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Thursday, January 21, 2010

EDITORIAL 21.01.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month  january 21, edition 000409, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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THE PIONEER

  1. DEEMED TO BE DOOMED
  2. BACKBENCH MINISTERS
  3. A YEAR LATER, NOT SO TALL - G PARTHASARATHY
  4. LET'S FOCUS ON SAVING EARTH - KHIMI THAPA
  5. SUGAR-COATED LIE - SHAILAJA CHANDRA
  6. TALKING PEACE - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  7. A LIFE TORN BY CONFLICT -
  8. TSERING TSOMO
  9. AT LAST, VATICAN MOVES ON SHOCKING CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL - SHAWN POGATCHNIK | DUBLIN

MAIL TODAY

  1. SEND A MESSAGE BUT WITH SOME DIGNITY
  2. AND NOW GLACIERGATE
  3. NSA FIRING IS APT TIME FOR CHANGE - BY MANOJ JOSHI
  4. SIMPLY SOUTH  - M C RAJAN

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. DEEMED BELOW PAR
  2. TAKE IT EASY
  3. DEATH, BE NOT PROUD - ALI KHAN MAHMUDABAD
  4. PAKISTANI CRICKETERS FIND NO TAKERS AT THE IPL AUCTION
  5. IT MAKES SOUND BUSINESS SENSE PRODOSH MITRA
  6. THE DYING OF THE LIGHT  - BACHI KARKARIA

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. JUST CHILL
  2. SETTING THE STANDARD
  3. CLEARING THE AIR
  4. LONELY AT THE TOP - RAJA MENON
  5. CAUGHT AT SILLY POINT - SAMAR HALARNKAR

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ORGANISED ACTION
  2. AMAZINGLY GRACELESS
  3. MINUS PAKISTAN
  4. ORGANISED ACTION
  5. ZARDARI NEEDS TO BE A LEADER, NOT A LONER - HUMA YUSU
  6. INTERROGATING AUTONOMY IN J&K - REKHA CHOWDHARY
  7. CHINA'S CONTROL, ALT, DELETE –  SUGAR HIGH

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. POWER TO PROTECTIONISM?
  2. TERM DEPENDENCE
  3. CAPITALISM, THEN SOCIALIST INTERVENTION- MK VENU
  4. GOOD RESULTS BUT IT SHOULD REDUCE RISK - DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
  5. TIME FOR A BREAK - LALITHA SRINIVASAN

THE HINDU

  1. A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
  2. READYING FOR THE GAMES
  3. LOOKING BACK FOR INSPIRATION - NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
  4. LOOKING BACK FOR INSPIRATION - NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
  5. OF JINNAH, BJP AND "TURBAN DIPLOMACY" - HASAN SUROOR
  6. THE SAXON QUEEN LOST FOR 1,000 YEARS - MAEV KENNEDY
  7. ERICH SEGAL, WRITER AND CLASSICS SCHOLAR, DEAD
  8. BRITAIN HALTS YEMEN FLIGHTS

DNA

  1. SPY WATCH
  2. YOUNG & RESTLESS
  3. A SHAKY NEW WORLD - R JAGANNATHAN
  4. A FINE FOR WEARING BURKHA WILL WIDEN THE GAP - ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER
  5. ABSOLUTE SUPREME

THE TRIBUNE

  1. RAISING MONEY FOR GOVT
  2. MINISTERS WITHOUT WORK
  3. IPL AUCTION
  4. OBAMA LOSING POPULARITY - BY G PARTHASARATHY
  5. CORRIDORS OF POWER - BY RAMESH LUTHRA
  6. SHAPING INTELLIGENCE FOR THE WORLD OF TOMORROW - BY VICE PRESIDENT HAMID ANSARI
  7. CHANCE TO RESHAPE HAITI - BY MARK STEEL
  8. HEALTH - BY JEREMY LAURANCE

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

  1. NE SECURITY
  2. DISTRICT PLANNING
  3. BANDHS ILLEGAL; THE FIRST TEST IS YET TO COME - PATRICIA MUKHIM
  4. COMMUNICATION AND THE UN - BOIDURJO MUKHOPADHYAY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TAXING BACKWARDS
  2. GIANT STEP FOR KRAFT IN INDIA
  3. FUTURES GAINING CURRENCY
  4. Bollywood to Poliwood - C L Manoj
  5. BASU KEPT PEOPLE ABOVE THE PARTY - SAIFUDDIN CHOUDHURY
  6. BEYOND RULES TO RESPONSIBILITY - PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA
  7. DEMAND FOR ECOFRIENDLY PRODUCTS HAS BEEN GAINING STEAM
  8. ONLY A SMALL MINORITY ARE WILLING TO PAY A PREMIUM
  9. ARE WE READY TO SHELL OUT MORE FOR GREEN TAG?
  10. THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN ADVERTISING - DELSHAD IRANI
  11. WIPRO TO FOCUS ON DEAL PIPELINE IN US, EUROPE - PANKAJ MISHRA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. GIVE MOS' WORK FOR BETTER FUNCTIONING
  2. DELHI, EASTWARD HO - BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN
  3. ARE COMMUNISTS SHORTING NETWORK CHINA? - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  4. WILL RED FADE INTO GREEN? - PROF. SAUGATA ROY
  5. TAX BANKS TO SIZE - BY DAVID STOCKMAN
  6. THE BIBLE AND THE MAHATMA - BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL

THE STATESMAN

  1. SKEWED PRIORITIES
  2. MAMATA & THE MAOIST
  3. DEEMED IMPROPER
  4. SITTING DOWN FOR TOO LONG CAUSES HEALTH PROBLEMS
  5. HOMELESS, HUNGRY & ABUSED
  6. DREAMS AND REALITIES - MADANJEET SINGH
  7. EDGE OF REASON  - YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. DEEMED UNFIT
  2. STATE OF FEAR
  3. LIMITS OF PEOPLE'S WAR - KANTI BAJPAI
  4. LIFE WITHOUT GOOGLE - NEHA SAHAY
  5. SPIN OUT OF CONTROL
  6. A LOVE FOR INDIA AND ALL THINGS INDIAN - SIMON DIGBY (1932-2010)

DECCAN HERALD

  1. RELEASE THEM
  2. TIME TO DELIVER
  3. THE ROOT OF RACISM - BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN
  4. THREE REQUESTS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA - BY MARIO SOARES
  5. SINKING IN THE SAME BOAT - BY MEERA SESHADRI

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. HAREDIM IN THE NEGEV
  2. CENTER FIELD: UNHAPPY OBAMAVERSARY - GIL TROY
  3. FUNDAMENTALLY FREUND: ISRAEL'S FINEST HOUR INDEED - MICHAEL FREUND
  4. RATTLING THE CAGE: THE PRIDE AND THE SHAME - LARRY DERFNE
  5. RESERVES AND RHODES - DOUG GREENER
  6. PLAY NATION - ABE NOVICK
  7. MORE FREE SPEECH IN ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN THAN US MEDIA - RAY HANANIA

HAARETZ

  1. THE INFRASTRUCTURE TEST
  2. MEDIA DIFFICULTIES - BY ARI SHAVIT
  3. MAZUZ THE POCKET FLASHLIGHT - BY GIDEON LEVY
  4. BARAK'S BOOMERANG - BY ISRAEL HAREL
  5. STAND AT ATTENTION - AT HOME - BY NERI LIVNEH

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. THE MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION
  2. HEIGHTENED CONCERN OVER BPA
  3. INDIAN TRIBES AWAIT THEIR DUE
  4. A TERN AROUND THE WORLD
  5. SOME FRANK TALK ABOUT HAITI - BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF
  6. DEMOCRATIC SILVER LININGS - BY GAIL COLLINS
  7. AFTERSHOCKS - BY ÉVELYNE TROUILLOT
  8. TORTURE'S LOOPHOLES - BY MATTHEW ALEXANDER

I.THE NEWS

  1. SILENCE FALLS
  2. A BLOW TO CRICKET
  3. NO SAFE PLACE
  4. PACTS FOR THE GULLIBLE - ZAFAR HILALY
  5. 'OUR COMMITMENT TO PAKISTAN' - ROBERT M GATES
  6. CROSSING THE 'RED LINES'? - IKRAM SEHGAL
  7. DEAD OR ALIVE? - CHARLES FERNDALE
  8. IS THERE A WINDOW STILL OPEN? - KAMILA HYAT
  9. TO AL QAEDA - FAROOQ SULEHRIA

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. NOW SC VERDICT SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT IN LETTER AND IN SPIRIT
  2. CRICKET TOO GETS POLITICISED BY INDIA
  3. COMMERCIALS AND THE CIVILISED WORLD - KHALID SALEEM
  4. CHIEF BENEFICIARIES OF WAR ON TERROR - LT COL ZAHEERUL HASSAN (R)
  5. FLOOD MANAGEMENT IN PUNJAB, BUT WHAT NEXT? - QUDRAT ULLAH
  6. INDIA WARNED AGAINST DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES - MAHMOOD HUSSAIN
  7. VISION AND OUR VISIONARIES..! - ROBERT CLEMENTS

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. MONETARY POLICY
  2. RIVER WASTE DUMPING
  3. FULL CYCLE..!
  4. REALITY VS UTOPIA - MANIRUL ISLAM
  5. HIGHER EDUCATION AND RESEARCH - DR M AZIZUR RAHMAN
  6. MANAGING CHINA'S CRISIS MANAGEMENT - YONGDING YU

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. POLITICS JUST GOT TOUGHER FOR BARACK OBAMA
  2. WE NEED TO BE SURE ON SUPER
  3. WALTZING MATILDA DOES NOT NEED A REWRITE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. TESTING TIME FOR TEACHERS
  2. BAD WEEK FOR LITTLE GUYS
  3. BRUMBY ASSEMBLES HIS ELECTION FRONTBENCH
  4. LIQUOR CRACKDOWN HITS JARRING NOTE

THE GURDIAN

  1. POLITICAL REFORM: THE URGENCY OF NOW
  2. MASSACHUSETTS: OBAMA'S HEALTH WARNING
  3. IN PRAISE OF… BROWSER WARS

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. FAR FROM ENOUGH
  2. MORE FOR HAITI
  3. THE RISKY BEHAVIOR OF RICH NATIONS - NOURIEL ROUBINI
  4. GLOBALIZATION AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS - JUSTIN YIFU LIN

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. JAL'S REHABILITATION BEGINS
  2. HOLD STRONG ON GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY
  3. CITIZENS LOSE IN GOOGLE VS. CHINA - BY FRANK CHING
  4. ANXIETY FUELS THE RISE OF EUROPEAN NATIVISTS - BY DOMINIQUE MOISI
  5. PAYING CEOS TOO MUCH IS BAD FOR BUSINESS - BY LUCIAN BEBCHUK, MARTIJN CREMERS AND URS PEYER
  6. THE IRANIAN REPUBLIC OF FEAR - BY MEHDI KHALAJI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. CABOTAGE POLICY POSTPONED
  2. ASEAN-CHINA FTA: LESSONS TO LEARN FOR POLICY MAKERS - AIMEE DAWIS
  3. BEYOND THE CORAL TRIANGLE SUMMIT - JAMES P. LEAPE AND ARTHUR C. YAP
  4. INDONESIA'S TOURISM — A NATIONAL TRAGEDY - ANAK AGUNG GDE AGUNG
  5. SRI MULYANI AND CABINET PERFORMANCE

CHINA DAILY

  1. TAKING ON RESPONSIBILITY
  2. REPAYING AIDS VICTIMS
  3. LET'S GOOGLE FOR TRUTH BEHIND SEARCH ENGINE'S PULLOUT - BY WILLIAM DANIEL GARST (CHINA DAILY)
  4. TACKLING ECONOMIC IMBALANCES - BY GUO SHUQING (CHINA DAILY)
  5. HELP HAITI TO SEND A MESSAGE OF HOPE - BY BAN KI-MOON (CHINA DAILY)

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. THE MODERNIZATION TRAP - BY BORIS KAGARLITSKY
  2. POACHING THE LAW - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

DEEMED TO BE DOOMED

NO POINT IN PENALISING ALL AND SUNDRY


There is understandable concern among students and their parents about the Union Human Resource Development Ministry's proposal, made to the Supreme Court, to strip 44 institutions of higher learning of their status as 'deemed universities'. While little is known about the criteria that have been used to prepare the list of these institutions — presumably there was a pattern to selecting them from the many that exist — the move has come as a surprise to students who have already enrolled for courses and paid sizeable fees. It is only natural that they should be apprehensive about their future, though Human Resource Development Minister Kapil Sibal has been categorical in assuring them that they will not suffer. It remains to be known how exactly he proposes to keep his promise. Be that as it may, there is merit in the argument that many institutions which were given the status of 'deemed universities', allowing them to function without the constraints imposed by affiliation to a university and issue certificates to their students after successfully completing their courses, have failed to deliver quality education: They have neither adequate infrastructure nor teaching resources. The move to set up 'deemed universities' was initiated by the NDA regime, primarily with the objective of cutting down on bureaucracy, reducing the load on existing universities and giving a fillip to private sector investment in higher education. These good intentions were used as a convenient cover by Mr Arjun Singh and his team to legitimise fly-by-night operations as 'deemed universities' for reasons that do not require elaboration. To that extent, the proposed crack-down is justified, but not without pointing out that many of the institutions that face de-recognition are being unfairly targeted. The idea of setting up 'deemed universities' was, and remains, good; it serves nobody's purpose to throw the baby out with the bathwater. The Human Resource Development Ministry would do well not to act in haste, be more transparent in deciding which institutions have failed to meet the commitments that were made while being given the status of 'deemed universities', and explain why the regulatory system has failed to monitor their performance.


A second point that has added to the confusion is the Minister's statement that the system of 'deemed universities' will be done away with in its entirety. This is most astounding, not least because this would involve annulling a law enacted by Parliament. Has the Government decided to scrap the law? Has an alternative law been drafted? And, more important, is the Government planning to revert to the decrepit and discredited system of letting universities that can barely manage their own affairs and, for all practical purposes, are in a shambles, call the shots for institutions that are far better equipped and offer quality education? This is not reform, but grotesquely antediluvian. It makes little sense to force institutions of academic excellence, for instance St Xavier's College and Presidency College in Kolkata, to remain captives of a slothful, corrupt and unimaginative bureaucracy that runs India's UGC-recognised universities where academics are treated with utter disdain if not contempt by both teachers and administrators. India needs more universities, more colleges, more schools. The Government is clearly incapable of setting them up. It shouldn't raise obstacles for those who are willing to invest their money and effort. Of course, bucket shops should be shut down immediately.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

BACKBENCH MINISTERS

THERE'S NOTHING TO DO AT OFFICE!

 

When UPA II came to power last year, 'youthful' was a term that was flaunted to describe the Government on account of the fresh, young faces that were inducted. It was said that the young Ministers would change the way that the Government functions by representing the aspirations of the youth of the country. But in concrete terms that newness is yet to materialise. For, there is nothing to suggest that the so-called young Ministers in the Government have brought about any significant, qualitative change in the way it would have functioned had they not been there. But it would appear that blame cannot be apportioned to the junior Ministers for not doing enough. That the latter — comprising 33 of the 38 Ministers of State — have complained of not being given enough work is truly surprising. Taking their complaints to the Prime Minister, the junior Ministers have said that most of the time they are left out of the loop by their bosses on policy decisions and have been reduced to attending book launches and receiving foreign dignitaries. If this is true and the services of the junior Ministers are not being utilised properly, it not only amounts to a waste of human resource but also makes a mockery of making the Government 'youthful'.


At the same time, the complaints of the junior Ministers also reflect structural deficiencies in the Government machinery. The current system is set up in such a way that too many responsibilities are vested in the Cabinet Ministers, leaving their junior colleagues with little to do. It is also true that in many cases senior Ministers have little faith in their juniors. This structure needs to be reviewed so that work can be delegated to junior Ministers to make full use of their talents — if they have none, they shouldn't be in Government. In their interaction with the Prime Minister, the junior Ministers have made some useful suggestions. Some of these, such as that by Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways RPN Singh, that there should be a periodic target-achievement review for him and his peers, deserves to be seriously considered. It is welcome that the Prime Minister has assured his junior colleagues that he will formulate measures to keep them busy. But assurances are not enough. The problem needs to be tackled without much delay. There is just no excuse for Ministers to be sitting idle for want of substantial work. In case the Government feels that it is running at full efficiency, it would be better to not have junior Ministers at all — at least not at the taxpayers' expense.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

A YEAR LATER, NOT SO TALL

G PARTHASARATHY


Just over a year ago, when Mr Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009 as the 44th President of the United States, he was seen at home and abroad as a catalyst for 'change', someone who would usher in a revival of the economy and national self-confidence at home and a new era that would see his country provide moral leadership for global peace, security and cooperation. He had an approval rating then of 68 per cent. Barely a year later, Mr Obama's popularity has plummeted to 46 per cent.


Former President Jimmy Carter had a 57 per cent rating for a comparable period of his presidency while the charismatic John Kennedy's popularity rating was 77 per cent at the end of his first year as President. Given the dominant global role of the US and the crucial influence of domestic events on American foreign policy, how will these developments affect the American leadership's approach to international issues?


While Mr Obama has lost popularity primarily because of growing unemployment, criticism has also begun to mount on his conduct of foreign policy. Even his supporters acknowledge that rather than focussing on a few critical areas, he has lost momentum because of simultaneously taking on too many issues — ranging from climate change and nuclear disarmament to West Asian peace initiatives and challenges posed by existing crisis points like Iran, North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan.


The fiasco in Copenhagen placed the US in the embarrassing situation of being unable to provide moral leadership by agreeing to fulfil the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol on the one hand while expecting emerging and developing countries to make unacceptable sacrifices on the other. Hopefully, realism will prevail in 2010 and the US will realise the need for equity in dealing with others.


Globally, promises to ink a Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia and close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Mr Obama's first year in office remain unfulfilled. Recently, the US faced its first airborne terrorist threat since 9/11 following intelligence shortcomings. Yemen has emerged as a new centre of global terrorism. The West Asia peace process has come to a halt, with Israel continuing settlement activity. North Korea remains adamant in retaining its nuclear programme while demanding that the US conclude a peace treaty, whereas the world remains averse to calls for new nuclear sanctions on Iran, even though Mr Obama has shown considerable flexibility in fashioning a new approach to the Islamic republic.


Mr Obama has crafted his entire approach to global relations on the mistaken belief that he can build a new world order based on a Sino-American condominium in which the US and China would work cooperatively and jointly guarantee world peace and security. What has emerged instead is an assertive China, emboldened by the belief that the US has been weakened by the economic downturn and that it was losing its military edge in the Western Pacific.


Moreover, China's increasing assertiveness has been making its neighbours like Japan, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and India, with whom it has differences on maritime and land boundaries, quite edgy. With China asserting that the US should recognise the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as its sphere of influence, it is only a matter of time before the starry-eyed approach to Beijing starts being questioned in American circles. The decision of Internet giant Google to review the continuance of its operations in China, the suspicions evoked in Japan's Hatoyama dispensation, and China's development of anti-missile capabilities have led to uncomfortable question marks about some of the basic assumptions of Mr Obama's foreign policy team.

If the Obama Administration's policies to India's east have been marked by miscalculations of China's imperatives, its policies towards Afghanistan and Pakistan have been marked by uncertainty and vacillation. Even as the Pentagon was calling for reinforcements, Vice-President Joe Biden urged that his Administration should avoid involvement in counter-insurgency against the Taliban and focus exclusively on eliminating Al Qaeda. Mr Obama, in turn, tried to placate domestic criticism by declaring that he would begin scaling down troop levels in Afghanistan by mid-2011.


The net result is that the Taliban leadership and the Pakistani military establishment appear convinced that it is only a matter of time before the Americans cut their losses and run from Afghanistan. No amount of effort by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates in stressing that the Americans will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to stabilise the situation there has changed this perception. This approach also appears to have convinced the ISI that the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy against Afghanistan and India should be sustained.


India has emerged relatively unscathed from the dithering in Washington, DC. Suggestions by sections of the Obama Administration to nominate a Special Envoy to meddle in India-Pakistan relations were scotched. But concerns over Mr Obama's quip — "Say no to Bangalore and yes to Buffalo" —remain. Similarly, during his visit to Beijing, he appeared ready to concede to China, a country that continues to supply nuclear weapons and missile know-how to Pakistan, a special role in relations between India and Pakistan and to "strengthen dialogue and cooperation" in South Asia. It is to the credit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that he did not mince his words about developments in India's neighbourhood, whether it was on terrorism or on the Obama Administration's earlier illusions about China, during his US visit.


At his joint Press conference with Mr Singh, Mr Obama described India as a "responsible power". He added: "The US welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia." Moreover, the Manmohan Singh-Barack Obama Joint Statement reiterated their "shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan".


The India-US relationship has vast potential for expansion in key areas ranging from agriculture, education and energy to space, defence and high technology cooperation. But New Delhi will have to bear in mind that it is dealing with a US Administration that is anything but sure-footed. Despite this, the world's two largest democracies can work together on global issues like climate change and in facilitating a global economic recovery, apart from countering terrorism, building an inclusive architecture for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and establishing a stable balance of power in Asia.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

LET'S FOCUS ON SAVING EARTH

KHIMI THAPA


The fact that the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change's warning, issued two years ago, that climate change will lead to the disappearance of most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 was merely a speculation without any evidence has less to do with science and more to do with politics. Developed nations, who bear historic responsibility for global warming, instead of cleaning up their act, are more interested in passing the buck to developing nations and, therefore, presenting an alarmist picture.


The Copenhagen conference on climate change was a testimony to the West's petulant domination. This does not go to say that global warming is not happening. But it is high time we rid politics from the climate change debate. Otherwise, poor countries like Haiti will continue to face nature's fury. It is already feared that the world's small island nations, which have neither resources nor technology to fight global warming, are facing annihilation.

In the current scenario where politics and commercial interests heavily weigh on climate predictions, the entire debate on global warming needs to be reviewed on the basis of authentic scientific information with an objective mindset. The course to concrete international action should transcend political divides and developed nations must own up to their responsibilities.


With reports suggesting that developing countries are more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than rich ones as rising food prices would deepen poverty, developed nations must ensure social and economic cohesion instead of letting the developing world bear the brunt of their mistake.


Energy should not be wasted on bickering over who is indulging in voodoo science. India and other developing countries like China should remain concerned and continue their efforts to reduce carbon emissions by switching to advanced energy efficient technologies without compromising on economic growth.


Undeniably, the developed nations must assume greater responsibility in comparison to developing countries in implementation of climate mitigation measures.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

SUGAR-COATED LIE

THE SO-CALLED 'DEMOGRAPHIC DIVIDEND' IS SO MUCH BUNKUM AND NO MORE. LIMITED ACCESS TO EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE AMONG YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN HAS LEFT THEM WITH NO AWARENESS ABOUT FAMILY PLANNING AND HIV/AIDS. A DEMOGRAPHIC DISASTER IS IN THE MAKING

SHAILAJA CHANDRA


An excellent report by the International Institute of Population Sciences, Mumbai, has demolished the 'demographic dividend' theory; one which has been urban India's euphoric rejoinder to stave off any concerns about the questionable social health of Indian youth. The report points in no uncertain terms to a demographic disaster taking place, having "squandered" the potential that could have given that dividend.


Titled A Profile of Youth in India the report is a State-wide study and systematically captures the urban-rural split, as well as the male-female disparities in education and reproductive health among adolescents and the youth — a huge segment of India's population. The report has to be taken seriously because it was published by a Government organisation under the aegis of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. The image of an exuberant youth, educated and resilient, has been shattered through this report. Here are some of the highlights:


A significant proportion of the youth were found to have received little education. Many were illiterate and several were burdened with onerous familial responsibilities. The enormous lack of education that prevailed among the female and rural youth left no opportunity for them to contribute to development or the tremendous challenge of nation building. A third of the females and only two out of every five men were found to have completed 10 years of schooling. Only two out of five adolescents were found actually attending school, leaving the rest of them destined to join the ranks of the uneducated and unemployable. One out of five teenage girls possessed no education, with one in three Muslim girls falling into this category.

 

The report found every third adolescent girl to be married. The element of gauna was found to be fractional, so negating the theory that child marriages were only symbolic. Early marriages consummated well before the legal minimum age of marriage had negated efforts to reach the goals of the national youth policy.


Limited use of contraception for spacing, and an over-reliance on traditional methods persisted after decades of chasing the family planning programme. Among the youth the unmet need for family planning soared. What did these young, married women know? Not even a fifth of the 20 to 24year-olds knew about the fertile days within the menstrual cycle; adolescent girls knew far less. Knowledge among boys was virtually non-existent. Yet the rhythm method continued to be the most preferred form of family planning despite knowledge about the menstrual cycle being so poor. For all the work that the State AIDS Societies claimed to have done, and all the money that they had exhausted, only 20 per cent of the female youth had comprehensive knowledge about the routes of transmission and prevention of HIV/AIDS infection. In several States only half such women had even heard about AIDS.


Undernutrition and anaemia continued to be very high among adolescents and the youth, doubling health risks for pregnant and breast-feeding women, as well as their infants. Large-scale use of tobacco and alcohol prevailed among very young adolescents with negative health fallouts over a lifetime. A high prevalence of domestic violence existed and the social norms inherited by the youth still justified wife beating.

Obviously, several Government programmes despite incremental improvements are haemorrhaging badly at places. The claims made by the National Literacy Mission, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and the ICDS programmes are clearly either coloured or false. Unfortunately, the report has no silver lining. The report has not spared either the outcomes of the family planning programme or the national AIDS control programme. At one level it is highly satisfactory that the present dispensation believes in transparency and has not pushed these facts under the carpet. On the other, it is disheartening to find that there are no outcries from the State Governments that ought to have either felt ashamed of their failure or combative if they did not subscribe to the findings. Instead a climate of 'business as usual' prevails and one can wager that none of the people in charge of youth affairs, woman and child development, education, literacy, or the prevention of AIDS and premature marriages have looked at the report.


Clearly, all the hard work is not reaching the most vulnerable people of this country. There is absolutely no case for more Government; we need smarter Government. While that exploration should take priority, for starters, the demographic dividend theory should be dumped publicly, because it is just a sugar-coated lie.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

TALKING PEACE

BUT THAT ALONE CAN'T SET TONE FOR BILATERAL TIES

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


Its nomenclature indicates the purpose of the 'India-Pakistan Peace Conference — A Road Map Towards Peace', held recently in Delhi. It made a number of suggestions which, unfortunately, appear doomed. The civil society, media, the cultural sphere, and intelligentsia, from which most participants came, do not ultimately call the shots in both Pakistan and India. One deeply admires the courage and determination with which mediapersons and the civil society protected the freedom of the Press in Pakistan, and the struggle waged by lawyers to uphold the independence of the judiciary. Unfortunately, however, they have no influence on matters like ties with India, Kashmir, control over terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and the Hizb-ul Mujahideen. Ultimately each of these is the Army's — and not the civilian Government's — business.


This was demonstrated during the attack on Mumbai on 26/11. While Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, accepted Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's demand that the head of Pakistan's premier spy agency, the Directorate-General of Inter-Services Intelligence, come to India and help in the investigations, the military establishment dug in its heels. The ISI chief, Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, remained at home.


The question arises: Can the Pakistani Army agree to making peace? The answer will be 'no'. Like the country's civilian establishment, it is paranoid about India and sees a threat in virtually everything the latter does. Besides, particularly after its defeat in the 1971, it has been reared on hatred toward India, and conditioned to regard the latter as an enemy to be destroyed. Besides, as Ayesha Siddiqa points out in Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan's Military Economy, "The military attained its central role in post-colonial state of Pakistan by being its protector. The centrality of the armed forces as the guardians of the state was intrinsic, and compensated for the deep sense of insecurity that infested the State after its birth in 1947." She further points out, "The country's policy-making elite tends to define threats to national security mainly in terms of the perceived peril from New Delhi….. Over the past 50 years and more, the dominant school of thought that has influenced policy-making believes that the Indian leadership has never been comfortable with an independent homeland for the Muslims, and would not lose any opportunity to destroy or invades Pakistan."


Peace with India will not only erode the justification of the Pakistani Army's role as the ultimate arbiter of the country's destiny but threaten its retention of the huge business empire it has built up. Siddiqa describes it as "Milbus" which, in her words, "refers to the military capital that is used for the personal benefit of the military fraternity, especially the officer cadre, but is neither recorded nor part of the defence budget…. Its most significant component is entrepreneurial activities that do not fall under the scope of the normal accountability procedures of the state…"


Besides, the number of Islamist officers and men, sympathetic to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, has been growing in the Army ever since General-turned-President Zia-ul Haq launched his Islamisation drive in the early-1980s. Constituting a significant part of the Army, they have been lying low following the start of the American-led invasion of Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11. Meanwhile, things are changing. According to a recent report by the London-based think-tank, Legatum Institute, Pakistan is likely to become more Islamist and anti-American in the next few years. While it discounts a Taliban takeover or the possibility of Pakistan becoming the first failed state with a nuclear arsenal, it foresees a decline in British and American leverage and a rise in the power and influence of Islamist political parties and militant groups.

These elements, particularly the militant groups pathologically hostile to India, will then step up their cross-border terror strikes. Unless the Pakistani Army squelches them, the impression will remain that it wants to preserve them for future use. Since inherent in the developments, which include the possibility of India's retaliation, is the danger of a war, India must prepare for it while keeping Pakistan under pressure by linking resumption of talks to action against terrorist groups, particularly the one behind 26/11. Conferences, which can create awareness of the need for peace, are useful in the long run.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

A LIFE TORN BY CONFLICT

NGABO NGAWANG JIGME, SCORNED AS A TRAITOR, WAS KNOWN FOR HIS GUARDED EFFORTS TO SPEAK UP FOR TIBETANS THAT WERE MARRED BY HIS LONG SPELLS OF SILENCE ON CHINA'S POLICY OF SUPPRESSION

TSERING TSOMO


Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, the last surviving member of the Tibetan delegation who signed the 17-point Agreement with the Chinese Communists died on December 23 last year in Beijing. The agreement ended the de facto status of Tibet as an independent nation.


At the time of his death, he held the title of vice-chairman of Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. He also served as vice-chairman of the National People's Congress. Scorned as a traitor by many Tibetans, he spent a major part of his life under the tutelage of the Chinese Government which saw in him a much-needed legitimacy for its rule over Tibet. According historian Tsering Shakya, author of Dragon in the Land of Snows, "They (the Chinese) need him because he is the only link with the Dalai Lama's old Government. He represents continuity and shows how the old has been integrated into the new China".


After Ngabo's death the Chinese media glorified his life and works saying the Agreement he signed led to the "peaceful liberation of Tibet". In a 2001 interview to Taipei Times, PT Takla, the Tibetan translator who accompanied the Tibetan delegation to Beijing said the Agreement was "a result of force".


In the early-1960s, Ngabo advised the 10th Panchen Lama against writing the famous 70,000-character petition that highlighted the widespread sufferings, starvation and destruction caused by China's Tibet policy. The petition earned the Panchen Lama 16 years of struggle sessions, imprisonment and house arrest.


"I said if he (Panchen Lama) had any complaints on the work in Tibet, he should go straight to central Government leaders and make an oral report," Ngabo was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post in 1998.

But there are quite a few behind-the-scene statements attributed to Ngabo that are revealing of his concerns for the Tibetan people and perhaps a stained conscience of being the principal party to an accord that sealed the fate of Tibet. He was too cautious, weak, and perhaps self-serving to confront Chinese authorities openly. He was mindful of the fact that he was the father of 10 children, all of whom lived in Beijing and some held high positions. His statements on Tibet were made orally in internal meetings of party apparatchiks.


In a 1988 internal speech, Ngabo was quoted by the now-defunct Tibet Information Network as saying: "It is because of the special situation in Tibet that in 1951 the 17-point Agreement on the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, between the central people's Government and the local Tibetan Government, came about. Such an Agreement has never existed between the central Government and any other minority regions. TAR has relatively less power of autonomy compared with other autonomous regions."


According to Cao Chang-Ching, a dissident Chinese writer and journalist, the special status of Tibet as recognised by the Agreement is telling in that China needed "some sort of document" to legitimise its rule and thus imposed the Agreement on the Tibetans. "The Chinese Army had taken other minority provinces without any agreement, and it could equally have swiftly taken over Tibet. But they did not do so and instead imposed an agreement," Cao wrote in Taipei Times in 2001.


After signing the Agreement, Ngabo is also believed to have handed over a letter to then Chinese Prime Minister Chou Enlai, in which he requested to unite all Tibetan areas — the TAR as well as Tibetan areas incorporated into Chinese provinces — under a single autonomous administrative unit. Enlai verbally assured that once some revolutionary works were completed Beijing would return these areas to Tibet.

 

In 1989, Ngabo further incensed the CCP leaders by calling their claims of inheriting from the Kuomintang authorities the right to recognise the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama inaccurate. He rejected Chinese claim that the Tibetans in 1940 asked for permission to dispense with the golden urn divination ceremony which China insisted must be used to select the 11th Panchen Lama.


Citing archival findings in Nanjing, Ngabo said, "We were there (in Nanjing) and there was no question of using the golden urn — we all know that."


Ngabo is also credited with influencing late Chinese leader Hu Yaobang to introduce measures in the 1980s to reverse Chinese policy mistakes in Tibet.


By the end of 1991, Ngabo's involvement in Tibet waned. He lived in Beijing from 1991 until his death. He later held inconsequential official positions and sometimes totally irrelevant ones. In 1999, he was made a member of the Preparatory Committee of the Special Administrative Region of Macao.


Ngabo Jigme, the third son of Ngabo who left Beijing for the US and later worked for the exile Tibetan movement, told South China Morning Post in 1998 that his father never really had any power. "My father has been a figurehead."


But Ngabo's guarded efforts to speak out on behalf of his people were marred by his long spells of silence on China's behaviour. And his role in the 17-point Agreement sticks out like a sore thumb consigning him to the popular resentment of many Tibetans.


With his death, the Chinese Government has lost an important and pliant ethnic card.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AT LAST, VATICAN MOVES ON SHOCKING CHILD ABUSE SCANDAL

SHAWN POGATCHNIK | DUBLIN


Ireland's Roman Catholic bishops are being summoned next month to an exceptional Vatican summit with Pope Benedict XVI to shape the pontiff's response to child-abuse scandals, church officials said on Wednesday.


A Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Ciro Benedettini, confirmed that the Pope has written to Ireland's bishops inviting them to the Vatican on February 15-16, but he declined to provide any other details. Two Irish church officials said the Pope planned to speak both as a group and individually to Ireland's 27 bishops, three archbishops and Cardinal Sean Brady. They said the dialogue would influence Benedict's planned pastoral letter to Ireland's four million Catholics following revelations of widespread child abuse within the Irish church.


Both officials spoke on condition they not be identified because the Vatican is supposed to make all announcements about the meeting.Normally, bishops gain a papal audience only once every seven years. The precedent for such a gathering is Pope John Paul II's summit with US cardinals in 2002 following exposure of a wave of child-abuse scandals in the American priesthood.

Irish Government-ordered investigations published last year documented decades of Catholic cover-ups of child abuse within the Dublin Archdiocese as well as the church's Dickensian network of residences for troubled Irish
boys and girls.


The Dublin report, published in November, examined the cases of 46 priests who molested or raped children — and why bishops told police nothing about any cases until 1995 when the first victims began pursuing civil lawsuits. It also documented how police and other state child-welfare officials treated Catholic officials with deference, ensuring that the church could protect pedophiles in its ranks.


May's published report on Catholic-run orphanages, residential schools and workhouses nationwide found that orders of Catholic brothers and nuns engaged in systemic physical, mental and sexual abuse of tens of thousands of children from the 1930s to 1990s, when the last of the institutions closed.


Both reports found that officials kept abuse cases secret to protect the church's reputation. A taxpayer-funded commission has already paid out nearly euro1 billion ($1.4 billion) to more than 12,000 surviving residents of the children's homes, while the Dublin Archdiocese estimates it could pay out more than euro20 million ($ 30 million) to settle lawsuits.


Four bishops implicated in the Dublin report last month announced their resignations for failing to tell police about abuse cases. But Benedict has confirmed only the departure of Bishop Donal Murray of Limerick.


The other three — bishops Raymond Field, Jim Moriarty and Eamonn Walsh — remain in office pending the Pope's acceptance of their resignations and could take part in the Vatican meeting. Before that, the Irish Conference of Bishops announced an extraordinary meeting on Friday at Maynooth, the only remaining Catholic seminary in the Republic of Ireland, to discuss the fallout from the Dublin report and their upcoming audience with the Pope. The bishops' senior spokesman, Mr Martin Long, said the bishops would discuss the envisioned contents of the Pope's upcoming letter to the Irish people.

