida but about Jordanians themselves, about the army's loyalty to King Abdullah II as well as about the anti-American insurgents who live in Jordan, primarily Iraqi but also Iraqi al-Qa'ida contacts with Afghanistan.


It's easy to buy army officers in the Middle East. The Americans spent much of 2001 and 2002 buying up the warlords of Afghanistan. They paid for Jordanian troops to join their own occupation army in Iraq – which was why the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad was ruthlessly bombed by Washington's enemies.


What the CIA's double agent Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi did – like so many al-Qa'ida followers, he was a doctor – was routine. He worked for both sides, because America's enemies long ago infiltrated Washington's "allies" in the Arab intelligence forces.


Even Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who effectively led the al-Qa'ida side of the insurgency in Iraq and was himself a Jordanian citizen, maintained contacts within Amman's General Intelligence Department, whose own senior officer, Sharif Ali bin Zeid, was killed along with seven Americans this week in the CIA's greatest disaster since the Beirut US embassy bombing of 1983.


There is, however, nothing romantic about espionage in the Middle East. Several of the CIA men killed in Afghanistan were in fact hired mercenaries while the Jordanian "mukhabbarat" spooks, for whom both bin Zeid and al-Balawi worked, use torture routinely on Jordan's supposed enemies; indeed, they tortured men who were equally routinely "renditioned" to Amman by the CIA under the Bush administration.


The mystery, however, is not so much the existence of double agents within the US security apparatus in the Middle East, but just how a Jordanian "mole" could be of use in Afghanistan.


Few Arabs speak Pushtun or Dari or Urdu, although a larger percentage of Afghans would speak Arabic. What it does suggest, however, is that there have been much closer links between the anti-American Iraqi insurgents based in Amman and their opposite numbers in Afghanistan.


Hitherto regarded as a purely inspirational transfer of operations, it is now clear that – despite the vast landmass of Iran between the two states – Iraqi and Afghan/al-Qa'ida operatives have been collaborating.


In other words, just as the CIA blithely assumed that it could make friends with and trust the local intelligence men in the Muslim world, so the insurgent groups could do the same.


The presence of an anti-American Jordanian spy in Afghanistan – one who would sacrifice his life so far from home – proves how close are the links between America's enemies in Amman and in eastern Afghanistan. It would not be going too far to suggest that anti-American Jordanians have connections that reach as far as Islamabad.


If this seems far-fetched, we should remember that just as the CIA first supported Arab fighters against the Soviet army in Afghanistan, it was Saudi money which paid them. In the early Eighties, Saudi Arabia's own intelligence commander held regular meetings with Osama bin Laden in the Saudi embassy in Islamabad and with the Pakistani secret service, which gave logistical help to the "mujahedin" and then to the Taliban – as it still does today.


If the Americans believe that the Saudis are not sending money to their enemies in Afghanistan – or to their equally fundamentalist enemies in Iraq and Jordan – then the CIA hasn't much idea of what is going on in the Middle East.


By arrangement with The Independent








A few days into the new decade, it already feels as if an age of surprise and paradox is dawning. In a warming world, we are experiencing the coldest winter for years. It has been discovered that the human gender which is more in touch with its innermost feelings, most emotionally honest and consistent, is... male.


No one was prepared for that. Men have been in the doghouse for so long that it has begun to feel like home. Women's comfortable settlement on the high moral ground is now accepted as part of the age-old natural order.


But wait. An authoritative study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour journal, has investigated 132 surveys, involving 4,000 interviewees, in order to analyse truthfulness when it comes to sexual matters.


The results are startling. Whereas men's mental and physical response to desire was found to be perfectly aligned, there was a disastrous mismatch between what women felt and what they said they were feeling. Some reported that they were aroused when, physiologically, they were not. Others claimed to feel nothing when in fact their bodies were absolutely fizzing with erotic need.


The report has been spun various ways in the press. Female sexuality is more subtle and nuanced than male randiness, one argument has gone. Another interpretation suggested that a terrible burden of guilt has afflicted many women whose bodies are sending them all the wrong signals. The truth, surely, is simpler than that. Men are more mature, less in denial, about their sexual natures. The male mind and body are in a healthy state of balance.


Once this simple fact has been accepted, then the great G-spot scandal, one of the week's other big news stories, is easy to explain. Back in 1981, an American author called Beverly Whipple wrote a bestselling book heralding the discovery of an erogenous zone which provided women with a brand new type of orgasm, far better than the standard-issue one.


The report caused heartache, muscle sprain and disappointment for couples all over the world. The search for the G-spot became a late 20th-century version of a previous era's quest for the Northwest Passage.


Now, according to scientists at King's College London, the lovers' holy grail was little more than a fantasy. Its existence, they argue, was based on the subjective opinions of women. In the matter of sex, these turned out – once again – to be a highly unreliable source.


As happens so often in these intimate matters, things have turned nasty. Whipple has defended her G-spot. Others have argued that the discovery of the new zone depends on the quality of the male lover. Ungenerously, it has been pointed out that, in this survey, the partners would tend to be British. Thus, in one easy move, the male – at least the blundering male of these islands – is back in the doghouse.


Let us hope that in this new decade, some sort of gender balance will be established. An early hero of the new age will be Warren Beatty whose mental and physical alignment is so perfect that, according to a new biography, he has had 12,775 lovers.


To gain a sense of scale, imagine an average crowd at a Queens Park Rangers match consisting entirely of women who have had sex with Warren Beatty. The star's lawyer has issued a denial while Beatty himself has kept a tactful silence. That is how men deal with these things – honestly and with quiet dignity.n


By arrangement with The Independent








The case of the US based Indian scientist, Shiva Ayyadurai, who had returned to India to join the Council of Industrial and Scientific Research (CSIR) to set up a technologic arm, well illustrates all that impedes progress in India's scientific research sector. Ayyadurai had publicly complained in October last year about the bureaucratic mind-set and red-tape prevalent in research institutions such as the CSIR which suffocated innovative and fruitful scientific exploration. The CSIR's response, in typical bureaucratic fashion, had been to terminate his services and send him packing off to the US! However, Nobel laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan's recent assertion that the primary hurdles to scientific progress in India were bureaucratisation and red tape is apt reminder as to who was right, Ayyadurai or the scientist-mandarins who govern the behemoth called CSIR. Underlining such a presumption, no less an individual than India's Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has now echoed Ayyadurai and Ramakrishnan in citing political meddling and red tape as the key hurdles confronting scientific research in India. His assertion while addressing scientists at the 97th Indian Science Congress at the University of Kerala that "it is unfortunately true that red tape, political interference and lack of proper recognition of good work have also contributed to the regression in Indian science in some sectors from the days of C.V.Raman and others," has hit the nail on the head.

However, while the disease has been repeatedly diagnosed, the scientific community itself is uncertain as to the nature of the cure. It is all very well for the Prime Minister to ask scientists to free science from "the shackles and dead weight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism." But the prevalent lack of autonomy as well as a structured hierarchy in scientific research institutions raises doubt as to how far such a process of liberation would go without revolutionary structural changes the Government appears unwilling to make. It is open secret that promotions or facilities in them often go to the less deserving and more sycophantic, while senior researchers have developed an unsavoury habit of taking credit for innovations developed by their juniors. A scientist who attempts to take on this well entrenched mechanism does so at his or her own peril, as numerous attempts which have ended in tragedy testify to. The absence of a proper environment has led to a massive brain drain, the irony being that while Indian scientists are showing their true mettle in foreign climes and earning laurels, their equals in India are languishing in unrewarding work. Simply providing greater monetary and other incentives, therefore, will neither serve to induce "brain gain" nor go to create a climate conducive for fruitful research. What is required is a change of mind-set which must come from within the scientist community, particularly from senior scientists and heads of research institutions. 







As if waking up from a strangely inexplicable slumber, India is becoming aware of the need to protect and promote its acutely overlooked biological diversity. Even though its stance in last year's climate conference in Copenhagen was unimaginative if not vague, the country now seeks to push for a legally binding treaty on biological resources at the Convention of Biological Diversity to be held in Nagoya, Japan. In the agenda is the adoption of an international protocol on access and benefit sharing (ABS) that enables biodiversity-rich countries to gain benefits from the use of their biodiversity. According to policy makers in the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, a single legally binding treaty would be advantageous to biodiversity rich countries such as India, Brazil, and some countries in Africa, the resources of which at present fall prey to foreign business interests, while the countries are denied fair economic gains. A single legally binding treaty could change the scenario by ensuring that resources as well as traditional knowledge of resource-rich countries enjoy protection, and benefits percolate to the people. However, it would be interesting to note the response from some developed countries, which at least currently do not favour such a treaty.

Among the regions in India that stand to benefit from such a legally binding treaty would be the Western Ghats, and the Eastern Himalayan region that includes Assam and Arunachal Pradesh along with some adjoining areas. Not only is the range of biological diversity immense in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, they contain some of the most unexplored realms of the country. It is expected that surveys would yield many more species and throw light on how they are intertwined with the complex web of life. No less importantly, both the States along with some others in the region still have considerable green cover that act as carbon sink, thus playing a crucial role in combating global warming. Moreover, in the North East there exists a cornucopia of traditional knowledge and systems, which is yet to gain deserved attention from the authorities concerned, even as some experts believe that they could bring in economic benefits to scores of indigenous people. In such a situation, the State governments have a definite role to play to make the Union government seriously consider their interests while formulating the national agenda vis-à-vis a legally binding treaty. Non-governmental agencies could be even better placed to understand the issue objectively and scientifically, and in spreading awareness among the masses so that public opinion could be created. 







The brutal killing of Lilabati Daimary, a teacher and homemaker deserves the severest condemnation because of the very nature of the conspiracy. Just because she happens to be the sister of Ranjan Daimary who leads the anti-talks faction of the NDFB she cannot be sacrificed at the altar of revenge. Over 130 people have been killed in the Bodoland Territorial Council Areas since the beginning of 2008 and it appears that the Bodos have to keep counting because is no respite to this bloodbath. At no time in Assam's history has one seen vengeance wreaked by a people upon themselves with this frequency and wrath. You begin to wonder what happened to our constitutional rights which say that the state is the protector of our lives and liberties. Where is the state here? Why is it so conspiratorially silent?

Some months ago a similar attempt was made on the life of Anjali Daimary, another sister of the NDFB supremo. Anjali is a women's rights activist and while her sympathies may lie with her blood-brother she cannot be targeted for her brother's acts of omission and commission. But killers are not known to be rational. If they did, they would not dare to gun down human beings so mercilessly. Today there is so much bad blood between the different factions of Bodo militants that there is no space for the majority of non-combatants to voice their concerns. The moderate Bodos that one has met and spoken to are tired of this futile pursuit of a cause by killing their own brothers and sisters.

We are aware that the rhetoric and the trail of blood are intrinsically linked to politics. A section of Bodos have learnt that the State responds to threats and intimidation. They have got their way with the Government of India earlier. Different improvised institutions have been created with the hope that allocation of more financial and political resources would ease the angst of the Bodo people. But those who wielded the gun then and got what they wanted from the state on the pretext of surrendering arms have proved to be treacherous. The arms they surrendered were some stupid old rifles that probably would not even fire and just a couple of AKs. They retained the cache of murderous weapons, knowing fully well that when they became hungry for more financial resources they could use those firearms yet again as bargaining tools.

I am sure that the intelligent Bodo community know all these inner travails in their society. But none of them can stand up and speak the truth because they would be gunned down. So the Bodo Sahitya Sabha and the All Bodo Students' Union which are in the forefront of the peace building attempts have to resort to double-speak and blame the Government of India again and again for a cancer that is eating the society from within. Of course, the Government of India and more specifically its Home Ministry are not exactly blameless. They have been known to bungle not once or twice but repeatedly while handling the North East affairs. Successive Home Ministry officials have bought peace by kowtowing to groups that have the fire power to blackmail them.

The Union Home Ministry's response is based on half-baked intelligence and a lack of knowledge of the ground situation and the politics of deception that armed groups indulge in. There is nothing honourable about a group that spills blood with abandon and uses the dead bodies to demand its pound of flesh. Why then is the Home Ministry encouraging such groups by granting their demands? In fact, there is need now for a strong signal from that Ministry that barbarism and violence will not pay and that anyone with a genuine grouse against the state has to abandon arms and talk the language of the Constitution.

Having said that there is also the learned rationale which we in the region have imbibed and, that is, that Government of India does not respond to reasoning by benign groups. The state, represented in the main by the Union Government has over the years tended to be blackmailed by foreign-trained, foreign fire-arms wielding rebels. Their capacity to cripple the state is seen as their tactile strength. Those who die in this game of political one-up-manship are considered unfortunate but necessary victims in pursuit of what they see as a just cause. But to the ordinary man and woman a better life than they one they experience today is a utopia. Every sensible Bodo knows that even if a Bodoland state is created, political power will be vested with a few leaders. Their plight will continue to be the same. Besides, how can militant leaders who resort to killing their own people be said to be having the interests of the same people at heart? It is a contradiction in terms. .

Now, coming to the role of the state government one may ask what is the police or the huge contingent of security forces doing to contain the violence in Bodoland. Is it possible that killings can happen without the knowledge of the local police? Have they become deaf, dumb and blind? Is their intelligence gathering so pathetic that they are unable to nab a single killer? Surely this is a mockery of the police force. But yes, there are other angles to this whole mess. How do we know that the security forces are not in league with one or the other faction of armed groups? The tactics of the state in trying to contain militancy have not always been honourable. While overt attempts at winning over dissenters carries on, covert strategies to weaken them by creating fissures and engineering splits is as real as it can get.

But while the State plays these dirty games with the militia can it ignore the deaths of innocents? What is the point of having a police force that cannot prevent further killings in Bodoland? There is now an urgency to refurbish the entire security set-up in this area. There are police personnel who can deliver the goods provided there is no political interference. The likes of Hagrama Mohilary and his party colleagues may not want such non-partisan police people around. Nor would Tarun Gogoi for that matter. After all the BPF is am important coalition partner. But why should officers from the IPS be beholden to State politicians? If they do so they are as good as impotent men and women who have allowed themselves to be emaciated by the politics of the day. I suggest they give up their uniforms and medals and do something other than policing because they are a shame to their service.

We are also aware of course that the institution of policing does produce deformed species like SPS Rathore but one hopes that it is an exception and not a rule. The police in Assam have showed no spine at all in dealing with the Bodoland killings. It's high time they earn their honest bread!







The rise in food prices, especially in 2007-08, followed by the economic slowdown in 2009, heightened awareness of poverty and hunger around the world. It is estimated that more than a billion people – one in every six – may suffer from undernourishment. Faced with rising world hunger and "unacceptable" poverty an inclusive international platform is the clarion call of the day!

The very concern over food security and elimination of the incidence of poverty should not remain, confined to paper or an agenda for discussion in various fora, rather it is high time that serious attention is paid on this score focusing on and making sure, everyone in the world has enough food and a process is evolved to support implementation of poverty alleviation programmes, which, in turn, call for greater coherence, joint role on the global coordination of efforts to eliminate hunger and ensure security for all and which should include supporting national anti-hunger plans and initiatives ensuring that all relevant voices are heard in the context of policy formulation on food, agriculture and poverty banishment, strengthening linkages at the regional, national and local levels. The aim is thus to have an inclusive international and intergovernmental platform dealing with food security, nutrition and poverty elimination – it being a central component in the evolving global partnership for agriculture, food security and nutrition paving the way for poverty eradication in particular. A renovated process to include a wider group of stakeholders and increase its impact on promoting policies to reduce insecurity is urgently awaited.

No doubt in countries like India the combined effects of economic growth and measures for direct interventions for poverty alleviation have translated into impressive decline in the incidence of poverty, especially in the recent past. Backed by a sustained growth momentum as well as launching of the major initiative for creation of rural employment (in the form of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme) this trend is all set to continue in future. Progressive increase in the coverage of such types of programmes from the current level of 200 districts to the country as a whole in the next five years, time bound implementation coupled with transparency through the Right to Information Act as well as accountability through decentralised Panchayti Raj Institutions have the strength and ability to, make "a permanent dent on the incidence of unemployment and poverty in the country," as rightly observed in the Economic Survey. To any sort of development planning it is the development and utilisation of human resources in the overall quality of life of' the people that remains the very central point. The two way linkage between human development and overall economic progress is crucial – sustained high economic growth simultaneously with healthy, educated and adequately skilled people enabling the human resources to participate fully while at the same time contributing more to the development process. Though the sustained and high economic growth in the post-reform period led to fall in the poverty ratio, yet the fact remains that in the UNDP global human development report India ranked 127th out of 177 countries (position went down from 124 to 127 between 2000 and 2003). Hence there are tremendous challenges ahead!

The fact remains that poverty reduction policies and programmes often fail to reach socially excluded groups and social exclusion makes it harder to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Social exclusion and inequality aspects have thus emerged to be at the top of today's assignments. Economic inequality is largely about differences in per capita income or household incomes across populations within or across countries; while social inequality looks more at differentials in access to basic services and rights, including attention to social variables such as gender and race. In fact, social exclusion and inequality are complicated and multidimensional in nature. Social exclusion has no single definition but socially excluded people are not only socially and economically deprived, they are considered, as groups, to be detached from normal social relations in the societies in which they live; disadvantaged and discriminated against because of who they are or where they live, deprived of choices, opportunities and entitlements, and usually lacking a voice or any form of political representation. It has also been widely noticed and recognised that "even during vibrant growth periods when poverty may fall overall, that for socially excluded groups poverty levels may remain stagnant or rise; and that inequality levels may also rise quite drastically. China and Latin America both provide compelling examples of this."

Four key themes thus come to the surface: conflict, State fragility and social cohesion; building Effective States and poverty alleviation, social protection and migration. The time is ripe to go for intensive high quality research and strengthening uptake and communication of research to influence policy. The priority on this score is to be attached to support the development of a more solid evidence base guided by systematic reviews – additional attention to deliver more evidence based synthesis products and refine arrangements for generating new knowledge on poverty reduction and social protection themes; to put in place organisational wide systems for promoting gender equality across policy and programmes as well as gender mainstreaming. The need is keenly felt for focusing on governance in changing and challenging environments – to 'improve understanding of the causes of social, economic and political insecurity in the developing world, and to identify practical and effective strategies to address these.' The overall requirement is to build greater understanding of the causes and consequences of social exclusion and inequality in relation to tackling poverty.

It is obviously a strong point to note that DFID and other stakeholders are working towards achievement of the MDGs and informing the development debate beyond 2015. The aim should be to provide high quality research and policy evidence on social exclusion and inequality, to be delivered through strong research portfolios in all existing and new research programmes. It has rightly been observed that "whilst there has been increasing attention to social exclusion in development agencies, the understanding of who is excluded and why and the political will to address social exclusion where it is evident, remains extremely challenging." As such further scanning is crucial to improving our understanding of who is excluded, where, why and how we can begin to address it through political, social and economic processes to achieve more socially inclusive and cohesive societies. Attention to socially excluded groups, including research, must therefore be highly contextualized any fundamentally address issues of power and rights. Poverty alleviation is a long drawn process and no overnight success can be expected especially when the change resistors block the positive forces to serve their temporary gains. No simple solution can really be thought of.

(The writer is a Faculty Member, Indian Institute of Bank Management, Guwahati).








A year after B Ramalinga Raju scripted the fall of Satyam Computers, the company is up and running, under a different, able management, but the investigation into the scam meanders on. The government acted with despatch to salvage the company, and with it, the reputation of India's outsourcing industry, by appointing an interim board which did a commendable job. The new owner, Tech Mahindra, was selected in record time.

However, the government should, instead of resting on its laurels, focus on the unfinished agenda. For one, the pace of investigation into the scam has been slow. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is yet to prove its assertion in the second chargesheet that the promoter siphoned off money from the IT firm, which, if true, would be the core scam. Expediting the probe will require better co-ordination among various agencies and regulators.

Two, the trial in the Satyam case by a special court should begin without delay. Three, the government must change the law to make statutory auditors and independent directors more accountable. The role, rights and duties of auditors have been defined in the Companies Bill 2009 to ensure they maintain integrity and independence of the audit process. This is a welcome move and the government must ensure speedy passage of the Bill. Four, early warning systems should be in place to detect frauds. Here again, the government has signalled its intent and this should translated into action. Five, shareholders in India should be allowed to
file class action suits against errant promoters. Again, the Companies Bill provides for class action. But safeguards must be built to prevent its misuse . We also need legal protection of whistle-blowers .

In parallel, the government reform political funding to ensure transparency in the relationship between companies and politicians/parties. This would mark an end to the unholy nexus between corporates and the political establishment , which is widely held to be a reason for the slow progress of investigations into the Satyam scandal.







The current avatar of the climate change spectre may turn out to me more effective than any previous ones. Given that much of the world is seeing the worst winter in living memory, the ineffectiveness of the term 'global warming' to convey the scale of impending disaster has become apparent. After all, it was difficult to be galvanised into action when all doomsayers had to give as examples of imminent catastrophe was the prospect of sundry idyllic island clusters and a clutch of over-populated littoral nations facing submergence as polar ice caps and glaciers melt.

But when roads and services grind to a halt in the very nations which exuded much hot air in Copenhagen (more than the greenhouse gas emissions by Afghanistan, Malawi and Sierra Leone put together, say some!) due to unprecedented snow, fog and freezing temperatures, the problem becomes more real, more pressing. Sitting marooned at home, living on canned food, hoping that electricity and heating fuels don't run out mid-blizzard , and cars in their driveways don't crumple under mountains of snow, worried denizens begin to wonder whether the € 130 million spent on the Denmark jamboree couldn't have been better utilised. That's also when they begin to wonder whether the Na'vi people haven't got a good idea or two.

Okay, so Avatar cost a tad more than the Copenhagen Summit and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, (estimates vary between $280 million and $500 million, including marketing expenses) but the 10ft aliens existing on eco-friendly terms with their planet Pandora's flora and fauna, champion sustainability a lot more effectively than sanctimonious politicians and a middle-aged , somewhat professorial ex-US vice president. The $1 billion reportedly jingling in the coffers of 20th Century Fox after just three weeks in the box office, should be evidence enough of the fact that if it's put across evocatively, people will accept grim messages. Even if they don't want to live like the Flintstones, at least they may now consider investing in thermals instead of turning up their heaters a few notches this winter...