AP

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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

SEND A MESSAGE BUT WITH SOME DIGNITY

 

ONLY the naïve will believe that there is not more at work regarding Pakistani players failing to buy buyers at the Indian Premier League auctions on Tuesday than meets the eye. Otherwise, how do you explain the lack of interest shown by eight IPL franchisees in 11 players from a nation which is currently the world T20 champion? How do you account for a game- changer like Shahid Afridi failing to make it to any squad? The explanations being trotted out by the franchisees about the availability of Pakistani players for the tournament are hogwash. In the two editions of Indian Premier League that have been played so far, we have seen several overseas players being purchased though their schedule did not permit their availability for the entire length of the tournament.

 

It is clear that the Union government had something to tell the franchisees before they went in for their choice of players. This could have been a simple hint which no franchisee was willing to overlook for fear of falling foul of the powers- that- be.

 

This brings us to the question of what the government could have done instead.

 

The Indian government has every right to decide whether players from Pakistan play on its soil or not. Relations between the two neighbours have been at a low since the Mumbai attacks and there is no denying that Pakistan has done precious little to bring the perpetrators of that carnage to book. Just as cricket can cement ties between countries, it can also be used as a tool by one country to disapprove of another nation's conduct on political or strategic matters. But if the Centre thought this way why did it earlier indicate not having objection to Pakistani cricketers playing in India? If it wanted to keep them away, it could have sent out a discreet message to the Pakistani establishment asking them not to declare their availability for the tournament, or it could have expressed its problems about granting them visas to play in India.

 

But the way it has gone about this job neither helps cricket nor does it promote goodwill between the people of the two countries. And Pakistan's players and its cricketing board have reasons to feel humiliated. India may have a bone to pick with the Pakistani state but ill- treating players who are stars in their country, is perhaps the wrong way to do it.

 

 

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MAIL TODAY

AND NOW GLACIERGATE

 

IT may be a truism, but science flourishes best in an atmosphere of self- criticism and transparency. For this reason it is important for the world community to demand that Rajendra Pachauri and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ( IPCC) apologise for the shoddy exercise through which an unsubstantiated and clearly erroneous claim that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 got into a draft report of the IPCC circulated to governments across the world.

 

The vice- chairman of IPCC has admitted to the mistake, but that does not quite mitigate the consequences of the error.

 

Such scare- mongering could have been the reason why the Global Center, an Iceland foundation with links to TERI, managed to get a grant of $ 500,000 in 2008 for research on the challenges " to South Asia posed by melting Himalaya glaciers." The IPCC " mistake" has a context: Last year a panel headed by V. K. Raina examined data of the Geological Survey of India from 25 glaciers over a 150 year period and came to the conclusion that while the Himalayan glaciers were retreating there was nothing to suggest that there was an acceleration of the trend or that they would disappear. Mr Pachauri angrily dismissed it as " voodoo science" and had the temerity to call it " schoolboy science." Glaciergate comes after another source of the IPCC reports, the Climate Research Unit of the East Anglia University, was found to have manipulated data and shut out dissenting scientists from academic journals.

 

This does not mean that climate change is not occurring or that everything the IPCC says is wrong. But it certainly ought to engender some caution about scientists who ignore the basic tenets of their profession and turn crusaders, keener on securing grants rather than rigorously pursuing the truth.

 

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MAIL TODAY

NSA FIRING IS APT TIME FOR CHANGE

BY MANOJ JOSHI

 

HE was not the victim of a palace coup, or, as he believes, a target of Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's vindictive gaze.

 

M. K. Narayanan was fired because he failed to do his job and hopefully his exit will set some standards of accountability in the second UPA government.

 

His was a classic example of the Peter Principle; a man who rose to the level of his incompetence. He was no doubt a competent Intelligence Bureau officer, but as intelligence czar he was a failure, as indeed he was as the Indian special representative to negotiate the settlement of the Sino- Indian border dispute. His success in coordinating the Indo- US nuclear deal owed much to the fact that he followed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's agenda faithfully, rather than opposing it, as he did in several other instances.

 

Narayanan's rise and his fall personifies the challenges India's apex security management faces, and the failures that have marked the effort to do something about it. Ever since the wimpish governments of the 1990s gave way to the muscular NDA, India has made enormous efforts to work out an effective national security policy and mechanism to implement it.

 

This effort has been impelled in great measure by the events of the past decade— the nuclear tests of 1998, the Kargil embarrassment of 1999, the ignominy of the IC814 hijack, and a series of terrorist incidents culminating in the Mumbai carnage of 2008. But a little over a decade after the National Security Council was constituted and a National Security Adviser appointed, the country is still groping for an effective management system.

 

Narayanan was brought in at a peripheral level as a part- time adviser on internal security in 2004.

 

However the sudden death of J. N.( Mani) Dixit propelled him into the centre- stage as the National Security Adviser. Out of the shadows, Narayanan began to enjoy the limelight— the foreign trips alone or accompanying the PM, the high- level meetings with foreign counterparts, the lengthy TV interviews and the fawning bureaucrats.

 

Failures

 

Only, it did not leave him enough time to do his day job. The nature of the job would have been a challenge for a harder working man, but in Narayanan's case, it overwhelmed him. In part the problem was that he did not energise the National Security Council Secretariat ( NSCS) which had subsumed the Joint Intelligence Committee. He began dealing individually with the heads of the various security departments and instead of working along the lines of the National Democratic Alliance Cabinet- approved reform proposals, he instituted his own changes and constituted his own task forces outside the NSCS. He did not allow the Multi- Agency Centre to coordinate intelligence on terrorism to come up and the National Technical Research Office set up to consolidate high- tech intelligence was treated like a step- child.

 

Neither did he clean up the ailing Research & Analysis Wing nor restructure and refocus the IB. The major

consequence of this was that either he, or his office, missed out a vital clue on the eve of the Mumbai attack, information that could have prevented the carnage.

 

The failure was manifest, too, in the question of China. He assumed the mantle of the Special Representative at a key time. This was the vehicle that should have delivered the border settlement in quick time. This was evident from the fact that in the period 2003- 2006, the SRs had an average of three meetings a year and produced the far- reaching agreement on " the political parameters and agreed guidelines for a border settlement between India and China" that virtually spelt out the contours of a border settlement on the basis of a mutual exchange of claims. But the following year, 2007, there was only one round, only one in 2008 as well on the sidelines of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Beijing in January that year, and the thirteenth round in August 2009. Significantly after this round, the two sides issued a press note which said that the two sides agreed that henceforth they would discuss " the entire gamut of bilateral relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest." In other words, a specific process for solving the border issue has for some unknown reason now been broadened to discuss the wider aspects of Sino- Indian relations. This was the round Narayanan claimed " was the best that I have had in the nine rounds that I have held with him." This was a burden he should not have been given. Even his most ardent admirers will concede that Narayanan's forte is not diplomacy, leave alone the complex arcana of the Sino- Indian border dispute.

 

So the country is back at the juncture where it needs to rethink its ideas on national security management at the apex level. As has been pointed out by commentators, the NSA's position was skewed by the unique role played by the first incumbent of the office, Brajesh Mishra, who played a role as the top governmental aide to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as well as the NSA. Narayanan's penchant for playing top spook, rather than intelligence czar or policy adviser created more distortions in the office.

 

It took Mumbai and the failure with China to bring this out.

 

Need

 

So, in trying to pick up the pieces, Home Minister Chidambaram, who got the defunct Multi- Agency Centre going, is proposing a National Counter- Terrorism Centre which will play the role of the key body that deals with the most important security challenge of our era. It would be wrong to see this as some kind of a bureaucratic power grab. Because he is talking principally about the internal dimension of the threat, the impression going around is that he wants to take charge of all of the intelligence infrastructure.

 

That is neither possible, nor desirable.

 

To counter terrorism, inputs are certainly needed from agencies like the R& AW, IB, NTRO, Department of Revenue Intelligence, the Narcotics Control Bureau and so on. But these would be better off under a Director National Intelligence and have a dotted line link to the NCTC for the simple reason that these agencies also have to service other subsets of the security paradigm— the country's political leadership, the armed forces and the finance and commerce ministries. The government would do well to take the opportunity presented to appoint a DNI at the same time that it creates the NCTC.

 

Institution

 

As for the NSA, it is clear that in the past his task has been dependent on what the Prime Minister wants, rather than an institutionalised requirement. In the Indian system of governance, executive responsibility is clearly devolved with ministers responsible to parliament, assisted by a bureaucracy. In that sense, any NSA with executive powers is bound to rub the system the wrong way. It would be a good idea, too, to replace the NSA in the Executive Council of the Nuclear Command Authority by a five- star Chief of Defence Staff.

 

The NSC's function, as originally envisaged, was to think about medium to long- range options for the country in areas like military, economic, energy, health, food or water security through the agency of the NSCS, the Strategic Policy Group and the National Security Advisory Board. It also had various other support structures like the National Information Board ( to look at IT related issues) and so on which have gone defunct in the recent years.

 

A new NSA will have more than his hands full if he sticks to the original remit laid down for his office, and the country's decision- making processes will benefit from his ability to provide thoroughly considered advice to the executive system. Today, as any senior official will tell you, Cabinet members, secretaries and the like have hardly any time to apply their minds to a problem since they are almost always overwhelmed by the immediate.

 

In the first decade of its existence, the office of the NSA has been dominated by personalities. The time has come now to build up the institution, rather than promote a personality.

 

manoj. joshi@ mailtoday. in

 

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MAIL TODAY

SIMPLY SOUTH

M C RAJAN

 

NO LAW CAN CHECK ALAGIRI IN THE STATE

EVEN in this age of paid news, this incident should have shaken any government and forced it to take some action. But despite a daylight attack on a newspaper which led to the death of three employees, no one has been brought to book. And, horror of horrors, the case involves the extended family of DMK patriarch and chief minister M Karunanidhi.

 

It all started when the Marans- owned Tamil daily Dinakaran published an opinion poll whose findings said that the patriarch's elder son and Union Minister M K Alagiri had a poor following. All hell broke loose and the newspaper office was attacked in full view of television cameras in May 2007.

 

Worse, a police contingent stationed there watched the goings- on passively.

 

The Marans lost no time in claiming that the attack was masterminded by none other than Alagiri. The SUN TV group went to town seeking his prosecution.

 

And for a while, it looked like an open and shut case.

 

Taking the high moral ground, Karunanidhi too conceded the demand for a CBI probe. But when the trial began, it became obvious that the entire probe had been reduced to a farce. A fair share of the blame for this flagrant denial of justice should go to the Marans, who stopped showing any interest in the case even before reaching a compromise of sorts with the K family.

 

Reinforcing the popular belief that the Karunanidhi family can get away with anything, the trial court acquitted all the 16 accused — most of them, reportedly, Alagiri loyalists — for want of evidence! The CBI did not do its chequered reputation any good. The investigating agency miserably failed to nail the perpetrators even though there were as many as 85 witnesses. In fact, a separate investigation is required to find out how all the witnesses turned hostile. Even more incredible is the utter failure of the CBI to shield any of its witnesses from being suborned or coerced.

 

Equally baffling is the failure of the trial court to make good use of the overwhelming videographic evidence. It was intriguing that the court did not find even rudimentary proof for relatively minor offences like rioting and criminal trespass. No surprise the families of the victims appear apprehensive of pursuing the case and taking on the powerful.

 

Sadly enough, the CBI is yet to file an appeal in this case.

 

The gory incident was not just about a riotous mob hurling petrol bombs in the presence of the police, but also a naked struggle for power that rocked the DMK establishment.

 

Even journalists have failed to depose without fear and bring the guilty to justice. Curiously enough, the daily's News Editor, Muthu Pandi, was the complainant in the case on behalf of the management and it was he who had named Alagiri as the prime accused. A S FOR the Marans, it is now unthinkable for them to say or do anything that may upset the patriarch. Once Dayanidhi was stripped off his ministership and their Sun Group was subjected to harassment meant for political opponents, the Maran family realised their political vulnerability and began to do everything for a rapprochement. To the surprise of none, the Marans have kept an ostrich- like silence on the incident.

 

Karunanidhi may escape censure by arguing that his government had handed over the investigation to the CBI. However, the Chief Minister cannot deny moral responsibility as the horrific incident was essentially a fallout of a family feud. Again, who will deny that he has in no small measure contributed to the lumpenisation of politics in the state? According to media reports, some of the accused in the case have been rewarded with posts in the ruling party.

 

If the reopening of the Ruchika case offers a flicker of hope, the CBI's silence over the trial court verdict in the Dinakaran case snuffs that out. In an earlier case, pertaining to the brutal daylight murder of a former DMK minister Tha Kiruttinan, in which again Alagiri was the prime accused, the trial was held in Andhra Pradesh.

 

But, he was acquitted due to what is widely believed as the prosecution's failure. No prizes for guessing that the Karunanidhi Government has not filed an appeal against this verdict yet!

 

HONOUR THE WAY TO THE CM'S HEART

THE CHIEF minister's craving for honour is going up with his age. Governance in the state has come to such a pass that even to redress a grievance, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi demands a felicitation function.

 

He does not mind who organises such events as long as he is treated like a king. Of course, he is only too happy, if they are from the film fraternity.

 

The TN Association for the Disabled has learnt this the hard way.

 

In their attempt to get an appointment with the CM to impress upon him the need to implement various government orders benefitting this disadvantaged section, the office- bearers approached the patriarch's daughter and Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi.

 

" Dad will give an appointment only if you could organise a felicitation function. So why don't you arrange for one?" was her suggestion.

 

And the body has no option but to do so as it has failed to draw the government's attention so far despite holding a series of protests.

 

A ROSY SCENARIO FOR F LOWER GROWERS

VALENTINE'S day is still a month away but Krishnagiri, the rose capital of the state, in the perennially dry belt of Tamil Nadu, is blooming and all set to make a rich harvest of its celebration in the West. With the demand for the flower that symbolises romance shooting up this year, the farmers are a delighted lot.

 

With an eye on the export market, more than 15 varieties of rose are cultivated in this region and production has gone up by 20 per cent this season. The yield in a hectare would be no less than 70,000 flowers which match international standards in quality. In Hosur alone 42000 acres are under rose cultivation. The rise in demand around Christmas and New Year has raised hopes of even better returns for Valentine's Day.

 

In the lucrative Middle- East market, varieties like avalanche, gold strike, discovery, and red giant are popular, as also in Japan and the Far East. Yet, during the Valentine season, it is the grand gala and frost red roses that are most sought after in Europe and the West.

 

This season alone, the export figure is likely to touch Rs 60 crore as the worldwide demand for cut flowers from this region has shot up.

 

When one remembers that St Valentine was the patron of yearning hearts, it seems an irony that roses from Krishnagiri, still notorious for female infanticide and confining girls to home once they attain puberty, are fast becoming the preferred gift for lovers to express that yearning.

 

mc. rajan@ mailtoday. in

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

DEEMED BELOW PAR

INDIA'S UNIVERSITY EDUCATION SYSTEM NEEDS AN OVERHAUL


The controversy over the HRD ministry derecognising 44 deemed universities once again brings into focus the ills that ail our higher education system. It throws into relief the problems of over-regulation, lack of accountability and transparency, and the unholy mix of politics and education. There is a multiplicity of bodies and ministries governing colleges and universities in India. But the system is no better for it. The framework within which our colleges and universities presently operate stifles innovation and excellence. It needs a complete revamp.


There is no denying that we have an acute paucity of quality colleges and universities in this country. Those already established can barely meet the growing demand for higher education. Given this situation, government must welcome private investors who could lend muscle to efforts to scale up the higher education sector. But such a move would not suit many of our politicians who have a substantial stake in perpetuating the licence raj in this sector. They often use their clout to flout norms and unfairly profit from the business of higher education, armtwisting governing bodies that are meant to be unbiased and independent to do their bidding. Competition from genuinely interested parties is thus viewed as a threat by our netas.


In the process, millions of students hungry for quality education find their prospects dimmed. The concept of a deemed university itself is a questionable category and must be done away with. Either a university is autonomous or is state-run – there is no need for a nebulous in-between category. The inconsistencies marking deemed universities are there for all to see: They have the freedom to make profits but are also given huge central government and UGC grants. Universities and colleges must be given the freedom to run their own affairs if they are not funded by the Union or state exchequers. Instead of doling out large sums of money, which may go unaccounted for, the government would do well to make it easier for those seeking to enter the education sector establish themselves. This could be done by, for instance, allocating land speedily and eliminating red tape.


And instead of having babu-led regulatory bodies, it's a better idea to adopt the accreditation system and allow universities to compete on the basis of the ratings they get. This is the model successfully followed by countries that have advanced education set-ups. India's present regulatory system is oiled by political patronage and promotes mediocrity instead of ensuring quality. The country's youth can realise their aspirations only if we have a well-educated, employable workforce. We cannot afford to cut corners on this account

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

TAKE IT EASY

RISE OF CAESAREAN SECTIONS IN INDIA IS CAUSE FOR CONCERN



An ongoing World Health Organisation (WHO) survey has revealed that despite advances in obstetric care, elective Caesarean sections pose an increased risk to both mother and child. The survey, which was published in the medical journal Lancet, found that one in five childbirths in India utilise the surgical option, which can cause major complications. Although that amounts to only 18 per cent of all deliveries occurring via c-section – still over the WHO-prescribed 15 per cent limit – a significant detail is that the incidence of such births has increased from 5 per cent to 65 per cent in private hospitals. What is alarming is that according to the WHO, this increase is not due to medical necessity but is rather motivated by the fact that c-sections are more profitable for doctors and hospitals.


    A combination of factors could be to blame. While doctors are often guilty of recommending c-sections when there is no medical need for one, mothers also regard a caesarean delivery as a painless way of having a baby. However, expectant parents must be made aware that a Caesarean delivery is not a harmless option and that, like all surgery, it carries a risk to mother and child. Indeed, the report in Lancet indicates that women who undergo a Caesarean without requiring it were 10 times more likely to be admitted to intensive care compared to those who gave birth normally. The risks of hysterectomy and maternal and infant mortality were also greater.


 Unfortunately, it would be impossible to formulate policy that could successfully separate bogus c-section recommendations from those medically required. Medical ethics requires that doctors should provide more comprehensive information to expectant mothers about what their options are. That can be buttressed by greater awareness among patients. In the West, there have been pro-natural birth movements among expectant mothers. There needs to be a similar groundswell here. Greater questioning of the need for c-sections would also lead to obstetricians offering different options.


Unwarranted Caesareans pose a serious public health problem not just to the mothers who have the procedure without a medical reason. Studies have shown that in a developing country, where resources are scarce, large numbers of c-sections that are not medically indicated could represent a serious resource drain that could weaken maternal and neonatal health care as money, medical practitioners and equipment are diverted away from cases in which they can actually improve the chances of mother and child.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

DEATH, BE NOT PROUD

USE OF SUICIDE BOMBING HAS NO THEOLOGICAL SUPPORT

ALI KHAN MAHMUDABAD


Suicide attacks have been used in history by various cultures and the motivation has not always been religious. The Germans, Japanese, Sri Lankans and Vietnamese have used suicide attacks as a weapon in war but, in popular imagination, suicide attacks are irrevocably and primarily associated with Islamist militancy. The death tolls of suicide attacks have been rising exponentially and recent times have perhaps been the bloodiest in Pakistan's history. This has forced members of the ulema to address the problem of suicide attacks according to Islamic jurisprudence. Jurists have come out to unequivocally state that this form of fighting is absolutely impermissible.


Often comparisons are made between the Abrahamic religions showing how they narrate stories of the same prophets. However, it is significant that the story of the prophet Samson, who prayed to God to give him strength for the last time so that he could push the pillars he was chained to, kill as many Philistines and die with them, has been omitted in the Quran. Many people, including Milton and Handel have eulogised this act of 'bravery'.


Two verses of the Quran are often quoted in order to show that suicide is forbidden: verse 195, The Cow, and verses 29-30, The Women. Yusuf Ali translates the former as "And spend of your substance in the cause of Allah, and make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; But do good; for Allah loveth those who do good". There is some debate about the second verse, as to whether the phrase "la taqtalu anfusakum" should be translated as 'do not kill yourselves' or 'do not kill amongst yourselves'. However, most Shia and Sunni exegetes of the Quran write that this verse deems suicide unacceptable. In theological arguments, scholars have declared suicide attacks 'haram', forbidden, on two levels. First, they argue that committing suicide itself is a sin and, second, this sin is made greater if suicide is used to kill innocent people.


 A number of prominent jurists have spoken out against suicide attacks. Sheikh Mohammad Afifi al-Akiti, an Oxford-based jurist, Sheikh Mohammad Sayid al-Tantawi, a senior cleric at Al-Azhar, Ayatollah Yusuf Sanei, a famous Iranian jurist and many others, have declared suicide attacks impermissible. Most interestingly, sometime ago senior clerics of the Deoband seminary came out to oppose terrorism. Deoband is extremely influential and perhaps second only to Al-Azhar. Their declarations are made more significant
because Iraqi mujahideen, the Taliban, Harkate Islam and Jaish-e-Muhammad in Pakistan and a whole host of other militant organisations claim to draw ideological inspiration from Deobandi thought. Nearly half of the mosques in Britain are controlled by Deobandis.


In the recent past, tens of thousands of students and clerics came out to proclaim that Islam is a religion of peace. "Those who use the Quran or the sayings of the Prophet Mohammad to justify terrorism are perpetuating a lie." The wording of the whole fatwa is couched in theological language to some extent; familiar verses of the Quran and some hadith are mentioned in order to base the reasoning in scripture. An earlier fatwa was signed not only by Habib ur-Rehman but his three deputies also, thus making it even more iron-clad. But unfortunately for those who want to find loopholes, they are easy to uncover.


In analysing the fatwa by clerics from across the Muslim world, it becomes clear that radically new thinking is not needed. The theological arguments against suicide and murder of innocent people have existed within Islamic jurisprudence for centuries. The only thing required of the ulema is to formulate these arguments so as to unambiguously declare that suicide bombing is not permissible. The problem with doing this has also existed for centuries and the crucial related question to be asked is how and when jihad can be declared and who can declare it.

 

In order to come to a consensus about the impermissibility of suicide bombing, many other theological arguments also have to be addressed. Unfortunately, there are people like Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the famous TV cleric, who have caveats for when suicide bombing becomes acceptable. He argues that the Palestinian resistance's use of suicide bombs as a weapon against Israel is a jihad and leads to martyrdom.
Perhaps prominent ulema from various countries but specifically Pakistan and India need to come together and give a joint declaration against use of suicide attacks. It is important to remember that people who become bombers often do so out of desperation; it is crucial to understand and address these problems as well. Declaring suicide bombing haram will not mean the economic, political, social and other problems which give rise to such extreme behaviour will also disappear. Suicide bombing is the ultimate manifestation of egoism, often compounded by frustration. All religions, not just Islam, endeavour to remove the stain of egoism from a person's soul. By his selfish act, the bomber merely reaffirms what is said in the Quran: for in murdering one innocent person he murders all of humanity (Al-Maidah 5:32).


 The writer is a religious studies scholar.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

PAKISTANI CRICKETERS FIND NO TAKERS AT THE IPL AUCTION


KEEP POLITICS OUT OF SPORT

Pakistan, reigning Twenty20 champions, have successfully strutted their stuff in the very format the Indian Premier League (IPL) is all about. Among the 11 Pakistani players up for grabs at the recent IPL auction, at least three ought to have been lapped up by any team. All-rounder Shahid Afridi – player of the tournament in 2007's World T20 and man of the match in last summer's T20 final – needs no introduction. Umar Gul is a talented bowler. Sohail Tanvir's show as highest wicket-taker in IPL's inaugural edition won matches. If anything, the pre-bidding buzz was about the prices they would command. So, it isn't entirely incomprehensible that politics is being read into the fact that none of the 11 found a berth in any squad while relative unknowns made it.


Given the heartburn in Pakistan's cricket establishment, some IPL franchisees have been quick to cite doubts about player availability to justify their choices. Others claim changed cricketing strategies guided them. It's likely they also factored in Indo-Pak diplomatic turbulence and the related security scenario. IPL being a high-stakes extravaganza, this is understandable. The question, however, is whether their decisions were freely taken, or were subject to government pressure. With some franchisee officials reportedly signalling the latter, there's a possibility politics did play spoilsport, dealing a blow to both cricket and the world's abiding faith in the power of sport to bring peoples and nations together.


When the IPL innovation first emerged, many said spectators would never flock to contests sans adversarial national teams. IPL's spectacular success silenced naysayers. With teams as talent pools drawn from the world over rather than representing countries, IPL's format transcended national barriers, thereby wrecking old flag-waving shibboleths and making cricket a truly unifying and globalised sport. Sadly, the IPL auction didn't fit with this spirit of the game. It's especially when diplomatic ties are strained between countries that society in its many creative avatars – sport, art, business, media, academia – must rise and keep up people-to-people links fostering understanding and amity. IPL teams would do well to remember this, when bidding next time around.

 

IT MAKES SOUND BUSINESS SENSE PRODOSH MITRA


Why are we getting into a tizzy about Pakistani cricketers not finding takers at the IPL auction? There are sound business and cricketing reasons why they failed to make the cut.


Let's look at the business logic first since the IPL franchisees, unlike national teams, are commercial ventures. Because of the now-on, now-off nature of Indo-Pak relations, any business venture involving Pakistanis is risky. This holds true for Pakistani players too. Following 26/11 not a single Pakistani player could play in the second edition of the IPL. What guarantee is there that some diplomatic tiff or a border row won't result in Pakistani players being refused visas? Worse, there is every chance that the volatile situation within Pakistan could result in their players pulling out. When relations between the two countries are at a low, it's natural that IPL franchisees have steered clear of Pakistani players. After the auction, some of the franchise owners said doubts about the availability of Pakistani players influenced the bidding process.


But a sporting franchise is not just about business and profits. It also aims to win, which in turn brings in more sponsors and moolah. Shouldn't players from Pakistan – the reigning World T20 champions – have been perfect for teams with a few slots to fill? Ironically no. It is well known that Pakistan is the most unpredictable of teams and Pakistani players are a mercurial lot. After their T20 World Cup win, one would have expected Pakistan to go from strength to strength. Instead their captain, Mohammed Younus, has taken a break and we just saw Pakistan getting whitewashed 0-3 by Australia. Besides, in the first IPL, few of the Pakistani players showed match-winning potential. Shahid Afridi in particular epitomised the cavalier attitude of the Pakistani contingent.
    There's no need to go looking for conspiracy theories to explain the omission of Pakistani players. Each club had zeroed in on specific players, and none of the Pakistani players on current form fitted their plans. There is every chance that some of the Pakistani stars will be back in the future editions of the IPL.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

THE DYING OF THE LIGHT

BACHI KARKARIA



 Strangely, gratefully, i was back in Kolkata when Jyoti babu – or his doctors – finally decided to call it a day. Three days earlier, and it would have coincided with the eclipse, providing headline writers with their perfect metaphor. A day earlier, and it would have thrown out of gear the city's celebration of the sesquicentennial of its other great institution, St Xavier's College. It was typical of the man. He wasn't going to oblige the journalists, but he wasn't as churlish as to rain on the parade of his old alma mater.


It was ironic too to be again in a city attired again in the ambience of the bandhs he used to call. They had a perverse grandeur compared to the petty petulance of those ordered in my new hometown, Mumbai.
Which was why, the day before the funeral, beneath the raucous commerce of Gariahat's hawkers, there was a palpable subterranean hush. The grief was real even before it poured itself out so overwhelmingly the following day as the patient queues finally entered the assembly hall, and wept as the gun carriage majestically rolled down Red Road.


 Again typical of a man who gave no quarter to emotion, he did not offer the ultimate catharsis which comes with the leap of flames or even the more prosaic clang of an electric crematorium's door. His chosen final resting place was a hospital dissection table.


 But i felt blessed to have been in Kolkata at this momentous 'end of history'. Mamata Banerjee may have had her dig when she described him as the 'first and last chapter of the communist movement in India', but she voiced a larger truth. That awesome old mould has been broken, and they don't make them like that any more. Whether we loved those irascible titans or loathed them, we will always be left longing for their departed style.
Certainly Jyoti babu was as reviled as he was admired. In the clubs of 'Cal', the bhadralok disdain for him was as inescapable as the batter-fried bekti. He had smashed that presiding deity, the 'glory of Bengal'.
 

They weren't worked up about his opposition to that alien beast of computerisation in the early 1970s. In their lofty intellectual domain, industry was almost a heresy, so his active encouragement to the flight of capital didn't get their perfectly pleated dhotis into a twist. But they never forgave Jyoti babu for his betrayal of English, and his banning of it in primary schools. That, and his neglect of urban needs in favour of the countryside where his reforms made so dramatic a difference.

 

So, as Kolkata slipped back into Kipling's 'city of dreadful night', thanks to loadshedding, some of us never let him forget his comment of the 1960s. As deputy CM, he had turned down proposed thermal projects, saying sarcastically, "What will we do with all that power? Eat it?"

 

We rubbed in the fact that the state run by a Jyoti was manifestly deficient in light. And throwing the CPM's beloved Mao back in its face, we reminded his party that while 'power flows from the barrel of a gun', it would help if it did likewise from thermal stations.


Later, exposing how the municipal corporation had flouted all its own rules in cahoots with the state government in slyly trying to convert a park into a commercial complex, The Statesman and i had pointed out that just because the Red Fortress had become invincible, it did not mean that it was also unanswerable. The project was called off.

 

Yet my most memorable recollection of those 1980s years in Kolkata is that of two back-to-back election meetings of 'Rajiv Baba and Jyoti Babu'. Everyone from the boudis in red-bordered saris to the Ballygunge belles may have swooned over the 'fair, young and handsome' Mr Gandhi, but the leonine CM still held sway.
The lion has passed beyond winter.


Alec Smart said: "Jairam Ramesh's 'heat' is adding to global warming.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUST CHILL

 

Why on earth have you been staring at those ice cubes for so long?

 

Oh, just wanted to see whether the melting point of ice in normal pressure is really just above O°Celsius or not.

 

And why shouldn't it be?

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has admitted that its prediction about Himalayan glaciers vanishing by 2035 because of climate change is bunkum.

 

But surely, that doesn't mean that global warming is fictional?

 

Well, IPCC Chairman R.K. Pachauri has just come out with a novel, so...

 

I think it's brave of the IPCC to admit its mistake.

 

But if the IPCC scientists fudged the data about glacial melting, what choice did they have but to come clean after being exposed?

 

Well, they could have attacked those who exposed the findings as 'climate change deniers'.

 

Hey, what are you doing?!

 

Why, pouring the ice into my drink, of course.

 

Do say: The heat is on.

 

Don't say: Thomas Friedman's just been exposed! The world's not flat, it's round.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SETTING THE STANDARD

 

The judiciary could have asked for no better verdict than the one from the Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan, when he termed our judges as among the best in the world. With such high expectations of it, the judiciary, like Caesar's wife, must be beyond reproach. And we are certain that every effort is being made in this direction. Which is why it should steer clear of any allegations of opacity in the manner in which it refuses to subject itself to the kind of scrutiny that the other pillars of democracy have to. The persistent refusal to come under the scanner of the Right to Information (RTI) Act comes to mind in this context.

 

The Delhi High Court has ruled that the CJI comes under the RTI's ambit and it is only after the ruling that the highest judicial functionary reluctantly stated that he has no objections. Of course, the HC ruling does not automatically bring the CJI under the RTI since the Attorney General feels that only the Supreme Court should decide on this. But since those who are part of that august body will be affected by the ruling, naysayers may say that this might not be the right forum to decide on the issue. Greater transparency can only complement the judiciary's independence and effectiveness. But, on the other hand, a counter argument often used is that the RTI could be misused by interested parties against individual judges. This does not really hold any water since the RTI has built-in safeguards against both motivated and frivolous inquiries.

 

The issue of appointments has long been somewhat controversial in the judiciary. Perhaps, many quail at the thought that bringing this into public scrutiny could open up a can of worms. But, once again, given the enormous respect that the judiciary commands, it would benefit people to know the criteria by which their judges are selected, not to mention the fact that it is these functionaries who preside over life and death situations for citizens. The issue of corruption in the judiciary has surfaced every now and again. If this is kept under a lid, it will only erode the credibility of the institution. At a time when the judiciary is seen as the last hope in an otherwise compromised system, it cannot afford even the slightest doubt to be cast on its integrity. The Indian judicial system is a role model for many developing countries. So it becomes all the more crucial that it sets the benchmark in probity, transparency and efficiency. Which is what the CJI must have had in mind when he showered such fulsome praise on the system over which he presides.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CLEARING THE AIR

 

If there's one problem that we edit writers face, it is making ourselves clear. Now insignificant souls like us can afford to compromise on the principle that clarity begins at home. But not so the most powerful being on earth. And here, he himself is in no doubt on how clear he makes himself. "Let me be clear," were the words with which he introduced himself to America at the 2004 Democratic Convention. As for his patriotism, "Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country." He is absolutely clear on what health reform means for his country and equally clear that al-Qaeda is lurking around in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He's even clear that the Nobel is not a recognition of his own accomplishments.

 

But to us, the less visually enhanced, his journey so far seems a bit of a haze. If he is clear that Osama's boys are loitering around in Pakistan and Afghanistan, why are we not clear as to how he'll nab them? As for health reform, his 20/20 vision has not rubbed off on his countrymen, still trying to figure out what Dr Obama's prescription has in store for them. And why was the Nobel gong sent along to the White House, if he's clear about it not being about his nifty dance moves? Was it in anticipation of the musical on his story? Or was it for Michelle's sartorial savvy?

 

We need him to be more clear on this. But may we give old eagle eyes a bit of advice? As long as you're opaque on an issue, your detractors can't pin you down on it or hold you to your words later. This is how we avoid litigation. Perhaps a little less of the vision thing could help when people don't see eye to eye with the world's main man.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LONELY AT THE TOP

RAJA MENON

 

Gathering internal intelligence and counter-terrorism mechanisms to itself, the ministry of home affairs has changed the emphasis on what the future National Security Advisor (NSA) will have to do. The NSA was always a figure ill at ease in a parliamentary system inherited from the British, where external crises were to be solved by the long defunct Defence Committee of the Cabinet.

 

The office of NSA was set up in the US in 1963 and his task, briefly, was to offer policy options to the president on matters of national security with the aid of a staff that included the brightest. The strength of the system lay in the brilliance, integrity and diligence of the national security staff, and the trust between the president and the NSA.

 

When we set up the office of the NSA in a parliamentary system, we dismissed the idea of sanctioning a staff, asking the Joint Intelligence Council to fulfil the role instead. This was a catastrophic decision, as every second lieutenant knows that intelligence, intelligence analysis and policy formulation should never be done by the same people, so as to avoid the tail wagging the dog. But there was plenty of trust between the NSA and the PM, and that made the system work, albeit like a tricycle with two wheels.

 

As India's powers grew and the NSA was increasingly required to give the PM advice on external affairs, the weakness of the national security staff become apparent, with the result that within a huge bureaucracy, the number of people looking at the future and making intelligent analyses were probably two or three. The NSA is also responsible for the state of nuclear deterrence — the correlation between India's forces and its nuclear rivals, for which, bizarrely, no staff exists in India. Nor is there a central targeting staff, with the risk that when the world begins to implement Obama's nuclear zero, the sub-continental arsenals, still growing, will get capped in disorderly confusion.

 

According to Samuel Huntington's famous criteria of organisational effectiveness, being in the national security staff in India is considered  a death sentence, given the prospect of getting stuck in an uninspiring office, doing uninspiring work. The home minister's counter-terrorism office does not affect the NSA's functions and, in the US, though the counter-terrorism office's mandate is much bigger, it doesn't tread on the NSA's toes.

 

Back home, a new NSA is soon to be appointed to advise the PM, for which he needs the PM's trust. But he also needs an inspiring chief of staff. Thus, anyone despised by the bureaucracy is bound to kill the office, no matter how brilliant the NSA is. Institutional outputs are superior to one man's thinking, particularly when the PM has to be briefed daily, and accurately. Henry Kissinger was in his office at 7 am and briefed the president at 8 am every day. His staff was up half the night.

 

Organisationally there are many choices. The American NSA is not a member of the Cabinet. The Canadian NSA is in the Privy Council and answers to the defence minister for coordination among the defence and intelligence wings. In India we need an NSA who will coordinate defence, foreign affairs, science and external intelligence but, most of all, he needs to cover the ground the bureaucracy ignores. Governance is not his role. His role is to strategise and plan for the future, and recommend options to the PM with regard to national security. Well before he's asked.

Raja Menon is former Chairman of a Task Force in the National Security Council Staff

The views expressed by the author are personal

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

CAUGHT AT SILLY POINT

SAMAR HALARNKAR

 

Don't be fooled.

 

India's rich and famous are weakly telling us that 11 talented Pakistanis were shut out of cricket's most lucrative tournament because it wasn't certain they would be available through the season.

 

Here's what Shilpa Shetty, the Rajasthan Royals' co-owner, said: "We were not convinced about their availability, and that's why we did not want to take any risk."

 

This is what she really means.

 

We know the unpredictable Pakistanis can change a game. We know their presence would liven up the IPL immensely. We know they are the T20 world champions. We would love to have them on the team.

 

But we'd rather not.