Glitz , glamour and sleek metal are de rigueur at automobile exhibitions. This year's Delhi auto show has all these, and a surprise something more: a surfeit of small cars. Global players are intent not so much on showcasing their best as on displaying what they hope to sell in the domestic market. And that, naturally, is the small car, ideally priced below Rs 5 lakh. True, there have been no global launches, but some concept cars have been unveiled at the show.

The frisson that the Nano created at the last edition of the Delhi Auto Expo is absent this year, but there is a closer focus on business, with auto part makers from China, besides the global auto majors, eager to strike new deals, new alliances. This is all to the good. Auto majors such as Toyota and Honda are making small cars specifically targeted at the Indian market. India's preference for small cars might be a function of constrained budgets. But small cars are likely to be the world's choice as well, given the new realities of rising oil prices, greater awareness on climate change and growing personal commitment on the part of individual citizens around the world towards minimising their carbon footprint .

So, if small cars that are frugal in fuel consumption and still deliver on performance — that's how small cars have to be, to sell in India — get built for India, in India, they'd eventually end up getting exported to the world. Already , Suzuki and Hyundai use their Indian facilities to produce small cars for export. So, the feasibility of producing quality automobiles in India for the world market is not in question anymore. But achieving scale is yet to be fully demonstrated. This is where all the component manufacturers come in.

Component manufacture is no longer a low-tech business, but remains preponderantly a small-tomedium enterprise activity. There is enormous scope for auto components for India-based production of small cars to absorb both entrepreneurship and manpower. Competition from abroad, including from China, should be welcomed , to realise quality and scale.

Other welcome trends at the expo are hybrid or electrical cars and new generations of buses and trucks. They foretell a shift to cleaner, safer and more comfortable transport.








 It's unclear when the word pedestrian (from the Latin pedester, or going on foot) came to mean the ordinary, the infra dig, the undistinguished or dull. But with increasing urbanisation, especially in newly-urbanising countries, the word has come to mean that — in tandem with fast-rising vehicle sales and a commercial mindset that deifies status through the acquisition of private vehicles. That also legitimises the pedestrian as roadkill, along with dogs, cows, donkeys and other animals. Only a fraction of the time and space devoted to automobile sales, vehicle industry health and the sex appeal of new machines is devoted to pedestrian safety in the mass media.

In India, there were around 1.5 lakh roadrelated injuries in 2008, up from 1.1 lakh in 2007. More than half of those were fatalities. And half the fatalities, and more than half the injuries incurred, involve pedestrians. Several of these continue to be hit-and-run cases, leaving pedestrians to the mercy of personal accident insurance policies, by and large themselves tied to vehicle ownership, for marginal compensation and huge medical spends.

But then, this is hardly surprising considering the urban transport policy of this billionplus country is unabashedly loaded in favour of vehicles despite more than three-fourths of its population not owning one. A visitor from abroad would be struck by the acute illogic of the urban transport policy of a nation, a majority of whose denizens are economicallyconstrained pedestrians or public transport users. Just take the roads. Hard mid-road barriers with few pedestrian crossings force the elderly, physically-challenged and children to dodge speeding vehicular traffic regularly.

A November 2009 report by UN development expert Dr Kevin Watkins launched in Moscow by the Make Roads Safe campaign describes road crashes as 'a one-way ticket into poverty' for many in the developing world, maintaining that the mounting toll of death and injury is also placing an intolerable burden on health systems. Data from a Nimhans study on pedestrian safety in Bengaluru revealed that nearly half the road deaths and a fourth of the hospital registrants due to road accidents were pedestrians. Most fatalities were of young men in the 16-45 year group.

Other studies have posited that the highest proportion of road fatalities may be related to 'development' . Compared to metros in India, Kenya and Sri Lanka, for instance, the fatalities are much higher than in metros in Australia , US or Japan. Yet, there are exceptions that taunt this conclusion that pedestrian/bicycle fatalities are related to development. Such as Hanoi, in a country whose history and culture is intertwined with keeping alive traditions against the might of the technologically-superlative . Pedestrians and bicyclists have the right of way in its transport culture.

This raises a key question: is pedestrian neglect undivorceable from development? Prof Geetam Tiwari of IIT-Delhi points out in a study that even in a city safest for pedestrians and bikers, Copenhagen, they are the ones at the highest risk although the numbers are comparatively lower. Road fatalities involving pedestrians , she holds, is as high as 75% in Mumbai and 50% of the total in Delhi, but also 54% in NY, 33% in Jo'burg , 40% in Shanghai, 30% in London and 33% in Tehran. "It is an urban problem, not of development," she contends.

State policies that do not proactively endorse pedestrian health — walking is still propagated as the best form of exercise the world over — and safety here, therefore, cannot be viewed indulgently. In an article, Prof Vivek Moorthy of IIM-Bangalore points out that "the pattern of urbanisation taking place in India is seriously harming pedestrians. They are being displaced by road-building and widening, without safe walking space — which was meagre to begin with... We are living in a regime for motorists, by motorists and of motorists..."

The fundamental flaw in our urban transport policy is that it is underpinned by high government expenditure, in itself a self-propelling incentive. "Everyone loves a good flyover ," Moorthy says in a sarcastic reference to the lack of pavements and footpaths in road engineering. Isn't it ironical how electorallypotent pedestrian's needs seem to not strike policymakers at all? Describing China, New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof wrote, "In civilised countries, cars stop for people. In uncivilised ones, people stop for cars." He could be talking about India.

Isn't it time for the 'pedestrian' public to pressure policymakers into understanding the difference between a civilised society and dehumanised urbanisation?








Do we know what young India is thinking? The English media give us their take based on surveys that they do, which, as has been pointed out often in this column, represent less than 5% of the country's youth. Often, it's hard to even figure out what segment of youth such surveys represent, because the write-up is most economical about facts like which income group or social strata the study was done amongst, merely stating "xx number of respondents aged xyz, from the following cities and towns".

The internet surveys give us a window into the minds and worlds of the internet-enabled youth; but this sample universe leaves out large chunks of those who form part of our much-promised demographic dividend. That's why it was so wonderful to see a book, Indian youth in a transforming world: Attitudes and perceptions. Jointly published by CSDS and Sage Publications, it is the report of a high-quality survey of 5,000 people, aged 14 to 34, drawn from all states excluding the north-east, Uttarakhand, Goa and Himachal Pradesh, and representing all socio-economic classes.

The sampling methodology and the survey instrument have been explained in detail, and the fieldwork relatively recent, done in mid-2007. Not meaning to be xenophobic, it was still a bit sad to note that such a study got done because Konrad Adenauer Stiftung initiated and commissioned — and presumably funded — it.

It is true that in India, we generally have trouble finding adequate funding for regular studies of this kind which tell us more about ourselves. If the quantum of data were proportionate to the quantum of our usage of the term demographic dividend, we should have had several more and larger youth studies in the public domain. One is not referring to countrywide studies done for private companies that measure cola consumption or media habits or advertising preferences of young India; but of public domain insights on how young people think and feel about issues like those that this book captures — 'family and social networks', engagement with 'politics and democracy', views relating to 'governance and development', and their view of the world and globalisation, their hopes, dreams and concerns and so on.

To set the big-picture context, according to the Census of India, 2001, we have almost 20% of our population in the age group of 15 to 24 — that's what actually ought to be considered the core youth target group — and around 27% in the age group of 15 to 29. They are 69% rural and 31% urban, yet what rural youth are thinking about is a big blind spot for many of us, because it never finds mention in any media survey; only 14% have finished school, and the number is just 9% for women. Even in urban India, only 25% of urban youth have finished school, and that actually represents around 8% of all-India youth. So, let's mute the applause for the big bold move with wide ranging benefits of the MHRD initiative to abolish the Standard X exam.
Despite low levels of education and income for the most part, according to the survey report, optimism runs very high. About 84% of the 15 to 34-year-olds in India — referred to in the report, and henceforth in this article, as the youth — are optimistic about the future, and only 3% are pessimistic, the remaining 13% are uncertain. We always talk about aspiring young India and, indeed, 53% have high or very high aspirations as compared to 28% who have low or very low aspirations. Does it hold for the weaker sections of society too? It most certainly does.

About 30% of upper class youth have low or very low aspirations, while only 24 and 26% respectively of the Dalits and tribals have low or very low aspirations. However aspiration levels do rise with socio-economic status, but even on this count, at the lowest strata, 43% have high or very high aspirations and outnumber those who have low or very low aspirations. Just imagine the power of hope and desire that we are sitting on, if only we could channelise it properly!

With aspiration comes anxiety of course, and 68% of the youth have high anxiety about their future, 50% very high anxiety. If my generation paid the price of the socialist ideology, then this generation is bearing the cross of the free market, survival of the fittest, keep up with the Joneses society that we are becoming.

What do they see as the big problem that this country has to deal with? It is poverty and unemployment (27% votes each), while only 4% chose illiteracy and lack of education, 3% terrorism and 6% corruption. In fact, if we were to add population growth to unemployment and poverty, then 67% of young people are saying, " I'm optimistic but please give me opportunity and improve my quality of living".

Poverty is seen to be the No. 1 problem ahead of unemployment by those in the lowest socio-economic strata and the illiterate, but unemployment is what everyone is deeply concerned about across the board — irrespective of education levels or socio-economic status.

When asked 'what should be the first priority of the government', guarantee of employment wins by a very wide margin over provision of educational facilities or betterment of health services. May be it is time to debate the value of jobless growth in the economy, and the notion that growing self-employment is out of choice.

And what kind of social issues will gen-next grapple with? Ensuring environmental sustainability comes in a distant third after 'strengthening defence'. Gender equality will be a strident call, especially from the women, and more so from the less educated women. Related to that, presumably, will be shaky marriages, though belief in family still reigns supreme.

A big thank you to the editors and publishers of the volume for putting this important study the public domain, and let's make a new year wish that we will have internally-generated funding to do more of this kind of work that will help us both in business strategy and in public policy, to understand ourselves better, and shape the future better.








Every moment, the choices you have in life from Existence are actually infinite. Existence is like the mother who waits expectantly, longingly for her little child just learning to take the first steps in this world. She is waiting for you to learn to live life in the best way — live enlightenment. She is waiting eagerly for you to open her gift of life. She wants to see that joy and surprise on your face when you discover your gift and enjoy it — by living enlightenment.

You are not an accident; you are an incident. You are a conscious miracle of Existence. Life is not a forced happening you have to go through. Life is a living vibrant partner, playing an exciting game, a mysterious adventure that opens out new vistas in front of you every second.

Understand, whenever you think life is throwing surprises at you, life wants to understand you. It is curious to know about you, just like a naughty little kid constantly playing with you and teasing you. It just says, 'If I talk like this, what will you do? If I do this, what will you do?' What you call difficult situations or people are just the naughty yet innocent pranks of the little child — sometimes running into your arms, sometimes pinching your cheek and running away, sometimes angry because you did not appreciate its innocent act...

Life is your partner. It is asking you, 'If I present myself like this in front of you, what will you do?' Just enjoy this pure romance, delicate as a rose yet strong. This is not the dead strength of a rock, it is the vibrant strength of life — it can express in infinite dimensions this moment yet the very next moment it may not even be alive. Life is just like that — intensely alive and bubbling this moment, unaffected by what can happen the very next moment. Every moment is a gift from the Divine — the only way to pay your gratitude for the gift is to be intensely alive in this moment.

The expression of living enlightenment is experiencing complete fulfilment. You are just overflowing within yourself, so you don't need anything more. This is the natural state in which every single human being is designed to live.







Ever noticed how a child who is used to watching cartoons on television while having food, cannot be made to eat when the television is off and the cartoon is missing?

Or the teen who rebels against homework when deprived of the allotted internet time of the day? Addiction to deals starts early in life, creeps in slowly...and then becomes a habit, almost a way of life. That's what we see today in the market too.

Walk into a mall with say, two shops stocking similar merchandise of footwear– one with no deal, one with a deal.

No prizes for guessing where the bigger crowds will be. Whether these crowds translate into sales, depends on whether the brand is offering a true deal or a deal more in the realm of true lies (Buy worth 10,000 and get 15% off!).

But what is so addictive and attractive about deals to consumers?

It goes beyond rationality and value, and is perhaps reflective of where we are today, as a society. Consumption is the mantra we chant, shopping is the new entertainment, and deals enhance the "consumption as entertainment" quotient, by creating an (almost) magical climate for consumption.

And of course, for those consumers who are still a bit abashed about their cravings, deals provide a kind of legitimacy to their profligacy (wasn't I smart to have bought 2 pairs of shoes for the price of one??). So yes, consumers can be labelled as "dealaholics" – because for many years they have been weaned on a diet of 'Free', 'Extra', 'Sale' and 'More'.

What marketers need to watch out for is becoming "dealaholics" themselves. And instead focus energies on how to use this addiction, and channel it to the brand's long term and strategic advantage. Doing that is going to be a constant big deal.







There is a fine line between addiction and behaviour most commonly displayed in certain circumstances. However, Indian consumers cannot be labelled as 'addicted' to deals and offers in that sense.

In the last one and half year, the world has changed for the Indian consumer -- As compared to one year ago, when the down trend was palpable and anxiety levels up, today, the growth story is real leading to less anxiety amongst consumers. However, there's a spectre of inflation and more immediate day-to-day worries have cropped up with rise in petrol and food prices. In their adjusting to it, most consumers are re-evaluating their choices, behaviours, loyalties and have changed their shopping habits.

As a result, consumers feel that they will 'never spend money as freely as before'. Out of the 5 consumer currencies (ITEMS) -- information, time, energy, money and space – they are willing to exchange any to save on money i.e. they can sacrifice time even to search for better prices and retailers who offer discounts. However, the importance of each currency changes when the macro picture changes. Secondly, consumers look to make strategic choices and spend wisely which means that each and every purchase they make comes under increased scrutiny.

They may tend to reduce their expenditure in their basic and indulgent expenditure in order to protect those purchases that, while strictly non-essential, are seen as essential little treats that make their days a little brighter. They tend to be low cost, but highly valued. It could be a DVD rental or a top up on the phone.

They also try to protect higher expenditures which are a core part of their identity and lifestyle that they are reluctant to give it up. This could include a higher features phone, gym membership, a pay-TV subscription or the annual vacation. Thirdly, in these economic conditions, being seen as a savvy consumer is an increasingly strong aspiration. And that tempts many to call them 'dealaholics'.







Addiction to deals starts early in life

Ever noticed how a child who is used to watching cartoons on television while having food, cannot be made to eat when the television is off and the cartoon is missing?

Or the teen who rebels against homework when deprived of the allotted internet time of the day? Addiction to deals starts early in life, creeps in slowly...and then becomes a habit, almost a way of life. That's what we see today in the market too.

Walk into a mall with say, two shops stocking similar merchandise of footwear– one with no deal, one with a deal.
No prizes for guessing where the bigger crowds will be. Whether these crowds translate into sales, depends on whether the brand is offering a true deal or a deal more in the realm of true lies (Buy worth 10,000 and get 15% off!).

But what is so addictive and attractive about deals to consumers?

It goes beyond rationality and value, and is perhaps reflective of where we are today, as a society. Consumption is the mantra we chant, shopping is the new entertainment, and deals enhance the "consumption as entertainment" quotient, by creating an (almost) magical climate for consumption.

And of course, for those consumers who are still a bit abashed about their cravings, deals provide a kind of legitimacy to their profligacy (wasn't I smart to have bought 2 pairs of shoes for the price of one??). So yes, consumers can be labelled as "dealaholics" – because for many years they have been weaned on a diet of 'Free', 'Extra', 'Sale' and 'More'.

What marketers need to watch out for is becoming "dealaholics" themselves. And instead focus energies on how to use this addiction, and channel it to the brand's long term and strategic advantage. Doing that is going to be a constant big deal.





There is a fine line between addiction and behaviour most commonly displayed in certain circumstances. However, Indian consumers cannot be labelled as 'addicted' to deals and offers in that sense.

In the last one and half year, the world has changed for the Indian consumer -- As compared to one year ago, when the down trend was palpable and anxiety levels up, today, the growth story is real leading to less anxiety amongst consumers. However, there's a spectre of inflation and more immediate day-to-day worries have cropped up with rise in petrol and food prices. In their adjusting to it, most consumers are re-evaluating their choices, behaviours, loyalties and have changed their shopping habits.

As a result, consumers feel that they will 'never spend money as freely as before'. Out of the 5 consumer currencies (ITEMS) -- information, time, energy, money and space – they are willing to exchange any to save on money

i.e. they can sacrifice time even to search for better prices and retailers who offer discounts. However, the importance of each currency changes when the macro picture changes. Secondly, consumers look to make strategic choices and spend wisely which means that each and every purchase they make comes under increased scrutiny.

They may tend to reduce their expenditure in their basic and indulgent expenditure in order to protect those purchases that, while strictly non-essential, are seen as essential little treats that make their days a little brighter. They tend to be low cost, but highly valued. It could be a DVD rental or a top up on the phone.

They also try to protect higher expenditures which are a core part of their identity and lifestyle that they are reluctant to give it up. This could include a higher features phone, gym membership, a pay-TV subscription or the annual vacation. Thirdly, in these economic conditions, being seen as a savvy consumer is an increasingly strong aspiration. And that tempts many to call them 'dealaholics'.









The subprime crisis peaked in September 2008 following the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Many forecast that 2009-10 would be the year of reckoning for the Indian economy and for Indian banking, both of which had successfully weathered the crisis until then. I disagreed. I said that banking would be a bright spot in the economy given the strengths inherent in the sector.

The pessimists have been proved wrong about the Indian economy — the economy is projected to grow at more than 7% in 2009-10 . They are going to be proved even more wrong about the banking sector. The Bankex has outperformed the Sensex during April-December 2009. It rose by 123% while the Sensex rose by 73%. In 2008-09 , the Bankex had declined by 40%, a little more than the decline of 37% in the Sensex.

We have to await the details of financial performance for 2009-10 but the RBI's Report on Trend and Progress in Banking (2008-09 ) tells us what happened last year and gives us clues to what we might expect this year. It is indeed a revelation. In the midst of the worst financial crisis of the century and when banks in the industrial world were falling apart, the Indian banking sector fared as well as in the boom years.

Banks managed a return on assets of 1% in both 2007-08 and 2008-09 , slightly higher than the 0.9% return of 2006-07 . This should place the Indian banking sector amongst the most profitable in the world today . Banks elsewhere saw their capital eroded and required infusions of capital from governments. In India, capital adequacy actually improved in 2008-09 . What better indicators of banking soundness do you need than world-class profitability and improved capital in the midst of devastation in the banking sector worldwide?

After the Lehman collapse, pundits forecast that the moment of reckoning for Indian banks had arrived following years of commercial credit growth of around 30%. They said banks would face a mountain of nonperforming assets (NPAs) as Indian companies and the housing sector felt the impact of the global crisis. There are models that predict that a sustained credit boom leads to bank failures and even a banking crisis. This did not happen in 2008-09 and is unlikely to happen in 2009-10 either.

Bad times for the economy spell lower credit growth. In 2007-08 , commercial credit growth slowed to 22%. It slowed further to 18% in 2008-09 . But banks maintained their return on assets in 2008-09 at the same level as in the preceding boom years of 2004-08 . This is truly astonishing . It suggests that no matter what the ups and downs of the economy, the Indian banking sector can deliver a return of 1% on assets, a benchmark of good performance in banking. India today seems to have a crisis-proof banking sector.

What explains this phenomenon? One, banks' ability to sustain spreads — return on advances minus cost of funds — at all times. Volume growth slowed down in the last two years. But the spread on loans actually increased in 2008-09 . A key factor driving large spreads in Indian banking is the high proportion of current and savings account (Casa) deposits. These account for a more a third of all deposits in Indian banking. Banks pay zero interest on current accounts and 3.5% on savings accounts.


Secondly, banks have woken up to the potential for fee income. Apart from conventional products that generate fees such as letters of credit, guarantees and mortgage products, banks now generate fee income from sale of mutual fund and insurance products.

Thirdly, falling interest rates in a slowdown lead to a surge in treasury profits on banks' investment in government securities. By the same token, rising interest rates in boom periods should cause these profits to decline. They do, but there have been other offsetting factors: gains on equities and foreign exchange products.

Fourthly, the slowdown that we have seen in the past two years has not caused any increase in provisions on account of rising NPAs. That is because a deceleration from 9% to 7% may mean lower growth in earnings but it hardly spells disaster for companies. Besides, companies entered the crisis with sound balance-sheets after five boom years. There was a large increase in housing prices before the slowdown but this does not appear to be a bubble. It is based on genuine demand and increased affordability.

Experts told us that India's antiquated banking sector was constraining growth. Reforms in the financial sector would deliver another two percentage points of growth. We have since found that the banking sector can support economic growth of 9%.

Banks, of course, need to do more. We need more sophisticated products. There is the challenge of financial inclusion. But those who urge banking sector reforms need to tell us what exactly needs fixing in a system that ain't broke.








India is no longer the elephant in the world's gold dealing rooms. The Dragon has edged it out. In 2009, China bought more gold than India, making it the world's top consumer. China pipped South Africa in 2007 as the world's largest gold producer. Revving up production to take advantage of record prices is understandable. But why have the Chinese suddenly fallen in love with gold? And does this affect the price we pay? ET helps you join the dots.

China is buying gold for the same reason we buy life insurance policies: peace of mind. The Chinese government has a kitty of over $2 trillion, mostly greenbacks. Unfortunately, Beijing is not terribly fond of this currency right now. It believes the dollar may well become a dud, given Uncle Sam's economic troubles. So, it wants to stock up on something whose value does not change with one country's policy moves. Gold fits the bill.

Since 2003, Beijing has been buying most of the gold excavated and refined locally. It was a perfect strategy. No one in the international market became the wiser and the bill was paid in yuans. Today, China has more than 1,000 tonnes in its official vaults, up 75% in six years. Its gold reserves are now the fifth-largest among national central banks after the US, Germany, France and Italy. This insurance helped mandarins in Beijing sleep easier at night.