 

What if there's another terror attack during the Indian Premier League (IPL)? What if the government says we must send them back? What if the government doesn't really want them in the first place? What if someone calls us unpatriotic for playing — and paying — Pakistanis?

 

One hopes none of these questions are playing out in the mind of Kolkata Knight Riders' owner Shah Rukh Khan, whose bowling coach and cricketing legend, Wasim Akram, is the sole Pakistani left in IPL-3.

 

And what of our latest whipping boys, the Aussies, some of whom are playing in IPL-3? There is disquiet in the IPL because the Shiv Sena, struggling for political relevance, has issued a no-Aussies diktat after the attacks on Indians Down Under. "The BCCI [Board of Control for Cricket in India] will discuss the matter with the political party and reach on (sic) a consensus," says IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi.

 

This timorous, more-loyal-than-the-king attitude is something that particularly afflicts many tycoons and stars in the new, rising India, where cash is king, and personal convictions and doing the right thing are expendable subjects.

 

A dishonourable silence and general apathy when things go wrong in the country, beyond its balance sheets and factories, is not unfamiliar to India Inc. So it was after the massacre of Sikhs on Delhi's streets in 1984. So it was after the murder of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 (The exceptions: Anu Aga of Thermax, Cyrus Guzder of Airfreight Ltd. and HDFC's Deepak Parekh). So it will always be. In 2007, Ratan Tata — a man whose vision and drive I greatly admire — said of Narendra Modi's Gujarat: "You're stupid if you're not here."

 

As for Bollywood, it falls easily to its knees, crawling when asked to bend.  Scenes and dialogues are routinely deleted from films because politicians disapprove. The Sena's rival, Raj Thackeray, is a leading unofficial censor.

 

Once you bend to anyone, it's hard to stand. Last year, in a fine example of hair-splitting, Shah Rukh Khan's Billu Barber shaved the 'barber' from its title when hairdressers said the word degraded them. 'Billu Hairdresser' didn't quite have the same ring, so the film became just Billu.

 

The honourable exception is Aamir Khan who freely aligned himself with a protest against the Narmada dam and did not backtrack when Modi's Gujarat ensured an unofficial ban on his 2006 love story Fanaa.

 

At least the svelte Shetty said something, however inaccurate (unlike last time, visas are not a problem this year and both governments have, unofficially, been supportive), about shunning the Pakistanis. For people who revel being in the public eye, the owners of the eight franchisees cowered behind a wall of silence when asked about their refusal to bid for the Pakistanis.

 

In part, this is easy to explain. The 26/11 atrocity may be fading from our memories, but it hasn't faded yet. Any hand of friendship to Pakistan in a time of tension has always been unpopular.

 

In 1951, six years after the two nations were created in a subcontinental bloodbath, Jawaharlal Nehru faced outrage when he recognised one Indian rupee as equal to a Pakistani rupee. The benefits didn't matter. "The general consensus in New Delhi was that 'India has been completely defeated,'" writes Ramachandra Guha in India After Gandhi.

 

I was too young to know how people felt then, but it's apparent that even the wars of 1965 and 1971 did not

generate the feeling of hostility then that many Indians — possibly a majority — feel now towards Pakistan and Pakistanis. So, with the added fact that 56 of 67 players up for bidding didn't get picked for IPL-3, I don't see India getting too exercised over the 11 Pakistanis among that lot.

 

This timorous attitude is a tragedy for cricket in particular and for the future of India-Pakistan relations in general. Our neighbour needs our courage now more than ever. It is indeed difficult to fully trust Pakistan. As I write this there are, despite their internal turmoil, fresh Pakistani attempts to infiltrate terrorists into Kashmir, intelligence officers say. But that does not mean we shun Pakistanis, much less when we have a chance to play together on the same team. Togetherness and familiarity are more effective than any high-level talks will ever be.

 

When the debates are done, and we settle down to IPL-3, it will be that much duller without our mercurial neighbours. Last week, Shahid Afridi said that while he would play on any IPL team, given a choice he would like to play alongside his friends, Harbhajan Singh and Yuvraj Singh. Imagine the destructive Shahid Afridi facing the Rs 3.45 crore West Indian rising star Kieran Pollard. What a grand sight that would be. The only thing Afridi must now face is his humiliation — and we our gutless actions.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ORGANISED ACTION

 

India's Minimum Wages Act, passed in 1948, is a study in how to convolute a simple idea. Instead of a baseline norm across sectors, the Centre and the state governments both have the power to mandate wages for specific types of jobs. The piecemeal nature of the legislation means that millions of workers fall through the cracks — if their employment is not listed in the schedule to the act, they are invisible in the eyes of the law. The Centre is now proposing to change this. By adding the phrase "any other employment" to the law's schedule, the attempt is to make the Minimum Wages Act all-encompassing.

 

The other aspect of the proposed amendment is to beef up enforcement. The fine on cheating employers will be raised to Rs 5000, along with the threat of a six-month jail-term. While in itself welcome, the idea that finer laws will lead to tighter enforcement is a recurring fallacy in our labour laws. Ensuring that employers maintain registers, provide cards and pay slips is difficult even when the employer is the state (witness reports of perfidy in the payment of NREGA wages). Ensuring it for private employers will require a special kind of zeal.

 

There is also no escaping the long-term solution — reforming our stifling labour laws. Inflexible hire and fire policies has resulted in an over-regulated and over-policed "formal" labour market, causing under-regulated and under-policed "informal" labour to grow even larger. By disincentivising the hiring of new employees, our labour laws prevent the absorption of India's 34 crore unorganised workers into the formal economy. Guaranteeing minimum wages for the informal sector is a good start, if well-enforced. But real benefits to India's unorganised sector require the Centre to reform our perverse labour laws. Everything else is palliative.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AMAZINGLY GRACELESS

 

On behalf of my party and my own behalf, I deeply mourn the demise of Comrade Basu... He will be missed by us always," said Sonia Gandhi, much to the possessive irritation of her ally Mamata Banerjee. Banerjee made her displeasure clear, by pointedly avoiding Jyoti Basu's funeral, saying she didn't want to "add to the crowd" by going to the assembly where Basu's body lay in state. Earlier, she avoided meeting the prime minister during his visit to Basu's hospital. Parsing her actions is not too complicated — she is clearly uncomfortable with the display of civility between the Congress and CPM, and petulant that her whinging about the law and order situation in West Bengal has not been adequately heeded.

 

Banerjee claims that she skipped the event because a privilege motion was pending against 25 Trinamool MLAs for violence on the premises, and the fact that she did not want to be seen with the chief minister and other CPM members. However, this was one occasion where other parties, regardless of their immediate equations, came together to acknowledge the loss and publicly grieve a political colossus. It has always been one of the norms of Indian politics, that intense public rivalries are suspended in times of loss.

 

What makes Mamata Banerjee stand apart? After all, her party is the second largest component of the ruling coalition — the normal thing to do would be to assume the role, and stand by her allies as they pay their respects to a departed rival. This is not compromise, but the standard noblesse oblige of Indian politics — or indeed, politics anywhere in the world. West Bengal's politics needn't be a blood feud either. In every competitive arena, there are moments of truce. But of course, this behaviour is of a piece with Mamata Banerjee's absolutist approach, her inability to appreciate context. Her politics is punctuated with sulks and fits, freighted with expectation and unmet demands. This time though, she outdid herself.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

MINUS PAKISTAN

 

Figure this out. Eleven Pakistani men, most of them members of the squad that won the 2009 Twenty20 world championship, were among the cricketers up for auction. Eight franchisees of the Indian Premier League were looking to add punch to their teams in season three, exuding the enticing mix of glamour, guile and strategising that's made the auction the IPL's most self-celebratory event. It is a moment when the older ethos of cricket, based on the domestic and international calendars, is contrasted with the

 

go-getting flamboyance of the IPL franchisees, all too often a moment when the future reveals itself. On Tuesday, when a bunch of cricketers including the 11 Pakistanis went under the hammer, that possible future revealed itself to be heartless. On that day not one of the 11 Pakistanis, each of whom was up for auction because each had been considered by at least one franchisee in the preparatory stage, received a single bid.

 

It is not immediately clear whether the team owners had been explicitly told not to grab the Pakistanis, among them Shahid Afridi (a game-changer on his day, which still comes by often enough) and Sohail Tanvir (the best bowler of IPL-I). Maybe the franchisees have a point when they say they were driven by considerations of player availability. After all, between them the Indian government and the IPL — led by its imperious commissioner, Lalit Modi — organised enough of an obstacle race last month to put doubts in the team owners' minds. Then, crude ultimatums were issued to some of the Pakistanis by Modi on the pretext that they had not completed their paperwork and obtained visas. Maybe all that the team strategists were doing was pick up the signals emanating from the government and the IPL. After all, the Pakistan government too had been reluctant to allow their cricketers to participate in IPL-II, post-26/11.

 

However, none of that rationalisation lets anyone off the hook, not the governments, not the IPL, not the franchisees. Each in its own way has damaged the special place cricket has held during even the worst phases in India-Pakistan ties. Many times cricket between India and Pakistan has been suspended, but never has one country insulted the other's cricketers. And whenever cricketers have been asked to prop up normalisation efforts, they have gamely obliged. Even if it be that no one explicitly set off Tuesday's outrage, the result has damaged the game. Again it has been shown that cricket, with all the qualities and messages that attach to it, is not safe with the IPL.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

MINUS PAKISTAN

 

Figure this out. Eleven Pakistani men, most of them members of the squad that won the 2009 Twenty20 world championship, were among the cricketers up for auction. Eight franchisees of the Indian Premier League were looking to add punch to their teams in season three, exuding the enticing mix of glamour, guile and strategising that's made the auction the IPL's most self-celebratory event. It is a moment when the older ethos of cricket, based on the domestic and international calendars, is contrasted with the go-getting flamboyance of the IPL franchisees, all too often a moment when the future reveals itself. On Tuesday, when a bunch of cricketers including the 11 Pakistanis went under the hammer, that possible future revealed itself to be heartless. On that day not one of the 11 Pakistanis, each of whom was up for auction because each had been considered by at least one franchisee in the preparatory stage, received a single bid.

 

It is not immediately clear whether the team owners had been explicitly told not to grab the Pakistanis, among them Shahid Afridi (a game-changer on his day, which still comes by often enough) and Sohail Tanvir (the best bowler of IPL-I). Maybe the franchisees have a point when they say they were driven by considerations of player availability. After all, between them the Indian government and the IPL — led by its imperious commissioner, Lalit Modi — organised enough of an obstacle race last month to put doubts in the team owners' minds. Then, crude ultimatums were issued to some of the Pakistanis by Modi on the pretext that they had not completed their paperwork and obtained visas. Maybe all that the team strategists were doing was pick up the signals emanating from the government and the IPL. After all, the Pakistan government too had been reluctant to allow their cricketers to participate in IPL-II, post-26/11.

 

However, none of that rationalisation lets anyone off the hook, not the governments, not the IPL, not the franchisees. Each in its own way has damaged the special place cricket has held during even the worst phases in India-Pakistan ties. Many times cricket between India and Pakistan has been suspended, but never has one country insulted the other's cricketers. And whenever cricketers have been asked to prop up normalisation efforts, they have gamely obliged. Even if it be that no one explicitly set off Tuesday's outrage, the result has damaged the game. Again it has been shown that cricket, with all the qualities and messages that attach to it, is not safe with the IPL.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

ORGANISED ACTION

 

India's Minimum Wages Act, passed in 1948, is a study in how to convolute a simple idea. Instead of a baseline norm across sectors, the Centre and the state governments both have the power to mandate wages for specific types of jobs. The piecemeal nature of the legislation means that millions of workers fall through the cracks — if their employment is not listed in the schedule to the act, they are invisible in the eyes of the law. The Centre is now proposing to change this. By adding the phrase "any other employment" to the law's schedule, the attempt is to make the Minimum Wages Act all-encompassing.

 

The other aspect of the proposed amendment is to beef up enforcement. The fine on cheating employers will be raised to Rs 5000, along with the threat of a six-month jail-term. While in itself welcome, the idea that finer laws will lead to tighter enforcement is a recurring fallacy in our labour laws. Ensuring that employers maintain registers, provide cards and pay slips is difficult even when the employer is the state (witness reports of perfidy in the payment of NREGA wages). Ensuring it for private employers will require a special kind of zeal.

 

There is also no escaping the long-term solution — reforming our stifling labour laws. Inflexible hire and fire policies has resulted in an over-regulated and over-policed "formal" labour market, causing under-regulated and under-policed "informal" labour to grow even larger. By disincentivising the hiring of new employees, our labour laws prevent the absorption of India's 34 crore unorganised workers into the formal economy. Guaranteeing minimum wages for the informal sector is a good start, if well-enforced. But real benefits to India's unorganised sector require the Centre to reform our perverse labour laws. Everything else is palliative.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

ZARDARI NEEDS TO BE A LEADER, NOT A LONER

HUMA YUSU

 

Earlier this week, the leader of the opposition in Pakistan's National Assembly called on President Asif Ali Zardari to openly discuss his fears in parliament. There was, however, no need for Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to extend this invitation for a national-level therapy session to the president, for the latter's woes have been making newspaper headlines for weeks. Indeed, if Zardari's recent stretch at the helm of Pakistan's affairs is anything to go by, it really is lonely at the top. Sadly, this crisis of leadership could not come at a worse time for Pakistan.

 

In December, the country's Supreme Court declared the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) — under which criminal and civil cases against certain politicians were suspended or discharged — unconstitutional. As a result, corruption cases against Zardari could be reopened, jeopardising his presidency. The NRO controversy fuelled calls for Zardari's removal from public office, and this chorus was led by popular news anchors on Pakistan's largest media group. By the end of last year, the president was feeling quite cornered, the fall guy of judicial activism and the favourite punching bag of the free press. Although the anti-Zardari voices have since subsided, the president's troubles are far from over.

 

This year has kicked off with a wave of inter-party violence in Karachi — the country's economic hub — that pits Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) against the politico-ethnic Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which forms part of the ruling coalition at the centre. The targeted killings of political activists from both sides is an extension of longstanding turf wars and criminal rackets in Karachi, but the escalation of violence in the past fortnight has shaken the ruling coalition, already fragile in the wake of the NRO brouhaha (betraying its alliance with the PPP, the MQM had opposed the ordinance).

 

Since Tuesday, the PPP and MQM have been making all the right noises to soothe inter-party tensions — peace committees have been constituted, and Zardari's run up quite a phone bill placing long-distance calls to Altaf Hussain, the MQM chief who remains in self-exile in London. But analysts believe this latest tussle has revealed deep cracks in the ruling coalition.

 

To make matters worse, attempts to control the law and order situation in Karachi have earned Zardari the ire of his own party members. The federal government ordered an 'operation' in Lyari, the urban slum where most of the targeted killings took place. Ironically, Lyari is a PPP stronghold, and the brutality of police and paramilitary forces sent in to prevent more clashes has left many party workers enraged at their own elected representatives. For making this political blunder, Zardari and his right-hand men within the PPP have been criticised on the Senate floor by their colleagues within the party.

 

This infighting is the last thing Zardari needs as he faces heat from the opposition over a delayed constitutional reforms package (Zardari has long been promising to remove amendments that grant the president 'anti-parliamentary powers', such as the ability to dissolve the assembly).

 

It is believed that Zardari is putting off reforms because of a perceived threat from Nawaz Sharif, the chief of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN). The president believes Sharif is eyeing his job, and in fiery speeches to his party workers has implied that all his recent troubles — including the NRO verdict — can be traced back to the PMLN chief's desire to dislodge him from the presidency. Zardari's paranoia about Sharif probably spiked this week when the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission to hold by-polls in Sharif's Punjab constituency on March 10, which will allow the former prime minister to officially segue back into politics.

 

As Zardari is bullied on all fronts — by the judiciary, media, opposition, coalition partners — PPP stalwarts are focusing on damage control. The provincial assemblies in Sindh, Balochistan, and the Frontier have been moved to pass resolutions reposing confidence in the president. But in the province that matters — the Punjab, home of the PMLN — opposition members have refused to adopt a confidence resolution.

 

As pressure mounts, Zardari must be thinking that history is not on his side, as no elected government in Pakistan's history has completed its term. But it is on this very point that the president can rest easy. The fact is, Pakistanis are desperate for political stability and will not relish the chaos of mid-term elections. Civil society wants to see Zardari's government break the spell of abortive terms and cement the democratic set-up. Even Sharif is attuned to the public's desire to see the coalition government through this term, and has muffled calls for mid-term elections.

 

This is a crucial time for Pakistan: an acute energy crisis has paralysed the country, the Indian and Pakistani militaries have been verbally sparring, extremists are fanning out to Sindh, and the US has renewed its calls for an army operation in the North Waziristan tribal agency. The country needs a leader, not a loner. Zardari should do whatever he can to consolidate the government, including appeasing coalition partners and pushing through constitutional reforms. He may then find himself feeling a bit less lonely.

 

The writer is features editor ,Dawn.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

INTERROGATING AUTONOMY IN J&K

REKHA CHOWDHARY

 

With the working group on Centre-State Relations headed by Justice Sageer Ahmed recommending the restoration of autonomy for Jammu and Kashmir, the political divergence within the state have come into focus again. While the Kashmir-based political parties have welcomed the recommendation, the separatists have rejected it on the ground that it assumes the finality of state's accession with India and places the Kashmir issue within the paradigm of Centre-state relations. It has also evoked a negative response from the BJP and like-minded local parties and organisations on the ground that "autonomy" promotes a secessionist agenda.

 

These responses are similar to the ones articulated in 1999 when the autonomy issue was last highlighted following the recommendations of the State Autonomy Committee constituted by the NC government. This pattern emphasises the need to address political divergence and to evolve a consensus before any concrete proposal for conflict resolution can be pursued. As things stand, there can be no alternative to this consensus-building around conflict resolution mechanisms, since the other possibility of dividing the state has been declared outright dangerous and rejected even by the BJP.

 

But is consensus possible, given such polarised approaches? Can there be a dialogue between the pro-azadi and pro-autonomy positions? It may be a difficult exercise — one seeking to renegotiate the state's relation with the Centre within the existing framework, and the other contesting this framework itself. However, in the complex reality of Kashmir's politics, the understanding that the two concepts of "autonomy" and "azadi" overlap at many points and that the idea of "azadi" has come into vogue only when the space for "autonomy" had totally shrunk, may give us some hope for the reversal as well, provided the idea of autonomy is pursued in an earnest manner.

 

However, the divide between those demanding the restoration of autonomy and those opposing Article 370 itself seems far more intractable. Rather than a reasoned debate, the issue of autonomy has remained wrapped in rhetoric and emotion. Is autonomy really opposed to integration and does it actually lead to secessionism? This is an important question because two opposite arguments are built around the same political fact. While the opponents of autonomy argue that Article 370 has led to secessionist forces, those in its favour argue that it is the erosion of autonomy which has led to alienation and, consequently, separatist politics. And this leads to a related question: What is Article 370 about? Does it have a federal context or a nationalist context? How does the concept of asymmetrical federalism affect the unity and integrity of the Indian nation? This debate may help clear the confusion created around the article and shift the discourse from nationalist to federalist context, and thereby create a space for dialogue and consensus.

 

It is also important to raise the question about the nature of autonomy itself — how inclusive or exclusive is this demand? It is important to note that besides the urge for autonomy for the state, there is also an urge for regional and sub-regional autonomy, and no essential contradiction between these urges. One of the major reasons why the concept of state autonomy is vigorously opposed in Jammu is because it does not essentially incorporate the idea of further extension from the state to region and from regions to sub-regional levels. In the discourse therefore, state autonomy is placed in opposition to the concept of regional autonomy, the former catering to Kashmiris and the latter to the regions of Jammu and Ladakh. With the idea of autonomy shedding its exclusive nature, there is no reason why the space for dialogue would not be available.

 

Related is another set of questions: how static or dynamic is the concept of autonomy? Presenting autonomy in a very static manner — as a concept representing the ideology of a particular party (National Conference) or a concept located in a particular period (pre-1953), the dynamism of the concept of autonomy has been taken away. In the current conceptualisation, it places itself in opposition to various pro-people institutions and processes merely on the ground that these are "Central" and erode the "autonomy" of the state. The fact that the state still has to implement the 33 per cent reservation for women in the Panchayati Raj insitutions, that there is a time lag in the institutionalisation of RTI, that the jurisdiction of the National Commission of Women is not extended to this state, that the provision of political reservation for STs is not implemented — all this makes a case for looking afresh at the concept of autonomy. Once the debate is opened, and the stakeholders are involved, it may be possible to go beyond the rigid positions and evolve a consensus.

 

The writer teaches political science at Jammu University

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

CHINA'S CONTROL, ALT, DELETE

 

Last week, I wrote a column suggesting that while some overheated Chinese markets, like real estate, may offer shorting opportunities, I'd be wary of the argument that China's economy today is just one big short-inviting bubble, à la Dubai. Your honour, I'd like to now revise and amend my remarks.

 

There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I'd like to short the Chinese Communist Party.

 

Here is why: Chinese companies today are both more backward and more advanced than most Americans realise. There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let's call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

 

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China.

 

What is so important about knowledge flows? This, for me, is the key to understanding the Google story and why one might decide to short the Chinese Communist Party.

 

John Hagel, the noted business writer and management consultant argues in his recently released "Shift Index" that we're in the midst of "The Big Shift." We are shifting from a world where the key source of strategic advantage was in protecting and extracting value from a given set of knowledge stocks — the sum total of what we know at any point in time, which is now depreciating at an accelerating pace — into a world in which the focus of value creation is effective participation in knowledge flows, which are constantly being renewed.

 

"Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important," says Hagel. "Since there are far more smart people outside any one organisation than inside." And in today's flat world, you can now access them all. Therefore, the more your company or country can connect with relevant and diverse sources to create new knowledge, the more it will thrive. And if you don't, others will.

 

I would argue that Command China, in its efforts to suppress, curtail and channel knowledge flows into politically acceptable domains that will indefinitely sustain the control of the Communist Party — i.e., censoring Google — is increasingly at odds with Network China, which is thriving by participating in global knowledge flows. That is what the war over Google is really all about: It is a proxy and a symbol for whether the Chinese will be able to freely search and connect wherever their imaginations and creative impulses take them, which is critical for the future of Network China.

 

Have no doubt, China has some world-class networked companies that are "in the flow" already, such as Li & Fung, a $14 billion apparel company with a network of 10,000 specialised business partners, and Dachangjiang, the motorcycle maker. The flows occurring on a daily basis in the networks of these Chinese companies to do design, product innovation and supply-chain management and to pool the best global expertise "are unlike anything that US companies have figured out," said Hagel.

 

The orchestrators of these networks, he added, "encourage participants to gather among themselves in an ad hoc fashion to address unexpected performance challenges, learn from each other and pull in outsiders as they need them. More traditional companies driven by a desire to protect and exploit knowledge stocks carefully limit the partners they deal with."

 

Command China has thrived up to now largely by perfecting the 20th-century model for low-cost manufacturing based on mining knowledge stocks and limiting flows. But China will only thrive in the 21st century — and the Communist Party survive in power — if it can get more of its firms to shift to the 21st-century model of Network China. That means enabling more and more Chinese people, universities and companies to participate in the world's great knowledge flows, especially ones that connect well beyond the established industry and market boundaries.

 

Alas, though, China seems to be betting that it can straddle three impulses — control flows for political reasons, maintain 20th-century Command Chinese factories for employment reasons and expand 21st-century Network China for growth reasons. But the contradictions within this straddle could undermine all three. The 20th-century Command model will be under pressure. The future belongs to those who promote richer and ever more diverse knowledge flows and develop the institutions and practices required to harness them.

 

So there you have it: Command China, which wants to censor Google, is working against Network China, which thrives on Google. For now, it looks as if Command China will have its way. If that turns out to be the case, then I'd like to short the Communist Party.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

SUGAR HIGH

 

The editorial in the latest issue of RSS mouthpiece Organiser , titled "We are sweet to our tormentors! Food price is no issue. What if sugar is sold at Rs 50?" says: "WHO made our sugar bitter? And our food dearer? Manmohan Singh? Sharad Pawar? Mayawati? Or all the chief ministers collectively conspiring to give the UPA a bad name and a free run for hoarders, black marketeers and petty traders to make astronomical profit at the cost of the common man? It is easy to shift the blame on anybody's door and get away. Has not 'bitter sugar' now become a cliché? Is it not a fact that food prices were high for almost the entire tenure of Manmohan Singh and yet he returned with a renewed mandate? The opposition parties find it difficult to collect a respectable crowd to protest the price rise even though the number of starvation deaths as reported in the media has only been increasing by the day despite India sitting on the high table of developed countries at the international economic submits". It adds: "Everybody knows this is India's peak production season for sugar. The arrival of sugar in the market should have been high, which should have reduced the price. Reports say that both stock level and arrival were inadequate in recent months, though there was no fall in production. For over two months imported raw sugar is held up in the port for want of a release order. The ten days time Sharad Pawar is now saying for the price to come down is sufficient for the profiteers to make a killing. In the season time if the prices are so high is there any hope of the price falling off-season? It is easy to blame Mayawati and opposition-ruled states for the price rise. Who does not know that the PM and his food minister are talking for the sake of saying something? The UPA has not shown a desire to dump faulty rules set for the sugar industry. The sugar price in the international market is lower than the Indian market. By the time imported sugar reaches the Indian market that too becomes costlier because of the deliberate mess Sharad Pawar has created".

 

Back to the farm

A news item titled "Food prices are high because of neglect of farm sector" says: "The new president of the Bharatiya Janata party, Nitin Gadkari, has taken several innovative measures aimed at revitalising the party. Being a man of the masses one suggests he pays very special attention to agriculture which is actually in a dire strait in the country today in spite of claims of launching of a second Green Revolution. It is not generally realised how precarious is India's food grains situation today in the aftermath of the drought during the monsoon season in 2009. Actually, statistically speaking, one can state without fear of contradiction that the production of foodgrains in India at the end of the current agricultural year in June 2010 (agricultural year is from July 1 to June 30) will not be very different from the total production of 209.8 million tonnes (mt) in the year 1999-2000. One will come to the disturbing conclusion that India had not advanced even one step in the production of foodgrains in the last ten years".

 

It adds: "It is necessary in this context for the BJP to keep track of agriculture because if production and productivity of crops do not increase with time, the number of Indians already going to bed hungry every night which is now 27 million according to FAO figures, will increase. A BJP cell for Agriculture can keep track of these developments and take suitable actions on them. Besides, agriculture is a state subject according to the Constitution and there are more than half a dozen states in which the BJP is in power by itself or in alliance. Such a cell can keep under its watch the development of agriculture in such states and keep a tab on the performance of these governments in question. Several years ago, a proposal was made in the BJP to set up a cell on agriculture. The idea was opposed on the ground that there was already a Kisan Morcha in the party. This is an erroneous concept. One hopes Nitin Gadkari will agree to this proposal and take necessary action in this regard".

 

Compiled by Suman K. Jha

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

POWER TO PROTECTIONISM?


As reported in FE on Wednesday, an empowered group of ministers has decided to bar ultra mega power projects (UMPP) from sourcing equipment from abroad. The fact that the government plans to augment domestic manufacturing to offset the import ban makes one wonder if this is a rollback of the policy regime in power to the import substitution regime of a bygone era. This kind of protectionist move exceeds even the highest expectations of domestic lobbies and the various expert groups on the matter that had recommended a uniform import duty of 7.5% plus 4% SAD on all capital goods imports to protect domestic industry. The ban on imports also means that the government is yet to learn any lessons from the 10th Plan experience when the delay in supercritical technology tie-up by Bhel caused about half of the slippages in capacity creation in the thermal sector. And the risks are much greater now, as the share of super critical technology is expected to go up 60% of the capacity addition in the 12th Plan and further to 90% in the 13th Plan.

 

Restricting the choice of suppliers in such a capital-intensive sector will also lead to cartels, which will raise equipment prices and increase power generation costs. Remember that the low levelised tariff quoted by the bidders for the first four UMPPs was made possible by the policies that allowed them to source equipment from the widest range of suppliers. Any move to ban imports would also be in sharp contrast to the earlier policies that sought to boost power equipment capacity in the country by linking up new equipment orders to domestic production, which is a much more reasonable option. In fact, in August last year, the Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure had even decided to go in for bulk ordering of 11 supercritical units with a phased manufacturing programme for the development of indigenous facilities. And these efforts have paid off as indicated by the number of new collaborations that have sprouted, like those between L&T and MHI, JSW and Toshiba, Bharat Forge and Alstom, and GB Engineering and Ansaldo, for the manufacture of supercritical boilers and turbine generators. Restricting the choice of equipment suppliers for the remaining UMPPs would also place them at a disadvantage compared with the earlier bidders who were free to source from global markets. So it would be best if the government restricted the capacity creation guidelines to overall efficiency indicators and left all the nitty-gritties to the investors.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TERM DEPENDENCE


The plan by the government to extend the term of the members of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to five years is a step in the right direction. The term of office for the chairman and members will now be the same as in other sector regulators, except in the financial sector, where it is three years. Behind the extension is the larger question of the independence of the regulator, which is necessary to invest it with the authority to command respect in the industry it regulates. The shorter term for Trai members kept on reminding us of the ugly fracas in 2000 that led to the shortening of the membership term of the institution to three years. The government of the day was establishing its supremacy over the regulator. And the independent role the regulator needed to pursue therefore became negotiable. While there was no official word on why the term was clipped, the government, basically the department of telecommunications, let it be known that the regulator was stymying efforts at bringing in changes in the sector. After a decade, that sordid episode is well and truly over with BSNL becoming a consequential casualty. Fortunately, other than that, the sector did not suffer in the process. Does this mean sectors do not need regulators? This is impossible. The financial sector regulators are the most celebrated but in other sectors also the establishment of regulatory structure has brought stability, like in power, for instance. The problem has occurred in sectors where the ministry has been the owner of companies and also makes policies simultaneously. The dual role makes the regulator's life difficult, particularly since civil servants have often occupied the role of chairmen as post-retirement sinecure.

 

A reasonably long term is necessary for the regulator to investigate issues that surface in a sector. In the UK, too, from where India has borrowed several features of the regulatory model, the term of office for regulators, including the FSA, the Office of Fair Trading, is for five years while that of the Competition Commission is even longer, at eight years. The continuity also gives industry the confidence that issues will be dealt with in detail, unlike government ministries, where it is rare for any joint secretary to see through a policy end to end. The question, therefore, is not just of absolute length of tenure per se but also of parity among equals and what can be considered a reasonable length of time.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

CAPITALISM, THEN SOCIALIST INTERVENTION

MK VENU


Many prominent industrialists from West Bengal paid rich tributes to Jyoti Basu as one who had eschewed militant trade unionism in his later years and even developed a more reasonable approach to the need for industrialisation in the state. Indeed, it is most fascinating to study over time the tentatively changing attitude of Indian communists and other Left-of-Centre formations towards capitalism and capitalists. I have heard many leading industrialists from West Bengal vouching for the way Jyoti Basu or Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee would personally intervene and diffuse a worsening militant trade union situation. One word from the top leader and things would settle. While this did provide temporary relief, it did not solve basic issues. In fact, many would argue it is utterly feudal and if merely a word from the party leader diffuses a trade union crisis. In Marxist parlance, such a feudal approach to collective bargaining happens in society at a stage best described as the primitive mode of capital accumulation. In a sense, both capitalism and trade unionism need to re-invent themselves and become more scientific, as seen in the West, and indeed parts of East Asia, through the latter half of the 20th century.

 

Attitude to capitalism and capitalists needs to be debated more thoroughly in our society. This is important not just because the communists in India rule a few states. This debate is crucial also to bring greater clarity within the ruling Congress party whose socialist DNA is still very strong. In fact, many big policy initiatives that are supposed to provide a stronger foundation to India's growing economy are being put off because of opposition from either the communists or other Left-of-Centre formations in West Bengal. In short, the influence of the Left continues to dog the Congress in more ways than one.

 

There is already a debate going on within the CPI (M) over its approach to industrialisation and rapid capital accumulation after their electoral debacle in West Bengal. Evidently, the CPI (M) leadership is somewhat divided on what strategy it should adopt to enable smooth capital accumulation in the state. A section of the CPI (M) feels the party must allow capitalism to take root and later create its own contradictions for a socialist intervention. This essentially means you allow wealth creation first and then redistribute through state intervention at a later stage. However, the party's economic ideologue Prabhat Patnaik argued against this approach in an article in the

 

Economic and Political Weekly last month. Patnaik argues that socialist/state intervention should be a constant process and cannot wait for capitalism to mature to a higher stage. Indeed, this confusion also dogs the Congress party in many ways.

 

Like the Left parties, the Congress leadership is also unable to decide the optimal trade-off in which modern capital accumulation is allowed enough leeway so that the state will have room for socialist intervention at a later stage. The Indian growth story and the rise of the new entrepreneur class has indeed resulted in more than doubling of the government's tax revenues over the past five years. Such a surge in tax revenues in a short period has not been seen in decades. Indeed, it is this bonanza that enabled the Centre to implement many social welfare schemes such as the farm loan waiver and rural employment guarantee. But for this generosity on the part of the state to continue, there must be a striving to create more wealth in the years to come. That requires creative thinking that will ensure a further unshackling of the Indian entrepreneurial spirit. New policy initiatives must support that. Such initiatives have not been seen so far. The UPA is currently showing some signs of complacency simply because India was not affected by the global financial crisis in the way other countries were.

 

Indeed, there is a sense of elation over 7% GDP growth. Many Congress leaders are tending to slip back to the old socialist ways of the party. That will be a grave error. Culinary experts say the tongue develops a deep memory for certain dishes that you then crave all your life. One only hopes the senior Congress leadership is not developing a deep craving for items from the past socialist menu.

 

 

One got a small glimpse of that when finance minister Pranab Mukherjee extolled the virtues of Indira Gandhi's move to nationalise banks that he argued helped the Indian banking system hold firm against global financial crisis. However, it must not be forgotten that when Manmohan Singh launched economic reforms in 1991, most public sector banks were in the intensive care unit. Between 1991 and 1996, over Rs 35,000 crore of fresh capital was pumped into these banks to revive their operations. Subsequently the PSU banks began shaping up only after they got stiff competition from the newly licensed private banks like ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank. This perspective must not be lost. The Congress party must internalise the reality that socialist interventions can become possible only after a strong capitalist growth framework is put in place. It doesn't work the other way round.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GOOD RESULTS BUT IT SHOULD REDUCE RISK

DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR


Last week when Infosys opened the third quarter results calendar, bringing much cheer to the market, we in these very columns said that if TCS and Wipro could follow suit, the Indian IT sector would be able to dance on its own two feet. And that's precisely what has happened. TCS and Wipro have beaten street expectations comfortably and have joined hands with Infosys to proclaim that all's well with IT-dom.

 

While pricing pressures have not completely disappeared, they have eased to a considerable extent and the firms have been able to maintain desired margins. The volume demand has picked up, too, reflecting positive sentiments in the market, and the result has been the welcome development of the upward revision in annual and quarterly revenue guidance figures.

 

Infosys revised, albeit conservatively, its annual revenue growth estimates between 3.6-3.8%, upping it from the earlier estimate of 1.2-1.7%. The company now expects its FY10 revenues to be in the range of Rs 22,473 to Rs 22,519 crore.

 

Similarly, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) beat market expectations to post a 33.9% jump in its net profit at Rs 1,824 crore for the quarter. Its revenue, too, jumped 5.1% on strong volumes of 6.6% to touch Rs 7,649 crore year-on-year. And on Wednesday, Wipro posted a stronger-than-expected 21% rise in third-quarter net profit, as net profit rose to Rs 1,217 crore from Rs 1,004 crore. Shares of the company in BSE rose to its highest price—Rs 753 per share— since 2000, indicating by how much the environment has turned around.

 

The results support the view that the IT industry is on its way to recovery after being ravaged by the global financial crisis last year. Most Indian IT players had relied heavily upon clients in the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) space, which was the most badly affected during the crisis. Now that the dark clouds have started to move from above the BFSI space, the Indian software sector has also started to feel a little more comfortable. In fact, it would be fair to say that not even hardcore optimists would have predicted such a fast recovery in the sector.

 

But it's always prudent to take stock and learn from one's mistakes. After all, lightning can strike at the same place twice. Analysts are now of the view that IT firms should look to derisk their business model by evening out their geographic revenue mix. Even today they rely too heavily on the US, which contributes nearly 60% of their income. Time has come for them to look at Europe as a more able ally. Infosys has been looking to arrive at a revenue mix of 40:40:20 (North America, Europe and the rest) for some time but has still not achieved it. Similarly, TCS and Wipro, too, could look at a similar derisked model. Also, it would be prudent to rely less on the BFSI space and look to boost revenues from other verticals.

 

And it's not just the biggies that have profited. Sonata Software has announced a quarterly profit of Rs 22 crore, IT product firm Subex registered a profit of Rs 41 crore and Mindtree recorded a profit of Rs 54 crore. So greenshoots appear to be spreading everywhere.