But the public still had no such hedge. So, Beijing has begun actively encouraging people to invest up to 5% of their income in gold and silver. The biddable Chinese have diligently followed this advice. Full-year 2009 private demand in mainland China could outstrip India by a fifth.

"China is stepping up efforts to extend consumption in rural areas, including the newly-wealthy people who are trying to own top brand gold for social status purposes," said Cheng Binghai, chairman of the Shanghai Gold & Jewellery Trade Association recently.

Of course, each Chinese family is still buying only a few grams, given high prices and limited incomes. But added up, consumption would cross 430 tonnes this year, 10 tonnes more than India, says consultancy GFMS. Over the next decade, more Chinese will buy gold, at a time when inflation is almost certain to be high, adding to its appeal. In short, China can permanently alter gold's global demand-supply equation.


As top producer and consumer, surely China should control gold prices the same way it has changed the game in metals and soft commodities. But it didn't. That's because with no real end-use, gold's price is derived more from the nebulous value the market ascribes it and competing investment opportunities rather than the iron laws of physical demand-supply. China's impressive physical numbers tend to leave traders cold.

Instead, what really gets them jiving is the 'sentiment' that China signals to the world. China is buying gold because it is nervous about the US dollar, and this fear is contagious. Investors in India and round the world have started accumulating gold too. The subsequent price spike, itself fraught with risk, then becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, China's buying definitely added to the 28% (in rupee terms) spurt in gold prices last year.

Ultimately, China's real power comes from its hard-headed attitude. Chinese families may have just figured the virtues of gold as a safe haven, while we have passed it down generations to survive war, unemployment, debt, crop failure and marital break-up. But here is the nub: we hate selling gold. For the Chinese, sentiment doesn't come into it, at least for now. Plus, they are far more market-savvy.

If the timing is right, they may well encash their investment. No fund manager or trader can afford to ignore this chilling fact. China's growing presence in the physical gold market is awe-inspiring. But China's pragmatic approach to gold makes it the really big kahuna.








Maruti Suzuki India, the car market leader with more than 50% share, is gearing up for competition from its traditional Japanese rivals Honda and Toyota as well as from other global firms such as Volkswagen , Ford and Nissan. Terming 2010 the toughest year yet for the company, managing director and CEO S Nakanishi outlines the strategies that will help the company retain its leadership position in an interview with ET.

What is the big surprise for the Indian market as competition intensifies?

There are a lot of possibilities. The premium hatchback A-2 segment comprising of the Swift and Ritz is growing fast and possibly will emerge as the largest category in the next few years. We have to position cars in that league to excite customers to buy our cars.

What is Maruti Suzuki's strategy for that?

We are setting up Maruti's independent R&D facility, which should be the biggest outside Japan for parent Suzuki. It will help develop cars for the local market, keeping in mind expectations of Indian customers. The new generation cars will be fully developed in India and confirm to Indian tastes.

What kind of innovations could be expected?

As a market leader we have to stay ahead. While all other carmakers have copied our hatchback (Swift) to sedan (DZire) success story on the common platform , we may reverse the trend. Like our flagship sedan SX4 has a hatchback version in the developed markets and that possibility is not ruled out for the Indian market.

Does this mean that SX4 will have a hatchback variant here?

The Indian market is developed for bigger cars and customers like to be seen a big three-box car. Reversing the SX4 sedan into a hatchback might be tough. It could be taken differently. We will try to ascertain the market and customer mindset before taking any such steps.

But what are the plans to save your market share?

We will launch new cars in new segments to keep customers within our fold. The wide basket of products will have offerings in all the segment and while the entry level car Alto could be more price efficient. We are working with our component suppliers to get more economies in our components, the benefits of which would be passed on to customers.

Can we expect a locally made SUV from Maruti?

Nothing is ruled out. Any new product has to be based logically on right price and market demand. We have Gypsy but its has worn out over the years. We were considering assembling our compact SUV Grand Vitara in India but smaller volumes did not justify that. We have options to launch other small SUV Jimny, but all these options are still being worked out.

So you are targeting the multi-utility vehicle (MUV), the fast growing segment in India?

We have showcased the R3 concept on Tuesday. It will be one of the smallest MUVs in India and first car fully developed by Maruti. This new segment will help us garner volumes and maintain our market share.

With fuel efficiency playing pivotal role in success of cars, what kind of engines are being developed?

We have successfully launched our KB series engines which will eventually get into all our cars. I have been pursuing engineers to develop a diesel engine for the SX4, but no timeframe can be specified as of now. New diesel engines are also being developed by Suzuki in Japan, which are also expected to help Maruti to consolidate market share in India. Currently the 1300cc diesel engine being made under licence from Italy's Fiat will cater to our needs.

Will the new arrangement with Volkswagen help Suzuki develop new engines?

There are a lot of possibilities, but we have to consider existing arrangements first. It is difficult to comment anything specific on this right now. But we shall discuss the options suitable for both the companies. Europe is our largest export market and Volkswagen's strength in Europe will be of great help.









BANGALORE: Forrester Research's principal analyst Sudin Apte, along with senior vice-president John C McCarthy, were among the first ones to forecast that Satyam customers would exit their contracts after the company's 'diversification' attempts failed. Exactly a year after B Ramalinga Raju admitted to over $1-billion financial fraud and confessed in his 'riding the tiger' letter, Mr Apte recollects some of the events and says that the company may be a $1-1.2 billion in annual revenues with single digit operating margin. Excerpts from the interview.

Looking back, what has the new management done well, and how would you rate the performance of Mahindra Satyam over the past twelve months?

Based on our assessment across the issues of customer and employee attrition, revenue, profitability, legal aspects and the new leadership, we would rate the past twelve months' performance 5-6 on a scale of ten. They could have done better for sure. Despite scepticism, the government and the management has been successful in ensuring a smooth and clean process of transition. During past one year, Satyam has also been able to maintain service quality levels, which again is a good thing. The management also did a good job of settling the Upaid issue. We understand that they had identified around $130 million, but managed to settle it at $70 million.

Meanwhile, attrition remains a challenge. In fact, according to our estimates, it could be as high as 20-25%, which is almost double of the industry average. Nearly 75% of the top management has already exited. Many leaders have joined companies such as L&T, Wipro and Ness.

Forrester had also predicted that Satyam would lose $600 million to $1 billion because of customer exodus. Is it still a worrying issue?

Over past two months, mass scale exodus of customers has stopped, but some customers continue to exit. Customers are still concerned about the company's financials, as they do not know about Satyam's revenues and profits yet. In fact, some customers are linking payment to retention of delivery teams. The only customers remaining are long term clients, or the ones who believe that existing Satyam staff is the most capable when it comes to understanding their business requirements.


What are your estimates about Mahindra Satyam's current revenues and profitability?

Based on our research about the billing rates, discounts offered, total staff and other cost cutting measures, Mahindra Satyam's revenues could be around $1.1-1.2 billion. They may also have achieved break even over past two months, and single digit operating margins. My estimate is that the financials will not be reinstated before April this year.

Has Satyam been able to protect its positioning as one of the leaders in the enterprise application services segment?
One of the bigger worries is that even as Mahindra Satyam recovers, the world has not stopped for them. We are not hearing them talk about new platforms and solutions, such as cloud computing and SaaS, while others continue to invest in IP and new platforms. Over the past 9-10 months, Mahindra Satyam has lost its differentiation of being a solid enterprise application services player - there's no value proposition. The company may have been successful in arresting customer exodus, but they have not demonstrated competency to win substantial new business, especially large deals. This makes them a 'me too' player and not a leader, like in the past.






After Volvo and Daimler, Mahindra Navistar has joined the new-age truck brandwagon with its 16-49 tonne medium and heavy commercial vehicles. The company, which is planning aggressive pricing to take on the established duopoly of Tata Motors and Ashok Leyland, is confident of grabbing a 20% market share in the next 4 years. Daniel C Ustian, CEO of Navistar spoke to ET on his visit to India along with Pawan Goenka, president-auto & tractor division, M&M. Mahindra Navistar is a joint venture between India's Mahindra & Mahindra and USA-based Navistar. Excerpts:

According to reports, Navistar suffered a financial difficulty and may be looking for a global partner. You have a good relationship with Mahindra, would you look at selling stake to them to take them in as a partner?

Ustian: We are not facing financial difficulties and in fact we were successful in the toughest of tough situations. We have performed better than any other company in the US. We have great synergies with M&M and we are happy with our current association. If at all we think of selling a stake to M&M it will only be on account of our JV. Otherwise, we have no plans to sell our stake as of now.

Goenka: We have come together to manufacture and develop good products for Indian as well as export markets. Our association for now will be limited to taking our business in potential markets forward and building our presence with good quality products.

When products produced from your Chakan plant are exported, how will it be branded? As a Mahindra product or a Navistar product?

Goenka: The branding will depend and change from country to country. We will take it case by case. We have the flexibility to do what is right for our business and modify where we think it is required. Some countries where Mahindra has a strong brand, we will go ahead with M&M branding, while in other markets where Navistar is better known and trusted, we will go with Navistar. In some markets we will also explore co-branding.

What is the next phase of development you are looking at after your current launch and what kind of investment would that entail?

Ustain: All our products from this JV are co-produced. We have 500 engineers here and most of them are Indians and they are working 24 hours a day to produce the next best product. There will be more in next 18 months in the smaller and mid range side. You will see more from this camp coming up which will include mid-size trucks, large trucks as well as buses. We are already in the process of developing a platform for buses. I can assure you we have great offerings ahead.

Goenka: MN 49 and MN 40 is our first jointly produced product. Our first priority will be to get this into market. We will have variants like buses coming out from this platform and lower tone products. Later we will have smaller, below 16-12 tonne products and this will complete our offering. Going forward there will be buses as well as load carriers. When we are done with medium and heavy products we will come back to light trucks to see if we can refresh the platform. We have already made an investment of Rs 1,000 crore and in the next few years all the products from our camp will be the result of that investment. It is too early to talk about the next phase.

Do you have any plans to use products and engines produced in India for your global operations?

Ustian: Yes of course! We do see an opportunity for Indian made products outside. In new markets like South America and Africa, the products produced from here will be used. As far as using engines for our worldwide market is concerned, we already have an integrated offering spanning each segment. We already have engines for each of our platforms.

What kind of sales numbers are you targeting?

Ustian: Talking about sales, again it is too early, we have just launched. But, roughly we are looking at selling about 1000 units per month in next 12 months.

Will the JV be listed given that that is the group template for its subsidiaries?

Goenka: It is too early to speak about that. First we need to establish ourselves in the truck market, gain some market share, get our top line and bottom line in plac, then it can be worked out.





                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL





A recurrent theme in contemporary debates on Indian foreign policy is the lament for the absence of a "grand strategy". Academics and analysts repeatedly remind us that the absence of a coherent "long-term vision" has hobbled India's foreign policy in the past and will undercut its standing in future. Without a "guiding framework" of underlying principles, India cannot effectively function as a major power on the international stage. A corollary to this is the claim that India's messy and cumbersome domestic politics is a significant obstacle to the conceptualisation and execution of a consistent grand strategy that will chart India's rise in the international system.


These arguments aren't particularly novel, even if they are now advanced with greater vigour than in the past. Nearly two decades ago an American analyst, George Tanham, published an influential book titled Indian Strategic Thought, which effectively concluded that India had no tradition of strategic thinking. Tanham's work was squarely in a long tradition of Western "Orientalist" writings that denied that Indians were capable of rational action in the military domain. More problematic was the fact that in studying so practical an activity as strategy, Tanham overlooked the practice of the Indian state since 1947 and searched in vain for textual expressions of strategic thought. Be that as it may, Tanham's conclusion has been echoed by numerous studies that observe that India has no grand strategy.


At one level, these calls for a coherent plan or framework can be dismissed as the expression of a peculiar sociological trait. Analysts and academicians are intellectuals: they are drawn to abstract concepts, they want behaviour to be guided by general principles, and they place a high premium on consistency. Policymakers are almost invariably cut from a different cloth. At another level, though, these arguments should be examined on their own terms. Is the absence of a grand strategy or a foreign policy framework indeed such a problem?


The term "grand strategy" refers to the use of all available resources — financial, industrial, and diplomatic, as well as military — to preserve a state's interest in peace as well as war. Defined in such expansive terms, it is hardly distinguishable from foreign policy as a whole. Clinging to the idea not only results in conceptual confusion but has practical implications too.


The notion of a grand strategy is dubious both as a description of how policy-makers go about their business and as an injunction on how they ought to. Grand strategy is held up as the only rational approach: policymakers decide their long-term aims, find the required means, and unwaveringly pursue their ends. Reality, however, is far more complicated. For one thing, it includes adversaries who act to confound every move of ours. For another, decision-makers invariably find their priorities reversed as means available tend to dictate the ends, and short-term political considerations prove more pressing than long-term ones.


Furthermore, the attempt to impose such a framework may well be wrong-headed, in principle and in practice. In foreign policy, means and ends are often too complex for values to be ranked consistently, and the links between choices and outcomes to be predicted accurately. Consider the best recent example of a coherent grand strategy — that of President George W. Bush following 9/11. The framework was laid out with admirable clarity: democracy promotion was the core objective, unilateralism and pre-emption the favoured approach. In practice, of course, this grand strategy proved a disastrous failure.


Given these considerations, the much despised pulling and hauling of domestic politics may actually turn out to be useful. It could act as a check on the naïveté and arrogance of anyone who claims to know what is best for everyone. A bit of incoherence is not a bad thing. Think of the restraints imposed by domestic politics that prevented the Indian government from sending troops to Iraq in 2003. This outcome was surely more beneficent than the grand strategy, advocated by many, of climbing aboard the US bandwagon in order to advance India's interests.


Avoiding a grand strategic approach, however, does not imply that foreign policy has to be rudderless. Rather than succumbing to intellectual seductions of guiding frameworks, we could usefully turn to another resource: our own history. It would be simplistic to look for lessons in the past, but history can still be useful in training strategic judgment. Interestingly, India's strategic history suggests an approach to foreign policy that is sharply at variance with the notion of a grand strategy.


Fashioned by Jawaharlal Nehru, this approach rested on the premise that it is always difficult to discern a state's intentions from its behaviour, and hence incremental change is safer, more manageable, and more effective. Nehru explained his style to President Nasser of Egypt: "Always take the first step, then take the second step, then take the third step". This came out most clearly in Nehru's handling of the major foreign policy challenges during his long years in office. In confronting these, Nehru constantly searched for the right balance between force and diplomacy, functional and political criteria. He sought to thread his way through adversarial relationships, one step at a time, ensuring that the calibration was right, probing the will of the opponent, checking for domestic acceptability before moving on to the next step.


To be sure, Nehru did not always get it right — no one does. But as a generic approach it has much to commend in it. The point of strategy in this approach is effectiveness rather than efficiency in linking ends and means. It takes into account the pervasive uncertainty under which all strategic interaction occurs. It is more open to the possibility of feedback and course correction. It accepts fractious domestic politics as an integral part of the policy process. And it avoids the architectural view of the framework developer for a workmanlike prudence.


The lofty notion of a grand strategy, then, seems far less useful than the earthy message of Goldilocks: Test the

alternatives to ensure that the choice is "just right".


Srinath Raghavan is a Senior Fellow at theCentre for Policy Research, New Delhi







The news was bad enough some eight or nine months ago when members of the Indian community in Australia — among them a fair number of students — began to come under attacks by thuggish elements of the local white communities. Two features of the situation stood out — assertion by the Australian government at all levels — from the Prime Minister to investigating police officers — that the assaults were not racially motivated; and repeated warnings from various tiers of the Indian government that the guilty must be booked with dispatch, lest these developments impact relations between the two countries. Nothing has changed in the intervening months, but the story has got worse. Attacks are now culminating in mortality. Two clear murders have been reported in less than a week, and a half-burnt body of an Indian man has just surfaced, pointing to one more violent killing. At least now, Canberra and New Delhi must get out of the stereotypical response syndrome. When the troubles began last summer, the Australians did not know or understand the reasons for the attacks. Yet they had no qualms or hesitation in ruling out the race factor. This was surprising, and bespeaks an unscientific approach. More and more, the violent crimes against Indians are beginning to look like they do have a race angle. Students and other Indians who need to travel far or be out working late, or live in economically depressed areas, have typically been targeted. This is something of a giveaway. Indian students alone are about a hundred thousand in the country, and are ready to work hard to survive. Such numbers make them stand out as an external group that competes for low-end jobs. Being made victims of prejudice is almost a corollary in such circumstances. There has been at least one instance of premeditated, unprovoked, attack at a members-only club on an Indian group that included women. Members of assault parties have included a woman in one instance, when an Indian family of the professional classes was attacked in its reasonably well-appointed home. On balance, these do not give the appearance of being "opportunist" attacks unconnected with race. And yet there is no sign so far that this dimension has been explored. The Australian Senate committee report and the interim Baird review report on international student welfare too have shown other preoccupations, chiefly to do with tightening visa regimes so that incoming Indian students are of such financial status that they may not be obliged to work to make ends meet. Clearly, this amounts to scratching the surface. The Indian government should by now realise that homilies, warnings, and statement of expectations following assurances won't suffice. The time may have come for the authorities to actively discourage young people from seeking admissions in Australia for certain types of professional courses. In the normal course, in the post-Cold War world, India and Australia could have sought to be partners across the spectrum. This is unlikely to materialise if the situation does not change. No government that is answerable to its citizens can take routine violent attacks against them in a particular country in its stride.








Surely, the most important, interesting — and, yes, heroic — figure in the whole Christmas Day Northwest airliner affair was the would-be bomber's father, the Nigerian banker Alhaji Umaru Mutallab.


Mutallab did something that, as far as we know, no other parent of a suicide bomber has done: He went to the US embassy in Nigeria and warned us that text messages from his son revealed that he was in Yemen and had become a fervent, and possibly dangerous, radical.


We are turning ourselves inside out over how our system broke down — and surely it did — in allowing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the would-be suicide bomber, to board that airliner. But his father, in effect, told us something else: "My family system, our village system, broke down. My own son fell under the influence of a jihadist version of Islam that I do not recognise and have reason to fear".


The Times, quoting a cousin, said the son had sent the father a text message from Yemen in which he declared that "he had found a new religion, the real Islam" and that he was never coming home again. A February 20, 2005, Internet posting attributed to the son and quoted by the Associated Press said: "I imagine how the great jihad will take place, how the Muslims will win ... and rule the whole world, and establish the greatest empire once again!!!"


Finding people with the courage to confront that breakdown — the one identified by the father, the one that lures young Muslims away from the mainstream into a willingness to commit suicide against innocent civilians as part of some jihadist power fantasy — is what matters most right now.


Yes, we need to fix our intelligence. Yes, we absolutely must live up to our own ideals, as the US President, Mr Barack Obama, is trying to do in banning torture and closing Guantánamo Bay. We can't let this "war on terrorism" consume us. We can't let our country become just "The United States of Fighting Terrorism" and nothing more. We are the people of July 4 — not September 11.


But even if we do all that, no laws or walls we put up will ever be sufficient to protect us unless the Arab and Muslim societies from whence these suicide bombers emerge erect political, religious and moral restraints as well — starting by shaming suicide bombers and naming their actions "murder", not "martyrdom".


I keep saying: It takes a village. The father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, saw himself as part of a global community, based on shared values, and that is why he rang the alarm bell. Bless him for that. Unless more Muslim parents, spiritual leaders, political leaders — the village — are ready to publicly denounce suicide bombing against innocent civilians — theirs and ours — this behaviour will not stop.


Just last Friday, for example, a suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden vehicle in the midst of a volleyball tournament in the Pakistani village of Shah Hassan Khel, killing more than 100 people. Most were youngsters. No surprise. When suicide bombing becomes legitimate to use against non-Muslim "infidels" abroad it becomes legitimate to use against Muslim opponents at home. And what becomes "legitimate" and "illegitimate" in a community is so much more important than any government regulation.


All too often, though, Arab and Muslim governments arrest their jihadis at home, denounce them privately to us, but say nothing in public. The global leadership of Islam — like the king of Saudi Arabia or the Organisation of the Islamic Conference — rarely take on jihadist actions and ideology openly with the kind of passion, consistency and mass protests that we have seen them do, for example, against Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.


President Obama should not hesitate to call for it — respectfully but publicly. If he only presses for more effective airport security, which he must, it's a cop-out.


"When you want to foster more responsible behaviour in people, you can't just legislate more rules and regulations", said Dov Seidman, the CEO of LRN, which helps companies build ethical cultures, and the author of the book How. "You have to enlist and inspire people in a set of values. People need to be governed both from the outside, through compliance with rules, and from the inside, inspired by shared values. That is why shame is so important. When we call a banker 'a fat cat' for taking too big a bonus, we're actually being inspirational leaders because we are telling them, 'You are behaving beneath how a responsible human being should behave'. We need to inspire the village to shame those who betray our common values".


Every faith has its violent extreme. The West is not immune. It's all about how the centre deals with it. Does it tolerate it, isolate it or shame it? The jihadists are a security problem for our system. But they are a political and moral problem for the Arab-Muslim system. If they won't address this problem for us, I truly hope they will do it for themselves. Eventually, we'll find a way to keep most jihadists off our planes and out of our volleyball games — but they will have to live with them.








Although born a Muslim, I embraced true faith at the feet of my Sufi master who taught that religion is meaningless unless warmed by emotions of love. Thirty years ago, I took the oath of allegiance in the Chishti Sufi order, making the lifelong commitment to spiritual Islam.


Sufism, the accepted name for Islamic mysticism, is about awakening the higher consciousness through submission to divine will. Prophet Mohammad said, "Surely in the breasts of humanity is a lump of flesh, if sound then the whole body is sound, and if corrupt then the whole body is corrupt. Is it not the heart?"


The Sufi path is about purification of the heart. It's about how to free oneself from the ego and realise God's countless attributes within one's own spirit. Sufis desire to unravel divine mysteries and remove the veils that separate mankind from God. Sufism is the eternal quest for union with God, the beloved.