 

As an offshoot, hiring has picked up and there is good news on the pay hikes front, too. Wipro has decided to raise wages for its one lakh plus staff later this quarter after freezing them early last year due to the slowing business momentum. The quantum of the hike has not been decided yet. In Q3, Wipro added 4,855 employees, or about 5%, its biggest pace of staff addition in more than two years.

 

Infosys Technologies has increased its overall hiring numbers for 2010-11 to 24,000. The company said it would hire 6,000 people on a gross basis, of which 1,500-2,000 will be laterals. TCS will be hiring close to 11,000 in the fourth quarter. Of this, close to 8,300 will come from campuses and 3,000 will be laterals.

 

So as you can see, there is not much of a difference from what happened in the pre-recession days. Hiring is in full swing, hikes are about to happen, deals are flowing and pricing pressures have eased. All that one is not hearing is some news of a major acquisition. Do not be surprised though, if a big ticket acquisition is announced around the corner. Truly, the dam has broken. Once again.

 

dj.hector@expressindia.com

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TIME FOR A BREAK

LALITHA SRINIVASAN

 

In a significant move, the ministry of information and broadcasting (I&B) has ruled out the possibility of new channels entering Indian TV screens in the new year. I&B ministry has just announced its decision to suspend any further grant of permission to companies for launching new TV channels. The ministry has cited spectrum scarcity and limited transponder capacity on the satellites as the main reason behind its decision.

 

At present, 417 channels are operational in the Indian television industry. "In 2008 the total number of channels was around 389. And now there are over 417 active TV channels (2009)," according to Tam Media Research. Incidentally, over 170 applications were pending with the ministry in the last few months. According to industry sources, the ministry had recently sought the views of Trai on whether the number of TV channels in India should be capped—after receiving over 170 applications across the country. After deliberating over the matter for months, the ministry announced that applications for permission to uplink and downlink TV channels from and in India will not be accepted.

 

Obviously, many companies are not very happy with the ministry's decision. Instead of improving its infrastructure, the government is denying the fundamental rights of companies, bemoans the broadcasting industry. Like the telecom sector, the I&B ministry also cited the scarcity of spectrum for its decision. Incidentally, many companies were making elaborate plans to launch their new TV channels in the new year. Not anticipating the government's decision, many companies were giving finishing touches to their programme schedules and software programmes, too. These companies have also shot various episodes for their new channels in the last few months. All these preparations will now go for a toss. In short, I&B's move has thrown water on the roll-out plans of over 150 companies.

 

What will be the impact of the ministry's decision on media planners in India? In sharp contrast to the disappointment of many companies, leading media buying agencies are quite happy with the government's decision as there will be less confusion in the Rs 22,000-crore media buying industry in India. "No new channels means less confusion and chaos. The media is so fragmented with over 420 channels now," points out Punitha Arumugam, CEO of Madison Media. Other media planners share Arumugam's sentiments when they say the electronic media is too crowded with too many channels. Clearly, with the government's new move, competition in electronic media will be restricted. Whether that's good can be much debated.

 

lalitha.srinivasan@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

 

At last, the Union Human Resource Ministry has decided to act against the Deemed-to-be-Universities (DUs) that have not met the prescribed standards and norms. It has informed the Supreme Court that 44 DUs stand to lose the status in the light of the findings of the committee headed by P.N. Tandon that went into the functioning of the 126 DUs across the country. They were found to suffer from serious deficiencies and aberrations, with many of them being run as family enterprises. In the case of another 44 DUs, which do not face imminent de-recognition, notices will be issued requiring them to rectify the defects perceived in their organisation, infrastructure, or management. Tamil Nadu has the dubious distinction of hosting as many as 16 of the DUs to be divested of the recognition. Many of the delinquent institutions started, initially, as medical or engineering colleges and then launched arts and science colleges to boost their overall student strength and ultimately get the 'university' tag of the 'deemed' variety. Flawed, if not dubious, management practices and admission of students beyond the limit determined by the norms seem to be the two major factors that invited de-recognition.

 

HRD Minister Kapil Sibal has held out the assurance that the two lakh students in these DUs will not be adversely affected and they will be able to get their degrees. The Ministry has said these institutions will be re-affiliated to their respective universities. It is for the government to ensure that the transition process is swift and smooth. Ever since Mr. Sibal took over, there have been serious moves to stem the rot in the higher education sector. Over the past decade, there had been a proliferation of deemed universities, mostly in the southern States, thanks to the clamour for the DU tag that gave managements a great deal of functional autonomy. These DUs even succeeded in persuading the government and the University Grants Commission to let them drop the appellation 'deemed' and call themselves 'universities'. Now, the report of the Tandon committee and the United Progressive Government's favourable response to it hold the promise of a salutary change in the situation. The HRD Ministry needs to go far beyond the de-recognition move and bring about systemic changes in professional education. For instance, the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) is crying for an overhaul in its functioning, especially in the sanctioning procedures and norms applicable for engineering colleges. On the medical education front, there is a strong and urgent case for expansion so as to keep pace with health care needs of the community.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

READYING FOR THE GAMES

 

The frenetic pace of construction activity towards meeting the October 3 deadline for the Commonwealth Games has left Delhi looking like a battlefield. Delhiites have coped, mostly uncomplainingly, with the rubble, dust, trenches, and traffic snarls in the hope that less than nine months from now, they would be residents of a world-class city that Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit keeps promising. At the same time, there is a constant query from the public and the media: will Delhi be ready? Those unaware of the workforce of thousands, toiling sometimes in three shifts a day at the height of winter in a race against time to complete the infrastructure, might be sceptical. There is no need to panic yet. Two of the main venues will be completed next month to host international competitions in shooting and hockey. All other venues, except those for athletics and swimming, should be ready by March 31, according to projections. The concerns expressed by the Games Co-ordination Commission over delays in the completion of the athletics and swimming stadiums are, however, genuine. They demand urgent attention from the authorities.

 

In recent weeks, apprehensions have been expressed in Australia and England over the security risks — with some anonymous senior Whitehall officials quoted as saying there was "virtually no chance" of an England team coming to the Delhi Games in October. Mike Fennell, president of the Commonwealth Games Federation, has rightly taken a dim view of this. In an interview to The Times, he has warned England that there could be repercussions for the London Olympics if it stayed away from the Delhi Games. "A country that wants to host an event," he has pointed out, "should think how other people will then view the security risks in their own country. The fact is there is always a security risk. Everybody has to make their own decisions but if you don't go [to Delhi] I suggest you don't travel anywhere in the world." Financing the Games remains a major challenge. The Organising Committee has been slow off the blocks with its merchandising plans; as against a target of Rs.1,700 crore needed to pay back the government 'loan' of Rs.1,620 crore, it has so far managed to mobilise only about Rs.500 crore in sponsorship deals and television rights. The Committee has also had to work overtime on the technology and operations front. Plans to tackle the notorious Delhi traffic need to be put to test urgently. Finally, although multi-discipline Games are not supposed to be dependent on a few superstars for their success, there will be disappointment if several top-ranked athletes, including Usain Bolt, do not turn up.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

LOOKING BACK FOR INSPIRATION

IN THE ABSENCE OF UNIONS ON CAMPUS, STUDENT ACTIVISM IN PAKISTAN SUSTAINS ITSELF ON THE INSPIRATION AND NOSTALGIA OF EVENTS PAST.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

 

On a January day more than five decades ago, hundreds of college students in Karachi took to the streets demanding that the government provide them with better educational facilities. The police fired at them, and there were deaths. This led to more protests over the next three days. As many as 27 students lost their lives, over 400 were injured and more than 1,000 jailed.

 

The event snowballed into a full-fledged students' movement that would continue for nearly a year. It was the first protest of its kind in the new nation, reflecting both the early difficulties and material hardships faced by people, especially those who had migrated from India, as well as the hopes and aspirations of an entire new generation fired by the idealism and zeal of nation-building.

 

Earlier this month, hundreds of people gathered in Karachi to honour the legacy of the January 1953 movement, and the memory of its leader, Dr. Mohammed Sarwar, who died last year at the age of 79. Pulled together by his daughter, journalist-film maker Beena Sarwar, the commemoration included a riveting documentary of the movement and reminiscences by some of those who participated in it.

 

The title of the event, Looking Back to Look Forward, was a studied choice. Student unions have been banned in Pakistan since the Zia regime, and although a pledge to revive them was given pride of place in the 100-day roadmap unveiled by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in the National Assembly immediately upon taking office in March 2008, it did not happen.

 

The over two decades old suppression of student activism has been blamed for a number of ills that plague Pakistan today: the unchallenged rise of religious extremist ideologies among the youth, their "de-politicisation", the apathy and disaffection among them, the lack of leadership, representational and negotiation skills among the present generation of politicians, and indeed, for the weak roots of democracy itself.

 

Despite the wide acknowledgement of the crucial role students can play in the body politic, there is still no sign that the government is planning to make good its promise to bring unions back into Pakistan's campuses. The announcement by the Prime Minister did lead to the setting up of "tri-partite commission" under the auspices of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission consisting of administrators, faculty and students to discuss the modalities of restoring student unions.

 

But, according to those with knowledge of the proceedings, instead of talking about the modalities, many of them began by stating their opposition to the restoration. The entire project now seems to have been quietly shelved.

 

Education administrators and even large sections of students seem to fear student activism could lead to a repeat of the early 1980s when political parties, through their student wings, brought violent turf wars into campuses, the worst-hit among which was Karachi University.

 

Even so, the 1953 commemoration, the first time a students' movement has been celebrated in this way in Pakistan, attracted a surprisingly large number of young people, and their calls for the PPP government to keep its promise to restore student unions gave the event an electric atmosphere.

 

"We may not have undergone the physical torture that the students who participated in the 1953 movement experienced," said Alia Amirali, a student activist in Islamabad's Qauid-e-Azam University, making a stirring speech at the event, "but students are now prey to a far worse kind of suppression, and that is the suppression of the mind". The depoliticisation of students, she said, was responsible for causing hopelessness among youth.

 

The 1953 movement was spearheaded by the progressive Democratic Students' Front under the leadership of Dr. Sarwar, then a student of Karachi's Dow Medical College. The college lacked even basic facilities, as did other educational institutions across the city. The students joined hands to highlight their demands, which included one for setting up a university in Karachi. Before partition, the colleges in Karachi were affiliated to Bombay University.

 

After the incidents of January 7 and 8 that year, the movement spread countrywide. During that time, the students brought out a fortnightly called Student Herald, which used to be so popular that students used to requisition copies in advance. In 1954, as Pakistan joined U.S.-led Cold War military alliances, the government banned the Communist Party, and the DSF, which was thought to be affiliated with it. The Herald too was shut down. Many DSF activists joined the National Students' Federation, and were inspiration for the next generation of NSF activists who spearheaded the 1969 protests against the Ayub regime, eventually leading to the ouster of the military ruler.

 

Pakistan's next military regime would take no chances with student activism. The violence on the campus between student wings of various political parties gave General Zia ul Haq the excuse he was looking for and unions were banned in 1984.

 

But the regime continued to encourage on-campus activism by the Islami-Jamiat-e-Taleba, the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami, categorising it as a religious organisation. As a major campus recruiter for volunteers to join the mujahideen in the first Afghan war against the Soviets, the IJT was a darling of the country's security establishment and remains a powerful campus organisation to this day.

 

But 2006 saw the first stirrings of a student backlash against the monopoly of the IJT, triggered by its dress code for students and edicts against music shows and intermingling of the sexes in Lahore's Punjab University campus. A year later, protests by students from a few universities and private colleges against the 2007 Musharraf emergency raised hopes that Pakistani youth still cared enough to believe they could make a difference.

 

"We can thank General Musharraf for bringing us out on the streets again. It is an exaggeration to describe what happened then as a students' movement, but whatever it was, it restored life to our dead campus," said Ms. Amirali, "not for one, two or three days, but for three whole months".

 

Those three months briefly brought into focus the progressive role that students and youth could build a democratic culture in Pakistan. But the failure to restore student unions shows that Pakistan either still does not trust its youth to act responsibly or fears their power to bring change, Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches at the Qauid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, told The Hindu.

 

Going by past experience, there are also real concerns that political parties will turn campuses into violent battlefields. Another worry for many is that given the existing dominance of religious Right-wing organisations on campus, these would do everything to gain control of student bodies.

 

Still, said Dr. Hoodbhoy, the government must not shy away from helping to revive student activism, in order to restore "meaningful discussions on social, cultural and political issues" to campuses.

 

He advocated a cautious start: before a full restoration, the government should allow and encourage limited activities by students such as participation in disaster relief work, community work, and science popularisation by students.

 

Also, a clear code of ethics that specifically abjures physical violence, and that specifies immediate penalties, including immediate expulsion of students if these are violated by whoever is responsible, irrespective of political orientation.

 

But it does not seem as if student activism is going to be legitimised and allowed to flourish in Pakistan any time soon. Until then, students who want to make a difference through progressive campus politics may have to sustain themselves on the inspiration and nostalgia of events past, such as the 1953 movement.

 

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THE HINDU

LOOKING BACK FOR INSPIRATION

IN THE ABSENCE OF UNIONS ON CAMPUS, STUDENT ACTIVISM IN PAKISTAN SUSTAINS ITSELF ON THE INSPIRATION AND NOSTALGIA OF EVENTS PAST.

NIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN

 

On a January day more than five decades ago, hundreds of college students in Karachi took to the streets demanding that the government provide them with better educational facilities. The police fired at them, and there were deaths. This led to more protests over the next three days. As many as 27 students lost their lives, over 400 were injured and more than 1,000 jailed.

 

The event snowballed into a full-fledged students' movement that would continue for nearly a year. It was the first protest of its kind in the new nation, reflecting both the early difficulties and material hardships faced by people, especially those who had migrated from India, as well as the hopes and aspirations of an entire new generation fired by the idealism and zeal of nation-building.

 

Earlier this month, hundreds of people gathered in Karachi to honour the legacy of the January 1953 movement, and the memory of its leader, Dr. Mohammed Sarwar, who died last year at the age of 79. Pulled together by his daughter, journalist-film maker Beena Sarwar, the commemoration included a riveting documentary of the movement and reminiscences by some of those who participated in it.

 

The title of the event, Looking Back to Look Forward, was a studied choice. Student unions have been banned in Pakistan since the Zia regime, and although a pledge to revive them was given pride of place in the 100-day roadmap unveiled by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in the National Assembly immediately upon taking office in March 2008, it did not happen.

 

The over two decades old suppression of student activism has been blamed for a number of ills that plague Pakistan today: the unchallenged rise of religious extremist ideologies among the youth, their "de-politicisation", the apathy and disaffection among them, the lack of leadership, representational and negotiation skills among the present generation of politicians, and indeed, for the weak roots of democracy itself.

 

Despite the wide acknowledgement of the crucial role students can play in the body politic, there is still no sign that the government is planning to make good its promise to bring unions back into Pakistan's campuses. The announcement by the Prime Minister did lead to the setting up of "tri-partite commission" under the auspices of Pakistan's Higher Education Commission consisting of administrators, faculty and students to discuss the modalities of restoring student unions.

 

But, according to those with knowledge of the proceedings, instead of talking about the modalities, many of them began by stating their opposition to the restoration. The entire project now seems to have been quietly shelved.

 

Education administrators and even large sections of students seem to fear student activism could lead to a repeat of the early 1980s when political parties, through their student wings, brought violent turf wars into campuses, the worst-hit among which was Karachi University.

 

Even so, the 1953 commemoration, the first time a students' movement has been celebrated in this way in Pakistan, attracted a surprisingly large number of young people, and their calls for the PPP government to keep its promise to restore student unions gave the event an electric atmosphere.

 

"We may not have undergone the physical torture that the students who participated in the 1953 movement experienced," said Alia Amirali, a student activist in Islamabad's Qauid-e-Azam University, making a stirring speech at the event, "but students are now prey to a far worse kind of suppression, and that is the suppression of the mind". The depoliticisation of students, she said, was responsible for causing hopelessness among youth.

 

The 1953 movement was spearheaded by the progressive Democratic Students' Front under the leadership of Dr. Sarwar, then a student of Karachi's Dow Medical College. The college lacked even basic facilities, as did other educational institutions across the city. The students joined hands to highlight their demands, which included one for setting up a university in Karachi. Before partition, the colleges in Karachi were affiliated to Bombay University.

 

After the incidents of January 7 and 8 that year, the movement spread countrywide. During that time, the students brought out a fortnightly called Student Herald, which used to be so popular that students used to requisition copies in advance. In 1954, as Pakistan joined U.S.-led Cold War military alliances, the government banned the Communist Party, and the DSF, which was thought to be affiliated with it. The Herald too was shut down. Many DSF activists joined the National Students' Federation, and were inspiration for the next generation of NSF activists who spearheaded the 1969 protests against the Ayub regime, eventually leading to the ouster of the military ruler.

 

Pakistan's next military regime would take no chances with student activism. The violence on the campus between student wings of various political parties gave General Zia ul Haq the excuse he was looking for and unions were banned in 1984.

 

But the regime continued to encourage on-campus activism by the Islami-Jamiat-e-Taleba, the student wing of the Jamat-e-Islami, categorising it as a religious organisation. As a major campus recruiter for volunteers to join the mujahideen in the first Afghan war against the Soviets, the IJT was a darling of the country's security establishment and remains a powerful campus organisation to this day.

 

But 2006 saw the first stirrings of a student backlash against the monopoly of the IJT, triggered by its dress code for students and edicts against music shows and intermingling of the sexes in Lahore's Punjab University campus. A year later, protests by students from a few universities and private colleges against the 2007 Musharraf emergency raised hopes that Pakistani youth still cared enough to believe they could make a difference.

 

"We can thank General Musharraf for bringing us out on the streets again. It is an exaggeration to describe what happened then as a students' movement, but whatever it was, it restored life to our dead campus," said Ms. Amirali, "not for one, two or three days, but for three whole months".

 

Those three months briefly brought into focus the progressive role that students and youth could build a democratic culture in Pakistan. But the failure to restore student unions shows that Pakistan either still does not trust its youth to act responsibly or fears their power to bring change, Pervez Hoodbhoy, who teaches at the Qauid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, told The Hindu.

 

Going by past experience, there are also real concerns that political parties will turn campuses into violent battlefields. Another worry for many is that given the existing dominance of religious Right-wing organisations on campus, these would do everything to gain control of student bodies.

 

Still, said Dr. Hoodbhoy, the government must not shy away from helping to revive student activism, in order to restore "meaningful discussions on social, cultural and political issues" to campuses.

 

He advocated a cautious start: before a full restoration, the government should allow and encourage limited activities by students such as participation in disaster relief work, community work, and science popularisation by students.

 

Also, a clear code of ethics that specifically abjures physical violence, and that specifies immediate penalties, including immediate expulsion of students if these are violated by whoever is responsible, irrespective of political orientation.

 

But it does not seem as if student activism is going to be legitimised and allowed to flourish in Pakistan any time soon. Until then, students who want to make a difference through progressive campus politics may have to sustain themselves on the inspiration and nostalgia of events past, such as the 1953 movement.

 

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THE HINDU

OF JINNAH, BJP AND "TURBAN DIPLOMACY"

FOR JASWANT SINGH, THE SUCCESS OF HIS LATEST BOOK IS HARDLY A COMPENSATION FOR THE LOSS OF A SUCCESSFUL POLITICAL CAREER.

HASAN SUROOR


"All political parties have a penumbra and if they lose that they lose their justification."

 

"With friends like these, who needs enemies?"

 

That appeared to be the message Jaswant Singh wanted to give to the BJP when, last week, he spoke at some length about the runaway success of his book on Jinnah (Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence) which caused his expulsion from the party five months ago.

 

In retrospect, the BJP might be regretting kicking up a needless controversy over a book (a rambling 600-page tome with no significant new insight to offer) that may have struggled to sell had it been simply ignored. Instead, as a beaming Mr. Jaswant Singh pointed out, the book is already into its 23rd reprint and an international edition from Oxford University Press will be launched in London in March.

 

"I am told that Karachi was flush with pirated copies," he gushed, speaking to a group of British Asian MPs and South Asian journalists.

 

The book's success, though, is hardly a compensation for the loss of a successful political career, not to mention the public humiliation of being expelled from a party that had been home to him for more than 40 years. And that is what makes him angry.

 

"They [the BJP leadership] knew that I was writing about Jinnah. It was no secret," he said, clearly sounding hurt that even close colleagues whom he had expected to stand up for him left him hanging out to dry.

 

Mr. Jaswant Singh pointedly recalled how he "fought" for L.K. Advani when he got into trouble with the party over his own remarks about Jinnah. "I fought for Advaniji. I told them I would resign if action was taken against him," he said.

 

While the former Foreign Minister is still struggling to come to terms with the way he was treated, he believes that the BJP acted the way it did because it would lose its ideological raison d'etre if it were to stop "demonising" Jinnah.

 

"All political parties have a penumbra and if they lose that they lose their justification," he said adding that in the case of the BJP that "penumbra" is Jinnah.

 

Calling for an end to Jinnah-bashing, he said that Indians who treated Pakistan's founder as a "demon" were as wrong as the Pakistanis who demonised Gandhi. Jinnah was a "very straight" and "determined" man and had he lived to realise his vision of Pakistan it would have been a very different country today.

 

"I have no doubt about that…Jinnah died before he was able to realise his vision," he told a Pakistani reporter.

 

It was interesting to see how Pakistani journalists suddenly warmed up to Mr. Jaswant Singh when he praised Jinnah but sat back in sullen silence when he criticised Pakistan for its shock invasion of Kargil so soon after Atal Behari Vajpayee's historic bus ride to Lahore.

 

I remember being at the Wagah border on that balmy February afternoon in 1999 when Sada-e-Sarhad (as the bus was named) crossed into Pakistan amid a wave of euphoria on both sides of the border. Few would have imagined at the time that barely months later the two countries would be at war with each other.

 

Mr. Jaswant Singh shakes his head in disbelief at the turn of events. The Pakistani action caused him deep personal hurt because, he claims, the bus ride was his idea.

 

"Prime ministers don't ordinarily travel by bus. I suggested to Prime Minster Vajpayee — and it was in New York that this suggestion was made — that 'why not travel to Lahore by bus'," he claimed.

 

Mr. Vajpayee was so taken up by the idea that he declared: "Yeh lohe ya ispaat ki bus nahin hai, yeh jazbaat ki bus hai." (This is not just a bus made of iron or steel; it is a bus of emotions)

 

Back in Pakistan though, planning for the Kargil adventure had already begun. Whether Nawaz Sharif, who co-hosted the Lahore summit as Prime Minister of Pakistan, knew about it is not clear (Pervez Musharraf insists that he did; he denies it) but Mr. Jaswant Singh has rather fond memories of his meeting with "Mian sahib".

 

That Mr. Sharif has a taste in sharp suits and designer salwar- kameezes is well-known, but it seems he cannot resist a good Rajasthani "pagri" (turban) when he sees one, as Mr Jaswant Singh discovered.

 

"I wore a turban to visit a gurdwara in Lahore. He said: 'I like your pagri very much'. So, I told him: 'now that you have said this I must gift it to you' …I then sent him 11 turbans," Mr. Jaswant Singh recalled counting his fingers, though he did not quite explain the significance of 11. Why not 10? Or 12?

 

But then Kargil happened, putting an end to his quiet "turban diplomacy". Indeed, one wonders if Mr. Sharif ever got to wear any of the turbans before he was sent packing by General Musharraf after staging a coup later that year.

 

So, what next for Mr. Jaswant Singh? Did he plan to form a political party?

 

"No, no, there are enough political parties," he protested saying that he wanted to work for peace in South Asia which was going through its "most perilous" phase in 62 years.

 

"I want to work for peace in Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — and I want to expand the constituency of peace in our land," he declared.

 

Unless, of course, he is rehabilitated by the new BJP management. Never rule out anything in politics!

 

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THE HINDU

THE SAXON QUEEN LOST FOR 1,000 YEARS

MAEV KENNEDY

 

The granddaughter of Alfred the Great came back to England on Tuesday — or at least fragments of a body returned, more than 1,000 years after the Wessex princess was packed off by her brother as a diplomatic gift to a Saxon king.

 

Tests in Bristol are expected to provide further proof that Eadgyth (roughly pronounced Edith) was indeed the woman found wrapped in silk and sealed in a lead coffin, inside a stone sarcophagus at Magdeburg Cathedral in Germany.

 

"Her brother Athelstan was the first king of a unified England, her husband became the first Holy Roman Emperor and her blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe," said Professor Mark Horton of Bristol University.

 

There is no contemporary portrait of Eadgyth and few insights into her life. She was born in Wessex in 910 into one of the most powerful families in England, daughter of Edward the Elder, and half-sister to Athelstan, well on his way to being recognised as the first king of all England.

 

In 929 he sent her and her sister, Adiva, off to Otto and invited him to take his pick, sealing an alliance between two of the rising stars of the Saxon world: Otto chose Eadgyth. They had at least two children before she died in 946.

 

The monument in the soaring Gothic cathedral built centuries after her death was known as her tomb, but historians believed it was empty till it was opened by archaeologists in 2008 revealing a beautifully preserved coffin. An inscription recorded that it was the body of Eadgyth, reburied in 1510. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

ERICH SEGAL, WRITER AND CLASSICS SCHOLAR, DEAD

NED TEMKO

CLASSICS SCHOLAR WHOSE MULTI-FACETED CAREER WAS DOMINATED BY HIS 1970 NOVEL LOVE STORY.

 

The American writer Erich Segal, who died of a heart attack aged 72 on Sunday at his London home, will be best, and most misleadingly, remembered as the author of Love Story (1970). The success he earned from his first novel and its Hollywood film adaptation would be accolade enough for most authors. But while it made him rich, the skewed fame that it brought him shouldered aside a litany of other accomplishments: as classics scholar and teacher, literary critic and sports commentator, essayist and scriptwriter, historian and practitioner of comedy.

 

When Erich wrote the book that changed his life, he was 32. He was a classics professor at Yale University, having earned his master's and Ph.D. from Harvard four years earlier. He left Harvard as class poet and "Latin salutary orator", a twin honour equalled only by one other student, T.S. Eliot. In his academic career, Erich taught Latin and Greek literature not only at Yale, but at Harvard and Princeton and, upon moving to London with his British wife in the 1980s, at Wolfson College, Oxford.

 

But he had always wanted to write. At Harvard, he co-authored the annual Hasty Pudding theatrical production. Alongside his teaching, he had notched up several Hollywood screenwriting credits, including on the Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968) — where the imprint of the rabbi's son was particularly evident in his mischievously inserted line: "Funny, you don't look blue-ish". The Fab Four didn't get it. But Erich insisted: "Trust me, they'll laugh." And they did.

 

He wrote Love Story over his Christmas break in 1969. By the end of the following year, his bestselling book and box-office-topping film about love and bereavement had made him a celebrity. Its most famous line, "love means never having to say you're sorry", instantly entered popular culture. He not only became a regular on TV chatshows, but as an accomplished marathon runner and all-round sports fan, was enlisted by the ABC network to join its commentary team for a string of Olympic Games.

 

He went on to write more than half a dozen other novels. All were as deftly woven around love stories as the first. But all dealt with other themes, too: class and family, academic infighting and, inevitably, religion.

 

Erich was not only the son of a prominent New York rabbi. He was the grandson of an august rabbinical figure from Vilnius, a city so steeped in religious tradition and disputation that it was known as the "Jerusalem" of Lithuania. Erich was born in Brooklyn. He attended a Jewish religious school, or yeshiva. His father had always hoped, and no doubt expected, that Erich would become a rabbi. But when he was a teenager, they came to a deal. He would be allowed to attend the excellent local state school, as long as he agreed to spend evenings studying the Bible at the city's Jewish Theological Seminary.

 

His father was a Conservative rabbi, part of a religious movement that combined emphasis on Jewish learning and tradition, and a wider engagement with modern society and culture than in Orthodox Judaism. Erich, whose mastery of Hebrew equalled his command of Latin and Greek, never lost his interest and joy in Judaism. The annual Passover Seder meals in his London home were not only unfailingly moving — a gathering of family and of a diverse circle of friends united in shared enjoyment of Erich's warmth, humour and generosity. They represented, with a mix of references ranging from Hebraic to Shakespearean, an astonishing, though always self-deprecating, display of erudition.

 

For the final quarter-century of his life, he suffered from Parkinson's disease, which limited his movement in his last few years, though never his remarkable mind — exercised not only in his literary life, but in a continued engagement in wider cultural, and political, issues.

 

During the U.S. presidential election of 2000, he had the bizarre experience of watching two of his former students, Al Gore and George W Bush, vie for the Oval Office. Mr. Gore had been the slightly better student, he recalled, though neither of them was exactly a scholar-in-waiting. Despite inevitable phone calls from American journalists, he tried heroically to stay out of the fray — especially after Mr. Gore hinted publicly that he and his wife Tipper had been the models for Love Story. In fact, if any of his students had helped him model the characters, it was a Gore classmate, the actor Tommy Lee Jones. But Erich decided that not commenting would mean never having to say he was sorry.

 

He continued to write as well. A few years back, he teamed up with his friend Jack Rosenthal to produce a new English translation of the opening Friday-night Hebrew prayer for the West London Reform Synagogue.

 

His last major book was not a novel but a scholarly work. Its genesis lay in his Harvard Ph.D. thesis four decades earlier. Called The Death of Comedy (2001), it traced the history of laugh-making, and of dirty jokes, from the ancient Greeks through to Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. The thesis was that the 20th century had killed off comedy. It was a tantalising argument. But Erich never really believed it. "These things go in cycles," he remarked after the book was published. Comedy was only sleeping. And, he would add, with artists like Mr. Rosenthal, it never dozed off at all.

 

It never left Erich either. It was present in his family, with friends, and perhaps most of all, in the gentle fun with which he saw himself. He was proud of his novels. But when asked by one interviewer to describe his literary life, he quipped: "I always had artistic aspirations, although not, I hope, pretensions."

 

Writing was what he did, what he was. But the novels were only part of it. "Remember," he added, the academic in him suddenly resurfacing, "even Machiavelli wrote three comedies."

 

His wife and editorial collaborator, Karen, and two daughters, Francesca and Miranda, survive him. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE HINDU

BRITAIN HALTS YEMEN FLIGHTS

 

Britain's government is suspending direct flights between the U.K. and Yemen over security concerns following the failed Detroit airliner attack.

 

Foreign Office Minister Ivan Lewis said on Tuesday that flights would only be resumed once the Yemeni government enhanced airport security.

 

Former London student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian with links to Yemen, is accused of attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight on Christmas Day as it was preparing to land in Detroit.

 

— AP

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

SPY WATCH

 

What vice president Hamid Ansari said about making intelligence agencies accountable and how they really hate it should have been said a long time ago. He is saying in so many words the need to put spymasters on a leash.

 

The career diplomat has framed the issue with finesse. Delivering the RN Kao — the first Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief — memorial lecture on Tuesday, Ansari argued persuasively that a parliamentary standing committee could oversee the functioning of the national espionage network without compromising the imperatives of secrecy that the work of intelligence gathering necessarily implies.

 

It is an old theme song of people who work for government in sensitive positions that safeguarding national interests would require total secrecy. That is why they oppose something like the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

 

This need for secrecy is argued more vociferously by intelligence networks and the people who run them than others. There sure are situations when secrecy is all important, but it cannot be in perpetuity and it needs to be scrutinised at all times.

 

There is both a need and a right to question the efficacy and ethics of their methods. It would in no way endanger national security as those who run the business usually argue.

 

It is this exaggerated and consequently distorted sense of self-importance that makes intelligence agencies the nightmare that they become in democratic and authoritarian states.

 

The Indian spy agencies have performed as well or as bad as their counterparts in other countries. As a matter of fact, Intelligence Bureau (IB), R&AW and others are comparable with the US's CIA, former Soviet Union's KGB and Great Britain's MI5 and MI6 in the goof-ups as well as achievements.

 

They have not just spied on enemies of the state but on their own citizens which is totally unacceptable. Even the information gathered on the ostensible enemies often turned out to be trivial and baseless.

 

The CIA dossier on Pablo Picasso, the rebel artist who was suspected to be a communist, is a hilarious example of overzealous and mindless snooping.

 

Ansari has raised a very important issue and this should trigger a vigorous debate, even if it turns out to be rancorous. Perhaps it would be better if it did because then some of the suppressed notions and feelings would have been exorcised.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

YOUNG & RESTLESS

 

It is not often that anyone in government complains that they are under worked. The common perception seems to be quite the opposite and people would be much happier if government worked more than it does.

 

However, the new batch of junior ministers in UPA-II find perhaps that they are left out of the excitement of making a difference.

 

At any rate, they have complained to the prime minister that between their seniors not giving them enough to do and the all-powerful bureaucrats controlling the rest, they were left with neither power nor responsibility.

 

The mantra in this new India and for the new improved Congress has been youth — which more or less includes anyone below the age of 50. Several of these suffering junior ministers are part of the brigade which is going to take the country into the future.

 

But clichés mouthed during electionsoften have no connection with harsh reality and these ministers now face the same complaints that most young people do when faced with the twin towers of seniority and experience.

 

Even someone as experienced as minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor has been pulled up by his senior SM Krishna a couple of times for his public pronouncements.

 

Jyotiradityta Scindia is apparently known to be unhappy with his senior Anand Sharma, minister for commerce and industry — he went so far as to ask the prime minister that junior ministers be "empowered".

 

What then is the answer? Jumbo cabinets have become the norm to accommodate allies and other political constituencies who demand a share of the pie. The number of ministries and junior ministers is usually a direct result of that need. Since large cabinets are a result of political expediency and not a desire to run an efficient government, it is hardly surprising that juniors find there are stymied at every step.

 

Their primary job is to be the show ponies of the government — to prove to the electorate that this or that political party appreciates youth and talent and trusts them enough to give them important positions of power. Having done just that, the rest is lip service.

 

The PM has asked that this "energy pool" focus on flagship schemes and technology. This sop should presumably keep them occupied till it is their turn to move up the ranks.

 

The fact is that in the Indian political system, ministries come as a reward for political experience, seniority and usefulness. Junior ministers who make that cut will rise, with or without enough to work to do.

 

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DNA

A SHAKY NEW WORLD

R JAGANNATHAN

 

Barack Obama will probably end up fighting more wars than George W Bush, his much-pilloried predecessor. Not because he is a warmonger — he is, after all, a Nobel peace prize winner — but because he does not seem to have a viable vision for peace.

 

Peace is never the result of good intentions alone: it is forged in the real-world through a balance of power. We had peace for half a century after World War II because we had two superpowers, both more or less equally matched.

 

The minute one collapsed, stable peace ended. The resultant unipolarity led America to believe that it had the sole right to play globocop. But that led inevitably to wars in eastern Europe, the Gulf, and now Afghanistan.

 

Wars are always the result of one guy thinking he can win. Obama will probably spend all his years fighting little or big wars that he thinks he can or must win. What he needs is a coalition that will keep the peace.

 

Unfortunately for Obama, the US is the sole superpower without enough solus power to overawe secondary or tertiary powers. The No 2 power, China, is not big enough to engage America as an equal. Moreover, America's current decline is economic in nature, not political or military.

 

Theoretically, economic decline should lead to a fall in other power parameters, too, but in America's case its economic problems are mirror images of China's. In short, No 1 and No 2 will rise and fall together, because American indebtedness to China makes the latter vulnerable, too.

 

Two drunks are propping each other up. If the American dollar collapses 50 per cent, China's external wealth will be wiped out by the same percentage.

 

During the Cold War, the US and the erstwhile USSR served as counterweights to each other because their economies were not interdependent. They were independently constructed on different foundations.

 

In the current scenario, the US and China cannot provide alternate nodes around which we can construct a new, stable bipolarity. The power balance is inherently unstable. The duo will be allies in some areas, antagonists in some others.

 

This makes all their remaining alliances unstable, too. Allies and enemies will not be able to sign up with one side or the other permanently.

 

India is a complicating factor in the global power game because we are already a second rung power and in the next 40 to 50 years we could be the world's No 2 economy.

 

Europe and Japan are in relative decline, but will be aligned to one of two big powers. While Europe will stay hitched to America, Japan may be willing to operate under China's shadow due to the economic advantages.

 

Latin America will be aligned to north America, but Russia will have to choose between Europe and Asia: geographically it straddles both regions, but in terms of economic clout, it will be torn between China's economic strength, its strategic interests in eastern Europe, and its old ties to India.

 

But the biggest uncertainty ahead is the rise of political Islam. Throughout much of history, Islam has been a superpower organised under some caliphate or the other. Creating a new caliphate is one of Osama bin Laden's dreams — a dream possibly shared by many moderate Islamists, too.

 

While the 50-and-odd Islamic states currently in existence do not share common geopolitical interests, a caliphate, if it gets created, can create a new power vector that cannot be ignored. It could have an appeal that cuts across Muslim countries.

 

All these factors, and future developments, make for an extremely unbalanced power structure. The world has to move towards a new bipolarity that would include a coalition of interests on each side.

 

If we take the US and China as the two basic nodes for the next 20 to 30 years, it follows that any future alignments will have to start with the US widening its commercial interests to include India, because otherwise it will be permanently tied to China.

 

The future of the new bipolarity will have to be a coalition of democracies, with some exceptions, led by the US and India on the one side, and another coalition of theocracies/autocracies on the other, led by China, and several dysfunctional west Asian and African countries, including possibly Pakistan.

 

Japan and Russia will have to hitch themselves to one of the two alliances, or become the new non-aligned. Nobody can predict the shape of future alliances and Pakistan could be the joker in the pack. Its polity will have to make a choice: it can look east towards India as the model, or west, towards Islam and the Saudi-Taliban model. The disadvantages of the latter are obvious to civil society in Pakistan. But the army establishment can always convert fear and concern about India into a permanent obsession, and there is every possibility that Pakistan will be China's conduit to the Islamic world.

 

Peace in the subcontinent depends on whether Pakistan looks east or west. Peace in the world depends on how soon a new bipolarity emerges.

 

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DNA

A FINE FOR WEARING BURKHA WILL WIDEN THE GAP

ASGHAR ALI ENGINEER

 

A draft bill is now under consideration in the French Parliament to impose a fine of Euro 700 on any woman wearing a burkha covering her whole body in any public place and her husband twice as much if he forces her to wear burkha.

 

This is the first time that women will be penalised for wearing burkha. Earlier France had banned Muslim girls wearing the hijab in schools. It argued that these religious symbols interfere with its commitment to secularism and its secular culture.

 

In fact nothing happens without political ideology behind it. This measure is beingchampioned by rightwing politicians who are exploiting anti-Islam feelings in France under the cover of secularism.

 

However the socialists are opposed to any ban on burkha though they are also not in favour of women wearing it. They feel women should be discouraged rather than ban the burkha.

 

Socialist spokesman Benoit Hamon has said, "We are totally opposed to the burkha. The burkha is a prison for women and has no place in the French Republic. But an ad hoc law would not have the anticipated effect."

 

The stand taken by Socialists appears to be quite logical. One cannot stop women from wearing burkha through a legal ban. But let it be very clear that to cover the entire body including the face is not necessarily an Islamic way.

 

The ulema hold different views on the subject. Majority of them hold that covering face and hands is not prescribed by the Koran or Sunnah. Very few theologians and jurists want women to be fully covered.

 

To compel women to do so is indeed against women's rights and dignity. A woman should be a free agent to decide what to wear within decent limits and cultural ethos.

 

However, this freedom also includes right of women to cover their face, if they so desire and if they think it is a requirement of their religion.

 

When I was lecturing in Bukhara University among a class of women students all of whom were wearing skirts with their heads uncovered, two women came fully covered including their faces.

 

All the other women demanded that these two burkha-clad women be thrown out. I asked, imagine if burkha-clad women were in the majority and two women had come in wearing skirts with their heads uncovered and the burkha-clad women had demanded those two women being thrown out, how would you feel? I argued that we should not get violent because someone dresses unlike us.

 

We should open a dialogue and persuade them, if we can, not to wear such dresses fully covering themselves. There could be a number of reasons why one prefers to wear this kind of dress. Maybe there is coercion by parents or husband which is undesirable.

 

Or maybe one thinks it is a religious requirement and tries to assert that right. Or maybe one is trying to fight cultural alienation. In France and several other European countries migrants are marginalised and have a feeling of alienation which pushes them into practising their own cultural norms.

All Muslim women in France do not wear the burkha — many have integrated themselves into French society by taking to western dress.

 

Thus a legal ban will only build up resistance among traditional Muslim women and they would try to defy the law resulting in social tension. It would be far better to resort to persuasive ways to discourage traditional Muslim women from wearing the all-covering burkha.

 

But persuasion alone will not work unless backed by other measures, economic as well as social, to fight alienation of religious and cultural minorities.

 

Thus one needs a multi-pronged approach to contain this problem. Muslim Ulema and intellectuals living in France have to adopt creative ways to reinterpret Islamic traditional sources to suit new conditions and revisit traditional sources rooted in medieval feudal culture.

 

The writer is associated with the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism

 

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DNA

ABSOLUTE SUPREME

 

When we enter into the field of Yoga, a few significant questions arise. Is Yoga something normal? Is Yoga something natural? Is Yoga something practical? Yoga deals with God.

 

What can be more natural than dealing with God, our very creator? Yoga is something practical. Yoga is inevitable, for God will not allow any human being to remain unrealised forever.

 

We are all seekers. Some of us are at the foot of the tree, some of us are climbing, some have already reached a great height. But we all have to climb up to the Highest, and from there we can bring down the fruit to the world at large. If we eat and do not offer the fruit to others, then God will not be satisfied.

 

Some seekers want God only for themselves. After we have realised God, we have to reveal God to the world. Then God wants us to do something even more significant. He wants us to manifest Him.

 

God realisation, God revelation and God-manifestation are the three goals that each seeker must eventually reach. Today God realisation, tomorrow God-revelation, then God-manifestation.

 

Again, God realisation has no end, God-revelation has no end, God manifestation has no end. We are aspiring to realise the highest Absolute, but the Absolute can never be bound by anything.

 

The Absolute Supreme is always transcending His own highest transcendental Height. When we go deep within, we see that He is not satisfied with His transcendental Height. It is in self-transcendence only that He gets real satisfaction.

 

In our case also, it is in self-transcendence that we will achieve satisfaction. Yoga is a subject, an inner subject, this subject has to be taught and loved. In this subject, an inner cry is of paramount importance. With our outer cry we try to possess earthly material objects.

 

With our inner cry we try to transcend the earth bound consciousness and enter into the Heaven free consciousness.

 

Sri Chinmoy

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

RAISING MONEY FOR GOVT

PUNJAB NEEDS BETTER TAX COLLECTION

 

The belated resource mobilisation exercise in Punjab unveiled on Tuesday is welcome but the Sukhbir-Kalia team entrusted with this responsibility has taken the easiest possible way: tax people more. Making farmers pay for power and water will not only raise some money and curb the misuse of these essentials but also enable the state to avail Central aid and perhaps get soft loans from international agencies. However, reimbursing farmers twice a year through productivity bonuses will expose them to official harassment and corruption. The rich farmers need not be compensated; only those owning less than five acres require a helping hand. Treating all farmers alike is contrary to the principle — "each paying according to his capacity and need"— that supposedly guided the committee.

 

The plan to raise bus fares will unnecessarily burden the travelling public, especially when the Centre has deferred an oil price hike, while benefiting private transporters like the Badals. The committee has not again followed its own principle: "Resources should be raised on the basis of profit rather than income". Profiteers in the flourishing real estate, hotel and marriage palace businesses too have been spared. Disregarding Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal's known views about inducting young blood in the administration, Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal and Industries Minister Manoranjan Kalia have favoured raising the employees' retirement age to 60. This will, at best, provide temporary relief in times of rising unemployment.

 

The additional taxes on industry, already operating in a difficult environment, will hit growth and employment

generation. The existing taxes should be collected through better governance. The government itself requires cost-cutting. Why have a large battalion of parliamentary secretaries? The top-heavy civil and police administration should shed flab. Instead of doing that, the government has asked for, and got, more IAS officers. It is not enough to declare 2010 as "a year of administrative reforms". People expect results. It is well known that subsidies don't reach the needy. Corruption raises the cost of official services and subsidies. The government proposes to raise Rs 4,000 crore by further taxing people. What is the ruling politicians' contribution to the self-depleted state exchequer?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

MINISTERS WITHOUT WORK

SENIORS MUST SHARE RESPONSIBILITIES

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finding time to meet his junior ministers on Tuesday to know what they have been doing since their induction in the NDA ministry shows that he earnestly wants all of them to contribute adequately to the functioning of the government. Earlier he had written to all his Cabinet colleagues to keep their juniors usefully involved in the decision-making process concerning their respective departments. The Prime Minister has been in favour of a mechanism to ensure the sharing of responsibilities, but that is yet to be in place. Such a mechanism seems to be unavoidable now, keeping in view the predicament of most of the 38 Ministers of State who have virtually no work to do. What they have apprised Dr Manmohan Singh of is a sad commentary on the style of functioning of senior ministers. Had the Prime Minister not taken the initiative of having an interaction with the junior ministers, the unfortunate situation would have continued to persist. Most of them are young but are qualified enough to be trained to grow into able administrators.

 

It is true that Dr Manmohan Singh heads a jumbo ministry. But this is unavoidable because of the compulsions of coalition politics. After all, every constituent of the ruling NDA has to be accommodated to ensure that the coalition remains intact. Under the circumstances, there is need for a proper system for the allocation of work to every minister. When they are paid their salaries with huge perks they must be given responsibilities to justify their presence. Otherwise there is no point in having ministers who have nothing to do. Decision-making should not be the prerogative of seniors only.

 

There are also ministers like Mr Prateek Patil of the Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry who, by their own admission, have no idea about what their ministry is doing. Either they have no interest in their portfolio or have not bothered to acquire enough understanding of their department. How can such ministers produce the desired results when they are ignorant of the functioning of their department? If they have a case to be allocated enough work they must also be enthusiastic to learn to be useful to their ministry.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IPL AUCTION

IT'S BUSINESS, NOT NATIONAL HONOUR

 

The spectacle of cricketers being auctioned like horses, or slaves of yore, does not make a palatable sight for all. But then the same has been the case with footballers in Europe going to the club which bids the highest. The IPL is also a business venture and the moneybags have been picking up the gladiators with the willow in a similar fashion. This time particularly, the richie rich have put their maximum money on players who are hardly household names in India. Imagine Kieron Pollard, 22, West Indian all-rounder, being picked up by Mumbai Indians reputedly for a record $ 2.3 million after a four-way tie at $750,000 between it and Royal Challengers, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings. Likewise, New Zealand speedster Shane Bond was picked up by Kolkata Knight Riders for something like $1 million. Those are huge sums and it remains to be seen whether these players will justify the dollars reposed in them.

 

But the real story is that none of the Pakistani cricketers was picked up by any IPL team, in spite of the fact that they are Twenty20 world champions. If one listens to the team managements, this happened because the franchises were once bitter twice shy, since during the previous season, Pakistani players were denied permission by their government following the 26/11 attack. Nobody wanted to take a chance because of concerns about security and lack of clarity over availability. Anyone who spends millions for a player wants the latter to be available for the entire tournament. Absent players would have not only exhausted their purses, but also wasted slots.

 

But as far as Pakistani players are concerned, they are fuming, with captain Shahid Afridi saying that "IPL and India have made fun of us and our country by treating us this way". Now that is taking things a little too far. What Afridi and his boys should remember is that they come into such a commercial venture not as representatives of their country but as paid individuals. It is conventional wisdom that the one who pays the piper calls the tune.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

OBAMA LOSING POPULARITY

UNCERTAINTY IN INDIA-US TIES

BY G PARTHASARATHY

 

Just over a year ago, when Mr Barack Obama was sworn in on January 20, 2009, as the 44th President of the United States, he was seen at home and abroad as a catalyst for "change". He was expected to usher in a revival of the economy and national self-confidence at home and promote the emergence of a new era, when his country would provide moral leadership for global peace, security and cooperation. He had an approval rating then of 68 per cent. Barely a year later, Mr Obama's popularity has plummeted to 46 per cent.

 

Democratic Party President Jimmy Carter had a 57 per cent rating at a comparable period of his Presidency and the charismatic John Kennedy's popularity rating was 77 per cent at the end of his first year as President. Given the dominant global role of the US and the crucial influence of domestic developments on American foreign policy, how will these affect its approach to global issues?

 

While Mr Obama has lost popularity primarily because of growing unemployment, criticism has also begun to mount on his conduct of foreign policy. Even his supporters acknowledge that rather than focusing on a few critical issues, he has lost momentum because of simultaneously taking on too many issues, ranging from climate change and nuclear disarmament to Middle-East peace initiatives and the existing crisis points like Iran, North Korea and the Af-Pak area.

 

The fiasco in Copenhagen has placed the US in an rather embarrassing situation of being unable to provide moral leadership by agreeing to fulfil the provisions of the Kyoto Protocol on the one hand while expecting emerging and developing countries to make unacceptable sacrifices on the other. Hopefully, realism will prevail in 2010 and the US will realise the need for equity in dealing with others.

 

Globally, promises to ink a START treaty with Russia and close the Guantanamo detention centre in Mr Obama's first year of office remain unfulfilled. The US faced its first airborne terrorist threat since 9/11 following national Intelligence shortcomings. Yemen emerged as a new centre of global terrorism, with the terrorist movement there strengthened by the earlier release of some Guantanamo detainees. The Middle-East peace process was stalled, with Israel continuing its settlement activity. North Korea remained adamant in retaining its nuclear programme while demanding that the US should conclude a peace treaty and the world remaining averse to calls for new nuclear sanctions on Iran, even though Mr Obama showed considerable flexibility in fashioning a new approach to the Islamic Republic.

 

Mr Obama based his entire approach to global relations on the mistaken belief that he could build a new world order based on a Sino-American condominium, in which the US and China would work cooperatively and jointly guarantee world peace and security. What emerged instead was that, emboldened by its belief, the US was weakened by its economic downturn and that it was losing its military edge in the Western Pacific, China was becoming more and more "assertive" and undermining American interests in Asia. Moreover, China's increasing assertiveness was making its neighbours, with whom it had differences on its maritime and land boundaries like Japan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and India, increasingly concerned.

 

With China openly asserting that the US should recognise the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean as its sphere of influence, it was only a question of time before the starry eyed approach to China began to be questioned in the US. The decision of Google to review the continuance of its operations in China, the suspicions evoked in Japan's Hatoyama dispensation and China's development of anti-missile capabilities have led to uncomfortable questions being raised about some of the basic assumptions of Mr Obama's foreign policy team.

 

If the Obama Administration's policies to India's east have been marked by miscalculations of China's imperatives, its policies towards the Af-Pak region have been marked by uncertainty and vacillation. Even as the Pentagon was calling for reinforcements, Vice-President Biden appeared clear that the administration should avoid involvement in counter-insurgency against the Taliban and focus exclusively on eliminating Al-Qaeda. Mr Obama, in turn, tried to placate domestic criticism by declaring that he will begin scaling down troop levels in Afghanistan in mid-2011 and keep away from any effort at "nation building" there. The net result is that the Taliban leaders and their allies in the Pakistan military establishment appear convinced that it is only a question of time before the Americans cut their losses and run away from Afghanistan.

 

Efforts by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defence Secretary Robert Gates to stress that the Americans will stay in Afghanistan as long as it takes to stabilise the situation there have not changed this perception. All that this approach has succeeded in achieving is to persuade the ISI that the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy against Afghanistan and India should be sustained.

 

India has emerged relatively unscathed from the dithering in Washington. Suggestions by sections of the Obama Administration to nominate a Special Envoy to meddle in India-Pakistan relations were scotched. But concerns over President Obama's quip: "Say no to Bangalore and yes to Buffalo" remain a source of concern in India's IT industry. Similarly, during his visit to Beijing, Mr Obama appeared ready to concede to China, a country that continues to supply nuclear weapons and missile knowhow to Pakistan, a special role in relations between India and Pakistan and to "strengthen dialogue and cooperation" in South Asia.

 

It is to the credit of Dr Manmohan Singh that he did not mince words about the developments in India's neighbourhood, whether it was on terrorism or on the Obama Administration's earlier illusions about China. At his joint Press conference with Dr Manmohan Singh, President Obama described India as a "responsible power". He added: "The US welcomes and encourages India's leadership role in helping to shape the rise of a stable, peaceful and prosperous Asia". Moreover, the Manmohan Singh-Obama joint statement reiterated their "shared interest in the stability, development and independence of Afghanistan and in the defeat of terrorist safe havens in Afghanistan and Pakistan".

 

The India-US relationship has a vast potential for the expansion of cooperation in key areas ranging from agriculture, education and energy to space, defence and high technology cooperation. But New Delhi will have to bear in mind that it is dealing with a US Administration that is anything but sure-footed. Despite this, the world's two largest democracies can work together on global issues like climate change and in facilitating a global economic recovery, apart from countering terrorism, building an inclusive architecture for cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and establishing a stable balance of power in Asia.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

CORRIDORS OF POWER

BY RAMESH LUTHRA

 

Corridors of Power

 

Dark ! Abysmal ! Ghastly !

 

Loaded with skeletons in the cupboards

 

Eerie drones of secret stories untold

 

Blind alleys

 

Sans slant of sunshine

 

Play with a bud

 

Nestled in the bosom of mother branch

 

Still to bloom

 

A' make the planet luminous

 

Cherubic fledgling in its cosy nest

 

Yet to unfold its wings

 

Precious life cut short

 

Wick stifled untimely

 

Innocence trampled, sacrileged a' sacrificed

 

At the altar of the demon called

 

"Power"

 

Blind and deaf to pleas of justice

 

Alien to them are pricks of conscience

 

Morality exists not for them

 

Nor do the five letters

 

"Humane"

 

Woman's life, her honour

 

Mere playthings

 

Fates of countless Ruchikas known and unknown

 

Are sealed

 

Yet the hungry hounds

 

Ogling wolves

 

Loom at large

 

Untouched, unbounded

 

What a mockery of the Bold Proclaims made

 

"The year gone by

 

Belonged to the Indian woman"!!

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

SHAPING INTELLIGENCE FOR THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

BY VICE PRESIDENT HAMID ANSARI

 

We remember Rameshwar Nath Kao today for his work and for his engaging personality. In regard to the former, I cannot help recalling a couplet by an Arab poet of the 10th century:

 

These are our works, these works our souls display/Behold our works when we have passed away.

 

Ramjee Kao created an organisation, negotiated rather than confronted inter-agency contentions and achieved a historic success. He could also be indulgent to a fault. Those who worked closely with him have described Kao as a complex mix of objectivity and subjectivity in matters concerning human relationships. A peer in a position to assess from a distance described him as a fascinating mix of physical and mental elegance, and one who was shy to talk about his accomplishments.

 

Kao's business in life was intelligence, more specifically external intelligence. Its relevance is in no need of commentary. We can go as far back as Kautilya, or even earlier, to perceive its importance.

 

In fact, the methodological sophistication exhibited in Kautilya's chapters on the secret service and internal security can be read with benefit even today. The same holds good for Sun Tzu's chapter on secret agents. He highlights the relevance of 'foreknowledge' and concludes with the interesting observation that 'there is no place where espionage is not used.' Over centuries the ambit of intelligence, and the craft itself, expanded and enriched itself in response to requirements. Techniques were refined and technology opened up qualitatively different vistas.

 

In the 20th century individual agents on specific assignments gave way to regular agencies. Fascination with the unknown also brought forth a vast amount of literary output that combined fact and fiction, working powerfully on public imagination and even lending respectability to questionable acts. There is merit in C.P. Snow's observation that "the euphoria of secrecy does go to the head."

 

A particularly serious problem relates to the misuse of intelligence. The classic instance in recent times is the process leading to the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The July 2004 Report of the US Senate Select Committee on Pre-War Intelligence Assessment of Iraq revealed that "group think dynamics" led the intelligence community to interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusive and ignore in the process established mechanisms to challenge assumptions and group think.

 

Closer to the mark was the secret Downing Street memo of July 23, 2002 in which the head of British intelligence reported after discussions in Washington that "intelligence and facts were being fixed around policy" of regime change. The Iraq inquiry now in progress in London is shedding more light on this.

 

It is hardly necessary to remind an Indian audience that ministerial responsibility to the legislature, and eventually to the electorate, is an essential element of democratic governance to which we are committed by the Constitution. The methodology of this is in place for most aspects of governmental activity; the exceptions to it pertain to the intelligence and security structure of the state.

 

How then is oversight and accountability ensured?

 

The traditional answer and prevailing practice, of oversight by the concerned minister and Prime Minister and general accountability of the latter to parliament, was accepted as adequate in an earlier period but is now considered amorphous and does not meet the requirements of good governance in an open society.

 

Concerns in the matter have primarily arisen on two counts: (a) the nature and extent of supervision over intelligence services exercised by the political executive and (b) the possibility and scope of misuse of these services by the political executive. Both concerns emanate from the absence of specific accountability, on these matters, to the legislature.

 

The problem is not a new one and has been faced by other democratic societies. In the late 1970s opinion in the United States reached the conclusion that "oversight of the intelligence community is essential because of the critical importance of ensuring the nation's security, as well as checking the potential for abuse of power."

 

As a result, two congressional committees were established in 1976 and 1977. Despite this, the 9/11 Commission Report of 2004 found the congressional oversight of intelligence "dysfunctional" and recommended structural changes.

 

A similar exercise was conducted in the United Kingdom through the Intelligence Services Act 1994 that established the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the intelligence services.

 

Other countries like Canada, Australia, South Africa, Norway, Germany, Argentina, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania have also put in place similar mechanisms of public accountability.

 

It has been argued that the scope of the mandate of the parliamentary intelligence oversight committee is crucial for its success. Three models of the mandate can be identified: (a) comprehensive to include both policy and operations, as in the US and Germany (b) limited to matters of policy and finance, as in the UK (c) focused on human rights and rule of law, as in Norway.

 

The basic purpose of all three is to ensure that government policy in a given field is carried out effectively within the boundaries of the law. For this reason, it is felt that without access to some operational detail, an oversight body can have or give no assurance about the efficacy or the legality of the intelligence services.

 

Given these models of calibrated openness to ensure oversight and accountability, there is no reason why a democratic system like ours should not have a standing committee of Parliament on intelligence that could function at least on the pattern of other Standing Committees.

 

Since internal and external intelligence do not in our system report to the same minister, the possibility of entrusting this work to the Standing Committee on Home Affairs may not meet the requirement.

 

The shortcomings of the traditional argument, of leaving intelligence to the oversight of the executive, became evident in the Report of the Kargil Review Committee and its sections on intelligence in its findings and recommendations. It identified flaws, acknowledged the absence of coordination and of "checks and balances", and noted the absence of governmental correctives. The report referred to relevant systems in major countries but did not include in it their systems of oversight and accountability.

 

Some correctives were introduced pursuant to the establishment of the National Security System and the report of the Group of Ministers on the reform of the national security system in its entirety. These improvements enhanced internal accountability and coordination but did not go far enough and did not put in place a more open system of public accountability.

In the discussions that followed the publication of the Kargil Review Committee Report, and apart from inter-agency spats and the blame game, one informed commentator described it as a "substantive contribution in educating our Parliament and public opinion" aimed at "introducing transparency in this sensitive sector."

 

Arguments of this nature tend to be condescending. They ignore the time-honoured formula which is the bedrock of democracy: that "instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action." They belittle the capacity of elected representatives to be responsible in matters of national security. Also overlooked is the fact that depending on the fall of the electoral dice, these same representatives are transformed into the political executive entrusted with the responsibility of supervising the work of intelligence agencies.

 

The contention that openness and public discussion would compromise the secrecy essential for intelligence needs to be examined carefully. Operational secrecy is one aspect of the matter and has to be maintained.

 

The legislature, nevertheless, is the organ of the state that allocates funds and is therefore entitled to insist on financial and performance accountability. The practice of subsuming allocations is not conducive to transparency; it may even encourage misuse.

 

The proposed standing committee could fill this void; it could also function as a surrogate for public opinion and thus facilitate wider acceptance of the imperatives of a situation.

 

Given the nature of emerging threats to human security, a wider sampling of opinion would in fact facilitate better comprehension of the issues and of possible remedies to attain total national power and comprehensive defence.

 

Let me conclude by saying that in a fast changing world, the challenges facing intelligence practitioners are enormous. Can they adapt their organisations, policies and practices to a world in which there is a qualitative change in the notion of security and in the nature of threats?

 

Both compel a paradigm shift in procedures and objectives; so does the imperative of accountability in terms of democratic norms of good governance. Each of these needs to be factored into the work patterns of the intelligence operative of tomorrow. A timely synthesis would pave the way for success.

 

Excerpted from the Fourth R.N. Kao Memorial Lecture delivered in New Delhi on January 19

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CHANCE TO RESHAPE HAITI

BY MARK STEEL

 

Satan's terms and conditions must have got worse in recent times. America's most prominent TV evangelist, Pat Robertson, announced that the Haiti earthquake was a result of a "pact with the Devil", made when they overthrew slavery 200 years ago. But in the old days a pact with the Devil brought you a life of fame and riches and earthly pleasures. Now you get a few years of life in the world's poorest country and then buried under a pile of rubble.

 

Maybe the Devil will issue a statement soon, that "due to difficulties arising from the current economic climate, I have found it necessary to temporarily restrict certain privileges to my valuable customers. But you can be certain I will endeavour to maintain my usual high standard of evil, and look forward to satisfying more gluttony than ever once it is financially responsible to do so."

 

At least Robertson claims a spiritual logic for his sociopathic judgement. Whereas TV presenter Rush Limbaugh complained about the aid effort, saying, "We've already donated to Haiti. It's called income tax." That's the trouble. It's just take take take with some people isn't it?

 

Or there's the Heritage Foundation, an influential group among American politicians, which declared that "the earthquake offers an opportunity to reshape Haiti's long-dysfunctional government and economy."

 

That's the aid they need, a hand-up not a hand-out. Because it takes a functional economist to see a disaster zone and think, "That's handy." If only the Heritage Foundation could get people out there to rummage through the wreckage searching for survivors, so they could call into an air pocket, "I could rescue you, but that would only make you dependent. So come up with a business plan, young fellow, and in years to come you'll thank me for this. Ta-ra."

 

To start with you'd think if the Haiti government had their wits about them they'd realise there are a lot of reporters out there with very few provisions, so a couple of branches of Costa Coffee would make a healthy return. But no, they're too dysfunctional to organise it.

 

The most worrying part of this craziness is it isn't far off the official US strategy. The International Monetary Fund has extended $100m in loans to Haiti for the disaster, and according to The Nation magazine, "These loans came with conditions, including raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage, and keeping inflation low."

 

I suppose the idea is not to make things even worse. Give them more than the minimum wage and then you'd have binge-drinking to worry about as well.

 

This deal was probably arranged by the bank ringing Haiti's government and saying "Hello is that the Prime Minister? It's Miriam here from the IMF. I'd like a few moments to talk to you about your account, only I notice from our records that you've had a tectonic catastrophe so you'll need to revise your payments."

 

 By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HEALTH
TAKE A BREAK, IT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE

BY JEREMY LAURANCE

 

Office workers beware: long periods of sitting at your desk may be a killer. Scientists have identified a new threat from our sedentary lifestyles that they call "muscular inactivity".

 

Sitting still for long periods of time leads to the build up of substances in the blood that are harmful to health. And exercise alone won't shift them.

 

Millions of people lead sedentary lives, spending their days between car, office desk and the couch in front of the TV. While the ill effects are well recognised it has conventionally been thought that they can be offset by frequent trips to the gym, swimming pool or jogging track.

 

Now researchers say that that is not enough. In addition to regular exercise, office workers need to keep moving while they work, by making regular trips to the printer, coffee machine or to chat with colleagues.

 

Writing in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Elin Ekblom-Bak and colleagues from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm say research shows long periods sitting and lack of "whole body muscular movement" are strongly associated with obesity heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and an overall higher risk of death, irrespective of whether they take moderate or vigorous exercise.

 

Dr Ekblom-Bak said: "Everyone knows about the health benefits of regular exercise. But what we have not been alerted to before is that long periods sitting down carries an extra risk that cannot be dealt with by taking exercise. There are a growing number of studies that show this."

 

"One study compared two groups of sedentary office workers, one of whom had regular breaks to move around while the other remained sitting for up to eight hours a day. The group that had the breaks had better blood lipid levels and blood glucose and less obesity."

 

A second study from Australia showed that for every extra hour women spent sitting (watching TV), their risk of metabolic syndrome - a pre-cursor of diabetes and heart disease, rose by a quarter, regardless of how much exercise they took.

 

Dr Ekblom-Bak said that sitting still should be recognised as a risk to health, independently of taking too little exercise. "It is important to have a five minute break from desk work every 45 minutes. Don't email colleagues - walk across the office to give them the message. Take a coffee break or put the printer in the next room. I am a desk worker and I try to do it. It is not difficult but sometimes you get lost in your work and you forget about it."

 

The authors say more studies are needed to confirm the ill effects of prolonged sitting and ways of combatting them. But on present evidence they conclude that "keep moving" should be added to the advice to "keep exercising." "Climbing the stairs rather than using elevators and escalators, five minutes break during sedentary work,or walking to the store ratner than taking the car will be as important as exercise," they say.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

NE SECURITY

 

Though the level of violence in most of the States of the north eastern region in recent months, the Centre and the concerned State governments must keep a close watch on the situation and efforts should continue for finding permanent solution to the problem of militancy. It has been established following decades of counter-insurgency operations that the operations can only bring down the level of violence and political dialogue is the best way to find permanent solution to the issues raised by the militant groups and the government should not consider bringing down the level of violence as the sole indicator of the overall situation. There have been instances in the past when the major militant groups of the region suffered severe reverses but they managed to bounce back because of the failure of the Central and concerned State governments to find permanent solution to the problems. Of course, the situation in Meghalaya and Tripura improved considerably but the situation in Assam remains an area of concern despite the fact that the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) suffered major setbacks in recent months following the arrests of a number of senior leaders including the chairman of the outfit, Arabinda Rajkhowa. But the outfit should not be written off as in the past also, the ULFA managed to bounce back after suffering major setbacks. The government must try to find permanent solution to the issues raised by the ULFA by bringing all the leaders to the negotiation table as any attempt to hold talks with only the jailed leaders of the outfit may not help in restoration of permanent peace.


The level of violence in Nagaland came down after both the factions of the NSCN signed cease-fire pacts with the Government of India, but unfortunately, the process of talks remained very slow and faction clashes between members of NSCN (I-M) and NSCN (K) remain an area of concern. The talks with the NSCN (I-M) have been reportedly deadlocked over ego problem between the Government and the leaders of the outfit as the NSCN leaders are demanding a formal letter from the Prime Minister's Office to come to India for the next round of talks. It is unfortunate that talks are held up on such an issue and the matter should be resolved and efforts should be made to expedite the process of talks. Successful completion of the peace process will definitely encourage other militant groups of the region to come forward to settle their problems through negotiations. On the other hand, formal talks with the NSCN (K) are yet to start despite the fact that the outfit signed a cease-fire pact with the government several years back. It is a fact that both the factions of the NSCN have serious differences but the government can at least make efforts to bring both the factions to the negotiation table together for restoration of permanent peace in Nagaland.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

DISTRICT PLANNING

 

The Indian Constitution provides for setting up committees for district planning (DPC) "in every State at the district level" under Article 243 ZD (1). The function of DPC is "to consolidate the plans prepared by the Panchayats and the Municipalities in the district and to prepare a draft development plan for the district as a whole." At least four fifth of the members of DPC are to be "elected by, and from amongst, the elected members of the Panchayats at the district and of the Municipalities in the district in proporaton to the the ratio between the population of the rural areas and of the urban areas of the district." The chairperson is normally the president of the concerned Zilla Parishad. The vice-chairperson is generally the head of the largest municipality of the district. In preparing the draft development plan for the district the DPC should have regard to "matters of common interest between the Panchayats and the Municipalities including spatial planning, sharing of water and other physical and natural resources, the integrated development of infrastructure and environmental conservation". The Government of Assam (GOA) did not set up DPCs, as enjoined by the Constitution, till about a couple of years ago when the Planning Commission clamped down the requirement that unless the district plans, as drafted and approved by DPCs, are included in the State Plan the State Plan itself will not be considered for approval. The hurriedly set up DPCs are still not fully equipped and the district plans are not yet comprehensive and perfect in all respects.


The Third Assam State Finance Commission (TASFC), chaired by the former Chief Secretary H N Das, obtained information about "felt needs" from each Panchayat and each urban local body. Except the Guwahati Municipal Corporation, which failed to submit a reply, the others furnished gross estimates which totalled Rs 16,274 crore for rural areas and Rs 887.67 crore for urban areas. The individual projects and schemes included in the above estimates will need proper and detailed scrutiny. TASFC, therefore, recommended that the task of scrutiny of the materials and finding out the viable projects should be entrusted to a small but high power committee. The committee should be asked to scrutinise the material and talk to the public representatives in each district by undertaking extensive tours of the districts." GOA accepted this recommendation with the rider that "felt needs to be met from devolution." This is not possible nor practicable. In order to give a boost to development at the grass roots level district plans must be allowed to be based on "felt needs" and must be allowed to draw finance from all these sources including devolution, revenue collections and the State Plan. GOA should make specific provision in this behalf early and entrust the job of co-ordination to DPCs.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BANDHS ILLEGAL; THE FIRST TEST IS YET TO COME

PATRICIA MUKHIM

 

On January 6 this year the Guwahati High Court declared all bandhs in Assam and Meghalaya as illegal. The Court was responding to petitions filed by different individuals and organisations who elucidated very clearly the disruptive nature of bandhs on the socio-economic life of the people. The Court ruled that bandhs violate the fundamental rights of the citizens and directed the Governments of Assam and Meghalaya to take steps to ensure that no further infringement of the fundamental rights of people should happen henceforth.


Following this landmark decision, the Government of Meghalaya in its cabinet meeting held on January 8, endorsed the High Court ruling. But the Government went a step further and cited an anachronistic order passed way back in 1953 to say that even publicising a bandh call is considered illegal. This was meant as a pot shot at the media which the Meghalaya Government believes is responsible for widely disseminating information on frivolous bandh calls by inconspicuous organisations comprising five or six individuals. The cabinet decision has raised the hackles of leading pressure groups like the Khasi Students Union (KSU) and the Federation of Khasi Jaintia and Garo People (FKJGP). While diplomatically refraining from commenting on the High Court directive, these pressure groups have come down like a ton of brick on the Congress-led MUA Government calling it a replica of fascism.


Interestingly, while the media fraternity is itself in a quandary about the ramification of the cabinet decision on press freedom they have yet to discuss their next steps. But several pressure groups and other citizens have loudly articulated what they call the 'despotic ' nature of the decision. Shortly after the gag order on the media the Meghalaya Editors and Publishers Association (MEPA) met the Deputy Chief Minister who is also the Law Minister and expressed their grievances at this extraordinary and arbitrary decision of the Government. It appears that the deputy CM has assured the MEPA that the cabinet decision would exclude the media from its purview.

So far so good! The MUA Government has decided to hold the bandh callers liable for losses incurred to the exchequer on account of the bandh. Now that the state governments of both Assam and Meghalaya have the onus of implementing the High Court order it would be interesting to watch how they also carry out their threats. The first big test comes on January 26 when nearly all the armed militia of the North East make their perfunctory announcements about calling a bandh on Republic Day, ostensibly to make their grievances known to the Government of India. This has gone on for three decades without any results.


The only impact that the bandh has is on ordinary citizens who fear to step out of their homes lest someone gets vindictive and they lose their lives and limbs. On August 15, 2004, the ULFA had hurled bombs at school children at an Independence Day celebration at Dhemaji. That incident saw 13 innocent children die an agonising death for no reason at all other than that they were performing a duty called by the school authorities. That horrific incident has served as the most abject lesson for people not to violate a bandh call.


There are bandhs and there are bandhs. A bandh called by amorphous non-state groups are attended by threats of elimination on public spirited persons who decide to violate the call. But as far as the state is concerned, how does it make these groups liable for the loss of lives and property when they are not even stationed within the country? Who will pay for the damage? Will Paresh Barua do it? How does he ever pay for the loss of 13 innocent lives plus many hundreds more? Will the investments of these groups in neighbouring Bangladesh be confiscated ever? Will their bank balances be sealed? These are tough questions for the state. Hence it is rather premature for Governments to go gung-ho on a court order, the implementation of which is fraught with myriad dilemmas.

A bandh call by the AASU or the KSU might be easier to tackle since these are tangible creatures. But even then how does the state ensure that public transport ply on the streets; that shops open their shutters; that the people go about their normal duties and that government employees attend offices. Lets us face facts. A bandh is as successful as the public response it gets. This is one issue where no court ruling can become effective. It is the peoples' court that has to deliver the final verdict. If people decide that bandhs have yielded absolutely no results then they should collectively decide to make bandhs irrelevant and ring a death knell to the bandh culture. But who will mobilise the public, is the million dollar question. It is often utopian to talk of citizens' groups because we live in very difficult times. Selfishness and individual pursuits have transcended the collective good. While some may step out of their comfort zones, many would prefer to while away a bandh day watching a good movie at home and ending the day with a sumptuous meal.


We will have noticed that resistance is alien to a society marinated in the sauce of comfort and indulgence. The masses will protest because their stomachs push the agenda, not their heads. But the mass need leadership of a different kind. They have seen enough of self-styled leaders who soon metamorphose into self-serving politicians. Is it possible to find in any of the North Eastern states a leader who would not ask, "What's in it for me?" On the contrary we have leaders who are wont to say, "What's mine is mine, but what's yours is also mine." This is our predicament today.


Now coming to the ban on media publishing news on bandhs, the best way to treat this sort of directive is to ignore it. The media is a self-regulatory body accountable to the reading public and the only ombudsman is the Press Council of India. The Courts are silent on the role of the media vis-à-vis bandhs and rightly so. A bandh call by any group, especially now that it is considered illegal makes eminent news. The duty of the media is to disseminate news and keep people informed. It must continue to pursue that role irrespective of any Government ban.