The life of Rabia Basri, my favourite woman Sufi saint, best illustrates the philosophy of divine love. The 8th century mystic remained a celibate for her overwhelming love for God left no room for any worldly relationship. She wrote:


I have made You the companion of my heart,


But my body is available to those who desire its company,


And my body is friendly toward its guest,


But the Beloved of my heart is the guest of my soul.


Rabia's remarkable spiritual achievements are illustrated in countless anecdotes. The most narrated story of Rabia is that of her running while carrying a torch in one hand and a pail of water in the other.


When people enquired the meaning of her actions, Rabia replied, "I am going to burn paradise with the fire and dampen the fires of hell with this water so that people love God for the sake of God and not for want of paradise or the fear of hell".


Another tale recounts her meeting the renowned mystic Ibrahim Adham. He had taken 14 years to travel from his home in Balkh to Mecca. Finally, on reaching the Kaaba, he found the structure missing and heard a voice saying, "The Kaaba has gone to welcome a woman who is approaching the place". A distraught Ibrahim questioned Rabia on her arrival, "O Rabia, what is this disturbance and burden you have brought in the world?" Rabia asked the former prince why he had taken so long to arrive at the House of God. Ibrahim explained that he had been busy offering prayers at every crossing on the road to Mecca. Rabia retorted back that she came to the House of God with pure love, while he engaged in ritual.


— Sadia Dehalvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam









Pension benefits are given to retired individuals from the police, the Army, civil services, and even to MLAs and MPs, apart from other public servants. However, pension should not be a matter of right for everyone. I feel that the government needs to come out with a clear policy on whether pension and other benefits should be denied to all those involved in unethical, anti-national, anti-social or anti-democratic activities or not. Guidelines must be framed rationally and in a just manner, rather than as knee-jerk reactions to individual cases.


Currently, public sentiment is running high in the case of former Director General of Police S.P.S. Rathore convicted in the Ruchika molestation and suicide case, and that is understandable. It is hoped that this serves as a wake up call for the administrations and steps are taken to prevent further such cases. However, I repeat, any policy framed must not be knee-jerk, but should be made comprehensively, without loopholes and contradictions. In this case, the government has taken a position to ensure that Mr Rathore loses not only his medal but some of his pension benefits as well. The question that arises is how should the other retired public servants involved in similar cases be treated?


I believe that any officer, whose conduct has brought disrepute to any government service and society, must not enjoy any benefits given by the government as these benefits are paid by the people themselves.


Laws, of course, cannot be personality oriented. Justice, it is said, and not just for semantic purposes, is blind. Mr Rathore's case has become a "test case" and, we are told, action will be taken against him. But what about other cases in the past, and the ones in the future? Should the government act on a case-to-case basis to decide who will enjoy government perks or get pension as a matter of right even after committing a crime? Case-to-case based action without a proper policy will lead to perverse outcomes, and a few influential individuals will manage to pull strings and get away. Hence it is preferable that a comprehensive set of guidelines is framed to deal with all possible cases. These guidelines must take into account the nature of the offence and behaviour, and the services the individual offered while in office, and appropriate action must hence be taken.


As I mentioned before, MLAs and MPs too are beneficiaries of pensions, and there is no reason why they should get away after breaking the law or acting in ways that are detrimental to the people. There has to be equanimity in justice.


(As told to Namrata Biji Ahuja)


M.L. Kumawat, former special secretary (internal security) in Home ministry and DG BSF


Weigh record against crime


Anupam Gupta


I fully subscribe to and share the moral outrage of the nation as far as Director General of Police S.P.S. Rathore's case is concerned. His post-molestation conduct in hounding and virtually, if not literally, driving the girl to suicide, has even more than the act of molestation itself, outraged the nation.


While the legal and judicial system and the state still appear to be grappling with how to translate this moral outrage into legally-enforceable remedial action, there is no gainsaying the fact that his conduct has enraged us all.


But with equal conviction I would distance myself from the least attempt at any level — the media or the Government of India or in any other quarter — to draw any kind of parallel or analogy between men like Rathore, and officers such as K.P.S. Gill.


Only an ungrateful nation or one bent upon committing harakiri or not learning the lessons of history or a nation that does not know how to defend itself and its people will land itself in the fundamental fallacy and crime of comparing them.


Whatever else, whatever other indiscretion, ethical or moral misdemeanour, you must weigh and judge that against the entire record of contributions of such men.


I hope this nation can still remember the menace of terrorism that haunted Punjab in those fateful, fearful years of the 1980s and 90s.


The world post 9/11 and India post 26/11 has — in terms of the law and jurisprudence, in terms of police, intelligence and security action, in terms of system failures, system appraisals and system performances, in terms of individual men — has drawn the line very clearly. There is no compromise on terrorism.


Mr Gill led the Punjab police in a glorious victory over terrorism. I have not the least hesitation in stating that we owe a debt of gratitude to officers like him. You do not discharge that debt by wielding a broad brush of retrospective judgment — legal, ethical and psychological — forgetting all distinctions and nuances, even fundamental parameters of judgment, on which the rule of law and the nation's ability to defend itself rests.


Isn't the ultimate objective of the police, the paramilitary forces and the Army to ensure the security and integrity of the nation and its people? Is that not the paramount objective? Judge all officers against this objective.


To strip such officers of their medals, retirement and pensionary benefits, in the wake of similar action against Mr Rathore, I beg to state with all conviction, would be for the nation to destroy all parameters of valid judgment.


(As told to Asit Jolly)


Anupam Gupta is a senior counsel at thePunjab and Haryana High Court








It is very difficult, watching a Thomas the Tank Engine DVD with your young children, to escape the suspicion that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry was anything other than a thoroughly vindictive and authoritarian old scrote, with a spiteful streak the width of the Fat Controller's stomach. You would not leave your kids with him in person. The errant rolling stock are subjected to ghastly punishments and humiliations — including one engine being bricked up in a tunnel for months on end while the others laugh at him.


As the Canadian academic Shauna Wilton pointed out recently, the programme does indeed "promote a rigid class system that stifles self-expression", as well as being sexist: the only females — Sodor, Annie and Clarabel — are carriages and are pulled by the males. None of the engines are poofs, although Henry's livery seems to me a little camp and you can imagine the unctuous Thomas doing a spot of cottaging in his spare time, unwisely propositioning policemen, asking for his funnel to be polished and so on. They have mad, smug, spooky faces, the engines, and they rattle along through scenery dredged from a 1940s comic book to the accompaniment of a clunking piano motif written by a refugee from the 1960s Beatles wannabes, The Marmalade — a chap called Junior Campbell. I know of no parents who like the programme.


"Take your idiotic chubby eyebrow-less face and your inane little stories and go jump..." one Canadian mum wrote on a website, summing up the view of most of us. As I say, I know of no parents who like it. And I know of no young kids who don't.


In this, the Reverend Awdry is a little like that other whacko and bitter purveyor of dross to the kiddies, Enid Blyton: despised by parents, loathed by academics, adored by children. From the same generation, both writers were ultra-conservative, patrician and had no truck with changing mores or indeed literary artifice. Blyton at least allowed girls to intrude into the action in the Famous Five, whether as the perpetually simpering Anne or the scary proto-diesel dyke George, but it was Julian who ran the show.


Attacks upon Blyton are not new, of course — I remember them vaguely from when I actually read her stuff, back in the mid-1960s. But the usual thing to say about her writing then was that while she was an appalling stylist and clearly possessed of the most reprehensible political sensibilities, she could tell a good story and it was this that the kids enjoyed, in spite of her ideological shortcomings.


Much the same has been said recently about Thomas the Tank Engine — but if you think about it, this is very hard to argue. There aren't really any stories in Thomas the Tank Engine apart from various engines being humiliated and punished as a consequence of their misdemeanours or their hubris. And that's the conclusion you should reach, I reckon, in both cases: kids like these stories not in spite of the narrow conservatism of the writers, but precisely because of it. Children feel most comfortable in an ordered and clearly demarcated world, a world divided into hierarchies. They have a Manichean view of good and evil and they like to see the baddies get punished, preferably in a thoroughly unpleasant manner. They may also identify with gender stereotypes which conform to the roles they have already been assigned or, more controversially, have worked out for themselves from a very early age. Children, and especially little boys, are conservative, when they are not actually fascists.


Maybe this is why the most popular children's books tend to come, however unconsciously, from the political right. Wind in the Willows, with its class warfare against the uppity stoats and weasels; Winnie the Pooh with its gentle hierarchy of stupidities.

When I was 11 or 12 I recall being mesmerised by Richard Adams' Watership Down, a book from the centre-right if ever there was one, militaristic and paternalistic and in which both females and stupid foreigners were assigned strictly marginal and purely instrumental roles. I even remember the Guardian complaining about this at the time — much as, 25 or so years later, it complained at the sexism and racism of Harry Potter, the lack of disabled access ramps in Hogwarts, discrimination against the house elves etc. J.K. Rowling may herself be a charming and impeccably liberal woman, but the ideology of the Harry Potter books does not reflect this mindset, no matter how often she tries to tell us that Professor Dumbledore is, to use the old-fashioned vernacular, as bent as a butcher's hook.


She knows what kids like — as did, of course, Roald Dahl, perhaps the most successful children's author of the last 50 years and a man who did not remotely even pretend to be liberal; hard right, Roald was, with an abiding affection for Margaret Thatcher — and it shows in his work. Today the coolest and most captivating books for boys in the 10-to-12 age group, and adored by both of my two lads, are Charlie Higson's young James Bond confections, which sort of pre-imagine the spy's childhood at Eton. Is it possible for a scenario to be any more right-wing? Ian Fleming plus fagging?


Higson's stuff, I suspect, will endure; Blyton and Awdry's stuff has of course already endured. But what of the

progressive opposition? The counter-balance to Thomas the Tank Engine is most of the rest of the stuff on toddler TV, epitomised by the execrable Balamory — a colourful fictional seaside town in Scotland where every second person is gay, black or disabled, where girlies take the lead role in each episode and where nothing bad ever happens to anyone.


My daughter found it witless and vapid even when she was two-years-old; she yearned, I think, for certainties and retribution, for the reflection of reality which she was beginning to experience, however gently.


"Put Thomas on", she would demand, clambering down from the sofa in abject disgust as this rainbow coalition of ineffably friendly and inclusive people began helping one another in a friendly and inclusive manner. And I would accede and slip a disc into the machine and hear the lugubrious Scouse tones of Ringo Starr begin to relate the tale of a bad-tempered crane called Cranky which eventually got smashed in half and all the engines came to laugh at it and tell it that it had received its just deserts. Not a nice man, that Reverend Awdry, but he rocks.








A measure of urgent desperation, even verging on the knee-jerk, was only to be expected in the US response to the attempted bombing of the Amsterdam-Detroit Northwest Airline flight on Christmas day. But the subtext of Monday's blueprint on airport checks is a decidedly racial, even nationalist, profiling of terror. It was obviously rustled up in the wake of the mounting criticism of Washington's failure to coordinate Intelligence inputs. It thus comes about that citizens of 14 countries, notably Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, flying into the USA are to be subjected to intensive frisking at airports all over the world with the aid of body scanners. And this will entail what they call "full body patdowns". In a word, getting into and out of America will become almost a tortuous experience for a fairly large segment of travellers. The Obama administration will have to strike a delicate balance between reassuring passengers about their safety, and inconvenience. No easy task. Small wonder why misgivings have arisen even in the Western world over this blanket surveillance of travellers from a designated bloc. However seemingly justified the compulsion, the new rules beg the question whether all citizens of certain countries are suspect? No one denies the need for additional security and safeguards in the wake of the Christmas misadventure. But the new system may turn out to be much too sweeping, almost a generalisation of terror in the absence of a precise database. If the suspicion is general, so too must be the threat on a parity of reasoning. It is almost as if an innocent passenger will be viewed as being related to terrorism merely on the basis of the country of his/her origin.

It is almost a crisis of civilisation if complexion and nationality determine the profile of a terrorist, recalling Tony Blair's prescription in the aftermath of the 7/7 London outrage. Almost on cue, Gordon Brown intends to instal body scanners at all British airports. Brothers together in the war against Iraq and in Afghanistan, Obama and Brown ~ almost in the manner of Blair and Bush ~ have now emerged as partners to buttress the racial or/and nationalist profiling of terror. A cut-and-paste formula, pre-eminently ethnic targeting, can scarcely be a pillar against terror. Nor for that matter can a body scanner reduce the threat from terrorism. What is direly imperative is collation of Intelligence data, a task that neither America nor Britain nor for that matter India have sufficiently addressed. Our advisory to readers: Avoid travel to the USA.







Both Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Mamata Banerjee are faced with the delicate task of combining their party and official responsibilities. The chief minister must help his party recover lost ground so that recent disasters are not repeated in the municipal elections in less than six months. The Trinamul boss must prove that the winds of change will continue to blow in electoral contests in the offing. If they had simply been party leaders, they would be following their respective agendas. The moot point is that they represent governments that are required to perform in different ways. It is in this context that questions are raised about the speed and efficiency with which the chief minister organised security for a family in Habra, North 24-Parganas, that had lost a member who belonged to the Congress in an alarming case of local rivalry. The question is two-fold. One, would the chief minister have acted with the same promptness if the family had not complained that the suspect was a Trinamul worker? Here was an opportunity to drive a wedge between alliance partners. Two, would Mr Bhattacharjee have been as concerned about hundreds of similar victims, some ordinary citizens and others with party links, by giving them a hearing at Writers' Buildings and following it up with stern orders to a notoriously non-performing police force? It is for the chief minister to set the standards. But if Trinamul begins to raise questions here, there are questions which their leader is obliged to answer. The Union railway minister has grabbed every ritual ~ from meeting the Japanese Prime Minister, to examining the prospect of introducing a bullet train from Delhi to Mumbai to inaugurating a computerised booking office in Kolkata ~ to emphasise that she is in a hurry.

While this fits her image, it is another matter when she begins to level charges against the CPI-M-controlled railway union members that they are deliberately delaying local and passenger trains to tarnish the reputation of the railways. She goes on to challenge the extremists who she claims are engaged in sabotage on the tracks. These are serious allegations involving the welfare and safety of passengers and protection of the nation's lifeline that cannot be confined to speeches at flagging-off ceremonies. Not even her admirers will disagree that promptness and security are as crucial as flagging off new trains. Long-term security concerns for the railways need to rise above the need to fetch quick dividends just as the chief minister needs to demonstrate that his security concerns for citizens do not rest on his party's desperate efforts to turn the tide. The people have every reason to expect more from both.







UPPERMOST in everyone's mind in Nepal today is whether the constituent assembly will be able to keep the May 2010 deadline for submitting a draft constitution. This assumes significance because the interim constitution that governs the present set-up will lapse by then and, should the delay persist, the President might have to step in. The fear of such an eventuality has apparently prompted Maoist leaders to lift their seven-month boycott of parliamentary proceedings. With time running out, there is no hope of the political scenario changing for the better unless all parties get their act together. This apart, one of the main issues on the agenda concerns political restructuring ~ what type of government the country will finally adopt. After the 2008 April elections to the constituent assembly, the Maoists wanted a federal democratic republic. And Maoist supremo Prachanda even admitted there already was an "ideological rift" among political leaders over the issue and also clashes of interest. He favoured the continuation of the present democratic republic citing the Chinese example that, under Chairman Mao, was either a federal or democratic multi-party concept, and that Nepal have both. But senior colleagues and hardliners favoured a people's republic, arguing that this was the only way to meet the aspirations of the "marginalised classes". But waning faith in Nepal's political leaders accrues from their shifting considerations. For instance, some time ago and after returning from China, some Maoist leaders spoke highly of that country's one-party system. Now Deputy Prime Minister Sujata Koirala, who also holds the foreign portfolio, has suggested a referendum on the choice of either a federal or unitary type of government. Prachanda is on recond as having said his brigade were not Maoists in the real sense of the term and that their armed uprising was dictated by economic deprivation. Instead of learning from other countries, Nepal's leaders persist in equating governance with pushing for personal profit. They must instead settle on a set-up that will stabilise a beleaguered country.







CHILDREN are posting videos on the Internet showing them choking other youngsters to the point of collapse, in a craze that doctors warn has led to brain damage and death. In one, a group of teenagers set out clear guidelines to the practice in an "instructional video", while in several others British voices can be heard.
The problem has been increasingly acknowledged in the USA, Canada and France but campaigners warn that Britain is turning a blind eye. The craze is spreading on the Internet largely without the knowledge of adults.

"This is disturbing, highly dangerous, very risky and the practice should be avoided at all costs," said Professor Steve Field, chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners. The American Centres for Disease Control and Prevention warned recently: "Parents, educators and healthcare providers should become familiar with warning signs that youths are playing the choking game."

In Britain, the Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was aware of the activity and was monitoring the situation closely. There is no authoritative research on the issue in the UK, despite campaign groups compiling 86 cases of young people in Britain who may have died this way.

Known by a variety of names from funky chicken to space monkey, the "game" involves hyperventilating or squeezing the carotid artery in the neck for a few seconds to achieve a high. Constricting the artery cuts blood flow to the brain; when the pressure is released, the resulting rush of oxygen causes the high. Experts say it is most prevalent among high-achieving adolescents who do not want to get in trouble by taking drugs or drink. The practice is different to autoerotic asphyxiation because it is not done for sexual gratification.
The Independent








THE slow burn relationship between India and Japan went a measured step further with the visit to Delhi of the Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatayama. As ever, the visitor and his hosts had much to say on economic matters, trade and investment, and other such. This is the staple of their exchanges and has been so for decades. But this time this worthy but tepid subject was not the main focus of the discussions ~ or so it would appear from the published accounts.

Nuclear matters dominated, especially the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The two countries have been divided on the nuclear issue and Japan has been among the foremost of those who have placed sanctions on transfer of advanced technology to India, ever since the PNE of 1974. It is thus of considerable interest that the two leaders made what looked like more than a passing attempt to discuss their differences and search for common ground.

Ever since Independence, India has been keen to establish cordial ties with Japan. It was one of the few that refused to take reparations from that country after World War II, and Japan responded handsomely by making available an excellent site for the Indian Embassy, which remains one of MEA's most prized possessions. Asian solidarity, not settling scores, is what India pursued. But the Cold War divided the two. India pioneered non-alignment; Japan, militarily pacifist under a US nuclear umbrella, became a cornerstone of Western policy in Asia. And then its economy rebounded, the first of the post-war miracles, taking it to dizzy heights. It became a major aid giver at a time when India was in search of external assistance, and its aid was important for India's budget: hence its close links with the Finance Ministry in North Block even more than with MEA in South Block.

Serious exchange

MORE recently, the slow broadening of Japan's reach and influence provided fresh opportunities, but Japanese corporations were slow to come to India, and the relationship continued to promise more than it delivered. That could be changing, now that serious discussions about a wider range of subjects, including the particularly sensitive one, in the Japanese context, of nuclear matters, have become part of their dialogue. It could be that the two sides can advance towards more serious exchanges on global issues, to give content to the partnership they seek.

The most eye-catching issues that came up during Mr. Hatayama's visit were in the nuclear field. Cooperation in civilian nuclear technology was discussed but no agreement seems to have been reached, nothing to match the agreements with Russia and France, both comparable sources of the technology India seeks. Though it was made known that Japan would consider relaxing export bans on some high-tech items, there are barriers still to surmount. Nor has Japan, unlike several others, come courting India for access to the lucrative market in nuclear power plants that is opening up here. That may, nevertheless, happen in time, Japan being as well placed as any other potential supplier.

One important matter discussed by the leaders was the CTBT. On this, India's Prime Minister was reported to have said that if the USA and China decide to ratify the CTBT, a new situation would arise; in these circumstances, India could reconsider its own position and would not stand in the way of the treaty coming into force. Were this to happen, it would be an important development in India's approach to global nuclear disarmament. In 1996 when the CTBT was finalised and signed, India was virtually the sole holdout.
There were several reasons for its readiness to be alone, at odds with the international community, for it looked as if signing on would foreclose India's nuclear option permanently. Even though the PNE of 1974 represented a decisive step in indigenous development of explosive nuclear technology, well before the series of tests in 1998, it certainly looked as if CTBT was designed to throttle India's deterrent. And the 'entry into force' provision in that treaty was clearly intended to drag India into accepting international supervision of some key aspects of its nuclear activity. According to this provision of the treaty, India would be obliged to accept on its soil two monitoring stations of the worldwide network proposed under CTBT to detect nuclear explosions, the reports from these stations to be supervised by an international agency set up under the treaty. However, the Nuclear Five would monitor their own activity, enjoying the exemptions given them by the NPT. This was clearly unacceptable to New Delhi, which had never accepted the NPT, and it was one of the reasons why India felt constrained to vote against. CTBT acquired a bad odour in the country, which still remains.

Security needs

EVEN so, just a few days after the 1998 tests, the government of the day expressed readiness to go along with the CTBT in appropriate circumstances, the implication being that the tests had fulfilled India's security needs and it had thus become possible for it to agree to forgo further testing. India made a unilateral declaration to that effect, and its record shows that it has consistently safeguarded the nuclear technology and materials it possesses. In fact, India has adhered to the spirit of the CTBT even if there are issues that have prevented formal adherence.

Global opinion today is even more hostile to testing than it was a decade ago. It was in this context that the Prime Minister expressed India's conditional readiness (subject to US and Chinese actions) to re-think about the CTBT. Determination to be strict on nuclear exports has done much to reassure the international community, which does not see India as a potential source for terrorists and others trying to get their hands on nuclear materials. Yet should India now look seriously at the CTBT, a ticklish diplomatic situation will arise.

The current text that was voted through the UN without India's support reproduces in some respects the exemptions and prerogatives assumed by the Nuclear Five under the NPT, and to accept it as it stands could look like a back door entry to the NPT itself. Nor can the text be reopened for further negotiation so as to meet the requirements of countries like India ~ were that to happen, the whole edifice could fall to bits as others may come up with their own separate demands. Still, if there is widespread desire to make CTBT effective, and all concerned sign up, it should not be impossible to find a way for India. The cause of disarmament attracts increasing support across the globe, so a forward movement on testing would be welcomed. And among other things, finding common ground on CTBT would bridge gaps between India and Japan, with important consequences for their future relationship.

(The writer is India's former Foreign Secretary)







It is no real surprise that the all-parties' meeting on Telangana has ended inconclusively. Given the deep divisions within and amidst the eight parties that attended the meet, no one could have hoped to hear them speak in one voice. What does surprise is the ease with which the Centre has been able to secure its agenda — to postpone state-formation for an indefinite period. Although all further discussions on the matter have been committed to an unspecified time limit, there can be little doubt that the government has saved itself the unpleasantness of an immediate dissection and bought itself "reasonable time". What made this possible was the projected Maoist threat that the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram, elaborated on at the meeting. Between the time of the Centre's announcement of its decision, on the night of December 9, and December 23, when the all-parties' meet was scheduled, the situation in Andhra Pradesh is supposed to have "altered significantly". The Telangana agitation, according to intelligence reports with the home ministry, has been infiltrated by Maoists, who not only intend to exploit the political divisions among democratically-elected leaders but also look upon Telangana as their much-sought-after haven. Given the Maoists' long-standing presence in Andhra Pradesh, it is strange that the government should have been blind to its implications for Telangana when it gave the go-ahead for state formation. In fact, there should have been no room for such a specious error when the decision was taken in "no haste", as Mr Chidambaram has repeatedly asserted. Given that the same party which heads the Centre also rules the state, there is even less reason to excuse the intelligence failure, which has set off an inexorably complicated and dangerous chain of political events.


It is unlikely that the ruse of a Maoist threat will be sufficient to stall the surge for Telangana for too long or quieten Andhra Pradesh, something the Centre has been hoping for since it gave its sanction for a separate state. Telangana is a difficult problem to resolve, especially because of the free-reining politics it has inspired across the board. The moment calls for constructive leadership from the Centre. If it is unable to provide that, it should let the dogfight on the streets of Andhra Pradesh decide the matter once and for all. Unfortunately, that will be no inspiring example to democracy.








It is impossible to say if Australia, or any of the big Western nation-states, was a friendlier place to immigrate to some 50 years back. As late as the 1960s, segregation was fiercely enforced in the United States of America, Britain resented the steady influx of settlers from its former colonies, and South Africa embraced apartheid with gusto. In the 1980s, Indians in New Jersey were singled out for severe humiliation by the 'dotbusters', while Punjabis in Canada faced regular street violence. It is possible that far too many other instances of racial abuse were quietly ignored — because of the sufferers' forbearance or perhaps because these incidents merely involved verbal insult, not physical aggression. It was only after 9/11 that the can of worms burst open and the shameful secrets of the 'civilized' West tumbled out of the closet. However, it is still premature to even begin to think of a racially equitable world, even in that seat of enlightenment, Europe. For more than a year now, Indians, particularly students, have encountered gruesome attacks in various Australian cities. In the latest instance, a young man from Punjab was stabbed to death in Victoria, which, the Australian authorities insist, is one of their safest cities. That is the usual spiel. Every time Indians are targeted, Australians condemn the attacks earnestly, India grumbles out its 'concerns' without much effect, investigations are carried out, and families compensated — but the stage when a crime can be unqualifiedly labelled as racially motivated never quite arrives.


Apart from the usual lack of evidence, there is another painfully unsettling dimension to these racist attacks. Educated, respectable, white-collar Indians are discovering themselves, with evident consternation, to be at the receiving end of a society's hate, which has been so far directed mostly at Muslims and illegal immigrants. Under the levelling glare of the Western eye, brown skin starts losing its good and bad shades — Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis look all the same. Racism is too primal, too pervasive, an ethos embedded in the very foundation of Western civilization. Law can never eradicate it; legislations merely put the fear of punishment into the minds of criminals. Only a more profound change of heart can turn racism into a thing of the inglorious past. As long as immigrants do not feel safe in their own skin in foreign lands, no law can ensure their safety.









Much like the tsunami waves that devastated many coastal areas five years ago, the closing weeks of 2009 saw an ill wind sweeping across many of our democratic institutions, highlighting that beneath the veneer of the nation's aspirations towards great power status was a crumbling institutional core.


To look at the fourth estate first. The preface to the Press Council of India's "Norms of Journalistic Conduct" has a section that significantly reads: "There was a time when journalism was a mission. Soon it became a profession and is now run as a full-fledged business activity like any other enterprise." True as this is, the press remains a watchdog of democracy and responsible journalism involves accurate and impartial presentation of news along with true and objective analysis of it. Any departure harms the credibility of the institution and strikes at the very root of democracy itself.


It has, however, been widely reported that during the recent elections, print and electronic media took money from political parties and candidates to plant stories. Inaugurating a recent seminar in Delhi on the subject, the human resource development minister reportedly admitted that his ministry knew how the stories were planted and paid for. An equally disturbing phenomenon is when news channels and print journals indulge in self-promotional competitions to grade the performances of state governments or select public figures for their achievements. The organizers become benefactors rewarding state governments, or public and private citizens alike, with publicity and adulation. In a free market atmosphere, an unholy nexus is waiting to develop. Clearly, what the Press Council preface says for journalists can now also be applied to public service, and when the two meet, Indian democracy is in for a turbulent future.


Coming next to the institution that must remain the last resort of a democracy — its armed forces. A recent episode involving four general-rank officers, the seniormost being a principal staff officer at army headquarters, reportedly relates to the irregular grant of a 'no objection certificate' for civil construction adjacent to military installations. As is its norm, the army had already instituted court of inquiry proceedings and there is little to suggest that these would not have reached the logical conclusion of punishing anyone found guilty. However, the inquisition and finger-pointing by the electronic media over-sensationalized an already delicate investigation. One channel insisted on calling the PSO the "right hand man of the army chief", creating the false public impression that this officer was especially close to the chief. In a nation where justice takes decades to be dispensed, if at all, some in the electronic media wanted instant retribution without allowing the standard military disciplinary procedure — which involves a court of inquiry leading to a summary of evidence and then a court martial — to be followed.


Two concerns emerge from this unfortunate episode. The first relates to the increasing number of corruption cases amongst the senior crop of the armed forces. This weakness is not something that has developed overnight. It has been in the making for decades. For very long, not merit but contacts have been used to further promotional avenues. Some senior officers compromise on principles to look at post-retirement appointments, others for opening in politics. The unwritten message is clear. Integrity, forthrightness and professionalism carry less weight than pandering to the bureaucracy and political godfathers. If now the chickens are coming home to roost, all are culpable.


There is, however, a bigger concern. The media, specially the electronic media, while legitimately reporting what is negative news concerning the armed forces, must not take on the mantle of jury and judge. By dramatizing, over-simplifying and insinuating in order to enhance viewer ratings, the news channels are contributing to lowering the morale of the armed forces. This is neither good for the institution of the armed forces, nor for the credibility of the media and certainly not for the security of the country as it is being exploited by forces inimical to our national interests. If the line between journalistic ethics and commercial interests is getting blurred, then some form of self-regulation must be seen to be enforceable in the larger interests of democracy and fair play.


The case of a 'child molester' director-general of police, whose victim committed suicide and who got away with mild punishment after 19 long years, has truly put the nation to shame. It reflects on the institution of national governance. The very fact that past ministers, bureaucrats and senior police functionaries are all scurrying for cover and passing the buck indicates not just the bankruptcy of the institution of governance but also of the quality of people that pass for elected representatives, civil servants and law enforcers. Even school administrators buckled under unlawful pressure.


If the nation has any self-respect, every politician or official, big or small, serving or retired, who contributed to the inaction or cover- up and harassment of the family of the deceased girl must be brought to book and made to face national humiliation. The school concerned is not an exception. This is the price public servants and institutions must be made to pay for trampling on the life and liberty of citizens of our democracy. That the media actually facilitated this exposure and public outrage points to the strength of the fourth estate. But will it continue its battle or lose interest like it did for these 19 long years?


Delivering the Intelligence Bureau Centenary lecture the other day on a new architecture for India's internal security, the home minister indicated that never before had the Indian State faced such a formidable challenge and never before had the Indian people been asked to prepare themselves for such fundamental changes in the manner in which the country will be secured and protected. He made out a strong case for a radical and thorough restructuring of the home ministry. Recognizing the pitfalls, he cautioned about difficulties arising out of the jurisdiction of different organizational responsibilities and the tendency to protect turfs. Emphasizing on the urgency, he said that this change had to be brought about now.


Here is a home minister whose purposeful handling of the rapidly deteriorating internal security challenges does inspire some confidence, coming as it does after many years of benign neglect. What he stated was also unexceptionable, although one could add that today internal and external security and intelligence are interminably linked and it is national security as a whole that must draw our attention. But beyond this, surely, he must know that he is telling us nothing new. He would know that the nation was faced with a similar situation after Kargil, when glaring weaknesses in our institutions of security were exposed. And he would know that the four task forces set up post-Kargil on management of defence, intelligence, internal security and border management had made comprehensive recommendations on the entire security framework which stand approved by the cabinet committee on security. He would also know that the primary reasons for which complete progress has not been made possible are the precise questions of jurisdiction and turfs that he now cautions against. And, finally, he surely must rue that had action been taken on these recommendations, 26/11 would not have happened.


In spite of all this knowledge, if we are still at the stage of 'seminar lectures' on change, then it would be fair to say that our institutional approach to national security remains unfocused and fragmented and needs purposeful leadership, and not platitudes, to overcome the odds. If we are really serious about national security, then instead of reinventing the wheel all over again, it would be far better for the National Security Council to review the status of all past recommendations and order a limited and time-bound review to encompass changed threat parameters. It would enhance public confidence if past recommendations and progress on implementation were shared with the people. The fourth estate can play its rightful role as watchdog in bridging this information and confidence gap between the State and its hapless citizens.


Finally, the shenanigans at the Andhra Pradesh Raj Bhavan, unveiled to the nation on Christmas Day, were what brought the constitutional institution of state governors to unholy shame. That too at a time when the state is in the midst of great political and constitutional uncertainty. That it involved sleaze only points to the depths of national institutional deprivation. For far too long, the governor's office has become a sinecure for out-of-work politicians and the like. Scandals surrounding governors have not been uncommon. Coming at a time when the state needed a sensitive and healing touch, the damage to the highest constitutional office in the state is unfathomable. To add insult to injury, our political worthies tell us that in keeping with high moral standards, the governor resigned. As the year drew to a close, one more glorious institution of Indian democracy thus lay bruised. One can only wish the institutions of our democracy a constructive new year.


The author is a retired air marshal of the Indian Air Force








"Don't bother to call the police. We are in high-level positions.'' The vice-colonel of a paramilitary unit said this to a security guard who had rushed to intervene after the colonel's wife slapped a tour guide. The guide, just 19, had objected to the wife touching a mural at a historical site. But the guard called the police anyway, and on the testimony of the tourists present, the police demanded that the 'high-level' couple apologize. The next day, the wife, who was a communist party secretary of a hospital attached to the corps, did apologize with obvious insincerity in the presence of all the guides. However, the video of the slapping incident was posted online, and the resultant furore led to the couple's dismissal from their posts.


The real surprise in all this is that the colonel's directive was right on top of a list compiled by the China Daily of the "Top 10 darndest [sic] things officials said in 2009''. Also on that list is this threat: "I will have your website shut down if you dare to report it." This came from an education official when a journalist asked him about a teacher slapping him for harassing her at an official banquet.


It's not officials alone who treat the people with contempt. A remark by a Beijing professor became the talk of the country: "99 per cent of repeat petitioners are mentally ill," said the professor, an expert with the ministry of mental health. Talking to the media about the growing number of people travelling to Beijing from the countryside, armed with petitions against wrongs done to them by local authorities, the professor said that those who refuse to give up and return to the capital even after being sent back without redressal are mentally ill. Across the country, there was a clamour against the professor, with 200 persons signing a petition demanding his expulsion from Peking University. He had to apologize.


A job well done

Then there was the sportswoman who, offended with a journalist at a press conference, asked him, "Which media organization do you work for?'' The head of China's national diving team, Zhou Jihong, had led China to seven out of eight golds at the Beijing Olympics. However, it was rumoured that she had 'fixed' the results of the 11th National Games held in October. Asked about this, she went on the offensive. A similar question was asked by an official when a journalist questioned him about the reported misuse of public funds by one of his departments. "Are you a member of the CPC (Communist Party of China)?" he had asked belligerently.


China Daily's list reveals two things. One, the corruption and arrogance of party officials have become so widespread that it is no longer possible for the official media to ignore them. This is what one official said to a 66-year-old threatening to kill himself by jumping off the top floor if the former didn't help him with his demolition compensation claim — "It's none of my business. Go straight to the fifth floor. Don't choose the first or second floor." Another official told this to a couple who had resisted demolition by throwing Molotov cocktails on the demolition squad: "You are doomed to be punished if you fight against the government. Any action against the government is illegal."


Second, while party functionaries have forgotten their role, the restrictions on the official media have not inhibited them from performing theirs. There could be no better illustration of the distance CPC officials have travelled since the time Mao exhorted them to "Serve the people" than the following question that was asked by the vice-director of a city urban planning bureau. Questioned about luxury houses built on land meant for low-cost housing, he retorted, "Are you a mouthpiece for the Party or the people?'' He was suspended from his post.








It suddenly seems that a truly wonderful season has befallen the 'wonder that is India'. Indeed, one is at a loss when it comes to prioritizing which one of the issues that the season brought to light should be dealt with first. Should it be the land scam involving serving generals, the 'adventures' of a turbulent state's former governor, or the past misdeeds of a retired police chief? The threats posed by the Taliban and the al Qaida, the adventurous diplomacy of the Han kingdom, and the innumerable instances of corruption spanning the length and breath of India could also be included for examination. However, to an avid follower of the goings-on in our country, it is the misdeeds of the bureaucracy which pose the biggest and gravest threat to this wonderful nation.


What are the reasons behind this supposition? The shelf-life of a civil servant in critical and sensitive positions can be anything between 32 -38 years. Compare this with the longevity of an average minister. It could be anywhere between 32 days to 38 months or some more time. Similarly, what is the durability of military men in senior positions in the armed forces? Hardly 0.5 per cent would be the correct answer, as very few senior armymen can afford to aspire for a "good outing" in an elevated position. By comparison, a civil servant is considered to be the 'boss' from the day he joins that exclusive 'club'.


It does not require any special skill to make out how a small section of the entire bureaucracy is holding the nation to ransom. For this, one merely has to go to the 'field' — ports, airports, railway and police stations, Central revenue building, the district headquarters or the offices of the district collector — and savour the experience.


Such an experience would go a long way in compiling an impressive datum of facts and figures to create an 'encyclopedia of corruption' in India. The experience would also offer a wonderful opportunity to learn how not to use bona fide power to abuse the system with mala fide motives. The biggest gain, however, could be that an exercise such as this will surely help in identifying a malicious and motivated fraternity among the various actors in the establishment.


Today, the whole of India is singing the chorus of retribution on the former police chief of a northern state for his horrendous act perpetrated on a young girl. But Indians must remember that the country is not yet run by a dictator or an autocrat who rules the roost. In reality, no crime can be committed or go undetected unless there exists a chain of connivance that binds various actors who are actively engaged in shielding the perpetrator. S.P.S Rathore's crime has come to light after almost two long decades. But there exist innumerable other Rathores who remain unobserved or are too deeply embedded in the system, which is prone to ignore the worst crimes of the chair. It is equally indifferent to or negligent of the need to reward the good and the efficient. Else, how did Rathore's unpardonable act go unpunished by the powerful establishment?


Enlightenment indeed is the catchword. A man in uniform can get away with almost anything, including the molestation of a teenager. The criminal's subordinates are his puppets, while his superiors are individuals who may share similar objectionable habits.


This is all part of a dangerous game that is being played out within the pillars of our 'enlightened' democracy in which the Centre has no role to play within the fiefdoms of the regional satraps. The police can never be rubbed the wrong way either. Are not they supposedly the custodians of law and order? But in reality, they look after their boss's interests and save them from the threats of an attack emanating from every side. Hence, there is a need to protect the few 'delinquents' and tolerate their 'harmless' activity of molesting teenaged girls.


Several other such incidents have also taken place elsewhere in the country. This is neither a State nor a military secret. On many occasions, an inefficient and corrupt civil servant has been successful in getting an important posting with the help of his personal machinations. Moreover, there are also numerous instances of civil servants in responsible and sensitive positions looting the country of its riches with their divine right to rule.


Of late, there have also been a few instances in which senior armymen such as majors or lieutenant-generals have found themselves in the dock. But there is one major difference in this context. On most occasions, the army takes prompt action against its errant members. This is not the case with the civilian administration. It may take the authorities years to bring guilty bureaucrats to book. In fact, precious time is lost when it comes to taking deterrent action against the culprits. It is often the case that an accused dies even before a judgment is passed against him. Thus, there is seldom any dearth of professional law-keepers turning into talented law- breakers while on duty. This tradition now appears to have contaminated India's erstwhile spotless military high command as well.


The truth is that today, India stands at a difficult and treacherous crossroads owing to the frightening level of corruption in the ranks of its civil and military institutions. The tragedy is that a benign indifference exists at the level of the political class when it comes to tackling the impending threat that can destroy the base that holds the country's political identity together. So much so that virtually every corner of the Indian continent appears to be sitting on a proverbial tinder box.


A cursory look at the list would reveal the real extent of the imminent threat. Several members of the judiciary have been found to be mired in corruption. Army generals, too, are in league with the unscrupulous and tax-evading trading class. The revenue departments are notorious for their inability to do the right thing owing to unbridled greed for cash and land. Civil administrators have also been found to keep the company of wheeler-dealers and fixers in New Delhi. Police action against such individuals is conspicuous by its absence. Even hospitals have turned into dens of corruption. The same goes for education institutions in some parts of the country which have earned notoriety for their unprincipled conduct.


If Indians do not try and curb such devastating corruption that plagues their country, the time is not far when foreign elements will take it upon themselves to do what India's citizens should have been doing in the first place. Real power, in keeping with the past, will then be returned to the hands of those who may be anything but Indians.



******************************************************************************************DECCAN HERALD





The Union government's decision to strip the disgraced former Haryana Director General of Police S P S Rathore of the President's Police Medal may have opened a Pandora's Box. Former Punjab cadre IAS officer Rupan Deol Bajaj who won a case of sexual harassment against K P S Gill, the high profile former DGP of Punjab has now demanded that he be stripped of the honours. Gill, who contributed much to exterminating the Khalistani movement in the '80s and '90s had 'manhandled' Bajaj at a dinner in 1988. Bajaj, spouse of another senior IAS officer was not someone who would accept such humiliation and went the whole distance to get justice which she did, eventually. The supreme court punishment to Gill included payment of Rs 2.5 lakh to Bajaj in lieu of a jail sentence of three months, supervised probation and a strict warning not to drink in public.
Gill clearly was someone who could be offensive under the influence of liquor. Although he crushed the extremists in Punjab, his tendency to fight violence with violence made him despised by someone as eminent a policeman as Julius Ribeiro. Later, the manner in which Indian hockey has floundered under Gill's helmsmanship has also earned him much odium. Some may argue that he did not deserve a national honour. But then, many men who have received public honours in India have not deserved it, and national honours have been cheapened by being conferred on them. To that extent, Bajaj's broadside against Gill has helped to bring into question the worth of national honours.

However, revoking Gill's Padma Shri would bring in its train many more such demands. Will someone demand that Mohammed Azharuddin be stripped of his Padma Shri and Arjuna Awards because he was guilty of match-fixing? Will someone demand that Sunita Rani who won two medals including a gold in the Busan Asiad be stripped of her Padma Shri because she tested positive for a banned substance? But, much as Bajaj needs to be admired for her tenacity in pursuing a case which, considering the clout Gill enjoyed at the time, her present demand for stripping Gill of the Padma Shri award he received for his labours in Punjab needs to be looked at as an attempt to rewrite history. Thanks to her efforts, Gill got his just deserts. She would do well do leave it at that.








The Pakistan government's decision to change the status of the Northern Areas, which were part of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, is of a piece with the divisive policy followed by Islamabad there. The area has been renamed Gilgit-Baltistan and has practically, though not constitutionally, become the fifth province of Pakistan. Ironically, the Pakistan government's measure, known as the Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment Order, claims to give more autonomy to the area, but actually separates it from the rest of Kashmir. The order came into force three months ago and the first elections under it were held in November. The new chief minister of the province, Mehdi Shah, has declared that the area has no connection to Kashmir. The Pakistani actions relating to Gilgit-Baltistan are devious and illegal, and are prompted by short term political considerations of the PPP government and long-term plans of exploiting the natural resources.

India has strongly reacted to the development and has said that any move to alter the status of Jammu and Kashmir is unacceptable. Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, which included Gilgit-Baltistan, is a part of Jammu and Kashmir which acceded to India. For India PoK is under illegal occupation and Pakistan cannot compound its illegalities with more unacceptable actions. It had ceded part of the area to China and separated Chitral to make it a part of the North-West Frontier Province. It is not only India which has protested against the Pakistan government's action. There have been demonstrations in Kashmir and parties like the JKLF have opposed it, though for reasons different from India's. They think that the move weakens the view of Kashmir as a disputed territory and dilutes Pakistan's commitment to self-determination of Kashmiris.

The provisions for electing a legislative assembly with powers to make laws on selected subjects, setting up a Public Service Commission and appointment of an Election Commissioner and other measures which purport to give greater autonomy to the people of the area are overshadowed by the provision that the entire set-up will be controlled by an Islamabad-appointed governor who can dismiss the assembly and sack the chief minister. The people of the Northern Areas have often protested their treatment by the Pakistani government. The new dispensation is a sop to them but does not help to improve their condition. They are bound to realise this soon.








As we enter 2010, the script for a futuristic agriculture which brings back the smile on the face of the Indian farmer, without leaving any scar on the environment, is being rewritten.