There is a school of thought which says that media cannot publish anything that is already deemed illegal. But there is another view which says that people have the right to know who is calling a bandh so that they do not venture into something dangerous. The Government and the Police Force in particular have a different take. They think that if bandhs are not publicised then people would be unaware and they would come out and lead normal lives, thereby indirectly violating the bandh call and helping the cause of the state. The Government in its enthusiasm to curb bandhs wants to enlist the media as a force non- multiplier. Those who call bandhs want to use the media as an instrument for propaganda. Both sides see the media as a thing to be used. The question is – should the media allow itself to be a tool for any of the two antagonistic forces? We should let media practitioners exercise their own caution and act accordingly. After all, media persons are neither pro-bandh callers nor pro-Government. We have to credit them with enough judiciousness to do the right thing.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

COMMUNICATION AND THE UN

BOIDURJO MUKHOPADHYAY

 

When the United Nations Organization was founded in 1945 in order to lay the foundations of a new international legal system and prevent forever the danger of a new world war, its Charter condemned all incitement to war and any form of psychological propaganda for war. In the spirit of the principles proclaimed at Nuremberg, which declared even an act of planning and preparation for war a crime against peace and humanity, the condemnation extended to all "systematic propaganda activity paving the way for an armed attack, incensing hatred among nations, using distorted or false information to incite or justify aggressive undertakings". Still, the United States playing a decisive role in the United Nations, where it enjoyed the support of most members, the interest soon focused on the right to unrestricted gathering and dissemination of news, regardless of the national frontiers, and on the sanctioning of this right in appropriate international agreements. American publishers, newspapers and broadcasting organizations pressed the government to fight for international agreements that would remove all legal and other barriers standing in the way of the use of new communication technologies and open full possibilities for a "free flow of information"- that is, free gathering, transmission and sale of information all over the world and equal access by domestic and foreign newsmen to sources of information and channels of communication in all countries.


The realization of this goal of major American and transnational agencies and corporations became the main strategic objective of the American international policy in the sphere of transmission, and the issue of freedom of information in the United Nations and its specialized agency for education, science and culture (UNESCO) in the first postwar decade. In the autumn of 1946, acting on the initiative of the American delegation, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution (95/1) on convening of an international conference on freedom of the press. The explanation of the conference objectives contains the formulation that later found its way into various UN documents, namely, that "the freedom of the press is a basic human right and touchstone of the realization of all freedoms to which the United Nations is dedicated". The conference in the freedom of the press was expected to review the world situation in this area and to formulate positions on the rights and responsibilities in the implementation of the principle oft free flow of information that might be incorporated into a draft international convention on the freedom of information. Preparations for the conference on press freedom were debated first by the UN Economic and Social Council and then by a twelve-member sub-committee that it established to prepare the agenda and draft documents. Parallel with the American initiative, the Soviet Union and the socialist countries advocated the adoption of a document obliging the States to prevent the use of information for the revival of fascism and endangering of peace.


The sub-committee charged with the task of preparing the freedom of the press conference began its work on May 15, 1947. However, sharp ideological and political polemics and difference on fundamental issues crupted already in the discussion of the draft agenda. The issues which divided the participants included the role of information in society, the position of journalists, particularly foreign correspondents, the rights and duties of the states in this area, and particularly the question of freedom and its justified restriction to prevent possible abuses. Despite the classes of opposing views on these questions, the sub-committee managed to prepare a compromise agenda and a provisional report on the concept of the freedom of information. Freedom of information is treated as a universal human right, but examples of its justified restriction is also given- when vital national interests or protection from personal libel are involved. The sub-committee was then charged with preparing the text on the freedom of information for a general declaration of human rights. This text later ecame Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


"Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". While the discussion on the problem of information had reached a dead end in the United Nations, primarily because it was restricted to polemics about the freedom of information and exploited for doctrinaire propaganda and settlement of accounts between opposing blocs, life went on and posed new questions which required urgent answers and appropriate measures to ensure the development of international communications. The newly independent countries in particular, which found it quite difficult to free themselves from the heritage of their colonial past, were very much aware of the importance of information in asserting their identity and accelerating social development. For these countries, the problem of information could not remain restricted to a discussion on philosophical and doctrinal principles. Pressed by very real difficulties and the need to develop their own infrastructure, to free themselves from the dependence on their formal colonial masters and to involve themselves on a more equitable basis in international communication flows, these countries were forced to seek new ways for the solution of their problems. This gave rise to increasing demands that problems of information should be considered in a new light, from the perspective of national development, and as a precondition of independence of individual countries and their equitable participation in international cooperation.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TAXING BACKWARDS

 

Time was when Congress leaders in not just Maharashtra but at the national level would talk of making Mumbai the Shanghai of India. And then came the memorable monsoon deluge of July 26, 2005, which saw vast stretches of the city being inundated to an extent where Mumbai was called the Venice of India!


In Shanghai, taxi-drivers are encouraged to speak English so that they can cater to the influx of foreign tourists. The 'Venice of India' is now poised to become a backwater following the state government's decision to issue new licences to taxi drivers in Mumbai only if they can speak and read Marathi and have been domiciled in the city for over 15 years.


"Seene mein jalan, aankhon mein toofan sa kyon hai/Is shehr mein har shakhs pareshaan sa kyon hai" , goes the song in the 1978 movie Gaman that focuses on the alienation of a UP-origin taxi driver trying to make a living in the big city, even as his mother back home keeps saying, "Nahin chahiye Bombay ki kamaayi". If Muzaffar Ali were to direct Gaman today, he would have to show his taxi driver coping with not just alienation but aggravation from those who routinely smash the windscreens of Mumbai taxis driven by 'outsiders'!


That Maharashtra and India are both governed by coalitions led by the Congress and accompanied by the NCP only makes things that much more ironical. The spokespersons of both parties have reiterated that they are not toeing the Shiv Sena or MNS line and that anyone from any community is eligible for a licence as long as the 'criteria' are met. Apart from parochial politicians , the only ones who can possibly rejoice at this decision will be pavement vendors who sell books like Teach yourself Marathi in 30 days!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GIANT STEP FOR KRAFT IN INDIA

 

With the Cadbury board in the UK accepting US processed-food giant Kraft's revised bid for the company, India's processed-food market can expect some new action. Kraft's attempt to enter the fast-growing Indian market had been unsuccessful, with its powdered orange drink Tang floundering.


By acquiring Cadbury, which has a 70% share in India's chocolate market and presence in 1.2 million retail outlets all over the country, Kraft would acquire a solid presence in the world's second-fastest growing economy, at a time when large sections of Indians are beginning to develop an appetite for processed foods — their share has been going up in the consumption basket of even the poor.


Kraft cannot viably bring in its own brand of chocolate, cookies, for example, or cheese through imports. However, local manufacture of products to be sold under these brands at competitive prices is eminently viable. That would pit domestic players such as Britannia and Amul, besides Nestlé , against the world's largest processed foods company. Consumers, the advertising industry and local suppliers of raw materials for cookies, chocolates and cheese should, however, gain as the new entrant seeks to expand its market share in India's Rs 50,000-60 ,000 crore processed-food market.


What stands out most in the takeover — which started out as a hostile bid and ended up raising Cadbury's market capitalisation by 50% — is the relatively-muted reaction in Britain to the loss of yet another local champion to a foreign company. The British have quietly watched their haloed brands being acquired by foreigners. They have fretted over possible loss of jobs, rued loss of tradition and allowed the takeover to proceed, subject to competition and security considerations.


The result has been to strip Britain of its own brands, but to give it one of Europe's most dynamic economies. Another notable feature is that a key driver for Kraft's interest in Cadbury was the latter's entrenched presence in emerging markets, notably India. In the days to come, it would be reasonable to expect more such examples of an India entry strategy that takes the form of one foreign company acquiring another foreign company with a strong Indian operation.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FUTURES GAINING CURRENCY

 

The decision by the RBI and the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) to allow recognised stock exchanges expand their menu of currency futures beyond the existing rupee-dollar pair marks a maturing of the forex market in India. Given our growing integration with the global economy, especially the increasinglylarger share of trade in our GDP, it is essential that participants have access to a wider choice of hedging instruments that will enable them to cope with their currency risk exposures.


Exchanges will now be allowed to launch futures trading in euro-rupee , pound sterling-rupee and yen-rupee . The decision fulfils a promise by the RBI in its last monetary policy review and is expected to greatly facilitate market players hedge cross-currency risks. Today, the bulk of our trade — both exports and imports — is invoiced in dollars. But as more of trade gets invoiced in currencies other than the dollar, market participants will look to hedge their risks directly rather than go through the indirect (and more expensive) over-the-counter (OTC) route using the rupee-dollar future and hedging against yen or euro. If volumes on the existing, admittedly limited , currency futures market are any indication, the move should see a dramatic improvement in the depth and breadth of the market and better price discovery.


From a macro perspective, the move is significant as exchange-traded products are vastly superior to opaque OTC products. The latter, as the recent financial crisis has shown, pose a huge risk both by way of management of counterparty risk and absence of transparency. The advantage of exchange-traded products is that they substitute a centralised clearing platform for individual counterparty risk and allow for standardised netting and margining.

Of course, to the extent that it is available only for standardised products in terms of size and maturity, it may not do away entirely with OTC products. There is also the fear, expressed in some quarters, that the shift to exchanges might result in an increase in purely speculative activities and hence might increase systemic risk. But, provided regulators do their job and don't sleep on the watch, there is no reason to fear.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

Bollywood to Poliwood

C L Manoj

 

What is common between the 'production houses' of national politics and Hindi films? Apart from big money, power, glamour, fame and fan following, both sectors have become predominately family-controlled / promoted firms where the preferential shares are reserved for pedigreed clan members. Outsiders would need extraordinary luck and exceptional talent to be able to gate-crash . And given the trend, the leading Indian political class could soon be called 'poliwood' .


If the Gandhis constitute the premier Indian political dynasty, the Kapoors are rated as the royal family of the Hindi film world. For four generations, the Gandhi dynasty has held sway in national politics with a pan-India appeal that also helped the Congress, much to the discomfort of its rivals, to remain united despite many inhouse contradictions. Similarly, from Prithivraj Kapoor to Kareena and Ranbir, the Kapoor clan continues to create silver screen waves. As practical Congressmen' ask, "why rue the Gandhi dynasty when it rakes in votes?" the Kapoors continue to be worshipped by production houses as long they churn out blockbusters.


But then family ambitions, or the urge to imitate the Gandhi-Kapoor model, is only growing in politics and the film world even in an age when 'democratic functioning' and 'individual merit' have become fashionable catchwords in intellectual and political discourse. Ironically, the biggest push for keeping the 'family Raj' in Indian politics going has come from the very same personalities/parties, who started off by opposing "anti-democratic dynastic tendencies" . Thus, now we have the Lalus, Mulayams , Badals, Chautalas, Karunanidhis, Pawars, Sangmas and Abdullahs showing expertise in 'family planning' . Even the BJP, the. most vocal rival of the Gandhi-led Congress, could not resist the temptation to flaunt its own two 'Gandhis '.


Then there are also the BJP families" of Scindias, Dhumals, Yeddyurappas, Mundes, Mahajans..., who along with the Congress' own Scindias, Pilots, Deshmukhs , Deoras, etc, keep the trend alive. Since most of them lack the national reach and appeal of the Gandhi family, they have right-sized their ambitions to being the regional principalities of democratic India.


The majority of the so-called "bright GenNext" or "Young Turks" in Parliament are, in reality, just family inheritors with no credible track record in politics or public service. But then, political success and influence camouflage the fault-lines , just like in Bollywood. But there are sound arguments for these star children too. Could the GenNext of politics and films have succeeded without voters and viewers accepting them? Or, simply, why rue their rise given their impressive academic backgrounds and striking looks that help usher in a feel-good and see-good factor in the networking circuit? But, then, do voters have a choice when leading political families , cutting across party lines, gang up to launch their kith and kin in constituencies nurtured and guarded by hereditary power and influence? Can film buffs stop watching movies because most new releases only feature 'star' children?


The plain truth behind the journey of the Indian party system is similar to that of Bollywood: the leading families overtly or tactically form a new 'feudal/royal' class, cutting across caste and religion. They make sure their political and ideological battles don't spill over to their respective family fiefdoms. Like Bollywood ensures releases are timed to avoid 'leading star wars' , seldom do we see leading political families contesting against each other.


Yet, there is a growing sense of anger and despair among the aspiring, underprivileged youth over the lack of a level-playing field in politics. At least Rahul Gandhi, unlike his counterparts, has shown the honesty to publicly admit he "is also a product of rishtedari" . One has to wait and see whether Mr Gandhi will able to, or is sincere enough to, put into practice his sermons of democratising the party system. Because it means taking on the entrenched members of 'Poliwood' and their business of monopolising power and privileges.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BASU KEPT PEOPLE ABOVE THE PARTY

SAIFUDDIN CHOUDHURY

 

If one was to list the three principal features associated with the towering political personality that was Jyoti Basu, it would be his involvement in the freedom movement, participation in the communist struggle for uplifting the downtrodden and his role in parliamentary politics.


Jyoti Basu was a revolutionary, committed to the ideals of radical social change. He believed that a communist revolution would usher in an egalitarian and exploitation-free society in India. He worked for establishing the rule of the working class in the country. Even while pursuing these goals, he never undermined the inherent strength of a pluralistic democracy and endeavoured to use it to advance the cause of the oppressed people. While his party remained torn between the 'revolutionary' and 'parliamentary' means of struggle, and professed the parliamentary process as transitory , Basu participated in parliamentary democracy with natural flair and suave smoothness . He was a leader and champion of mass movements who was aware of the enormous achievements possible through mobilisation of the masses. Yet, in thoughts and action, he never advocated the use of this power to destroy extant democratic frameworks in the name of revolution.


Basu shunned the capture of state power by force and was open to the idea of partaking in the affairs of the state through the exercise of universal franchise. It is for this reason that he wanted the CPI-M to accept the offer of prime ministership in 1996, which the party declined despite repeated pleas by secular political parties. This was no sacrifice, as capturing state power, albeit by revolution, is fundamental to the scheme of things for a communist party. But, fearful of losing its 'revolutionary chastity' , the CPI-M failed to respond to the call of the country at a crucial time in history. The argument that Basu could not be the PM because the CPI(M) lacked decisive power reeks of political naivete and ignores the reality of coalition politics. In a coalition government, no single party, not even the largest one, is absolute or decisive, only the common programme is. And Basu would have made a good PM. His persona was an amalgamation of deep-rooted democratic norms and culture. He and his party had strong secular credentials. And he, like none other, had the command, respect and capability to impeccably manage coalition partners.


In accepting the offer of prime ministership , the CPI (M) had much to gain. The party would unequivocally have established itself as a truly transformed Indian party committed to a pluralistic democratic polity, and additionally signalled a regeneration of the Left with a resounding impact, worldwide. It is the misfortune of the CPI(M) that despite having a leader of Basu's calibre and stature, it faltered in accepting huge challenges during various national crises and critical times in history. The refusal to accept cabinet berths in the first UPA government was a case in point. The ideologically conscripted CPI(M) termed this a 'sacrifice' but failed to explain how this served the cause of good governance and that of the people it professes to serve and work for.

Basu earned fame through many movements , directed against the misdeeds of the Congress party, conducted over decades. It was through successive mass movements against the polices of the Congress-led state and central government that the CPI(M) and the Left Front came to power in West Bengal. Even so, Basu never wavered in his appreciation of the role of the Congress in safeguarding the secular structure of the country. The CPI(M) and the Left came round to this position much later when communal forces had already attained formidable political power. The CPI(M) supported the first UPA government from outside but showed irrational anti-Congressism in its unjustified opposition to the nuclear deal. Basu, a far-sighted leader, cautioned against the suicidal decision to withdraw support to the UPA government, but was not heeded. He also differed with the party on the ignominious issue of expelling then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee from the party. Chatterjee is on record that Basu told him that he must preside over the trust vote. Basu also opined that the party cannot give a mandate to the Speaker. This confirms Basu's unshakeable faith in democratic norms and practices.

For him the party was important, but not above the people. His life reflects the conflicts and contradictions of our times in relation to politics and the ideology of social change. Basu remained a steadfast revolutionary in the sense that he could discard outdated ideas and was ready to welcome modern thoughts and outlooks. This was evident in his approach to reforms and globalisation . He realised the inevitability of these emerging realities. At the same time, he underlined the need to create a strong social security framework to ward off the negative impacts of reforms.


(The author is president, Party for Democratic Socialism and a former member of CPI(M) central committee)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEYOND RULES TO RESPONSIBILITY

PARAMAHAMSA NITHYANANDA

 

In our daily routine we blindly follow other people's directions instead of relying on our own intelligence because it is easy to place responsibility on others. Once, a sergeant in his training session asked the recruits why walnut wood was used for making the rifle. The recruits thought hard and one of them answered, 'Because walnut is harder than other types of nuts.'


The sergeant brushed him off saying , 'Wrong!' Another recruit ventured , 'Because it is more durable.' The sergeant's voice boomed, 'Wrong !' A third person tried his luck, 'Because it is waterproof .' The sergeant tired of the answers by now, replied, 'You boys surely have a lot to learn. Simple reason: that is what is laid down in the rule book!' You say you are obedient, but you are actually shirking the responsibility of owning up to your actions. This is a dangerous and age-old habit — following the rule book is dangerous because sometimes you are not even aware that you are missing responsibility and intelligence. You become a parrot — repeating the same thing for years together because someone told it to you.

Once, a convict was scolding his lawyer, 'You are a useless lawyer. You don't even understand your responsibility of when to raise an objection.' The puzzled lawyer asked him, 'I don't understand. When do you think I should have raised an objection when I didn't ?' The convict replied, 'When the opposing lawyer spoke, you objected. But, when the judge declared me guilty , you kept your mouth shut.'


It is always easy to put the blame on the whole world. But, if you just look a little deeper, you can see how you are responsible for what is happening in your life! Because you do not live every moment with awareness and take responsibility for your words and actions, you do so many things unconsciously. Then, when the effects of these actions happen, you claim you don't deserve the results.


Acting out of your own intelligence is always taking complete responsibility for what you do. When you obey someone else you feel that you are being subservient to that person. But when you disobey that person, you feel guilty. The way out of this conflict is to follow your intelligence with the understanding you alone are responsible for your action. Then you will not hurt anyone including yourself. And you will be responding intelligently to the person you are disobeying as well. Be Blissful!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

DEMAND FOR ECOFRIENDLY PRODUCTS HAS BEEN GAINING STEAM

 

The demand for ethically produced, ecofriendly products has been gaining steam for years and is expected to grow at a faster pace. Values drive the behaviour of today's socially and environmentally conscious consumer, who increasingly believes that the fastest way to make an impact on the environment is to buy green. Ecofriendly purchases are a great way to make a change for the better — a healthier you and a healthier environment.

Discerning shoppers not only care about how they look and how their skin feels, but are also concerned about the ingredients that go into manufacturing the cosmetics they buy. With more choices available in the market, they can now opt for natural and/or organic products that are high in efficacy while reducing their impact on the environment.

As they become more sophisticated in their choices, consumers are also more prepared to pay a premium for eco-friendly products. With the increasing number of high-quality products infused with naturally active organic ingredients available to customers on the high street and in malls, consumers can afford to be more selective in their purchasing decisions. They demand to know more about the stories behind the brands, and will gravitate towards those that they trust to sell reliable and efficient products, that deliver the results and boast a strong, reputable ethical record.


Recognizing this trend, more retailers are flying the green flag, and seeing the benefits of installing sustainable and energy-efficient practices into their businesses, while infusing these core values into their final products. Consumers can certainly look forward to wider selection of products that are not only eco-friendly , naturally inspired, organically certified, but also contain ingredients sourced according to Fair Trade principles, i.e. supporting small-scale producers, who are paid a fair price for work in fair conditions, while helping to develop the infrastructure and standard of living in marginalised local communities.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONLY A SMALL MINORITY ARE WILLING TO PAY A PREMIUM

 

Despite the growing focus on the environment , only a small minority of people who either belong to the highest income group and/or are staunch environmentalists are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly products.

While environmental concern could emerge as one of the powerful drivers that influence purchase and consumer loyalty, it has actually not resulted in the ability to command a sustainable premium: consumers are willing to buy eco-friendly products, but not pay the price. This has resulted in a classic Catch 22 situation.


The mass movement in the direction of going 'green' depends largely on a drop in the premium charged on eco-friendly products, and this can only happen in the following circumstances . Increased consumer demand which will help reduce costs and encourage innovation , efficiency and reduced cost in production of 'green' products. Increased awareness among consumers that their buying choices can make a difference to the environment – this is vital as many consumers feel that unless there is an improvement in the general environment, their buying 'green' products will not make a difference.


Economic disincentives like higher taxes on products that damage the environment should be encouraged. This is not to deny the power of 'green' or question the growing awareness of the way products are being brought to market. Many companies have increased their focus on development of 'green' products for the market – however, as of now very few of these products have gained significant volume or market share. The point is, are we as consumers, willing to pay the price for the improvement in the eco-system that we believe needs to be made? In the market-place , the answer at this point is regrettably a 'no' .

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ARE WE READY TO SHELL OUT MORE FOR GREEN TAG?

 

YES: The demand for ethically produced, ecofriendly products has been gaining steam for years and is expected to grow at a faster pace. Values drive the behaviour of today's socially and environmentally conscious consumer, who increasingly believes that the fastest way to make an impact on the environment is to buy green.


Ecofriendly purchases are a great way to make a change for the better — a healthier you and a healthier environment.

Discerning shoppers not only care about how they look and how their skin feels, but are also concerned about the ingredients that go into manufacturing the cosmetics they buy. With more choices available in the market, they can now opt for natural and/or organic products that are high in efficacy while reducing their impact on the environment.

As they become more sophisticated in their choices, consumers are also more prepared to pay a premium for eco-friendly products. With the increasing number of high-quality products infused with naturally active organic ingredients available to customers on the high street and in malls, consumers can afford to be more selective in their purchasing decisions.


They demand to know more about the stories behind the brands, and will gravitate towards those that they trust to sell reliable and efficient products, that deliver the results and boast a strong, reputable ethical record.

Recognizing this trend, more retailers are flying the green flag, and seeing the benefits of installing sustainable and energy-efficient practices into their businesses, while infusing these core values into their final products. Consumers can certainly look forward to wider selection of products that are not only eco-friendly , naturally inspired, organically certified, but also contain ingredients sourced according to Fair Trade principles, i.e. supporting small-scale producers, who are paid a fair price for work in fair conditions, while helping to develop the infrastructure and standard of living in marginalised local communities.

 

NO: Despite the growing focus on the environment , only a small minority of people who either belong to the highest income group and/or are staunch environmentalists are willing to pay a premium for eco-friendly products.

While environmental concern could emerge as one of the powerful drivers that influence purchase and consumer loyalty, it has actually not resulted in the ability to command a sustainable premium: consumers are willing to buy eco-friendly products, but not pay the price. This has resulted in a classic Catch 22 situation.

The mass movement in the direction of going 'green' depends largely on a drop in the premium charged on eco-friendly products, and this can only happen in the following circumstances . Increased consumer demand which will help reduce costs and encourage innovation , efficiency and reduced cost in production of 'green' products.

Increased awareness among consumers that their buying choices can make a difference to the environment – this is vital as many consumers feel that unless there is an improvement in the general environment, their buying 'green' products will not make a difference.


Economic disincentives like higher taxes on products that damage the environment should be encouraged. This is not to deny the power of 'green' or question the growing awareness of the way products are being brought to market. Many companies have increased their focus on development of 'green' products for the market – however, as of now very few of these products have gained significant volume or market share. The point is, are we as consumers, willing to pay the price for the improvement in the eco-system that we believe needs to be made? In the market-place , the answer at this point is regrettably a 'no' .

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION IN ADVERTISING

DELSHAD IRANI

 

After the mandatory Delhi-Agra darshan, Marcus Brown, CEO, Young & Rubicam Brands Geneva (a WPP group agency) arrived in the financial capital. On his maiden trip to India, he did something special one fair morning — that not many Mumbaikars do —an organized tour of a real live Bollywood film set — hundreds of movie extras and a train sequence for breakfast. The next morning however it was back to work in a SOBO five-star hotel where he held a workshop on how to make new business pitches. In an interview with ET, Brown talks about changing times in advertising, the digital revolution and Frenemies.


Your first workshop here, on your first visit to the country, what are some of the new business pitch tips for Indian advertising fraternity?


Well, I can't tell you that because then our competition would know too (laughs). But the one thing I can say is that one truly needs to understand the client's needs first. Understand the brief, it all starts there.

While Y&R Brands is a one stop comprehensive solutions provider to clients' needs, how does the synergy work with other agencies when it comes to sharing knowledge?


Geneva is a great example of network brands housed under one roof. We have Y&R advertising, Mediaedge:cia, Wunderman (consulting and marketing services ), Burson-Marsteller and Cohn & Wolfe (public relations services ), Landor Associates (the brandbuilding shop), Millward Brown, Sudler & Hennessey and VML, among others. The agency can tap in to insights from all over the world and can bring it back to its base market. That's the idea of belonging to a network, you gain insights. A collaborative network like 1Rediffussion for instance can tap in to the global network easily.


Today media habits means one-on-one conversations — one single tweet is all you need sometimes. Consumers want to take an active part. So how does that change advertising the way we know it?


Clearly the world has changed. Media is changing and redefining how we work in the future. There's all sorts of change. Take Google, just an example, Martin Sorrell calls Google our "frenemy" (a portmanteau of friend and enemy). Now Google has come out with Nexus which has big implications which will change business and not just our business.


But only time will tell how some things pan out. Take television, by far the most cost effective way of reaching a large population. But there's seen a drastic shift. Earlier people sat together as a family and watched. Now you might sit together in front of the television but at the same time you are texting on your mobile or on social networking on Facebook or on your laptop watching TV. The monopoly of the medium is going. Again that has changed the way we do business. In some ways what's happening now is what happened when TV happened to the world. The only difference is the change now is at a much faster pace. We are already adapting changing to the new reality.


What do you suppose is the deepest dent the last couple of years have left in advertising?

I'm an optimist. So I shall list the good things that have come out of last year or so. It does refocus our business on what we offer, resets efficiency and effectiveness; agencies are more in line with client needs, better tuned. Our industry is a combination of art and science and over the years the focus is increasing on science. Consumer Insights is a big part of our business . Issues like measurability and ROI have come right up front. The big challenges lie in the media buying and planning space, or wait now it's media investment, a space that is very competitive and price sensitive. Challenges however will wary by market, and the space you operate in. The key challenge in some markets will be to balance growth.


Your big bets?

Digital, digital and digital. If you don't understand digital you are not going to be around very long.


Do you think the new leaders that will emerge in time to come will be masters of digital?

The market is getting sophisticated. The world will become even more digital . Already 25% of all our output is digital across all disciplines. Our job is to help clients adjust to the digital world. It's about new and imaginative ways to engage. You have an overarching idea that translates into communication across media. Those who think in the 30-second TV spot mould will be obsolete. Change is constant. In India, over the next 20 years, there will be enormous change. The interesting bit will be how this change is managed . The world is watching.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WIPRO TO FOCUS ON DEAL PIPELINE IN US, EUROPE

PANKAJ MISHRA

 

customers. Wipro, India's third-largest software exporter, plans to double its revenues from non-linear models over the next 12-18 months. Suresh Vaswani & Girish Paranjpe, joint chief executive officers of the company's IT business, shared Wipro's plans to achieve these goals with ET. Excerpts.


From around 8% of total revenues currently, what is the share of non-linear business you are looking at?

 

Girish Paranjpe: We do plan to address the issue of people-led growth very aggressively. We want to double our revenues from the non-linear model over the next 12 to 18 months.

 

Suresh Vaswani: Apart from having aggressive goal for non-linearity, we are also working on 'horizon-2 and 3' themes that have three-year goals and need investments. Some of these bets include product lifecycle management, healthcare, life sciences and new innovative solutions for the retail customers.


While analysts are predicting slower growth in outsourcing by European customers, you managed to sustain revenues from the region. What is really driving your growth in Europe?


Suresh: The deal pipeline in the US is also looking good. Continental Europe is looking good for us and has been a happy hunting ground for Wipro this quarter. We, in fact, added three customers from the region.


Girish: There was some M&A-related work in the UK and we also made good progress with a telecom customer there. And continental Europe definitely helped.


What kind of growth do you see from the government outsourcing business in the US?


Suresh: Healthcare, apart from several government contracts, is offering lucrative opportunities. With Infocrossing, we now have a significant presence onsite and we can deliver all business from there. In fact, we are already delivering all projects onsite for the State of Missouri project. There are opportunities and we are bidding for more.


Are you seeing more long-term, annuity-based contracts from the BFSI segment?


Girish: I think merger-related work was always there, but it was overhyped. For banking and financial services customers, technology is the lifeline since all their products and processes run on IT. These firms are spending anywhere between 4 and 12% of their revenues on IT, which is very significant. What is driving the BFSI spend is that they want to launch new products and also cope with newer regulations. Some of them may be spending in smaller chunks, but they are all seeking cost effective ways, which is a secular trend.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

GIVE MOS' WORK FOR BETTER FUNCTIONING

 

The Prime Minister has taken the unprecedented step of inviting ministers of state in his government for an airing. He was aware that most of the 38 MoS-level members of the government were wilting for lack of work. Dr Manmohan Singh's step is unusual in that no Prime Minister earlier has permitted junior ministers to come together as a forum to express their grievances. The junior ministers did not disappoint when they called on the PM on Tuesday. Most did not shy away from expressing themselves. Dr Singh did them the courtesy of listening to them for an hour and a half and also sought to assure them the "energy pool" they represented should be harnessed to push along the UPA's programmes. This itself should be a signal to the Cabinet ministers under whom the MoS labour that substantive work should be allotted to them. This will help take the load off the senior ministers. The range of the work of their ministries and departments is burdensome, but often they prefer not to allot significant responsibilities to junior colleagues, fearing perhaps this would detract from their own sense of importance. In the process, they are not always mindful that work might suffer or may be transacted inefficiently. There is another good reason why ministers of state should be permitted a greater part of the responsibility. The opportunity presented will act as a training ground for junior ministers, who are typically younger in age. Dr Singh appears to have hinted to his interlocutors that he might get the Cabinet Secretary to go into their grievance. Whether this would involve reworking of the rules that govern the conduct of business in government is not clear. The division of work in a ministry has so far been the exclusive preserve of the Cabinet minister. At any rate, an effort is likely to be made to make Cabinet ministers aware of not letting the energies of their juniors be dissipated. In UPA-II, there appears to be a greater assemblage of junior ministers who belong to the younger age group. This renders them more dynamic. Many of them also happen to be quite well educated and could be in tune with modern sensibilities. Perhaps these are reasons why they began to ventilate their grievance. The innate assets that the junior ministers bring to the table is in line with our national demographics. The whole country has gone enviably young, and outside of government young people have risen to the top in numerous fields. This adds to the vitality of contemporary India. There is no reason why the younger set in ruling parties should not get more opportunities to display their mettle. Of course, it has to be kept in view that making people ministers — with Cabinet rank or at the junior level — is a political decision taken by government leaders — Prime Minister or chief ministers — and their parties in which considerations of regional representation and factors of caste and identity play a part. Merely becoming a minister, even if at the MoS level, raises the level of an individual in a party and confers a degree of self-pride on his constituency. As such, sometimes more ministers of junior rank (or even Cabinet rank) might be created than is warranted to accomplish government work. This is why the convention is that no more than 10 per cent of ruling party legislators should be made ministers.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DELHI, EASTWARD HO

BY SRINATH RAGHAVAN

 

The Bangladesh Prime Minister's recent visit to New Delhi has rightly been acclaimed as promising a new beginning in bilateral ties. Notwithstanding India's role in the creation of Bangladesh, relations between the neighbours have, for the most part, been marked by sullen resentment if not evident friction. This arose from a peculiar amalgam of structural asymmetry, anxieties about identity, and the vagaries of domestic politics. It is to Ms Sheikh Hasina's credit that she capitalised on her strong domestic standing to push for a reorientation of foreign policy. Robust ties with a growing India will, of course, yield significant domestic dividends as well. The $1 billion credit line and the assured supply of 250MW of power from India are merely the starting point. Equally important are the transit rights through Indian territory to Nepal and Bhutan, and the promise of a forward movement on settling the disputes over land and maritime borders.


India, for its part, will obtain long-sought access to Chittagong and other ports in Bangladesh. This will strengthen India's links to its own north-eastern states as well as other countries in the region. Further, Bangladesh has demonstrated its commitment to preventing anti-India insurgent groups from operating out of its territory. The raft of agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) that resulted from the visit underline the importance of careful preparation and tit-for-tat generosity in dealing with our neighbours.
From India's standpoint, the significance of the new opening to Bangladesh goes beyond bilateral relations. It provides an opportunity to infuse additional vigour into the so-called "Look East" policy. Launched by the Narasimha Rao government, this policy was aimed at deepening economic and diplomatic ties with the countries that comprise the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean). The policy proceeded in fits and starts, but the returns have been significant. The most important outcome of this long-running engagement was the much-awaited India-Asean Free Trade Agreement signed last year.


The agreement has already been operationalised with Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. India's trade with these countries accounts for an overwhelmingly large share of its $44 billion trade volume with the Asean states. The Malaysian Prime Minister's ongoing visit to New Delhi is clearly aimed at seizing this opportunity and forging a stronger relationship. A number of agreements, including an extradition treaty, are apparently on the anvil. Thailand and Singapore too are set to reap diplomatic and economic dividends from the free trade agreement.


Signs of change are also visible in the most inward-looking of Asean states —Burma. The junta has begun talks with Aung San Suu Kyi; though it is not clear whether this is a tactical move against the backdrop of the forthcoming elections or indicative of deeper changes. In any event, it affords an opening for India to fine-tune its policy towards Burma. In the last decade-and-a-half, this policy has been shaped by economic and security considerations. The former relate to the estimated 300 billion cubic metres of gas reserves in Burma and infrastructure projects aimed at improving connectivity between the two countries. The latter include the need to secure Burma's cooperation in working against various north-eastern insurgent groups, and to counter China's mounting influence in Burma. These considerations led India to adopt a cautious attitude on the internal situation in the country. New Delhi should build on the recent developments inside Burma to nudge the junta towards a wider accommodation with all the opposition forces, especially the numerous insurgent groups that have been fighting against the government over the last 60 years. In some ways, India is well placed to do so. For unlike most Western democracies, New Delhi has maintained that the problem in Burma is more than just the divide between the junta and pro-democracy forces.


More importantly, India should aim to tie together the strands of its developing relations with Bangladesh, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. As always, a bit of history may be helpful in thinking through the possibilities open to India. Until about six decades ago, these countries formed part of what historians have called the Great Crescent. Stretching from Calcutta (now Kolkata) to Singapore, this region formed a connected arc that pulsated with numerous trade and financial networks, the movement of people and ideas.


The great crescent was fractured owing to a series of conflicts: the Second World War, the Partition of India, civil wars in Burma and Malaya. The Cold War in Asia also ensured that India could not be responsive to attempts by countries like Singapore to build close military and political ties. India's stance on the Vietnam war and its aftermath had important repercussions too. India's decision to recognise the regime installed by Vietnam following its intervention in Cambodia proved a major setback to its relations with the Asean countries. The developing trends in the region now hold out the tantalising possibility of recreating the Great Crescent, and so imparting momentum and solidity to India's relations with its eastern neighbours.


The outcome of any such attempt will depend on India's own eastern states assuming a greater role in its regional policy. Foreign policy is usually regarded as the preserve of New Delhi. But in practice, chief ministers of certain states have been important players. Sheikh Abdullah was a crucial actor in the negotiations with Pakistan over Kashmir. As chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, G.B. Pant was closely involved in the run-up to the 1954 Sino-Indian Agreement on Tibet. Successive chief ministers of Tamil Nadu have played an important role in shaping India's relations with Sri Lanka. We also have the example of Jyoti Basu being sent to Bangladesh in 1996 to help break the deadlock over the Ganga water sharing negotiations. These leaders brought to the table both a perception of their state's links to the region and an ability to draw on cultural and historical ties that tend to be overlooked by the centre. According a greater role to the states will enlarge our repertoire of options and sharpen our political vision as we continue to look East.

 

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

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ARE COMMUNISTS SHORTING NETWORK CHINA?

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

Last week, I wrote a column suggesting that while some overheated Chinese markets, like real estate, may offer shorting opportunities, I'd be wary of the argument that China's economy today is just one big short-inviting bubble, à la Dubai. Your honour, I'd like to now revise and amend my remarks.

 

There is one short position, one big short, that does intrigue me in China. I am not sure who makes a market in this area, but here goes: If China forces out Google, I'd like to short the Chinese Communist Party.

 

Here is why: Chinese companies today are both more backward and more advanced than most Americans realise. There are actually two Chinese economies today. There is the Communist Party and its affiliates; let's call them Command China. These are the very traditional state-owned enterprises.

 

Alongside them, there is a second China, largely concentrated in coastal cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong. This is a highly entrepreneurial sector that has developed sophisticated techniques to generate and participate in diverse, high-value flows of business knowledge. I call that Network China. What is so important about knowledge flows? This, for me, is the key to understanding the Google story and why one might decide to short the Chinese Communist Party.

 

John Hagel, the noted business writer and management consultant argues in his recently released Shift Index that we're in the midst of "The Big Shift". We are shifting from a world where the key source of strategic advantage was in protecting and extracting value from a given set of knowledge stocks — the sum total of what we know at any point in time, which is now depreciating at an accelerating pace — into a world in which the focus of value creation is effective participation in knowledge flows, which are constantly being renewed.

 

"Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important", says Hagel. "Since there are far more smart people outside any one organisation than inside". And in today's flat world, you can now access them all. Therefore, the more your company or country can connect with relevant and diverse sources to create new knowledge, the more it will thrive. And if you don't, others will.

 

I would argue that Command China, in its efforts to suppress, curtail and channel knowledge flows into politically-acceptable domains that will indefinitely sustain the control of the Communist Party — i.e., censoring Google — is increasingly at odds with Network China, which is thriving by participating in global knowledge flows.

 

That is what the war over Google is really all about: It is a proxy and a symbol for whether the Chinese will be able to freely search and connect wherever their imaginations and creative impulses take them, which is critical for the future of Network China. Have no doubt, China has some world-class networked companies that are "in the flow" already, such as Li & Fung, a $14 billion apparel company with a network of 10,000 specialised business partners, and Dachangjiang, the motorcycle-maker. The flows occurring on a daily basis in the networks of these Chinese companies to do design, product innovation and supply-chain management and to pool the best global expertise "are unlike anything that US companies have figured out", said Hagel.

 

The orchestrators of these networks, he added, "encourage participants to gather among themselves in an ad hoc fashion to address unexpected performance challenges, learn from each other and pull in outsiders as they need them. More traditional companies driven by a desire to protect and exploit knowledge stocks carefully limit the partners they deal with".

 

Command China has thrived up to now largely by perfecting the 20th-century model for low-cost manufacturing based on mining knowledge stocks and limiting flows. But China will only thrive in the 21st century — and the Communist Party survive in power — if it can get more of its firms to shift to the 21st-century model of Network China. That means enabling more and more Chinese people, universities and companies to participate in the world's great knowledge flows, especially ones that connect well beyond the established industry and market boundaries.

 

Alas, though, China seems to be betting that it can straddle three impulses — control flows for political reasons, maintain 20th-century Command Chinese factories for employment reasons and expand 21st-century Network China for growth reasons. But the contradictions within this straddle could undermine all three.

 

The 20th-century Command model will be under pressure. The future belongs to those who promote richer and ever more diverse knowledge flows and develop the institutions and practices required to harness them. So there you have it: Command China, which wants to censor Google, is working against Network China, which thrives on Google. For now, it looks as if Command China will have its way. If that turns out to be the case, I'd like to short the Communist Party.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

WILL RED FADE INTO GREEN?

MARXISTS' WOES SET TO MULTIPLY

PROF. SAUGATA ROY

 

It was former West Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu's approach to practise politics based on "common sense" that helped the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) to keep the Left Front together and the party held power in the state for so long. With his death, the CPI(M) will certainly feel the pinch in giving shape and direction to the party.

 

In a situation in which the Left Front has already reached its nadir, as was shown in the last Lok Sabha election and the subsequent Assembly by-elections and municipal elections, the absence of Jyoti Babu will compound CPI(M)'s woes. The late CPI(M) stalwart was good for his party because he never rocked the boat as far as party policies were concerned.

 

Basu had to quit his chief minister's post in 2000 under pressure from the party. Since he quit, he was not consulted regularly on party or government matters and had become a sad man in the party lately.

 

Today, after his death, the CPI(M) is trying to take political advantage by desperately attempting to improve and enhance his image among the people of the state.

 

This may have some temporary effect but not a long-term impact as the next Assembly elections are about 18 months away. People have already turned their face away from the ruling alliance in West Bengal. In death people generally tend to forget a person's faults, and vested interests try to evoke euphoria around the deceased. But this trick will not be able to salvage the already sagging fortune of the CPI(M).

 

One must not forget that it was under the late Basu's instructions that the government of the day and the ruling CPI(M) cracked down on Marichjhapi refugees in the Sunderbans, killing them, burning their houses and drowning their boats. The 1978 incident stood for cruelty against civilisation. And 15 years later, again under the then chief minister's instructions, the police fired on a procession of Youth Congress activists on July 21, 1993. Thirteen died and more than 200 were injured. Jyoti Babu stubbornly refused to order a judicial enquiry. During late Basu's tenure, industries were ruined in the state.

 

A long-serving chief minister cannot survive without achievements. The only proclaimed achievement of the Basu government — land reforms and panchayats — were wrongly credited to him. The real credit should have gone to then revenue minister Binoy Chaudhary, and the secretary to the department, Debabrata Bandopadhya, an IAS officer.

 

(As told to Mukesh Ranjan)

 

Prof. Saugata Roy is Trinamul Congress MP and minister of state for urban development

 

Basu still relevant to Left supporters

 

Mohammad Salim

 

There is no doubt that Jyoti Basu's death is a big blow to the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Left movement in West Bengal and the country. It is, however, incorrect to think that with his demise the base of Left support in West Bengal will be eroded. Nearly a decade before his death, Basu had disassociated himself from the state administration. For many, he was not participating actively in the day-to-day affairs of the party either. We must also keep in mind that unlike the bourgeois parties, ours is not a leader-based organisation which relies on individuals.

 

The Communists believe in collective leadership. The CPI(M) is a regimented organisation which functions according to the norms set by the party constitution and on the strength of its formal network. Today the party is being run by leaders who were personally trained by Basu himself. His example will continue to guide us. He was a leader of the masses in the true sense of the word. His contribution in ushering the socio-economic and cultural revolution in Bengal has left a long-term impact. This will not evaporate with his passing away.

 

Our detractors had predicted our party's decline in Kerala after the death of E.M.S Namboodaripad, and in Tripura after the passing away of Nripen Chakraborty. But they were proved wrong. They will again see they were not right. The Left may have suffered some electoral setbacks in the past two years in West Bengal, but reverses are a part of parliamentary democracy.

 

As long as the party cadre remains committed to party programmes, and voters support us, the Left is in no danger. Basu's death has not demoralised our cadre; it has galvanised them further. The spontaneous outpouring of public grief for Basu amply reflects the enormous emotional bonding the people still have with the party. Even those who were temporarily misled by our opponents are returning in hordes with a renewed pledge of support.

 

I will substantiate my point with a personal experience. I was a primary member of the party and was on the verge of choosing a lucrative career outside the political world when Promode Dasgupta died in 1982. His death inspired Nilotpal Basu, Manab Mukherjee and many others besides me to abandon their personal dreams and become party whole-timers. I am sure that Basu's death will expand our party's support base by attracting fresh blood, and not be a cause of its erosion.

(As told to Parwez Hafeez)

 

Mohammad Salim is CPI(M) Central Committee member

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TAX BANKS TO SIZE

BY DAVID STOCKMAN

 

WHILE supply-side catechism insists that lower taxes are a growth tonic, the theory also argues that if you want less of something, tax it more. The economy desperately needs less of America's bloated, unproductive and increasingly parasitic banking system. In this respect, the White House appears to have gone over to the supply side with its proposed tax on big banks, as it scores populist points against the banksters, too.

 

Not surprisingly, the bankers are already whining, even though the tax would amount to a financial pinprick — a levy of only 0.15 per cent on the debts (other than deposits) of the big financial conglomerates. Their objections are evidence that the administration is on the right track.

 

Make no mistake. The banking system has become an agent of destruction for the gross domestic product (GDP) and of impoverishment for the middle class. To be sure, it was lured into these unsavoury missions by a truly insane monetary policy under which, most recently, the US Federal Reserve purchased $1.5 trillion of longer-dated Treasury bonds and housing agency securities in less than a year. It was an unprecedented exercise in market-rigging with printing-press money, and it gave a sharp boost to the price of bonds and other securities held by banks, permitting them to book huge revenues from trading and book-keeping gains.

 

Meanwhile, by fixing short-term interest rates at near zero, the Fed planted its heavy boot squarely in the face of depositors, as it shrank the banks' cost of production — their interest expense on depositor funds — to the vanishing point.

 

The resulting ultrasteep yield curve for banks is heralded, by a certain breed of Wall Street tout, as a financial miracle cure. Soon, it is claimed, a prodigious upwelling of profitability will repair bank balance sheets and bury toxic waste from the last bubble's collapse. But will it?

 

In supplying the banks with free deposit money (effectively, zero-interest loans), the savers of America are taking a $250 billion annual haircut in lost interest income. And the banks, after reaping this ill-deserved windfall, are pleased to pronounce themselves solvent, ignoring the bad loans still on their books. This kind of Robin Hood redistribution in reverse is not sustainable. It requires permanently flooding world markets with cheap dollars — a recipe for the next bubble and financial crisis.

 

Moreover, rescuing the banks yet again, this time with a steeply sloped yield curve (that is, cheap short-term money and more expensive long-term rates), is not even a proper monetary policy action. It is a vast and capricious reallocation of national income, which would be hooted down in the halls of Congress, were it properly brought to a vote.

 

National economic policy has come to this absurd pass because for decades the Fed has juiced the banking system with excessive reserves. With this monetary fuel, the banks manufactured, aggressively at first and then recklessly, a tide of new loans and deposits. When Wall Street's "heart attack" struck in September 2008, bank liabilities had reached 100 per cent of GDP — double the ratio of a few decades earlier.

 

This was a measurement of the perilous extent to which bad investments, financed by debt, had come to distort the warp and woof of the economy. Behind the worthless loans stands a vast assemblage of redundant housing units, shopping malls, office buildings, warehouses, tanning salons and fast food restaurants. These superfluous fixed assets had, over the past decade, given rise to a hothouse economy of jobs that have now vanished. Obviously, the legions of brokers, developers, appraisers, contractors, tradesmen and decorators who created the bad investments are long gone. But now the waitresses, yoga instructors, gardeners, repairmen, sales clerks, inventory managers, office workers and lift-truck drivers once thought needed to work at these places are disappearing into the unemployment statistics, as well.

 

The baleful reality is that the big banks, the freakish offspring of the Fed's easy money, are dangerous institutions, deeply embedded in a bull market culture of entitlement and greed. This is why the Obama tax is welcome: its underlying policy message is that big banking must get smaller because it does too little that is useful, productive or efficient.

 

To argue, as some Conservatives surely will, that a policy-directed shrinking of big banking is an inappropriate interference in the marketplace is to miss a crucial point: the big Wall Street banks are wards of the state, not private enterprises. During recent quarters, for instance, the preponderant share of Goldman Sachs' revenues came from trading in bonds, currencies and commodities.

 

But these profits were not evidence of Mr Market doing God's work, greasing the wheels of commerce and

trade by facilitating productive financial transactions. In fact, they represented the fruits of hyperactive gambling in the Fed's monetary casino — a place where the inside players obtain their chips at no cost from the Fed-controlled money markets, and are warned well in advance, by obscure wording changes in the Fed's policy statements, about any pending shift in the gambling odds.

 

To be sure, the most direct way to cure the banking system's ills would be to return to a rational monetary policy based on sensible interest rates, an end to frantic monetisation of federal debt and a stable exchange value for the dollar. But Ben Bernanke, the Fed chairman, and his posse are not likely to go there, believing as they do that central banking is about micromanaging aggregate demand — asset bubbles and a flagging dollar be damned.

 

Still, there can be no doubt that taxing big bank liabilities will cause there to be less of them. And that's a start.

 

 David Stockman, a directorof the Office of Management and Budget under President Ronald Reagan, is working on a book about the financial crisis.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

THE BIBLE AND THE MAHATMA

BY DOMINIC EMMANUEL

 

The Bible has greatly influenced the lives of millions of people over the centuries, such as Mahatma Gandhi, Pandita Rama Bai and Sadhu Sundar Singh to mention just a few and it keeps inspiring millions more in all age categories regardless of race, gender and nationality.

 

Nearly 1,67,000 Bibles are sold around the world daily, making it the most read, bought and gifted book in the world.

 

What attracted Mahatma Gandhi to the New Testament is clearly mentioned by him in his autobiography, My Experiments with Truth.

 

He says that he was simply thrilled to find a connection, or "unity", between Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" and the teachings in the Hindu holy text, the Bhagvad Gita.

 

The said sermon is found in the Gospel of St. Matthew and reads thus: "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted; Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth; Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied; Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy; Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God; Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God; Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven; Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you (Mt 5: 3-12)". 

 

There have been many books written on each of the Beatitudes, explaining in complete detail the meaning and import of the eight blessed sayings in their full context.

 

Hence one actually finds enough material to reflect on and base one's priorities of life on all or any one of them.

 

Jesus' sermon clearly show His preference for those who are poor — not just economically but also those who might be wealthy and are yet poor in spirit — and those who suffer and are meek.

 

Equal importance is also given to those who work for humanity, peace, righteousness or justice and those who are merciful.

 

Jesus was not speaking here of any one particular religion, caste, race or of any particular god or goddess.

 

He was speaking plainly for anyone who wanted to listen and turn one's life towards godliness and goodness.

 

It is not surprising, therefore, that a man like Mahatma Gandhi who was working on his own perfection while using peaceful and non-violent means to achieve freedom for India, was fascinated by the Sermon on the Mount.

 

The Bible, thus, offers substantial and inspiring material for every single person to pattern his or her life on and also profit from for one's own spiritual growth.

 

 Father Dominic Emmanuel, a founder-member of Parliament of Religions, is the director of communication of the Delhi Catholic Church. He was awarded the NationalCommunal Harmony Award 2008 by the Government of India.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SKEWED PRIORITIES

COURT SLAMS CWG PHOBIA 

 

FULL-THROATED would be the endorsement of folk all across the Capital, and its satellite towns, of the Delhi High Court's scathing observations on the local authorities sacrificing the basic interests of aam aadmi at the altar of false prestige that has become the Commonwealth Games. While their Lordships' observations were in the limited context of the sufferings of those without shelter during bitterly cold nights, it would be logical and legitimate to extend them to the larger domain of the civic maladministration of the last few years. The truth can sting, hence the local government's counsel had little to say when the Court asserted that, "it is an astonishing fact that you (government) are beautifying every pavement in every nook and corner of the city as if the visitors would examine the whole area during the Games. You are spending blindly". The Division Bench (coram: Ajit Prakash Singh, CJ; and Rajiv Sahai Endlaw, J) proceeded to ask, "do you think that this beautification will increase your prestige in the world and for that you can throw women and children on streets without shelter in this chilling winter? You talk about prosperity, is this what you call national happiness?" There will, of course, be "no comment" by way of response from the chief minister etc ~ not because they respect the judiciary but because of their callous indifference to their responsibilities towards the common man.


International sporting events are billed as festivals, cause for celebration among the populace of the host city, but there is small evidence of that in New Delhi. Simply because over-ambitious persons have "sold" grandiose plans to an incompetent and possibly corrupt establishment which has utilised the CWG to squander vast sums that ought to have been spent on improving critical infrastructure and catering to the socio-economic needs of the deprived sections.  


With possible exception of the extension of the Metro ~ again a rushed job, tracks but no trains ~ there will be limited permanent benefit: the host of flyovers have not been comprehensively planned, they only shift congestion from one point to another. The official mindset is betrayed by the plan to raise bamboo screens across clusters of shanties, as if doing so would eliminate poverty. The way Delhi has gone about the CWG does much disservice to sport.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

MAMATA & THE MAOIST

OF NAIVETY, QUALMS AND DOUBLE-THINK 

 

Mamata Banerjee is being astonishingly naive when she imagines that a padayatra in Junglemahal will be the appropriate response should the Maoists refuse to keep to her seven-day deadline. She has given the Left radicals a week to surrender arms and stop halting trains. The latter is a recent phenomenon and the Trinamul leadership hasn't denied reports that the party was privy to the blocking of the Bhubaneswar-New Delhi Rajdhani Express. The first is a forbidding proposition altogether; the Maoists ~ or Naxalites as they were then known ~ have not surrendered arms since they first revolted in the summer of 1967. It is hugely improbable that they will do so in seven days from 15 January, when she set the deadline. A dialogue can be meaningful only if development is a given, which it is not. Does Miss Banerjee have qualms over P Chidambaram convening the talks? For, there is an oblique hint of reservation in her appeal to the Maoists to name some other minister if they are averse to the union home minister participating in the negotiations. She is distinctly peeved over the fact that she wasn't consulted when the Centre decided to mobilise the paramilitary in West Midnapore. Is the home ministry under an obligation to do so? Perhaps not. Double-think runs wild in her perception of the paramilitary. While she is on record as having opposed the presence of the CRPF, she now cavils that the force hasn't been effective. And the matter is far too critical for such unsubstantiated, off-the-cuff assertions that the primary objective of the planned central offensive is to help the CPI-M regain lost ground. 
Almost literally, the Trinamul leader may be ploughing a lonely furrow. A padayatra along Junglemahal's laterite soil will merely serve as a publicity stunt, as most such exercises do. Contradictions in her positions have already alienated the People's Committee for Police Atrocities, the front organisation of tribals and the Maoists which boycotted her meeting last week. Whether it is the ruling party or the Opposition, the Maoist just couldn't care less. He has faith in neither. As much is clear from the first moves towards development, as reported by this newspaper. It is quite another story that this development is funded by the opium trade and extortion ~ both symptoms of the malaise in rural Bengal.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DEEMED IMPROPER

THE BRAINS NEED TO BE EXPOSED 

 

Since he assumed charge of the HRD ministry, Kapil Sibal has mapped out some path-breaking measures for the education sector. Some have raised dust, such as the proposal to abolish examinations at the Class 10 stage, which many institutions and academics have found impractical. The minister was well intentioned in wanting to relieve pressure on students, but was prepared to hold back till there was a consensus. Very few were aware that, in the meantime, the ministry had engaged a task force to examine the performance of institutions granted the status of deemed universities. That no less than 44 universities are proposed to be derecognised on the ground that they lack the required infrastructure suggests that the previous regime had been suspiciously overenthusiastic in accommodating various interests. It makes no difference that some of these had government sponsorships or connections with people in influential positions. Where the essential parameters were missing, it ought to have been clear that the students would be handicapped either at higher levels or in competitive examinations. It was worse that some of the deemed universities went on to accept affiliations ~ obviously for a price ~ and claimed the autonomy and related privileges of high-performing institutes like setting their own norms for admission, syllabus and fees while actually exploiting the special status for quick gain. 
That the HRD ministry has resorted to a corrective measure may be aimed at sparing the UPA a good deal of embarrassment. It also means a virtual indictment of Mr Sibal's predecessor, Mr Arjun Singh, with the endorsement of the highest levels in party and government. Mr Singh has reason to be as worried as Lalu Prasad after the latter was confronted with a White Paper by Mamata Banerjee ~ except that he is in no position to revolt and has lost the confidence of those who matter in the party. A more alarming prospect could be an investigation into how such favours were granted. It may be naive to describe it as incompetence when the beneficiaries in most cases used the opportunity to charge substantial fees from students who failed to secure admissions to regular colleges. Fortunately, the students attached to derecognised universities will be accommodated elsewhere and are spared the nightmare of the PTTI students in West Bengal whose future hangs in the balance. That does not absolve those who went out of their way to tarnish the concept of deemed universities at the cost of students. They deserve to be exposed.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SITTING DOWN FOR TOO LONG CAUSES HEALTH PROBLEMS

 

London, 20 JAN: Having a job which requires one to sit at a place for long hours can affect health, experts have claimed.


Researchers from the Karolinska Institute and the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm said that remaining inactive for too long can lead to a range of health problems like diabetes and heart disease, even among those who exercise regularly.

 

Writing for the British Journal of Sports Medicine, they also warned that "the chemical reactions triggered in the body by being inactive for too long cannot be cancelled out by taking more exercise."
Suggesting that the only way to minimise the effects was to cut the amount of time that we spend inactive, they said: "Climbing the stairs, rather than using elevators and escalators, five minutes of break during sedentary work, or walking to the store rather than taking the car will be as important as exercise."


"In the future, the focus in clinical practice and guidelines should not only be to promote and prescribe exercise, but also to encourage people to maintain their intermittent levels of daily activities (that involve movement)," they were quoted as saying by the Telegraph. ~ PTI

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

HOMELESS, HUNGRY & ABUSED

BHARAT DOGRA MAKES A CASE FOR THE MOST NEGLECTED OF INDIAN SOCIETY


INDIA'S homeless are among the most neglected sections of society. As a result of their being denied basic life-saving facilities, cold wave conditions not only cause them extreme hardship but can even kill. For the more fortunate, there is always the thought of returning to the comforts of home after a hard day's work, but the millions in our cities who simply do not have a home must make do with spending the night on pavements, near railway stations, bus stops or elsewhere under the open sky, no matter how adverse the weather. They do not have even two yards of space to keep their clothes or minimal essential belongings, or a place to bathe or clean up. For them, not even a small hut in the middle of the skyscrapers of our metros. Come dense fog or monsoon torrents, they must meet adversity head on.


One aspect of the neglect and apathy suffered by the homeless is that the government has not even bothered to collect reliable estimates about their number. Drawing attention to this, Bishnu N Mohapatra writes in his paper on the pavement-dwellers of Mumbai, "It has always been difficult to obtain reliable data concerning pavement-dwellers… Although living on the pavements of the city, they remained invisible and ignored. Historically no other group in the city suffers as much from the problem of invisibility as the pavement-dwellers."


As the homeless have no address and can only be counted on pavements, other open spaces and night-shelters, many of them are easily missed by the census staff. The Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, an organisation working for them, made a limited effort in the last census to ensure them better coverage. In 2000, it tried counting all for the people sleeping in the open in Delhi and came up with about 53,000. The organisation recognised that its effort in a vast city like Delhi likely covered about half of the capital's homeless, so their actual number was likely to be a little over 100,000.


Till more reliable official estimates become available, planning for India's homeless can use an approximate estimate that they comprise at least one per cent of the urban population. The number of urban homeless is likely to be between three and four million.


 Following the Supreme Court's judgement (1985) on Bombay evictions within a month, the Society for the Promotion of Area Resource Centres, a voluntary organisation, conducted a survey covering 6,000 households (27,000 individuals) within the city's "E" ward. This helped shatter the myth of pavement-dwellers being a transient population who always returned to their villages following evictions. The survey showed that nearly 13 per cent of the heads of pavement-dweller households were born in Bombay and around 60 per cent of them had migrated to the city more than a decade ago. Most of them walked to their places of work (hence no burden on the transport system) and a majority of them worked for below minimum wages (hence contributed to providing cheap services and goods in the city).


Planning for the homeless in any city should also include another category that could be called "precariously housed people", or "people on the verge of homelessness". For example, some jhuggis are too small to house entire families, with the result that some members of the family are, in effect, homeless although they have a jhuggi as an address. Some relocated families live so far from their place of work that the main wage-earner may prefer not to return home each day. Some live in old, damaged houses that are in danger of collapsing and some even tolerate terrible working conditions and a denial of minimum legal wages to be allowed to spend the night at their place of work. Some are even kept in beggars' homes, orphanages and women's care homes against their wishes and leaving would amount to homelessness.

Perhaps the most important category of precariously housed people includes those whose homes or jhuggis are likely to be demolished in the near future without resettlement being promised. In almost all demolitions, at least some families are left out of the resettlement effort (in some cases, no resettlement is even promised or planned). Estimates of their number should also be considered while planning for the homeless.
It is important to keep track of factors that may lead to a significant increase in homelessness. An understanding of such factors relating to trends in economy and in urban planning and policies is necessary for efforts to mobilise and help them. For example, a widely quoted review (by Paul Koegel and others) of the causes of increasing homelessness in the USA says, "The rise in homelessness during the last 15 years has accompanied two broad trends, each of which has exacerbated the impact of the other. First, there has been steady erosion of the supply of rental housing affordable to those falling at or below the poverty level. Second, the pool of poor people competing for these increasingly scarce units has swelled at precisely the same time.


"Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, poor people — particularly the impaired among them — faced a growing set of pressures that included a dearth of affordable housing, a disappearance of the housing on which the most unstable had relied, and a diminished ability to support themselves either through entitlements or conventional or makeshift labour. Households barely making do increasingly found themselves under financial and interpersonal stress that only made a bad situation worse. Such pressures have a cumulative impact, culminating in the pervasive homelessness we have begun to take for granted."


A similar analysis for any Indian city, say Delhi, would reveal that there have been several factors at work which are likely to result in increasing homelessness. The shifting or closure of industries, relocation of slum-dwellers far from their place of work, sealing operations to curb commercial activities in residential areas, ban on cycle-rickshaws on main roads — all these are likely to cause a serious livelihood crisis in the capital.
The loss of livelihood is also supported by existing official data. The number of unemployed persons rose from 196,000 in 1992 to 569,000 in 1999-2000, an increase of 373,000 in just seven years. As a percentage of the workforce, unemployment rose from 5.6 to 12.7 in a span of just seven or eight years.
But this is actually an underestimate as these statistics fail to include those who have suffered an erosion of livelihood and income opportunities even though they are still employed. For example, following the closure of an industry a worker becomes a vendor or a rickshaw-puller. He may be still employed, but his income and benefits have decreased. At a recent public hearing of relocated slum-dwellers, many speakers complained bitterly of their net income declining to less than half as they have to spend a lot of time and money travelling to their places of work.


At a night-shelter in Delhi I met Ram Gopal Sharma, who had a flourishing business as a motor mechanic, and Jagdish, who had an even more lucrative job in selling radios/transistors. Both suffered such dramatic reversals in recent times that they have  been reduced to homelessness.


Most of the homeless face severe problems in meeting the most basic, taken-for-granted needs such as water and sanitation. Although this is an important consideration while selecting a settlement site, these problems still persist, and can be acute for women. Payments for public toilets and bathing places such as sulabh shauchalyas are not always affordable for the poor, particularly if they are overcharged.


Some of the homeless, particularly those who are chronically ill or disabled or too old or otherwise unable to work frequently, cannot afford to buy food. Some who do not or cannot buy food also face problems in cooking for themselves.


As the overwhelming majority of homeless do not have access to any shelters, they are exposed to weather extremes, particularly biting winds and torrential rain. During the winter (2002-03) more than 1,000 cold wave deaths were reported from North India, particularly Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Even mild rain for a short time makes it difficult to sleep on wet pavements for the entire night. During the summer, many homeless who have come to the city in search of employment, or who work night shifts may be exposed to heat wave conditions if they spend the entire afternoon in the open. Several face problems arising from liquor and drug addiction and substance abuse. These problems drive several towards a state of homelessness. This is a reality that should not be exaggerated to draw attention away from the many unjust and distorted policies responsible for homelessness.


Many of the homeless emphasise beatings, extortion and eviction at the hands of policemen as their biggest problems. Because of highly unjust laws like the Bombay Prevention of Begging Act, 1959 (which has also been extended to Delhi) the homeless in particular are often taken suddenly to beggars' homes and confined for a long time. In addition, there is the threat posed by gangsters and bullies. It is well known that gangs engaged in trafficking are always on the lookout for women and children from the streets.


Keeping in view the many problems and threats faced by the homeless, a comprehensive time-bound national-level plan should be drawn up which, on the one hand, meets their basic needs and, on the other, strengthens them as a community to protect themselves and their rights.


The writer is a Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DREAMS AND REALITIES

THE PASSING AWAY OF MARXIST STALWART JYOTI BASU ENDS AN IMPORTANT CHAPTER OF INDIA'S HISTORY OF INDEPENDENCE LED BY MAHATMA GANDHI AND JAWAHARLAL NEHRU, WRITES MADANJEET SINGH


THE other day I woke from a curious dream in which I saw my friends KR Narayanan and his wife, Usha, come to visit us. On my bed they noticed a book about Jyoti Basu. Sitting beside the book with her head held in both hands, Usha lamented that her husband was unwell and she did not want him to accept the government's offer to appoint him an advisor. Then last night, I dreamed of a tsunami-like flooding in front of our seaside Villa Surya at the Cote d' Azur in France followed by colourful festivals — dream symbols that, as I described in my book, The White Horse (Macmillan 1996), invariably anticipated the death of someone near and dear to me.


Carl Gustav Jung called these ominous anticipatory shadows of coming events "meaningful coincidences", saying that "such chance happenings have a certain numinous quality that grows in proportion to the number of its terms. Unconscious — probably archetypal — contents are thereby constellated, which then give rise to the impression that the series has been caused by these contents. Since we cannot conceive how this could possibly happen, we generally let it go at the bare impression".


The White Horse is written against the background of the political turmoil and agonising communal conflict during India's struggle for freedom. The story begins in Lahore where, as a child, I saw Jawaharlal Nehru riding a beautiful white charger at a political rally on the banks of the Ravi river on 1 January 1930 and he declared Purna Swaraj (complete independence) from colonial rule. Since then, a white horse has often appeared in my dreams to connote politically related events, just as flooding and festivities, coupled together, symbolise death.
I had the honour of briefly meeting Jyoti Basu in Kolkata where I had gone to attend the International Student Federation Conference on the eve of Partition. I was then a student at the Government College in Lahore, as I had been expelled from Uttar Pradesh on my release from Mirzapur Jail during Mahatma Gandhi's Quit India movement.


I met Jyoti Basu more than a half-century later on 22 December 2004 when a political crisis was brewing due to the differences between the Congress and CPI(M). I was afraid that should the CPI(M) withdraw its support, the secular government at the Centre would fall and the communal Hindutva Sang Parivar might take over.
The 90-year-old Marxist leader received us most cordially at his Kolkata home. His biographer, Surabhi Banerjee, Vice-Chancellor of Netaji Subhas Open University, and France Marquet, a South Asia Foundation trustee, accompanied me. I was astonished by Basu's extraordinary memory as he recalled my meeting with him in 1947. Banerjee had already cautioned us that at his age Jyotiji received visitors for no more than 10 minutes. But he spent about an hour before we left as he unveiled a life-size statue of his, made by a young village artist. As he stood besides the sculpture, Marquet commented that it was as good as the wax sculptures in Madame Tussaud's Museum in London. "That's right," he said with a sense of pride. And then he added with a twinkle in his eye, "Bengalis are born artists."


Jyoti Basu admired the illustrations of paintings and photographs in my Unesco book, The Sasia Story, and showed a keen interest in the two Peace Campaign exhibitions I had organised at the Government College and the Lahore Museum when the rioting broke out in 1947. I told him that "sasia" (South-Asia) was the name I had coined for a common currency, like the euro, and, as in Europe, it might well become the anchor of economic stability and regional cooperation in South Asia.

Then I broached the subject of the CPI(M)'s support to the UPA coalition at the Centre so that the Congress-led secular government would be able to complete its mandate. The Left parties should not commit another "historic blunder", I said.


Basu paused and said, "We depend on the Congress as much as the Congress depends on us." And he added, "We have been telling them that the unravelling of the UPA will inevitably bring (the) BJP to power, not us, the Third Front."


I conveyed his message to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on my return to Delhi.


My latest dream, as always, had picked up bits and pieces from the deepest crevices of my conscious and unconscious memory, hopes and fears that I attempted to put together like a jigsaw puzzle. The dream's reference to the book about Jyoti Basu that Narayanan noticed on my bed seemed to indicate that Basu, too, was an intellectual and ideological genius like Narayanan. Usha's dream comment that her husband was unwell obviously alluded to Jyoti Basu's health, invoking the grief that I felt on the death of Narayanan. Usha and several other close friends have recently passed away.


Real sorrows seem to sleep in the heart's cozy bed though they never cease to fret and eat into the soul. Indeed, it is strange how a dream can, in a flash, succinctly summarise my entire life, helping me to face my painful forebodings and fears and at the same time providing me with the courage to uphold the ideals I cherish. The passing away of Marxist stalwart Jyoti Basu ends an important chapter of India's history of Independence led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the apostle of secularity.


A Unesco Goodwill Ambassador, the writer is the founder of the South Asia Foundation

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

EDGE OF REASON

THE COLLAPSE OF ALL RESTRAINT IN SOCIETY IS PUSHING SOME MUSLIMS TO THE BRINK, SAYS YASMIN ALIBHAI-BROWN


FANATICAL proselytisers erode the faith and scare away the faithful. The way they ban pleasure and progress, fill young minds with strictures to paralyse the will and suppress God-given desires in lands of freedom and autonomy is hateful. Their inner lives are stormy, psychological dramas that turn dangerously unstable. Some of the resulting turmoil and sexual unrest may be swelling the seething brain of the next terrorist manqué.
   On blogs now thought to be written by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian accused of trying to blow up a plane over Detroit, you are given the impression from news reports that he was a lonely boy, unhappy with his peers who drank and partied. At university he apparently cut himself off, tried to hold on to Islamic puritanism in a country of no shame, no restraint. Millions are alarmed by the dissipation and debauchery that now defines Britain.


 For Umar Farouk, living in such a landscape is literally intolerable. He confesses that he does try to lower his gaze in front of women, wonders if he should get married because he is getting too aroused. Pakistani journalist Maruf Khwaja describes this inner chaos in an "Open Democracy" blog. In some homes they cannot watch television, listen to music, dance or indulge in anything pleasurable: "(Muslims) want to do what their secular friends do, have nights out, go clubbing, have boyfriends and girlfriends. Many are depressed by social isolation and attempt to escape by leaving parents and Islamic legacies behind."


 Others, like Asif, revert. He says he had a contact list full of willing white women whom he chatted up to "get into their knickers" and now that he is a good Muslim, he talks to covered-up women and can "really communicate with them". The saintly Muslim female has desexualised herself, protects herself in the polluted land she lives in.


Women who are not coerced but choose to cover themselves are expressing that revulsion and fear of contamination. Their solutions are as bad as the problems they are trying to escape, sometimes worse. Sexual abuse, rape and forced homosexuality remain the dirty secrets of British Muslim communities, kept under wraps as it were while they flap around proclamations of purity. The collapse of all restraint in society is breeding sicknesses and madness, and may be pushing some Muslims to the edge of reason.


 In Natasha Walter's new book, Living Doll: the Return of Sexism, she describes the widespread self-degradation of young women and girls who wear "fuck-me" clothes, binge-drink and sleep around, all in the name of emancipation. Their heroines are Jordan and glamour models in lads' mags and what they really want is to be just like these big-breasted big-timers. Teenagers told her they had had dozens of sexual partners already and some said they would happily go in for lap-dancing or porn shots "for enjoyment". The word that comes up all the time is "choice", but one has to ask what choice there is, really, when a pushy popular culture tells women that they are creatures of the flesh which they must tame and give over to the public gaze and touch.      With things falling you can see why so many are turning to certainties in an age of chaos. Islamic Stalinism is set to grow stronger. A society in a state of perpetual abandon cannot survive that onslaught. We need to sober up and see what we have become. The future is grim; it needs us to be serious.


The Independent

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THE TELEGRAPH

DEEMED UNFIT

 

The term, "deemed university", has always had an enigmatic ring. This phenomenon really took off during Murli Manohar Joshi's tenure as human resource development minister, but deemed universities increased spectacularly in number during Arjun Singh's time. Although fairly new, these institutions gained the status of deemed universities by claiming that they needed a certain measure of autonomy to conduct research and teaching in frontier areas. That is, they did not wish to be tied down to the syllabi of the state universities to which they would otherwise be affiliated. To evolve a new tier of educational institutions simply to bypass the limitations of state university syllabi bears the marks of unthinking haste and an unwillingness to address educational reform seriously. Research and teaching that claim to be cutting-edge need no backdoor to enter the educational arena; they should emerge naturally through the development and modernization of the syllabi and teaching methods of all universities.

 

Now that the HRD ministry under Kapil Sibal has derecognized 44 deemed universities in 13 states for not living up to their claims, and for not even attempting to do so, the anomaly at the heart of the idea lies exposed. The ministry has asked a number of other such institutions to demonstrate their fitness for the label within three years if they do not wish to lose their status too. This approach may help clean up some of the laxity and deceit in one sphere of education, especially since the reforms Mr Sibal has promised are likely to do away with the deemed university label altogether. But the real sufferers are the students. What is truly painful is that thoughtless policies and ad hoc measures in the field of education, when backed by callousness and greed, make victims of the young people who come to educational institutions with trust and hope. Two of these institutions have received crores of rupees in grants from the government. It is those who bestowed the deemed university status on institutions unworthy of it, and those who asked for it and did not bother to live up to their commitments once they had acquired the label that are the real culprits. Although Mr Sibal has promised that not a single student will suffer — and perhaps they will not — they are still left with insecurity, devalued degrees and a sense of having been let down.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

STATE OF FEAR

 

A failed State is not all about wrong policies or bad administration, it is a condition in which the people lose faith in the State's ability to secure their lives and property. That, precisely, is the situation in which both the rich and the poor live in Jharkhand. It has been so for many areas in large parts of the state. Now, even Jamshedpur, the richest — and once the safest — city in Jharkhand, faces the same trauma. Last year's official crime statistics of the city are enough to strike terror in the hearts of the most fearless — 102 murders, 21 dacoities, 624 robberies and about 3,200 other incidents of a criminal nature. The fact that the criminals are rarely arrested emboldens them as much as it deepens the people's fear. The worst fear for the people in Jamshedpur and elsewhere in the state is that the administration has lost both the will and the power to control crime. Repeated appeals by professionals, businessmen and other sections of the people to the administration have made no difference to the crime scene and the fear psychosis. The economic impact of all this in a mineral-rich but poverty-stricken state is already proving to be catastrophic. Big investors whose plans promised to give Jharkhand a new beginning are as caught in the web of fear as the ordinary people.