What began as a small initiative some six years back in a non-descript village in Khamam district, has now spread to over 20 lakh acres in 18 districts of Andhra Pradesh. I remember when I first talked about the miracle brought about in village Pannukula in Andhra Pradesh, many thought I was simply trying to romanticise agriculture. How can farming be done without the use of chemical pesticides, I was repeatedly asked.
Pannukula dug out a lonely furrow, but eventually blazed a trail. In the next four years, more than 3,18,000 farmers in 18 out of the 23 districts of Andhra Pradesh have discarded the intensive chemical farming systems, and shifted to a more sustainable, economically viable and ecologically friendly agriculture. A silent revolution is in the offing. In Kharif 2009, some 14 lakh acres was covered with what is now known as Community Managed Sustainable Agriculture (CMSA).

As we go to press, the area has multiplied to 20 lakh acres: Six lakh acres increase in a farming system that does not use chemical pesticides, and is also phasing out chemical fertiliser, and that too in a matter of few months is a record of sorts. And it has come about without any push from the government agencies and the private sector. I see no reason why this environmentally safe, and a farmer-friendly system of sustainable agriculture, cannot cover perhaps 200 million acres across the country in another 10 years or so if the government gets serious.
Ten years from now, in 2020, when we try to look back, Indian agriculture can be transformed into a healthy and vibrant system where farmer suicides have been relegated to history, where distress and despondency has been replaced by the regained pride in farming, and where agriculture becomes sustainable in the long run and does not result in climate change.

What began as an experiment to evolve a farming system without the application of chemical pesticides is now also phasing out the use of chemical fertilisers. It uses a mixture of scientifically proven technologies, indigenous knowledge and traditional wisdom. Farmers are replacing conventional fertiliser and pesticides with microbial formulations, intensive use of composting techniques, vermi-composting, and apply bio-fertilisers, and use bio-extracts for controlling pests.

It therefore brought in a complete shift from conventional agriculture and offered secure and stable livelihoods. The crop yields have remained the same, the pest attack has drastically reduced, and the soil is returning back to its natural fertility levels. As soil fertility improves over the years, crop yields have started going up still further. More importantly, farmer's expenditure on health problems emanating from pesticides application has also gone down by 40 per cent on an average.

There is more money now in the hands of the farmers. The cost of cultivation per acre has also come down by 33 per cent. Take the case of cotton: a CMSA farmer saves more than Rs 12,500 in a year on account of no application of pesticides alone. With his crop productivity remaining stable, cotton farmers have got a new lease of life. The environment too has become much healthy and safe.

Normally, 56 per cent of the cost of cotton cultivation is primarily on account of pesticides. And don't forget, elsewhere in the state and for that matter in the country, 70 per cent of the farmers who are committing suicide are engaged in cotton cultivation.

No farmer has committed suicide in the areas where non-pesticides management system of farming is being followed.

More money in the hands of farmers means less debt. I haven't seen any other village in the country in past three decades of my work in agriculture, which has been able to recover its entire mortgaged land from money lenders in just three years of adopting non-pesticides management. This happened in village Ramachandrapuram in Khamam district where all 75 farmers have even paid back the outstanding rate of interest.

Studies in five districts show that out of the 467 families that had mortgaged their land, at least 386 have recovered it in two years' time.

This is a roadmap for the future of Indian agriculture. It not only provides a sustainable path, with a very low carbon footprint, and has tremendous potential to remove poverty and hunger.

It has been conclusively demonstrated that household food security has improved with a 40 per cent drop in the purchase of food from the market. The crop yields have gone up, and farmers are now able to cultivate two crops in a year. This is the Zero Hunger model that needs to be adopted under the proposed National Food Security Act.

Savings have increased, and a federation of 8,50,675 self-help groups now involves 10 million women from the poor households. This federation now holds a corpus of $1.5 billion providing a bundle of economic services. No wonder, sustainable agriculture without external inputs can revolutionise the rural landscape, where hunger and poverty becomes history.








Latin America is undergoing a process of accelerated transformation. Considered the 'backyard of the United States' for much of the last century, it suffered a string of coups d'etat and dictatorships, many piloted by neoliberal economists from the so-called 'Chicago School'. It is natural that the region would want to forget this past and move in another direction.

Beginning in the 1980s, inspired by Portugal's Carnation Revolution in April 1974 and by Spain's transition to democracy after the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, Latin Americans set in motion their own transition from military dictatorships to democracy.

In those days the United States was ruled by a democratic plutocracy, namely the administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H W Bush, which understood that democratic regimes could serve US interests as well dictatorships, with the added benefit that with them it might be possible to broaden trade flows that certain nationalist military regimes had sought to limit.

Washington Consensus

This new approach would be codified at the end of the 1980s in the so-called Washington Consensus, a set of neoliberal prescriptions inspired by policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and imposed on numerous developing countries, especially in Latin America.

But the world order changed after the collapse of communism. The US was convinced that as the world hyperpower, with dominance in every sector — economic-financial, technological, and of course military — its role was to assume control of the destiny of the planet.

However, soon after — on September 11, 2001 — the US learned that it too was vulnerable. Islamic terrorism asserted itself with extraordinary force. And the response of George W Bush was the worst possible one: waging war against Iraq and Afghanistan and involving both Pakistan, Iran, and even more serious, the religion of Islam as such.

This was a fatal error.

Curiously, another development followed soon after in mid-2008: the massive crisis of financial-speculative capitalism which some believe is already ending, expecting that all will return to the way it was before. In my opinion, this is sheer self-delusion and, unfortunately, grim times are still ahead.

In recent years, until Barack Obama became president, the US ruling class did not have time for consideration of their neighbours to the south, with the occasional exception of Mexico.

For Latin America, which accounts for over ten per cent of the global population, this has been a period of sustained economic growth -an average of about five per cent per year- while the strengthening of democratisation and the elections of 2006 and 2007 have given it greater economic independence from the US and EU, for example, in the context of the World Trade Organisation.

Rise of democracy

In effect, in the countries to the south of the Rio Grande, there was movement in the direction of democracy, some radical, as in Nicaragua, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, Paraguay, and more recently, Uruguay.

In this same period Brazil won recognition as a world player, which strengthened its position as a regional leader. Its firm opposition to the coup in Honduras raised its international profile. During the 19th Ibero-American Summit held in Estoril in early December, President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva categorically refused to do as Washington wished and recognise the elections organised by coup-leader Roberto Micheletti. Lula left the meeting with a parting shot: "A democracy can never tolerate a military coup".

In his first year in office, Obama has pursued a policy towards Latin America that is original and different from that of his predecessor, George W Bush. He has also extended his hand to Cuba, although this gesture has produced no results yet, and as long as the blockade remains in place, it is premature to talk of a truly new US policy towards the island.

Meanwhile, the military bases that the US plans on installing in Colombia are certainly not a good sign, nor are the naval manoeuvres in the South Atlantic.

(The writer is ex-president and ex-prime minister of Portugal)IPS









I went to witness a play which was being staged as part of Bengaluru Habba recently. Since Nazeeruddin and Rathna-Shah were the main actors, I had not bothered to know the name of the play. The hall was only half full. I wondered aloud how such famous actors could not pull crowds. My neighbour informed me that the play being staged was 'Antigone.' I thought Bangalore audiences may not be interested in watching tragedies, that too Greek ones. After all Greek and Latin are difficult to comprehend.

Having been a student of literature, and having studied Antigone as part of my syllabus, I was eager to see the play unfold on stage. The announcement that the play was not in its original form but was adapted to suit Indian audience dampened me a bit. When the curtains opened an actor playing a palace guard came on stage, chased a person in the audience for speaking on the cellphone, took him on stage and 'executed him.' There was a big guffaw at this not so subtle message not to use cellphones. This scene did not help set the mood for a tragic play.

My thoughts went back to the day Prof Menezes taught us Greek tragedy. He quoted Aristotle stating that tragedy is an imitation of action that is serious, complete and of a certain magnitude. What the guard did on the stage was frivolous. Prof Menezes had also said that tragedies should have 'comic interludes' to help lighten the sombre mood. But can the interlude be the beginning of the play, I wondered. I was taught that pity and fear are the main ingredients of a Greek tragedy.

In the scenes that unfolded, I did not feel pity or fear for any of the characters who were on stage. I had learnt that one of the ingredients of Greek tragedy is spectacle. The spartan stage decor was least spectacular. Probably the Mumbai team could not afford to mount costly 'sets' in Bangalore.

Aristotle had said that if a person witnesses a tragedy he should have a purgatory experience; he should identify himself with the central character, mentally undergo the same agony and thereby feel lighter after watching the play. I never felt either elevated or purgated after seeing the play at Bangalore. However, I was amazed that I could recite verbatim what Prof Menezes had taught me about Greek tragedy 39 years ago. I came back from the hall feeling happy.


Thank you, Bengaluru Habba for bringing back classroom memories.








In an ideal world, there would be no need to legislate restrictions on comeback opportunities for politicians who transgressed and fell from grace. Indeed, it should be patently obvious to voters that any politician caught with his hand in the public till and duly convicted in a court of law is prohibited from reelection thereafter. It should go without saying. There should be no need for caveats based on the sort of crime or duration of prison term.


When a representative in whom the citizenry placed its trust, and whom it elected in full faith to handle its resources, breaks the code of principled behavior, that should be enough to delegitimize any further trust.


But we don't live in an ideal world. What should be self-evident is obviously far from it. The Knesset is therefore now mulling a second bill dubbed the "Deri Law." Neither this current bill, nor the one which preceded it in 2000, was intended specifically for application against former Shas leader Aryeh Deri, yet both informally bear his name because he is perceived as their primary target.


This has nothing to do with any anti-Deri bias on the part of lawmakers, but is rather the consequence of the unmitigated cheek of ex-con Deri, who has been intent on restarting his political career as though nothing untoward were recorded on his CV. Deri was convicted of bribe-taking and began serving a three-year sentence (reduced after appeal from the initial four) in 2000. He was released early in 2002. Rather than damaging his Shas party's fortunes, his legal travails only spurred it to unprecedented success - it won 17 seats in the 15th Knesset. The electorate's censure demonstrably cannot be taken for granted.


In 2000 the Knesset passed legislation which forbade anyone convicted of a crime bearing the stigma of "moral turpitude" from seeking public office for seven years. Despite earlier pledges to shun politics, Deri sought to resume politicking in July 2009, exactly seven years after his release. The attorney general, however, stipulated that the countdown should begin from the date the full original sentence ended, regardless of time off for good behavior. But that only postponed the inevitable. Deri seems intent to reappear on the national arena, although he no longer commands the unstinting backing of Shas mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.


Deri may have made Yosef into a political potentate, but there is no lasting sense of gratitude in politics. Deri's successor at Shas's helm, Eli Yishai, has effectively purged Deri's loyalists from the party list, thereby drastically narrowing Deri's potential playing field. There is little chance Deri could topple Yishai. His fallback route to regaining past prominence is via the divisive ethnic politics at which he always excelled. It's the last thing Israel needs.


As Deri may have yet to realize, things didn't stay the same on the outside while he was doing time and then enduring the legally imposed political hiatus. Conditions changed, associates and collaborators have dispersed and found new partners, maybe even new pursuits. The world has moved on.


He'd likely be stymied even without the current multi-party Knesset initiative which specifies that a one-year sentence suffices to prevent a disgraced politician from ever seeking another elected office.


It's disingenuous of those Shas headliners who continue to pose as Deri's allies to claim that this bill is another prejudiced anti-Deri move. The legislation would apply to any corrupt politician with the chutzpa and gross moral obtuseness to seek to renew business as usual despite having betrayed the public's confidence.

The fact that Deri currently persists in attempts to proceed with a political comeback attests to his own insolence and insensitivity rather than to the legislators' discrimination and intolerance. The new bill - promoted across the spectrum by MKs Tzipi Hotoveli and Yariv Levin (Likud), Marina Solodkin (Kadima) and Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) - is eminently worthy and will, once passed, apply to any dishonorable ex-politician who lacks the elementary self-awareness to recognize that his or her parliamentary career was ended by their prison term.


If Deri chooses to belong to the above category it is his doing, and not the fault of parliamentarians striving to insure by law what some voters sadly fail to comprehend on their own.








If I'd wanted to move to a West Bank settlement, I would have. Instead, my family and I decided to move to Modi'in, the country's newest city, built just on the pre-1967 side of the Green Line. But with all the local outrage over last week's High Court decision about Route 443, I'm beginning to feel like I moved to a settlement after all.


Running through the West Bank, Route 443 is a quick, easy way for Modi'in residents, myself included, to get to Jerusalem. It's safe, too, because the 55,000 Palestinians who live in the villages along the route aren't allowed to drive on it, not since the attacks, some of them fatal, on Israeli motorists early in the intifada.


But now the court says the mounds of dirt and garbage that the IDF dumped at the edges of those villages to block their access to 443 must be removed. The villagers must be allowed to drive the highway because much of it was built on their land, the travel ban has badly disrupted their lives and an occupying power doesn't have the right to do that to the people under occupation, ruled the court.


Modi'in, a city of some 75,000, is pissed off. The terror attacks will return, people are saying - a homemade bomb was found at the side of Route 443 a few days before the court decision. Mayor Haim Bibas is fuming about judges who "sit in their ivory tower," and he promises, "We're not going to take this lying down." At the national level Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu "reacted furiously" to the court decision, wrote Yediot Aharonot, as did his right-wing cabinet ministers, who fear the ruling will lead to Palestinians being allowed to drive on all the "Israelis-only" roads in Judea and Samaria, and then where will we be?


OPPONENTS OF the decision say they're arguing for security - but in truth, they're not. If and when Palestinians are allowed to drive on Route 443 again, there will still be a very simple way for us residents of Modi'in to drive safely to and from Jerusalem: on Route 1.


The main highway to Jerusalem doesn't go through the West Bank and doesn't have any Palestinians on it. Even now we in Modi'in take Route 1 when it's more convenient than 443; during the intifada, we did so regularly. It takes longer, there are traffic jams at rush hour, it's not a luxurious short-cut like 443, but it's no worse than what hundreds of thousands of commuters go through every day.


So my neighbors who oppose the court decision aren't really arguing for security - they're arguing for convenience. In the end, they're arguing for privilege.


Like I said, I drive the 443, and the reason is that I'm too lazy and self-indulgent to put up with Route 1. And frankly, my conscience doesn't bother me; I guess I'm just not that conscientious, at least not about routine injustices like driving on an Israelis-only highway built on land taken from Palestinians who aren't themselves allowed to drive on it.


But now that the court has ruled that those Palestinian villagers are also entitled to use the 443, am I going to fight to keep them off, to keep it strictly for Israelis going through the West Bank, because I don't want to hassle driving Route 1?


That's more than self-indulgence, that's taking an active role in preserving the occupation. If individuals in

Modi'in want to do that, they can, but when the mayor does so with the backing of probably a majority of his constituents, not to mention the prime minister, other right-wing politicians and maybe even most of the Israeli public, then I say: Not in my name. And I'm not alone in this town, either, even if we peaceniks have become a distinct minority.


BUT THEN what should we do in response to Palestinian shootings of Israeli motorists in the West Bank –



No, we should send the IDF to deal with the terrorists like it deals with terrorists - at the same time that we're ending the occupation, or should be, as speedily and efficiently as possible
Shooting at motorists is wrong, especially right after the motorists' government has tried to make peace with you, which was the case with the killings on Route 443 at the start of the intifada.


But subjugating a nation and taking its land is also wrong, and perpetuating that injustice is not the way to deal with those Palestinians who killed Israeli drivers or who would do so again.


Modi'in, whose cornerstone was laid in 1995 by then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, was not created as some sort of adjunct West Bank settlement. Just the opposite - it was created as an answer to the settlements that had been the pet project of Rabin's Likud predecessors. The governments of Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir had built on the Palestinian side of the Green Line; the Rabin government would build on the Israeli side, and Modi'in would be its showcase.


In those days there were visionary maps showing the city as a crossroads on a superhighway linking Syria and Jordan with Israel. Not for nothing was Modi'in given the official motto "City of the Future."


And now that it's throwing in with the occupation, now that it's taking on the voice of a West Bank settlement, that motto turns out, bitterly enough, to have been rather prophetic.








As hands are wrung in the aftermath of the near-tragedy on a Northwest Airlines flight approaching Detroit, a conversation from London's Heathrow Airport in 1986 comes to mind.


It consisted of an El Al security agent quizzing one Ann-Marie Doreen Murphy, a 32-year-old recent arrival in London from Sallynoggin, Ireland. While working as a chambermaid at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane, Murphy met Nizar al-Hindawi, a far-leftist Palestinian who impregnated her. After instructing her to "get rid of the thing," he abruptly changed his tune and insisted on immediate marriage in "the Holy Land." He also insisted on their traveling separately.


Murphy, later described by the prosecutor as a "simple, unsophisticated Irish lass and a Catholic," accepted unquestioningly Hindawi's arrangements for her to fly to Israel on El Al on April 17. She also accepted a wheeled suitcase with, unbeknown to her, a false bottom containing nearly two kilograms of Semtex, a powerful plastic explosive, and she agreed to be coached by him on how to answer questions posed by airport security.


MURPHY SUCCESSFULLY passed through the standard Heathrow security inspection and reached the gate with her bag, where an El Al agent questioned her. As reconstructed by Neil C. Livingstone and David Halevy in Washingtonian magazine, he started by asking whether she had packed her bags herself. She replied in the negative. Then: "What is the purpose of your trip to Israel?"


Recalling Hindawi's instructions, Murphy answered, "For a vacation."


"Are you married, Miss Murphy?"




"Traveling alone?"




"Is this your first trip abroad?"




"Do you have relatives in Israel?"




"Are you going to meet someone in Israel?"




"Has your vacation been planned for a long time?"




"Where will you stay while you're in Israel?"


"The Tel Aviv Hilton."


"How much money do you have with you?"


"Fifty pounds."


Since the Hilton at that time cost at least £70 a night, he asked: "Do you have a credit card?"


"Oh, yes," she replied, showing him an ID for cashing checks.


That did it, and the agent sent her bag for additional inspection, where the bombing apparatus was discovered.


HAD EL Al followed the usual Western security procedures, 375 lives would surely have been lost somewhere over Austria. The bombing plot came to light, in other words, through a nontechnical intervention relying on conversation, perception, common sense and (yes) profiling. The agent focused on the passenger, not the weaponry.


Israeli counterterrorism takes passengers' identities into account; accordingly, Arabs endure an especially tough inspection. "In Israel, security comes first," David Harris of the American Jewish Committee explains.


Obvious as this sounds, overconfidence, political correctness and legal liability render such an approach impossible anywhere else in the West. In the US, for example, one month after 9/11, the Department of Transportation issued guidelines forbidding its personnel from generalizing "about the propensity of members of any racial, ethnic, religious or national origin group to engage in unlawful activity." (Wear a hijab, I semi-jokingly advise women wanting to avoid secondary screening at airport security.)


WORSE YET, consider the panicky Mickey-Mouse steps the US Transportation Security Administration implemented hours after the Detroit bombing attempt: no crew announcements "concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks," and disabling all passenger communications services. During a flight's final hour, passengers may not stand up, access carry-on baggage nor "have any blankets, pillows or personal belongings on the lap."


Some crews went yet further, keeping cabin lights on throughout the night while turning off the in-flight entertainment, prohibiting all electronic devices and, during the final hour, requiring passengers to keep hands visible and neither eat nor drink. Things got so bad, the Associated Press reports, "a demand by one attendant that no one could read anything... elicited gasps of disbelief and howls of laughter."


Widely criticized for these Clouseau-like measures, TSA eventually decided to add "enhanced screening" for travelers passing through or originating from 14 "countries of interest" - as though one's choice of departure airport indicates a propensity for suicide bombing.


The TSA engages in "security theater" - bumbling pretend-steps that treat all passengers equally rather than risk offending anyone by focusing, say, on religion. The alternative approach is Israelification, defined by The Toronto Star as "a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death."


Which do we want - theatrics or safety?

The writer, director of the Middle East Forum and Taube fellow at the Hoover Institution, has super-elite status at two airlines.








Don't you just love it when a leader of one of the world's most repressive, corrupt, feudal monarchies lectures the only democracy in his part of the world on how to behave?


Had the criticism come from a mature and responsible government, it could be taken seriously, but not when the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia calls Israel a spoiled child and demands that the rest of the world force it to accede to Arab demands.


When Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said Israel "does what it wants without being questioned or punished," he was more accurately describing his own country which, by accident of geology, has been able to thumb its nose at the rest of the world.


When threatened, it cowers under the American nuclear umbrella while demanding that American forces come to the rescue, then quickly vacate Saudi soil and wait over the horizon until called again. That's what happened when Saddam Hussein was at the gates, and it's happening again in the face of Iran's nuclear ambitions.


Yet when President Barack Obama asked the king for help in brokering peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he was brusquely turned down, and just in case the message didn't get through, his foreign minister delivered it publicly in Washington, on the steps of the State Department. His only message: Lean harder on Israel.


PRINCE SAUD, in an interview last week, again accused Israel of not being serious about peace - empty words from one of the Arab world's greatest facilitators of terrorism. The country that produced 15 of the 19 September 11 hijackers - it's on the new US list of terrorism-prone nations - is the chief Arab financial and political backer of Islamist Hamas, the primary obstacle to Palestinian unity under the leadership of the secular nationalist Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas. The Saudis pay lip service to an independent democratic Palestinian state, but that's got to be the last thing they'd want, for fear it would set an untenable example for their own people.


If Muslim women are looking for a place in the Middle East where they can be free to vote, speak their minds, pursue education and careers of their choice, practice their religion as they choose, dress as they wish, drive a car and travel on their own, they should stay out of Saudi Arabia. In fact, they're probably better off in Israel than in any Arab country. A Saudi journalist and human rights activist has called her country "the world's largest women's prison."


Freedom of religion is nonexistent in the kingdom, which is dominated by the extremist Wahhabi strain of Islam. Non-Muslims are forbidden from publicly practicing their religion; more moderate Muslims live in perpetual fear.


The Economist's Democracy Index lists Saudi Arabia as the seventh most authoritarian regime among the 167 countries rated. The latest US State Department report on human trafficking says the kingdom doesn't even meet "minimum standards for elimination of trafficking, and is not making discernible efforts to do so." That means no prosecution or punishment for sexual slavery, involuntary servitude and commercial sexual exploitation. International human rights organizations consistently condemn its practice of torture, floggings, honor killings and death penalties for homosexual behavior and adultery.


HOW DOES the kingdom respond to such accusations? It dismisses them as "lies" and defends its actions as consistent with Islamic law. And what does the rest of the world do about it? Bupkis.


That's the self-anointed paragon of virtue with the chutzpah to call Israel a spoiled child.


Don't misunderstand. Israel isn't perfect - far from it - but it can appear that way next to the likes of Saudi Arabia. Is Israel overindulged by the rest of the world, as Saud said? Hardly. Just look at the United Nations, where the Saudis and their friends consistently pass anti-Israel resolutions with barely an objection. If any country is overindulged and immature, it is Saudi Arabia, whose vast wealth and oil allows it to act with impunity.


For all its pompous piety in preaching peace, and Saud's charge that Israel is not serious about peace, it is the Saudis who are all talk and no action. They are in the best position in the Arab world to break the impasse, but won't lift a finger to help and instead are the enablers for rejectionists like Hamas.


For all their finger-pointing and attacks on Israel, when it comes to peacemaking, the sanctimonious Saudis remain part of the problem, not part of the solution.


Saudi Arabia needs our protection and markets more than we need its oil. What we really need is a Manhattan Project to end our dependence on foreign oil and stop letting corrupt feudal potentates and patrons of terrorism hold us over a barrel. That will make us freer, stronger, safer and more prosperous.








While the world was still reeling from the botched terror attack on an American passenger jet, the High Court of Justice proclaimed that the IDF could no longer ban Palestinians from traveling on Route 443. Court President Dorit Beinisch and Justice Uzi Fogelman called on the army to find alternate ways to protect motorists from the terror attacks which had been rampant on this road before the ban. Beinisch and Fogelman thought that five months were about the right amount of time for the IDF to come up with a new strategy.


When I heard the court's verdict, I could not help but link it to Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Astounding security breaches allowed a terror suspect, who had no luggage and paid for his ticket in cash, to board a US-bound plane. As though that were insufficient warning against dropping one's guard, the High Court has demanded that the IDF reduce its protection of an otherwise vulnerable road.


THE CRUX of Beinisch's and Fogelman's argument is that the IDF has no jurisdiction over the strip of Route 443 that traverses a section of Judea and Samaria. Because Arab-owned land had been appropriated to construct the road, Arabs had an inalienable right to use it. According to the majority decision, even multiple terror attacks and the subsequent IDF call for a ban on Palestinian traffic did not suspend this right.

How can two jurists determine the parameters of appropriate security measures - especially when they will not be held accountable for any future failures? Sitting in the courthouse, they are spared the daily realities of terror prevention. Principles of human rights and antidiscrimination have been allowed to hypertrophy - potentially at the expense of human life.

As a member of Knesset, I had to act to prevent the court's hubris from costing Israeli lives. I proposed that the Judea-Samaria section of Route 443 be officially annexed. This would defang the court's claim that IDF had limited authority over formerly Arab-owned land.

Legislating to work around court decisions is a far-from-ideal modus operandi. But Beinisch has left those MKs who see her decision as irresponsible with no other option. We will do everything in our power to support the IDF's assessment of the correct security measures for Route 443.

MEANWHILE, THE US and other countries are still trying to understand the failure to prevent Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Flight 253. MIT Prof. Yossi Sheffi wrote in The New York Times, "As a society we have to decide if security is more important than misplaced privacy concerns or the danger of profiling, which may cause dark-skinned young males with Muslim names traveling from known al-Qaida hot spots to be checked more frequently than my wife's 95-year-old grandmother."


The lawyers who brought the case against the Route 443 ban would do well to take heed. Attorney Limor Yehuda, for example, welcomed the court's decision, declaring that she hoped it would bring an end to the "separation disgrace."


I have no argument with Yehuda that separation is an unfortunate facet of our lives. But it is a consequence of protecting all our citizens - not only the Jewish ones. And until terror ceases, I will always prefer saving lives over principles of equality. I don't like it, but I know where my priorities rest. I find it morally indefensible to place equality and travel rights above preventing terror.

This week US President Barack Obama returned to work after a less-than-completely-restful vacation. Responding to Flight 253, he said publicly and definitively, "We are at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and we will do whatever it takes to defeat them."


Israel is behind Obama 100%, and I for one will do my utmost to prevent misguided court decisions that limit doing "whatever it takes" to defeat terror.

The writer is an Israel Beiteinu MK.








Recently there have been claims that we, the citizens of Israel, are funding the new tax reforms for returning residents and new immigrants. These claims are fundamentally wrong, and need to be clarified.


Within a short period, the reform, which offers tax breaks on income generated overseas for a period of 10 years, succeeded in encouraging many Jews and Israelis to live in Israel. Under the new system, new immigrants and returning citizens are able to continue running their businesses overseas in the first years of absorption without reporting the income they made prior to arriving here to the Israeli tax authorities, provided the income has already been taxed in their country of origin.


It is important to note that the reform is directed toward a specific population, for whom the tax breaks have proven to be a great incentive to move to Israel. The incentive package appeals to individuals from various professions who operate a business abroad. Since the reform was implemented, many major players in the world economy have taken advantage of the benefits and moved to Israel, where they now work.


UNFORTUNATELY, OPPOSITION to the new tax reform is being raised by people who have not grasped the contribution these immigrants and returning citizens are making. Not only does the tax reform not put a strain on the budget, but those benefiting from it have a positive effect on the Israeli economy and return the government investment in them within a short time. This is why I recommend we all focus on developing additional ideas that will encourage other populations to move to Israel.


The reform was created by the best minds in the tax field. CPA Gidi Bar Zakai, a top executive in the tax authority, headed a team which researched the concept for two years, probing the logistics and legalities of Israeli and foreign tax law. This led to a reform that maximizes the advantages to the State of Israel. No legitimate or illegitimate tax planning was generated by the new tax reform.


The team I led found that similar programs are being implemented by countries such as England, Switzerland and Canada. There is a unique window of opportunity here to invest in Israel's biggest resource - its people - and we must capitalize on it.


IN ANSWER to the critics, and as I told the Knesset Absorption Committee in November 2008, there has been an astounding 100% increase in the number of returning residents as a result of the tax reform compared to previous years. In addition, there was an increase of 3,000 new immigrants from 2008-2009 (from 15,000 to 18,000).


It is tremendously important that the Tax Authority continues to assure Jews from abroad that it will not target their overseas income. This kind of approach will encourage people to make Israel their home and contribute to our economy, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of their investments.


Jews and Israelis who return home invest and will continue to invest in Israeli businesses, employ thousands of workers, decrease unemployment, purchase day-to-day supplies, and generally contribute to Israel's GNP.


From its inception, the reform has been embraced by many in the public, including Michael Strauss, Eli Horowitz, Finance Ministry Director-General Yarom Ariav, and other leading figures on the economic scene.


FOR YEARS we have been hearing criticism that the country does not do enough to promote aliya and bring back former residents. And now, when we have finally decided to do something positive and it is succeeding, voices are raised, seeking to abolish the reforms rather than produce constructive proposals on how to increase aliya and bring Israelis home.


In this context I must emphasize that the program to increase the numbers or immigrants and returning residents does not negate the very real need for Israel to discourage people from leaving the country in the first place. This should be combined with the effort to stop the brain drain - the sooner the better.


In my opinion, the return of people such as Arnon Milchin, Sol Zachai, Shai Agassi, Yossi Chachmi, Sammy Ofer and others is a source of pride.


The writer is former director-general of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, and was a leader and initiator of the tax reform. He currently serves as vice-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh, which facilitates aliya from North America and the United Kingdom.









Investors on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange have made a strategic decision: Things are going to be just fine. The same goes for buyers of luxury apartments in upscale towers. When share indexes soar 33 percent in half a year, when one square meter on Rothschild Boulevard costs $20,000, when you can't get a table at a posh restaurant on New Year's Eve, it's clear what kind of mood we're in. Unlike early 2009, it's an optimistic mood. Everything's going to be just fine, just great.

The exhilaration springs from relief. Against all the gloomy forecasts, a global economic holocaust never happened. In Israel at the moment, neither an economic nor a diplomatic apocalypse is discernible. The calm on the security front plays its part, too. In the past 11 months, only one Israeli has been killed inside the Green Line in a terror attack. Both the northern and southern borders are quiet. There's no war in the offing. The economy is flourishing, even under Benjamin Netanyahu's unwieldy government.

But if you can take your gaze away from the partying, with the help of a telescope, you'll see a distant bank of clouds. Yes, Pakistan is far away, but it's relevant. Afghanistan is remote, but what happens there has local repercussions, and Afghanistan is in deep trouble. Iraq is nearing the moment of truth when the American forces leave. In Yemen, Al-Qaida is making itself felt. Much closer to home, in Egypt, the end of the Mubarak era is nearing, and there's always Hezbollah. Even Turkey is playing with fire. If all this isn't enough, for the last three years, out of sight, Israel's national security has undergone attrition in three different spheres.


Iran: In 2007, Iran had only a few active centrifuges for enriching uranium. In 2008, the number increased, but their efficacy was still limited. Early in 2010, Iran has 8,000 centrifuges, of which 4,000 are operating well. This does not mean that the end is nigh, but it does mean that Israel has failed to keep Iran from the nuclear-weapons threshold. With 1,800 kilograms of enriched uranium already stockpiled in underground bunkers, Iran has the capability of putting an atomic bomb together within one year.

Missiles: In 2006, Hezbollah had around 15,000 rockets, most of them with a range of 20 to 40 kilometers. In 2010, the Shi'ite militia has around 40,000 missiles, some with ranges of hundreds of kilometers. The next confrontation with Hassan Nasrallah will not involve only southern Lebanon and northern Israel, but also areas deep inside both countries. The longer-range, greater firepower and accuracy of Hezbollah's arsenal have fundamentally changed the strategic situation. And when Hamas' rockets and Syrian and Iranian missiles are factored in, a worrying picture emerges. Not since 1948 has the Israeli home front been menaced as today.

Legitimacy: Both in 2006 and in late 2008, the international community displayed far-reaching patience for Israeli use of force. In 2009, this changed radically. The belated response to Operation Cast Lead showed that the world is sick of Israel, for whom it now has zero tolerance for any use of force. As a result, even in areas where Israel enjoys military superiority, it's not clear to what extent it will be able to use it. The assault on Israel's right to defend itself has damaged its deterrence, security and stability.

The implications are clear: Israel must prepare seriously for the possibility that another round of fighting will be forced on it, while it must do everything it can to avoid a flare-up. Seen from this angle, the bid to get talks going with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is positive.

But this won't be enough. Experience has shown that it is very doubtful a clear-cut outcome can be reached with Abbas. This highlights the need to relaunch talks with Syria. An end to the conflict between Jerusalem and Damascus is the sole diplomatic move that could provide a bulwark against the negative regional trends encircling Israel. Only an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty can spur an immediate, positive strategic turn in the Middle East.

It's hard to say if this is feasible. Bashar Assad leads a double life. In the daytime he faces west, but at night he plays forbidden games with the East. With one eye he puts out peace signals, with the other he winks at the terrorists. No intelligence agency can predict which way he'll go in the end, when he has to choose. But when the horizon is as cloudy as it is, Israel has no choice but to make an effort.







Even the possessors of the most cynical of imaginations could never have dreamed up the new criteria adopted yesterday by the Knesset Finance Committee, under which fiscally stronger cities will forgo a share of the state budget for religious services, instead funneling the money to poorer towns. Only in a Knesset that has cast off all restraints and allows any sector to grab whatever it wants would the Finance Committee be capable of approving such a step, which was concocted by Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi and his predecessor in that post, Yitzhak Cohen, both pillars of Shas.

The decision will obligate local governments that balance their budgets through high taxes and efficient management to take their citizens' money and dump it into the bottomless pit of their weaker counterparts, which fail to collect taxes and suffer from mismanagement, or have to cope with poor populations and special requirements.

The weaker local governments do need assistance in all spheres, especially welfare and education. Nevertheless, council heads opposed the proposal that the stronger ones should subsidize them. Their reasonable contention was that the municipalities that manage their affairs properly should not be punished, and that the cake can be shared more equitably through the education and welfare budgets.


This problematic move in the sphere of religious services, of all the cash-strapped municipal activities, is scandalous. (And since the proponents are from Shas, it provides only for Jewish religious services.)

In 2003, the government decided on a comprehensive reform of the local religious councils, basing itself on the 1992 Tzadok Committee's recommendations, and a devastating 1996 State Comptroller report.

These reports detailed how the religious councils, instead of providing religious services to the population as a whole, had deteriorated into a playground for the religious parties and a source of cushy jobs for their hacks.

They found that corruption was rife in these councils. These unwieldy and wasteful independent councils were meant to become departments of the local authorities supplying religious services to all faiths and communities, similar to the departments of education welfare and health.

But the 2003 decision was buried deep in bureaucratic morass and when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastily set up his government and put the state budget at Shas's disposal, it was finally doomed.

The little that the government can do now is to halt the implementation of the latest regulations. If it doesn't, they will certainly have to undergo the scrutiny of the Supreme Court








Thus spoke the prime minister a few days ago: "My father was born 100 years ago and was raised in a Hebrew-speaking home. He did not learn Yiddish, Polish or Lithuanian. He learned Hebrew. The Hebrew of Eliezer Ben Yehuda and Haim Nahman Bialik."

The apparent conclusion from that statement is that good Hebrew is what has brought Benjamin Netanyahu thus far in his career.

I don't know how many years ago MK Ahmed Tibi's father was born. The spoken language in his and his father's home was Arabic. Tibi did not inherit his excellent Hebrew from a lonesome poet who bemoaned his fate in the nooks and crannies of his father's house. Miraculously, Tibi's Hebrew is even more eloquent than Netanyahu's. Some say it is the best in the Knesset, and yet he has no chance of becoming prime minister.


I will never forget that awful moment when my eldest son, then two years old, asked me for a "bafla" (a common mispronunciation of a wafer cookie, pronounced "vaffel" in Hebrew).

"It's called vaffel," I scolded him, as I considered sending him off to boarding school at the Hebrew Language Academy. But his father (age 56, Israeli-born, from a Hebrew-German speaking home) drew my attention to the fact that "vaffel" (originating from "waffle") was also a foreign word.

It is incorrect to say, as the prime minister did at that recent meeting, "On this piece of furniture [Ben Yehuda's desk] the Hebrew language was renewed." Ben Yehuda's achievement, in fact, was taking Hebrew off the desk and turning it into spoken language. He brought Hebrew into the street, where foreign and slang expressions became part of the language.

The core of the Hebrew language, on every level, is dwindling; this is what concerns the government. Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar decided to do something about it, declaring Hebrew as the central subject on next year's curriculum. Great plan, but it raises two questions. Who will carry it out? The teacher who herself made a grammatical mistake in Hebrew while we were discussing my son's progress?

And in what way? Will they enact it through that program "A Word a Minute," concocted in the Education Ministry's laboratories, by which every school day is started with a five-minute lesson on new words, expressions or idioms? Even the most inarticulate stammerer already uses too many lofty words. Hebrew's main problem stems from a need to uproot prevalent linguistic distortions and enrich the tongue by reading - a skill which about a third of the Jewish school students fail to master.

It would be helpful to hold concentrated Hebrew courses for the main "spoken-language agents" - radio and television people, MKs, teachers and ministers. Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman can thank his lucky stars that nobody has yet submitted the proposal "No Definite Article - No Citizenship" to a vote. Such a bill would deny not only his citizenship but that of most of his party's MKs and voters - while granting it in abundance to the Palestinians, who tend to excel in their Hebrew studies.

According to the forecasts, future Israeli generations will consist mostly of ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs, i.e. people for whom Hebrew is a foreign tongue. If we leave the preservation of Hebrew - "a fundamental, essential component of Israel's national and cultural identity" - to the future generations of teachers and students, it may yet transpire that this, too, is "Arab work" (a derogatory Hebrew expression used to describe inferior work).








In the middle of a visit to Dimona, Avigdor Lieberman was summoned for urgent consultations with the prime minister. But his security people, he later told friends, prevented him from traveling at night using the shortest route. When he insisted, he was told that the ban also applies to pilots from the nearby Nevatim air base. The stunned foreign minister protested: I have an armored car and enhanced security; the road to my home in Nokdim (a West Bank settlement) ought to be more dangerous than a road through the Negev. But it didn't help. Those are the orders, he was told.

Two weeks passed, and Lieberman once again complained - this time, during a gathering for Israeli diplomats overseas. "I saw several ambassadors," he said, "whose identification with the other side is so great that they always want to justify and explain it ... There must be no bootlicking and self-abnegation."

Has Lieberman requested a cabinet discussion on the law-enforcement agencies' failure to eliminate the security risk to travelers on that road through the Negev, or the arms and drug smuggling, the protection racket, the takeover of lands in the Negev and the sabotage of water and electricity lines there? The answer is no. Did he categorically demand that the public security minister, who used to command the police's southern district, impose Israeli sovereignty on the Negev? If he did, there is certainly no sign of it.


Lieberman is not a member of the opposition who can make do with expressing his pain and frustration over our loss of control over the Negev, or over ambassadors who, in his words, bootlick the nations of the world. He is a senior minister in the Israeli government, and to a far greater extent than most other ministers, he has the power to change things in this country - first and foremost, in the Foreign Ministry and the police. After all, he only has to wink and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, a member of the party Lieberman heads, will hasten to do his bidding.

Diaspora Jews have been complaining for years about Israeli representatives who represent Israel weakly or even unwillingly. Some even identify with most of the Palestinians' claims. An intellectual who immigrated here from Europe told me of one Israeli ambassador who was close to Leila Shahid, a senior PLO official. At a meeting with intellectuals, Shahid claimed that in 1948, the Haganah prestate militia conquered Palestine, which was then an independent state, and perpetrated ethnic cleansing. The ambassador, who was sitting in the audience, remained silent. It was a local intellectual, an ardent leftist, who got up to refute Shahid's lies. A veteran Foreign Ministry official confirmed this story and added that two years ago he witnessed an identical situation - this time involving a different ambassador.

Rebukes, however justified, are not the solution. The Foreign Ministry's fundamental ailments, which include a lack of identification by some officials with the justice of the Jewish state's cause, require a thorough root canal.

Most Foreign Ministry personnel, one former ambassador said, want to serve their country loyally. But they are handicapped by a severe lack of knowledge about the history of the Jewish people and Zionism, and above all, by a lack of leadership. I can't recall, he added, that the current foreign minister ever issued clear and binding written instructions about which precise policies the ministry's envoys are supposed to represent.

When the government is hesitant, unfocused and, with regard to foreign policy, even divided, it's the people in the field who wind up setting policy. This is true even in the most sensitive areas, where the country's leaders would prefer ambiguity to clarity of either word or deed. And it is especially true when the people in the field are serving far away from the centers of power - whether in the Negev or overseas. After all, from the point of view of consciousness, Paris is much closer to Israelis' hearts than a road through the Negev on which they are not even allowed to travel






Long before Gov. David Paterson delivered his annual report on New York's condition on Wednesday, everyone knew that the state of the state was desperate. New York is crippled by a mounting budget crisis and saddled with a Legislature that is incompetent in its governance and corrupt in its behavior.


To his great credit, Mr. Paterson skipped the usual, and usually insincere, homages to his fellow politicians and went straight into an unsparing assessment of fiscal and political reality. He insisted that the Legislature attack economics and ethics at the same time.


"Cultures of addiction to spending, power and approval have ruined empires, and now they threaten the Empire State," he said, reciting his powerful speech from memory because his limited eyesight prevents him from reading from paper or a teleprompter.


The full details of his economic plans will become clearer when he presents his budget later this month. But Mr. Paterson made a good start on Wednesday by asking the assembled lawmakers — who mostly looked on sullenly or applauded wanly — to cap spending so Albany can finally get a grip on a deficit that is expected to be about $8 billion this year. "There are more deficits up ahead that will require an even greater sacrifice," he said.


Mr. Paterson said he directed Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch to create a four-year budget plan to replace the year-by-year recklessness that leaves counties, cities and towns vulnerable to economic downturns like the one now paralyzing them. Among other things, the governor proposed eliminating the costly and increasingly corrupt Empire Zone economic development program, which ended up shuffling jobs around from place to place. He suggested replacing it with a program focused on creating jobs in the high-tech and clean-energy sectors.


But Mr. Paterson went beyond the necessary hard talk about budgets and demanded that legislators "bring fairness and openness to government, which has very little of either." Albany's lawmakers should be worried about both of those things, and many swiftly denounced his proposal as an attempt to bolster low poll ratings. That's fine with us. At this point, anything that forces the State Legislature to confront reality is valuable.


Here are a few of Mr. Paterson's best ideas:


¶To clean up one of the nation's most notoriously corrupt campaign finance systems, he proposes encouraging much-needed competition by phasing in public financing of campaigns. That would mean limiting contributions to $1,000 instead of $55,900 for state races. Lobbyists would be allowed to pitch in only $250. He would end the scandalous practice of writing checks for party "housekeeping" that have no limits at all.


¶He wants to ban all contributions from corporations, including limited liability corporations, one of the latest tricks for adding big bucks to campaigns. His bill would also ban transfers from committee to committee, which allows politicians to pile money from various sources into one campaign. He wants to limit personal use of campaign dollars, finally, and he wants to increase penalties for violations of this new law.


¶To tackle the pay-to-play culture, the governor's bill would require everybody earning public money to disclose all outside business income in detail. His bill would even require lawyers to itemize their income and clients — an idea that the Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, an attorney who profits handsomely from New York's lack of transparency, is expected to fight ferociously.


¶He proposed creating a board of financial experts to help oversee the state pension fund. The comptroller is now the sole trustee of $126 billion in pensions.


¶He wants to end double-dipping by closing a 1995 loophole that permits legislators to collect a state pension along with their legislative salary.


¶He also proposed a truly independent ethics commission to oversee all branches of the government. The state's top politicians would appoint a "designating committee" that would then appoint the commission. That is a far cry from today's Legislative Ethics Commission, which is made up of legislators who — to everyone's disgust but no one's surprise — generally find nothing wrong with their colleagues' misbehavior.


Not all of Mr. Paterson's ideas are useful, like his suggestion for term limits on state politicians. For Albany, that is a particularly seductive idea since most legislators only leave office if they retire, die or go to jail. The democratic way to impose term limits is at the ballot box. The state must make it easier to challenge incumbents who have been in Albany for far too long.


Albany's time-serving politicians wasted no time attacking the ethical reforms. State Senator Dean Skelos, the Republican leader, scoffed that most New Yorkers are interested in jobs and taxes, not reform. Joseph Bruno, the former Republican leader, made that same point about a year before he was convicted for abusing the public trust. These denizens of the old Albany have not gotten the message that fiscal responsibility and ethical responsibility are inseparable. New Yorkers want both.


Mr. Paterson will have to negotiate with Mr. Silver and the Democrats in the State Senate to get any ethics bill passed, and it is not clear that he has the political will, or the political muscle, to make that happen. But he was right to set the bar high at the start.







Senator Christopher Dodd's decision to not seek re-election in November could be a fatal blow to meaningful financial regulatory reform — or a desperately needed boost. It depends on what he does now.


Mr. Dodd has been in the Senate since 1981 and has been chairman of the banking committee since 2007. Over the years, we have seen two very different Chris Dodds.


There is the reformer who championed the Family and Medical Leave Act and helped to expand Head Start. There is also the all-too-cozy pal of Wall Street who is one of the top recipients of millions of dollars in donations from commercial banks and the securities industry. Recently, Mr. Dodd's fingerprints were on legislation that allowed the American International Group to pay big bonuses after the firm was bailed out by taxpayers.


That coziness — especially the V.I.P. cut-rate mortgage he received from the now-defunct subprime lender, Countrywide Financial — is one of the reasons his state's voters have turned against him. With a legacy to burnish, and no need to drum up campaign contributions, we hope the reformer will be unleashed.


Last year, Mr. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, put forth a strong financial reform proposal that would have gone a long way toward protecting ordinary Americans and avoiding a replay of the banking meltdown. It included robust consumer protection, sound regulation of derivatives and limits on too-big-to-fail firms. Naysaying senators on the committee — Republicans and a few Democrats — blocked the proposal. Mr. Dodd then set up four bipartisan teams to come up with alternatives. They are supposed to report back this month.


We would love to be pleasantly surprised, but odds are that they will offer up a watery gruel. Much like fiscal stimulus and health care reform, Republicans appear determined to block significant financial reform, no matter how desperately needed, lest it be perceived as a victory for President Obama.


This is where Mr. Dodd can try to make a difference.


Impending retirement frees him from having to woo donors or listen to anyone or anything other than his own best instincts. He is free to criticize and, if need be, condemn the working groups' proposals — to contrast their proposals with his own and challenge them to explain how anything less than sweeping reform will be enough to protect Americans.


(We would be disappointed if he decided to go through the revolving door and seek a job in the industry he now oversees. But if that is his eventual choice, he would be doing Wall Street a real favor if he works now to save the financial industry from its own excesses.)


Mr. Dodd's fellow senators certainly need a lot of goading. So does the White House. President Obama has vowed to rein in Wall Street, but the White House has pushed for loopholes in derivatives legislation and recently proclaimed itself satisfied with a House-passed reform bill that was weaker on consumer protection than what's needed.


At the top of the agenda, Mr. Dodd and the White House should loudly resist attempts to defang the proposed consumer protection legislation. Mr. Dodd should also insist that dangerous gaps in proposed derivatives' regulation be closed.


Mr. Dodd may be a lame duck. But he is still chairman of the committee. That gives him a formidable bully pulpit. He should use it.






After weeks of maneuvering and delay, the New Jersey State Senate will finally vote on Thursday on whether to legalize same-sex marriage. The Senate needs to approve the bill, and the General Assembly needs to follow — quickly. Gov. Jon Corzine has pledged to sign the legislation into law; his soon-to-be-successor, Gov.-elect Christopher Christie, has vowed to veto it. The transfer of power takes place in less than two weeks on Jan. 19.


Polls show that a majority of New Jersey's citizens accept the idea of same-sex marriage. There also is wide agreement that New Jersey's current civil union law does not live up to the standard of equal protection mandated in 2006 by the New Jersey Supreme Court.


Until just a few months ago, it looked as if legislators would enact a marriage equality bill, likely after the November election. But Democrats in both the Senate and House were spooked by Mr. Corzine's defeat, and their leaders have since wasted weeks in unseemly squabbling over whether the Senate or Assembly should take up the measure first.


The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill last month. And the outgoing Senate president, Richard Codey, a supporter of marriage equality, has now made the right call in scheduling Thursday's floor vote — despite qualms over whether the measure has enough support at this point to pass. The legislation's chances would be considerably enhanced if the majority leader, Stephen Sweeney, would use the debate to endorse it and rally wavering fellow Democrats to join him.


Mr. Sweeney, who will succeed Mr. Codey as Senate president this month, has declined to say whether he supports the same-sex marriage bill, raising concerns about how he will exercise his influential new role.


It is not too late for him — and all New Jersey legislators — to show real leadership and stand up for the fundamental rights of New Jersey's gay and lesbian citizens. If the Legislature does not act now, justice could be delayed for years.







Senator Byron Dorgan is retiring! I know this comes as a shock to you, people. Also Senator Chris Dodd! We are only one week into the new year, and the political world is in turmoil. It's a wonder we can continue on with our regular duties.


Two Democratic senators quitting is seen as a terrible portent for 2010. ("Democrats' Black Tuesday," said a headline on MSNBC.) That seems a tad overblown given the fact that six Republican senators already have announced their retirements.


Plus, Dodd has been in terrible trouble back home ever since he ran for president and tried to get a jump on the competition by moving his family to Iowa. Connecticut has feelings, too. When your senator registers his daughter in kindergarten in Des Moines, the voters in Bridgeport don't feel the love.


It's really all good for the Nutmeg State Democrats. Dodd can leave with dignity. He has an overall record to be proud of, including a major role in health care reform. He also worked very hard on issues that have no political payoff whatsoever, like early childhood education.


In his place, the Democrats can nominate the popular attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, who has been waiting in the wings since Cyndi Lauper was at the top of the charts. He was the Democrats' young man on the rise in the '70s, and he's been attorney general for nearly 20 years. It's a good thing Dodd decided to get out of the way now or when Blumenthal's turn came, Connecticut would have wound up electing a new senator who looked like Robert Byrd without seniority.


Blumenthal's opponent might turn out to be Linda McMahon, who formerly ran World Wrestling Entertainment with her husband, Vince. There are other, perhaps better, Republican candidates in the race, but I am rooting for McMahon for entertainment value. She used to be a central character in cable wrestling shows whose scripts had family members shrieking, betraying and, occasionally, slugging one another. One episode featured a villain who broke into the "palatial McMahon headquarters" while Linda was recovering from a neck injury that she had received when an aggrieved wrestler flipped her upside down and slammed her head onto the floor. "You are a rather aggressive beauty, aren't you?" he breathed, before forcing a kiss upon her resistant lips and promising to break both her son's legs.


Lately, there have not been all that many good times on the political front. In Washington, the Democrats are sulky about Obama spending all his political capital on health care while the sane people in both parties are completely freaked out by the tea partiers. Meanwhile, interested civilians are being required to spend an excessive amount of time worrying about cloture votes and yearning for the good old days when the only senators you had to know anything about were your own.


Until recently, all I knew about Byron Dorgan was that he was a populist from North Dakota who had once been named Person of the Year by the durum wheat growers. Now he is the center of the universe.


In North Dakota, Democrats are petitioning him to change his mind and run again. The 60th vote could hang on it! Nobody seemed to have expected Dorgan to call it quits even though he has been a professional politician since he was 26 and made history as the most youthful person ever appointed to the North Dakota Tax Commission.


Now the guy is 67 years old, and he says he wants to write books and teach. I think we should give him a thumbs up on his new life plan, except for the part about how he might "also like to work on energy policy in the private sector." That sure does sound like a lobbyist, but perhaps it just means investing in a gas station.


I'm beginning to suspect that he doesn't expect to go back to North Dakota at all. I am basing this mainly on the fact that the "Notable North Dakotans" page on the Byron Dorgan Web site lists 19 people, none of whom seem to actually live there. In fact, seven of them are dead and one of the others is the guy who is married to the pop star Fergie.


No wonder that when Dorgan bolted, a top North Dakota Democrat instantly called Ed Schultz, the former Fargo native turned MSNBC talk-show host, and asked him if he had ever thought about running for the Senate. Even the people in North Dakota don't seem to think there are any actual residents left in the state.


You're giving yourself too little credit, North Dakota Democrats. There's got to be a potential junior senator somewhere in your 641,000 fine residents. Who, of course, get exactly the same number of Senate votes as the 36.8 million people in California. But that's a complaint for another day.








Hmmm. You think it's a coincidence? Costa Rica is one of the very few countries to have abolished its army, and it's also arguably the happiest nation on earth.


There are several ways of measuring happiness in countries, all inexact, but this pearl of Central America does stunningly well by whatever system is used. For example, the World Database of Happiness, compiled by a Dutch sociologist on the basis of answers to surveys by Gallup and others, lists Costa Rica in the top spot out of 148 nations.


That's because Costa Ricans, asked to rate their own happiness on a 10-point scale, average 8.5. Denmark is next at 8.3, the United States ranks 20th at 7.4 and Togo and Tanzania bring up the caboose at 2.6.


Scholars also calculate happiness by determining "happy life years." This figure results from merging average self-reported happiness, as above, with life expectancy. Using this system, Costa Rica again easily tops the list. The United States is 19th, and Zimbabwe comes in last.


A third approach is the "happy planet index," devised by the New Economics Foundation, a liberal think tank. This combines happiness and longevity but adjusts for environmental impact — such as the carbon that countries spew.


Here again, Costa Rica wins the day, for achieving contentment and longevity in an environmentally sustainable way. The Dominican Republic ranks second, the United States 114th (because of its huge ecological footprint) and Zimbabwe is last.


Maybe Costa Rican contentment has something to do with the chance to explore dazzling beaches on both sides of the country, when one isn't admiring the sloths in the jungle (sloths truly are slothful, I discovered; they are the tortoises of the trees). Costa Rica has done an unusually good job preserving nature, and it's surely easier to be happy while basking in sunshine and greenery than while shivering up north and suffering "nature deficit disorder."


After dragging my 12-year-old daughter through Honduran slums and Nicaraguan villages on this trip, she was delighted to see a Costa Rican beach and stroll through a national park. Among her favorite animals now: iguanas and sloths.


(Note to boss: Maybe we should have a columnist based in Costa Rica?)


What sets Costa Rica apart is its remarkable decision in 1949 to dissolve its armed forces and invest instead in education. Increased schooling created a more stable society, less prone to the conflicts that have raged elsewhere in Central America. Education also boosted the economy, enabling the country to become a major exporter of computer chips and improving English-language skills so as to attract American eco-tourists.


I'm not antimilitary. But the evidence is strong that education is often a far better investment than artillery.


In Costa Rica, rising education levels also fostered impressive gender equality so that it ranks higher than the United States in the World Economic Forum gender gap index. This allows Costa Rica to use its female population more productively than is true in most of the region. Likewise, education nurtured improvements in health care, with life expectancy now about the same as in the United States — a bit longer in some data sets, a bit shorter in others.


Rising education levels also led the country to preserve its lush environment as an economic asset. Costa Rica is an ecological pioneer, introducing a carbon tax in 1997. The Environmental Performance Index, a collaboration of Yale and Columbia Universities, ranks Costa Rica at No. 5 in the world, the best outside Europe.


This emphasis on the environment hasn't sabotaged Costa Rica's economy but has bolstered it. Indeed, Costa Rica is one of the few countries that is seeing migration from the United States: Yankees are moving here to enjoy a low-cost retirement. My hunch is that in 25 years, we'll see large numbers of English-speaking retirement communities along the Costa Rican coast.


Latin countries generally do well in happiness surveys. Mexico and Colombia rank higher than the United States in self-reported contentment. Perhaps one reason is a cultural emphasis on family and friends, on social capital over financial capital — but then again, Mexicans sometimes slip into the United States, presumably in pursuit of both happiness and assets.


Cross-country comparisons of happiness are controversial and uncertain. But what does seem quite clear is that Costa Rica's national decision to invest in education rather than arms has paid rich dividends. Maybe the lesson for the United States is that we should devote fewer resources to shoring up foreign armies and more to bolstering schools both at home and abroad.


In the meantime, I encourage you to conduct your own research in Costa Rica, exploring those magnificent beaches or admiring those slothful sloths. It'll surely make you happy.







Cambridge, Mass.

SEEN from Tokyo, America's relationship with Japan faces a crisis. The immediate problem is deadlock over a plan to move an American military base on the island of Okinawa. It sounds simple, but this is an issue with a long back story that could create a serious rift with one of our most crucial allies.


When I was in the Pentagon more than a decade ago, we began planning to reduce the burden that our presence places on Okinawa, which houses more than half of the 47,000 American troops in Japan. The Marine Corps Air Station Futenma was a particular problem because of its proximity to a crowded city, Ginowan. After years of negotiation, the Japanese and American governments agreed in 2006 to move the base to a less populated part of Okinawa and to move 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam by 2014.


The plan was thrown into jeopardy last summer when the Japanese voted out the Liberal Democratic Party that had governed the country for nearly half a century in favor of the Democratic Party of Japan. The new prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, leads a government that is inexperienced, divided and still in the thrall of campaign promises to move the base off the island or out of Japan completely.


The Pentagon is properly annoyed that Mr. Hatoyama is trying to go back on an agreement that took more than a decade to work out and that has major implications for the Marine Corps' budget and force realignment. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates expressed displeasure during a trip to Japan in October, calling any reassessment of the plan "counterproductive." When he visited Tokyo in November, President Obama agreed to a high-level working group to consider the Futenma question. But since then, Mr. Hatoyama has said he will delay a final decision on relocation until at least May.


Not surprisingly, some in Washington want to play hardball with the new Japanese government. But that would be unwise, for Mr. Hatoyama is caught in a vise, with the Americans squeezing from one side and a small left-wing party (upon which his majority in the upper house of the legislature depends) threatening to quit the coalition if he makes any significant concessions to the Americans. Further complicating matters, the future of Futenma is deeply contentious for Okinawans.


Even if Mr. Hatoyama eventually gives in on the base plan, we need a more patient and strategic approach to Japan. We are allowing a second-order issue to threaten our long-term strategy for East Asia. Futenma, it is worth noting, is not the only matter that the new government has raised. It also speaks of wanting a more equal alliance and better relations with China, and of creating an East Asian community — though it is far from clear what any of this means.


When I helped to develop the Pentagon's East Asian Strategy Report in 1995, we started with the reality that there were three major powers in the region — the United States, Japan and China — and that maintaining our alliance with Japan would shape the environment into which China was emerging. We wanted to integrate China into the international system by, say, inviting it to join the World Trade Organization, but we needed to hedge against the danger that a future and stronger China might turn aggressive.


After a year and a half of extensive negotiations, the United States and Japan agreed that our alliance, rather than representing a cold war relic, was the basis for stability and prosperity in the region. President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto affirmed that in their 1996 Tokyo declaration. This strategy of "integrate, but hedge" continued to guide American foreign policy through the years of the Bush administration.


This year is the 50th anniversary of the United States-Japan security treaty. The two countries will miss a major opportunity if they let the base controversy lead to bitter feelings or the further reduction of American forces in Japan. The best guarantee of security in a region where China remains a long-term challenge and a nuclear North Korea poses a clear threat remains the presence of American troops, which Japan helps to maintain with generous host nation support.


Sometimes Japanese officials quietly welcome "gaiatsu," or foreign pressure, to help resolve their own bureaucratic deadlocks. But that is not the case here: if the United States undercuts the new Japanese government and creates resentment among the Japanese public, then a victory on Futenma could prove Pyrrhic.


Joseph S. Nye Jr., a professor of government at Harvard and the author of "The Powers to Lead," was an assistant secretary of defense from 1994 to 1995.








ON Wednesday, Senator Chris Dodd announced his retirement after 30 years in the Senate. As a Senate Democratic staffer in 1980, I remember Mr. Dodd's election well — it was the only bright spot on the night that changed the Senate drastically, and in ways we still feel today.


In the 1960s and '70s, a great Senate had occupied a unique place in our country. It was the Senate that broke the Southern filibuster to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964; became the arena for challenging, and ultimately ending, the Vietnam War; called Richard Nixon to account; spearheaded new environmental and consumer protections; and advanced equal treatment for women. In an era marked by war, assassinations and political scandal, the Senate provided continuity, gravitas and leadership.


The Senate's fall was as swift as it was surprising. In 1977, the Senate greeted a new president, Jimmy Carter, with a new leadership team of its own, Robert Byrd as majority leader and Howard Baker as minority leader. Several iconic members — Sam Ervin, J. William Fulbright, Mike Mansfield, Philip Hart — were gone. But the core of the great Senate, the liberal Democrats elected in 1958 and 1962, and the moderate-to-progressive Republicans who had forged so many bipartisan alliances, was still intact.


The Russell and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings were filled with young, talented, ambitious staff members like Madeleine Albright, Tim Russert, Susan Collins and Tom Daschle. And after battling the imperial presidencies of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, the Senate was armed with new legislative tools, including the War Powers Act, the Budget Control Act and the Freedom of Information Act.


There was every reason to think that the Senate would continue with a solid Democratic majority, operate in a bipartisan fashion, and have a powerful, positive influence in the country. But the assertive Senate Democrats and the new, outsider president clashed from the start. Republicans formed strong alliances with an energized business community and surging social conservatives. Jesse Helms, finishing his first term, and Orrin Hatch, newly elected, mastered and exploited the Senate rules; liberal senators retaliated in kind. The filibuster, previously a weapon of last resort, became increasingly commonplace.


Still, thanks to statesmanship and bipartisan traditions, the 95th Congress compiled a respectable record, including passage of a far-ranging energy program, the Civil Service Reform Act and financial relief for New York City.


America's politics, however, had already started moving to the right, spurred by anger over the Panama Canal treaty and a tax revolt that started in California and swept across the country. In the 1978 election, conservatives helped oust several Democratic senators and purged Republican liberals: defeating Clifford Case in a primary; standing by while Ed Brooke, the only African-American senator, lost; and causing Charles Percy, who won re-election only after pledging that he had "gotten the message," to turn hard to the right.


Nixon's 49-state sweep in 1972 had not diminished the Democratic majority. But by 1980, with America facing an economy in tailspin and the hostage crisis in Iran, the conservative tide was running too strong, and the veteran liberal senators had plainly lost a step.


Frank Church, who had overseen the Senate investigation into intelligence abuses, turned hawkish in a desperate effort to revive his sagging political fortunes. George McGovern, who had provided singular leadership in opposing the Vietnam War and fighting hunger, slumped badly in his re-election bid. Jacob Javits, the most liberal Republican and perhaps the greatest legislator of his era, unwisely sought one more term despite failing health.


Before joining Thomas Eagleton's staff, I had worked for Gaylord Nelson, the great Wisconsin environmentalist who was now campaigning unconvincingly as a champion of small business. One afternoon, I found Eagleton scribbling furiously on a pad, talking on the phone, smoking constantly.


"We've got to help Gaylord," Eagleton boomed. "He just did a three-day California fund-raising trip."


Nelson hated fund-raising. "That sounds like a good thing," I ventured.


"He actually came out behind," Eagleton told me. "The trip cost more than he raised."


On election night, my wife, Nancy, and I got into the car to go to the first of several parties. It was just after 8 p.m.; the radio told us that Birch Bayh had been defeated by Dan Quayle.


"They're all going down," I said. Nancy knew I meant the veteran Senate liberals.


That night, they were all defeated as Ronald Reagan won a crushing victory over Jimmy Carter. Additionally, Abraham Ribicoff, one of the liberal stalwarts, had retired, as had Adlai Stevenson, while Ed Muskie had left the Senate in May to become secretary of state. It was the greatest exodus of talent and experience in Senate history. The incoming Republican class had a few promising politicians, but it also included many who came with no visible accomplishments, and left, one term later, with that record intact.


In the weeks that followed, we Democrats were virtual zombies, numb with grief and shock. It didn't help that the Republicans celebrated boisterously and endlessly. At the end of one long day, the elevator opened in front of me, and a group of happy Republicans, dressed in formal wear, poured out. I noticed a heavily made-up but still strikingly attractive woman: Senator John Warner's wife, better known as Elizabeth Taylor.


The 1980 election was more than just a change of party control from Democratic to Republican. Gone was the Senate that had been experienced, progressive and bipartisan; 30 years have passed, and the decline has only accelerated. The Senate today is bitterly divided, frequently paralyzed and borderline bizarre. Olympia Snowe offered this sad observation: "We have been miniaturized."


Can the Senate renew itself? In late 1963, the Senate was also in crisis, to the point that Mike Mansfield, the majority leader, prepared to offer his resignation as majority leader. But one towering achievement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, transformed the legislative body and began the period of great accomplishment that lasted until 1980. Against the odds, let us hope that the Senate's recent passage of landmark health care legislation can have the same effect.


Ira Shapiro, a lawyer and former Clinton administration official, is working on a book about the Senate in the '60s and '70s.








Parliamentary committees everywhere are rarely quick on their feet and ours are no exception. The Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms has delivered itself of a verdict in respect of the abolition of presidential powers to appoint the chief election commissioner (CEC). The CEC is to be appointed by a joint parliamentary committee and his or her term extended from three years to five. The recommendations are in line with clause 27 of the Charter of Democracy and another step in the right direction. Assuming that the recommendations are accepted, the president's powers in this matter will be abolished and at that we may all rejoice – but the list of those things that need to be taken from the presidential grasp and put back wher