 

Two factors are usually cited to explain Jharkhand's chilling crime scene — the Maoist violence and the political vacuum. Both these have wreaked havoc on peace and the rule of law in the state for several years. But a more important factor is not adequately stressed — the police and other sections of the administration have nearly given up the fight against lawlessness. The political vacuum has been filled, at least for now, by a new, popularly-elected government under Shibu Soren. But unstable coalitions and their self-seeking partners have caused more problems for the state than they have tried to tackle. The police and the civil servants owe it to the taxpayer to do their duty irrespective of the politicians' games. It is not just a question of public morality; they have a constitutional and legal obligation to uphold the rule of law. New Delhi too cannot let Jharkhand continue in its dangerous drift. The Constitution lists law and order as a state subject, but its collapse in one state can have dangerous consequences for other parts of the country, especially those that face the worst Maoist threat.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LIMITS OF PEOPLE'S WAR

 NAXALISM FACES SERIOUS HURDLES THAT CAN BE USED AGAINST IT

KANTI BAJPAI

 

Analysts have documented in some detail the constraints facing the government: the countryside is vast; the forests help protect the militants; the adivasi population in particular supports them; the hit-and-run tactics of the Maoists keep the security forces off balance; the increasing unification of the various factions makes the movement formidable and not easy to divide and conquer; its access to money and guns is growing as is its political hold over sections of the population; and the government's forces are poorly trained and equipped, and lacking in leadership.

 

Confronted by this diagnosis of the Naxalite problem, the government and various security commentators have sounded the alarm. Naxalism does indeed appear to be the biggest internal security challenge that India has ever faced. Against this, however, we must consider the difficulties and constraints faced by the Maoists, in particular the military challenges.

 

To understand those challenges, we need to remember the broad outlines of people's war. It depends on a unified movement and creative leadership, committed and intellectually sophisticated cadres, a supply of arms, ammunition and money and, of course, the growing support of the population. In addition, however, people's war depends on controlling enclaves of territory, breaking out from these enclaves to wider areas, and, more specifically, encircling the cities, which eventually fall to the besieging forces. People's war does not, in the beginning, take the security forces head-on in battle. It gradually gathers strength to dominate the countryside and starve the cities into submission.

 

There are several problems facing the Naxalites in achieving this. Let us understand the challenges they face by way of some comparison with China in 1949, when the revolution finally beat the Nationalist forces led by Chiang Kai Shek.

 

First of all, India today has a much larger urban population than China did, in terms of absolute numbers and in percentage terms. In 1949, China's cities had a population of about 70 million. This represented 11-12 per cent of the total population. Now India presents a different picture. Its urban population in the 2001 census, a decade ago, was over 280 million, which represented roughly 28 per cent of the population. Ten years later, the figures are higher. India in 2009 has 100 cities with populations of over 400,000 people, and 42 cities have more than one million people. The 11 biggest cities have about 100 million souls. This urban structure is massively dispersed in India — and the bigger, more influential cities are not in the areas of Naxalite strength. To lay siege to these cities will stretch Maoist forces at the best of times hugely, even if they do not attack all cities simultaneously. China's big cities of the day were small in comparison. Shanghai had a population of five million, which would put it in ninth place in India today, and Beijing had about four million.

 

The second problem is that the insurgents are relatively safe and secure and can operate with comparative ease in the core areas which are heavily forested and feature deep ravines and rocky, hard-to-access terrain. As long as the Naxalites stay within these mostly adivasi areas in central India and Andhra Pradesh, they are limited in their reach and influence. However, the Naxalites have a rather challenging problem on their hands if and when they choose to emerge from these remote strongholds and, in particular, when they come out into the plains. When they do emerge, they will encounter armed police, paramilitary forces, and perhaps even army units who will enjoy all the advantages. The Indian army in particular will chew them up. The army has fought counter-insurgency in much more difficult terrain as have paramilitary forces. They will operate very effectively in relatively open battle situations. Having said this, the government cannot afford to be complacent. If it waits for the Naxalites to emerge from the remote and forest areas, it will give the militant leadership time to recruit, to train, to unite the factions, to spread the political message, and to refine tactics and strategy. New Delhi must, therefore, continue to disrupt the Naxalites and to force them to stay on the move.

 

Thirdly, Maoist people's war is no longer the novelty it was in the 1930s and 1940s. It was a novelty in part because it was improvised and invented along the way, as the civil war in China spread and went through various cycles of victory and defeat for the Communist Party. Since then, Maoists and various military academy strategists have laid bare the nature of people's war. It has been studied by every professional military of any consequence all over the world, including the Indian army. The tactics and strategy as well as the political education of cadres and of the population are well known. That does not mean it is easy to combat; but it does mean that the broad approach to dealing with it is quite well understood.

 

If one adds these three constraints together, the military task in front of the Naxalites appears fairly massive. The Indian government, in addition, has political and economic resources that it can deploy to improve conditions in the countryside so that the support base — material, human and psychological — for the insurgents is reduced. The pronouncements of the prime minister, the home minister and the Planning Commission indicate that they are conscious of this. There is a tremendous amount of administrative change that needs attention as well — including police reform.

 

In spite of everything that has been argued here on the odds against a successful people's war strategy, there is one card that the movement can play to change the game. If it is able to hollow out the cities from within and foment urban disaffection and violence even as rebellion in the countryside deepens, then one of the biggest hurdles to a Maoist victory will have been rattled if not toppled. The government must pay attention to conditions in the cities as well, and to the possibility of organized armed groups waiting to strike at a moment of crisis.

 

The Naxalite militancy has certainly grown, and it reflects the disaffection primarily of adivasis in the central belt of India. While there are formidable obstacles in the way of a successful people's war, the government should use this strategic lull to understand the sources of the simmering anger and violence. New Delhi need not panic, but it cannot afford to ignore the plight of millions of unhappy Indians. Policing Naxalism is not the government's strongest card. Its strongest cards are development, justice and empowerment.

 

The author teaches at Oxford University

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LIFE WITHOUT GOOGLE

NEHA SAHAY

 

What's the real reason behind Google's new-found love for an open society in China? Did it really think that its threat to withdraw from China unless the government stopped censoring its sites, would work? The Chinese government is hardly the type to give in to outside pressure. Is it any surprise that Chinese netizens aren't rallying in support of Google?

 

Indeed, Google's threat has angered most of China's 384 million netizens, perhaps predictably. Over the last two years, any posturing by a foreign country, specially a Western country, has seen a surge of belligerent nationalism — be it the violence in Lhasa in March 2008, the attacks on the Olympic torch in Paris and London the same year, or Google's threat now. An online survey showed that 70 per cent netizens felt that their government should not make any concession for Google.

 

Don't they want the freedom to explore the internet unhindered by China's Great Firewall? Apparently not. Partly the answer lies in Google's limited reach: only 31 per cent of Chinese use Google, with almost 64 per cent using Baidu, China's own search engine. This despite Google having developed many Chinese-friendly features such as translations, a Chinese-Pinyin (Chinese in Roman script) input system, local train information and legal music downloads.Netizens angry at Google have pointed out that it is too closely linked with the government of the United States of America. In the official media, Google's threat is seen as hollow. "Leaving? Google is pouting,'' said one People's Daily columnist. This despite proof of the seriousness of its intent being shown — hitherto banned topics such as the Tiananmen Square massacre were available on Google the morning after its announcement. As if on cue, a statement appeared on the information office website, warning about pornography and rumours, and talking about the government and internet media's responsibility to "guide public opinion''.

 

Stone age

Industry experts say that the loser would be Google, given China's market and the inevitable advances in internet technology. But Google has its followers — and they aren't afraid to show their loyalty. Since its announcement last week, there was a steady stream of people laying flowers with laudatory notes outside the company's offices in Beijing and Shanghai, till security guards from Tsinghua University nearby stopped them. Students say they will be badly hit. However, the hardest hit will be Google's 800-odd employees in China. One report said that its Beijing staff were told not to come to work.

 

Columnists writing in newspapers known for their boldness, have expressed regret that the exit of Google will deprive Chinese search engines of competition. However, the most poignant comments have come from well-known dissident bloggers. "Google, I await your return when there is freedom,'' writes Ai Weiwei, an eccentric, irreverent blogger. Journalist Zhang Wen, a proponent of democracy, writes sombrely, "Google finally can no longer stomach the increasingly tightening reins, and must abandon their original position of compromise. I feel this is civilization fighting back against savagery, this is freedom fighting back against autocracy....'' Zhang goes on to say that the gleeful expressions of "good riddance'' from netizens are short-sighted; they do not understand that without being able to use the most advanced search engines, they will return to the Stone Age of the internet. On Twitter, an anonymous post points out that with the three most popular websites —YouTube, Google and Facebook blocked in China, this was "not an issue of Google abandoning China, but one of China abandoning the world."

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SPIN OUT OF CONTROL

 

The failure of the air traffic control system at the Delhi airport shows that the latter is still not the best in the business, writes Abhijit Bhattacharyya

 

The recent failure of the sophisticated air traffic control system at the Delhi international airport, during peak evening hours, takes one back to the fundamentals of flying at a time of increasing congestion in the air corridors over Indian skies. To fly an aircraft in an emergency without radar guidance or navigational directions from the air traffic controller, a pilot has to depend on 'visual flight rules' as well as the attitude direction indicator if the speedometer and altimeter are functional. The ADI is equipped to indicate whether the aircraft's nose is facing 'up' or 'down', and how it is placed geometrically vis-à-vis the flight path. On the other hand, the speed and height measuring meter would provide the pilot with basic inputs that would enable him to land under 'blind' conditions — a time when the machines in the control tower are 'down'.

 

In fact, the forefathers of the present fliers could not afford the luxury of flying with these modern gadgets — both airborne and land-based — to cover their missions from take-off to touchdown. Today's pilots are luckier. They command a fat professional fee, and different kinds of flying gadgets have taken over the many aspects of the hazardous job that was once done by man. Pilots of yesteryear, however, had more fun while flying planes. They were also at a higher risk, owing to primitive technology, and the comparatively inferior infrastructure that was in place then.

 

Seen in this background, the failure of the ATC system at the airport in Delhi can indeed be seen as a major lapse on the part of the overall airport command systems management in the capital. Why does one say so? Has not airport infrastructure improved ever since the slow, sarkari Airports Authority of India handed over ownership to 'efficient and professionally managed' private enterprises?

 

Today, the airport in Delhi boasts of brand new terminals, the longest runway, state-of-the-art parking bays, rising air traffic and commercial outlets. But if one were to try and park one's vehicle in one of the 'authorized' parking lots, one would end up paying through the nose for the service rendered. In true spirit of 'private enterprise', the prime slot facilities are given to select cabs or groups that are the only privileged operators allowed to drop and pick up the high-end users of the Delhi airport. Nevertheless, it seems that no one has the responsibility to control the rash drivers of buses, trucks, cargo-carriers and sundry four-wheelers that operate in the 'danger zone' through which aircraft move for take-off and landing. The tarmac in Delhi is one of the most dangerous and accident-prone among all the Indian airports. It is possible that drivers of the private operators have taken their cue from their brethren who drive equally dangerously on the capital's roads.

 

Perhaps the most unplanned and thoughtless acts have taken place in areas that are considered to be the 'cash crops' of air traffic — capacity expansion and frequency enhancement — thereby leading to parking problems on ground and compromising the safety of flights on air. In the latter category, the Delhi airport does not inspire much confidence, despite the promises of professional service.

 

In spite of possessing the longest runway, the airport cannot use it fully owing to defective planning. This has rendered a sizeable portion useless and inoperative. Next, come winter and the fog, be assured that flights will either be late, cancelled or diverted, the solemn pledges of modern navigation and landing facilities notwithstanding.

 

Under the circumstances, the fact that a software that helps planes take-off and land crashed recently may not come as a surprise. At the Delhi airport, at any given time, approximately 30 to 100 aircraft land or take- off in the evening. The most serious threat to the airborne traffic emanates from the descending track. Here, one must compliment the employees at the airport air control tower. Indeed, the lowly-paid government officials did a superb job, handling the situation manually when the sophisticated computers crashed. One mistake, and the situation could have spun out of control, as the switchover from automatic to manual mode normally makes the pilots jittery owing to the eagerness of the descending aircraft crew to land on time and proceed home.

 

Here, one is reminded of the mid-air collision between the Kazakh and Saudi airlines on November 12, 1996, over Delhi. The accident took place because either the foreign aircraft's cockpit crew were unable to follow the Indian controller's language or the because the Kazakh aircraft did not follow the stipulated flight path.

 

That the air traffic controller and the flight crew are inseparable is universally known and accepted. Hence the snapping of links between the two is fraught with the risk of potentially fatal consequences. Miscommunication has often resulted in air crashes. For instance, some years ago, when the pilot of a Calcutta-Imphal flight misread and disregarded the ATC's instructions, he crashed into the mountains near Imphal.

 

On another occasion, an Indian Airlines flight — a chartered Tupolev-154 from Uzbekistan — misunderstood the Delhi ATC's advice and made an 'upside down' landing on Delhi airport in zero-visibility. Miraculously, no one died on that occasion, but the aircraft was badly damaged. Later, investigations clearly established, once again, the embryonic connection between the pilot and the men in the control tower.

 

To make things even clearer, one can also recall how, some years back, an Indian Airlines plane force-landed on a paddy field near Tirupati. The pilot had miscalculated the rate of fuel consumption vis-à-vis the distance, and his obstinacy and the air traffic controller's inability to understand the gravity of the situation resulted in the crash landing.

 

On that day at the Delhi airport, a major mishap had been averted. Yet, anything could have taken place. The defendants of private operatorship may say that there is no need to raise a hue and cry over the matter as nothing dangerous had happened. But it is time to make the Delhi operators learn what it takes to be the best in the business. Surely, the airport in the capital has a long way to go in this respect. The airport, on that fateful day, was saved by the underpaid government employees working at the ATC, and not by the private sector whiz- kids who constantly harp on their pet, but hollow, phrase — "the government has no business to be in business".

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A LOVE FOR INDIA AND ALL THINGS INDIAN

SIMON DIGBY (1932-2010)

 

A historian of medieval India whose knowledge went far beyond academic confines

 

It is absolutely apposite that Simon Digby, who was born in Jabalpur in 1932, should die in Delhi on January 10, 2010. Simon was a genuine friend of India without any of the patronizing and imperialist overtones that the epithet had come to acquire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This love for India and things Indian was not derived from the fact that Simon was an outstanding historian of medieval India, if little known outside a small circle of peers and admirers. Rather, his love for Indian history was a function of his love for India and its culture.

 

Simon's association with India was parental. He was the grandson of William Digby, who, in the late 19th century, wrote extensively about the poverty created by British rule in India. Simon came back to India as a child with his mother, who was a talented painter. Simon imbibed his taste in art from his mother, and it was not known to many that he also tried his hand at painting.

 

Simon went up to Trinity College, Cambridge and he lived in Whewell's Court, where he welcomed Amartya Sen when the latter arrived there in the summer of 1954. Simon was an outstanding student with a talent for languages. He learnt Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi and, later on in life, Nepali.

 

His linguistic attainments made him almost a natural in the field of medieval Indian history. But Simon's mind was too interested in the details and the margins of history to write the magnum opus everyone expected of him. His first book was on war horses and elephants in the Delhi Sultanat. He showed the importance of cavalry and mobility in the establishment of the Sultanat and its consolidation. His mastery over the history of the Sultanat was evident in the number of sections and chapters he contributed to the first volume of The Cambridge Economic History of India, which was edited by his two friends, Tapan Raychaudhuri and Irfan Habib. Simon wrote there on the economic conditions prevailing in north India before the Sultanat, on the currency system and on the maritime trade of India. He later published Sufis and Soldiers in Aurangzeb's Deccan and Wonder-tales of South Asia.

 

It would be an error though to confine Simon's erudition within the academic confines of medieval Indian history. I realized this when he was appointed an examiner of my Oxford D.Phil thesis. He was then a fellow of Wolfson College, and I knew him only through his reputation as a medievalist. I was a trifle surprised that he had been made an examiner for a thesis on the revolt of 1857 in Awadh. The surprise turned to wonder in the viva when he revealed that he was very familiar with all the great narrative histories of the revolt that had been written in the late 19th century and also with many of the memoirs that had been penned by survivors from the siege of the Residency in Lucknow. I was amazed at how closely he had read what I had written. That was the beginning of my being at the receiving end of Simon's affection and indulgence. Over the last ten years, we met quite frequently in the India International Centre: in the courtyard, in the winter sunshine, with Simon holding forth on Sufism, on Akbar, on bits of India he loved and so on. Always learned and kind beyond words, he was adorably eccentric.Simon was one of the last of the truly amateur scholars. He was Honorary Librarian of the Royal Asiatic Society, London, and the Assistant Keeper of Eastern Art, Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. His heart was in India and he knew this country's culture and monuments in loving detail. He wanted his ashes to be immersed in the waters of a flowing river. He had dipped into the river of Time and knew its purifying qualities.

RUDRANGSHU MUKHERJEE

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

EDITORIAL

RELEASE THEM

"THERE ARE FEW GROUNDS FOR KEEPING UNDERTRIALS."

 

If Union law minister Veerappa Moily's plan to release 1.25 lakh undertrials, of the 1.75 lakh who are languishing in the country's jails for petty crimes for many years, in six months from January 26 succeeds, he would be among those who have made the best contribution to delivery of justice in the country, past or present, minister or king, judge or lawyer. That is no exaggeration because the presence of such a large number of undertrials in jails mocks the system of justice and rule of law, and at no point of time in history have there been so many of them at the same time in jails.  Many of them have already been in jail for longer terms than they would have served if they had been convicted. The majority of them are hauled up there for petty offences and some of them turn real criminals after their long stint in jails. Keeping people in jail without trial for even a short period is a violation of the constitutional right to life and liberty. Most of them are poor and can only suffer in silence.


The minister has written to all chief justices to facilitate early and fast trials in various ways. Plea bargaining by which an undertrial accepts his guilt and the court sentences him to the period already served in jail, day-to-day hearing of cases and holding trial in jails by video-conferencing are some elements in the minister's plan. The country has been divided into different zones and in each zone an additional solicitor general will supervise the progress of the plan and monitor the freeing of prisoners. Some of these ideas are not new, but they were not implemented with any sincerity.


It is not just the legal and human rights of prisoners that is involved in the matter. The increasing numbers of undertrials result in overcrowding of jails. In fact 2.45 lakh of the 3.5 lakh prisoners are undertrials. Jail facilities are overextended and the costs of staff and infrastructure have increased. If most of the undertrial prisoners are released in the coming months and the numbers don't swell later, jails can be better managed and administered and their conditions will improve. The plan should be implemented with seriousness and commitment. The government can publish the zone-wise number of undertrials released every week or fortnight after January 26 till July 31, so that the country knows the plan is making progress.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TIME TO DELIVER

"OBAMA HAS TO DELIVER ON HIS PLEDGES."

 

 

US President Barack Obama's first year in office has been a mixed bag. The US economy is in better health than it was a year ago, although unemployment remains worryingly high.  Obama has moved closer to reforming the US health care system than any other president before him, a formidable achievement in the US. If he succeeds in enacting the reforms bill into law in the coming months, millions of poor Americans can hope to get free health insurance cover. On the international front, his presidency has slightly improved America's image. While he has begun winding down US military involvement in Iraq, he has stepped up deployment of troops in Afghanistan. His AfPak strategy is yet to begin showing results. Many of Obama's critics — and they are growing in number — are pointing out that while he has made grand promises, he hasn't quite delivered. One year after he promised to shut down Guantanamo prison, some 200 inmates continue to languish there, while hundreds more are being held without trial in Bagram in Afghanistan. He ordered closure of the CIA's black sites but granted a blanket amnesty to those who used torture in these prisons.


Obama's approval ratings are slumping. If his approval ratings are any indication of his performance, it does seem that his first year at the helm has been a huge disappointment.  However, this is an unfair assessment. Expectations of him touched stratospheric levels at the start of his presidency.  These expectations were so great, they could not have been met realistically. Not within a short span of 12 months anyway. Some of the bigger problems that are now being described as Obama's failures were those he inherited from his predecessor, George Bush. If the situation in Afghanistan has worsened, this is because the Bush administration shifted focus away from the crisis there to create one in Iraq. Obama is having to reap the harvest of the seeds sown by Bush.

Obama's promises indicate that he is well-intentioned and has his head and heart in the right place, something few American presidents can boast of. His potential earned him the Nobel Prize for Peace. But pledges and potential are not enough to bring change. His first year, though disappointing, has had its bright moments. He has three more years to deliver on his promises.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

THE ROOT OF RACISM

AUSTRALIA CONSIDERED ITSELF PART OF THE WEST AND WANTED TO BE CALLED A SECOND AMERICA WHICH COULD NEVER HAPPEN.

BY SUDHANSHU RANJAN


After much hullabaloo, one Australian has been convicted for racially abusing and assaulting an Indian cab driver. The conviction came within 24 hours of the incident as the accused himself pleaded guilty in the court though Australian authorities are taking credit for the expeditious conviction.


Crimes against Indians in Australia are going on continually for months, rather years together unabated but Australian authorities always maintained that these were random acts of violence common in other countries as well.


Further, whether these crimes are racially motivated or just ordinary criminal acts of muggers, the fact remains that Indians are being targeted mercilessly, and it is difficult to understand why the majority of victims are Indians only. It has also been argued that when there was a surge of racist 'curry bashings' in the western suburbs of Sydney in 2009, it was not white Australians who were the culprits, but Australians of West Asian (primarily Lebanese) background.


Australia suffers from an identity crisis. It always considered itself part of the West and wanted to be called a second America which could never happen. It was the last to be discovered after India and South East Asia and till the 18th century the land was virtually ignored.


After the industrial revolution, England started sending its convicts to Australia, something like 'kaala paani.' After the rise of Japan, Britain thought of setting up a colony there and organising its administration efficiently. As Australian aborigines were neither armed nor advanced, there was hardly any resistance when the British population started settling there.


In America there was some resistance and migrants killed indigenous people in large numbers. After becoming a full-fledged nation in 1901, the first law Australia made was 'White Australia Policy'. Due to it, there was a sharp decline in the population of blacks and by 1930 Europeans constituted 98 per cent of the population. This law was in force till 1973 when the government adopted the policy of multi-culturalism and enacted the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) and Racial Hatred Amendment Act (1995) which outlawed discrimination on the ground of race.


However, this journey from 'only white' to 'multi-culturalism' was not smooth and the new laws could not extirpate the germs of racism from the Australian psyche and its leaders did continue to encourage it. In 1988, John Howard, gave the slogan of 'One Australia Policy' and called for end of multi-culturalism and stay on the migration of the Asians. Raving about racism, he became prime minister in 1996 and remained in his chair till 2007.

England and France are the two countries which expanded their colonies, but their approaches to the indigenous people were different. While the British associated the indigenous people in administration, they did not keep any social interaction with them whereas the French accepted integration with the local population (perhaps because the slogan of equality and fraternity reverberated the French Revolution) they did not allow them to partake in the governance.


Slavery
Slavery has been the most notorious example of racism by the West. Racism is the firm belief that abilities and characteristics of a person are attributable to his colour. Black Africans were enslaved on the ground that they are less human than white Europeans and their descendants.


History testifies to the fact that Africans were not inferior. When Portuguese sailors first explored Africa in the 15th and 16th centuries, they were astounded to find cities and empires as advanced as their own, and so saw in them a serious rival. However, over time, the Africans failed to make technological strides on a par with Europe.
Now, racism has been abolished in principle internationally. The definition of racial discrimination is contained in Article 1 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination to which Australia is a party: "The term 'racial discrimination' shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life."


However, it is yet to be observed in spirit. The International Day for the Elimination of racial Discrimination is observed annually on  March 21. It was on this day in 1960, in Sharpville in South Africa, that the police shot dead 69 demonstrators and injured 180. Most of those killed had been shot from behind. Seven thousand people had assembled to rally against apartheid and its 'pass laws' which required all Africans to carry a pass book enabling the South African government to restrict and monitor their whereabouts.


The UN held a conference to discuss racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance from August 31 to Sept 7, 2001. While every nation criticised others, no one tolerated its own criticism. The USA and Europe were against effective discussion on slavery reparation, Israel and the USA were against discussion whether Zionism is racist against Palestinians and they also walked out in protest, India opposed any discussion on caste-based discrimination and some Arab countries were against discussions on oppression of Kurds or Arab slave trade. Racism in whatever form has to be exterminated and the comity of nations must come forward to ensure that it is done at the earliest.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THREE REQUESTS FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA

OBAMA'S SPEECH AT THE COPENHAGEN CLIMATE SUMMIT WAS ONE OF THE MOST LISTLESS.

BY MARIO SOARES


I have been a sincere admirer of yours since I started following your writing and speaking about your plans during the presidential campaign. I admire your humanism, your culture, your valour, and your style. Unlike you, I am not a believer. I am agnostic and have a certain amount of experience in public life.
However, I said to many friends that your victory constituted an authentic miracle for the US and for the world, however little I believe in miracles.


I know that once you became president, the weight of the world was dropped onto your shoulders. Literally. You gave remarkable and innovative speeches that helped change America's image in the world and particularly in Europe. You gave new momentum to the United Nations, which had been completely scorned by your predecessor, recognising that the planet is too vast and varied for it to be governed by a single superpower. You opened the door to a multilateral world of dialogue and peace.

 

With great intelligence, you extended your hand to the Islamic world in the speech you gave in Cairo. Concerned about the global crisis and world peace, you spoke directly with the Russians and the Chinese. You reached out to the peoples of Africa, promising them help, and to your neighbours to the South, especially to Cuba.

Reforms in health care

You have fended off aggressive adversaries with determination and bravery, particularly in the domestic arena, the Republicans and certain Democrats, as well as lobbies, which cause considerable damage. Your victory in achieving health care reform, despite the concessions made, represents a historic milestone and an important example.
For all these reasons, I applauded enthusiastically when you were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite certain protests, it was a very just and apt decision. No one in the annus horribilis of 2009 deserved it more.

However, two of your actions I did not approve of. The first was the decision to send more 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan, which, forgive my frankness, is a lost war, like that in Iraq, if not worse. I know that the invasion of Afghanistan had the backing of the UN and involved NATO, which was transformed from an organisation that was defensive since its founding during the Cold War into an offensive one operating outside of its normal sphere of involvement. This was a fatal error of realpolitik that discredited the body and that I feel will carry a very large price.


The second reason for my disappointment was the way you behaved at the Copenhagen Climate Summit. You went right over the UN and nearly bypassed the EU entirely, preferring to seek an agreement with China, which refuses to external supervision and to meet with certain other countries, including Brazil, perhaps for more than a mere photo op.


Allow me to say, Mr President, that your speech at the summit was one of the most listless and sad that you have given up to now. Only one sentence stays with me: "I didn't come here to speak but to act". Indeed. As far as the environment is concerned, time is of the essence and action is needed immediately. It is necessary to fight against the powerful range of egotistical human crimes that are threatening our planet. Is any issue more crucial to the survival of humanity?

 

Let's hope that the summit scheduled for the end of 2010 in Mexico can produce concrete results, whether or not China agrees.


And allow me one final observation. Being Portuguese, I feel both Iberian and European. This is something that is usually difficult for an American to understand. I also am a federalist and a supporter, like Jean Monnet, of the US of Europe. I am worried about Latin America, which has been able to expel military dictatorships shaped in mould of the Chicago School. Today almost all of the countries in the area are, or are trying to be, democracies. Latin America is rich in natural resources, with cultural, scientific and technical elites of undisputable quality.


Traditionally distrustful of their powerful neighbour to the North they were very receptive to your first messages as president, above all when you extended your hand to Cuba.


The naturally dynamic and happy people are beginning to feel suffocated, as made clear in a recent speech by Raul Castro.


Mr President, in a single unilateral move, you could end the blockade, which is a source of hardship and nothing else. There is no doubt the world would applaud you for it. This would renew hope in what you represent and are capable of achieving, not only for the people of the US but all the peoples of the world.
(The writer is ex-president and ex-prime minister of Portugal)

IPS

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SINKING IN THE SAME BOAT

THERE SEEMS TO BE SADISTIC PLEASURE WHEN OTHERS ARE IN SAME MISERY.

BY MEERA SESHADRI


Maybe it's the inherent human quality or that intrinsic sadistic pleasure, somehow we don't mind any misery or discomfort, so far as others around too are subjected to the same! Few months back, my friend who was convalescing from the assault of a deadly virus, called me up for chatter over the telephone.


She began, "I am virtually drowning in that dreary despondent mood. So I thought of having some chinwag with you, to have my spirits revitalised. But know what?" Saying this, she guffawed with  devilish delight, "Saving grace is that some six of us in the office, were struck by this swine flu, at same time!" More than the fact that my friend was laid down by that infection, she was feeling exulted to know there were others too, sailing (is it sinking?) in the same boat as hers!


And then, when we were doing our BSc, the second year's final exam mathematics question paper had turned a tad tricky the result of which was out of 52 students, over 40 girls en masse had flunked. (Well, that included me.) We, the gals who lost out, had aligned ourselves forming a league of our own, expressing 'solidarity, solace and support' to one another. Instead of feeling the pain for having created an academic debacle, we felt that profound pleasure permeate in us, to know we had solid company in sharing our sorrows at that time.


Recently, yet another friend of mine, along with few of her relatives, was travelling in a maxi-cab to attend a marriage in some far-flung area. It seems a motorist, who was zooming at full pelt, bang ahead of my friend's moving vehicle, was swerving in a zigzag fashion. In the process, he had rammed a side-walk kerb. While his vehicle slewed; the cab, in an attempt to avoid colliding into his vehicle, careened and toppled slightly. The next day, I saw my friend  hobbling, but composed, "Lucky me! I'm much better off. The others are having more bruises all over their arms and legs."


Well, as I'm penning this piece, the power supply goes pop! This severe shortage of water and power supply in our area immensely infuriates me, yet I'm finding myself inundated by that ineffable joy. Know why? There is whole lot of others too in our area, affected by these annoying banes, as much as I am!

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

HAREDIM IN THE NEGEV

 

Israel's first prime minister would doubtlessly have been pleased by the preliminary approval accorded this week to a new city in the Negev - one which would already in its first phase become home to 50,000 residents. David Ben-Gurion was Israel's foremost Negev promoter and population-dispersal advocate. As a fulfillment of his Zionist vision, he tirelessly campaigned for Jewish settlement in what is still the state's largest land reserve.

 

To that end, he surely would not have minded that Kasif, the blueprinted city near the Tel Arad National Park, would be earmarked for haredi residents.

 

Indeed, anything which moves any Jews from the densely packed Coastal Plain to underdeveloped parts of the country should, in principle, be considered a boon for Israeli society in general.

 

With that in mind, some of the objections to a haredi influx that have been sounded in the Kasif debate were particularly discordant. They should be most offensive to liberal ears, to those who most ardently engage in human rights discourse and are first to condemn what they perceive as bigotry. Yet there was no audible outrage when heads of Negev local authorities warned that "a haredi concentration would deter higher-quality populations from moving to the region."

 

Some of these figures openly said they did not want haredi communities in their own towns because of likely friction between clashing lifestyles and the disincentive they would constitute for the sort of residents whom the mayors hope to attract.

 

There is nothing wrong with preferring a culturally homogeneous and therefore potentially more harmonious population-blend in any given urban setting. But how an argument is made sometimes makes all the difference. Labeling an entire component of Israel's citizenry as undesirable is at the very least insensitive and deeply divisive. We shudder to think what the reaction would have been were such language used to reject other sectors of the population. Charges of racism would surely be leveled.

 

At the same time a variety of environmental organizations may rightly fear that a new city - with planned low-slung residences, educational centers, commercial zones and employment complexes - would despoil the region's pristine desert vistas and impede the movement of wildlife. Green activists want the haredim absorbed in existing Negev cities - the very ones which vehemently rebuff the notion of a large haredi influx.

 

The haredim thus are turned into veritable footballs, kicked back and forth by cities which don't want them and environmentalists who fear their impact.

 

The bottom line is a situation in which a very large segment of our society is stigmatized as unwanted anywhere, while there physically remains no room for it in jam-packed concentrations like Bnei Brak and Jerusalem.

 

NO GROUP in this country should be thus treated, although no small proportion of the blame can be ascribed to often shameless haredi abuses of the system at the expense of taxpayers. Organized mass-draft-dodging and inordinate reliance on handouts from the public coffers fuel resentment. Failure to integrate into originally secular surroundings (with the happy exception of central Tel Aviv) and sometimes aggressive attempts to impose restrictions on neighbors breed antagonism.

 

Thus cities which cry out for a transfusion of new residents - such as Lod - worry that planned haredi neighborhoods will only make these already poor municipalities much poorer and inflict upon them oversized families who consume services but don't contribute sufficiently in revenue.

 

Justifiably or not, haredim have earned the reputation of shying away from gainful employment. If this is untrue, then there is a good deal of income undeclared in order to avoid taxation and/or removal from welfare rolls.

 

About 80 percent of Kasif's homes will be subsidized, owing to the presumed financial hardship of most prospective dwellers. Housing subsidies are not unusual in Israel, especially in remote locales, but this again is sure to generate ill will.

 

All that said, Kasif - first decided upon in 2007 - is indispensable. There are an estimated 700,000 haredim in the country and a shortage of 100,000 housing units. All current plans - including the new town of Harish east of Hadera - will only offer some 30,000 units.

 

Israelis cannot willfully wish their haredi compatriots away, no matter how aggrieved they feel. We mustn't lose sight of genuine need and plight.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

CENTER FIELD: UNHAPPY OBAMAVERSARY

GIL TROY

 

A year ago, on January 20, 2009, Barack Obama was the avatar of American hope, the yes we can man, promising to redeem America - and the world. A year later, his election to the presidency remains his greatest accomplishment. But his anniversary comes during a slump. His first Christmas in office was ruined by al-Qaida's attempt to down a commercial jet, mocking his efforts to end the war on terror.

 

His first New Year's Day in office marked the passing of a deadline he imposed on Iran as it gallops toward nuclear status, which the mullahs contemptuously ignored. And his first anniversary coincided with the stunning loss of what Democrats arrogantly called "Ted Kennedy's seat" to a Republican upstart. The Massachusetts mess reflects a national problem. Polls show independent voters abandoning Obama on an unprecedented scale, even as Democrats still support the rookie president.

 

In fairness, being president in 2009 was not easy. When Obama started running, he, like most people, assumed the good times would continue. Bill Clinton can tell his successor that it is a lot more fun to preside over prosperity than manage a recession.

 

But many of Obama's problems are Obama's fault. In 2008, candidate Obama promised to lead from the center. He sang a song of modern American nationalism, a "yes we can" credo of working together, seeking the national sweet spot where most Americans could agree.

 

In his best-selling book The Audacity of Hope, Obama promised to govern as a post-Reagan liberal, understanding that big government solutions cannot answer every American problem, that culture counts and that forging compromise and building consensus could move America beyond a politics of slim, polarizing victories and partisan vilification.

 

Alas, in his big push for health care reform, Obama deputized the partisan, ideologically-charged Democrats in Congress to draft the legislation, and accepted pushing for a marginal victory rather than nurturing a broad-based bipartisan coalition

 

The Republicans share the blame. The party of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush has become the party of Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, shrill, demagogic, adolescent, obstructionist. Quick to criticize but slow to envision constructive alternatives, the Republicans have been the party of "no we won't" to Obama's "yes we can."

 

AS OBAMA deepens the budget deficit, Republicans suffer from deficient leadership. On Sunday, when Obama campaigned in Massachusetts for Martha Coakley, her opponent Scott Brown held a "people's rally" without national politicians, generating star power from a pitcher, Curt Schilling, a quarterback, Doug Flutie, and an actor, John Ratzenberger, who played the kooky mailman Cliff Clavin on Cheers.

 

Still, Obama's healing magic was supposed to transcend the partisan divisions, and his efforts have been too half-hearted given the depth of the divide. The president needed to serve up serious models of reconciliation and joint envisioning on health care rather than simply serving cookies to some Republican congressional guests at last year's Super Bowl.

 

Abroad, America's enemies have been even more uncooperative. Obama has shown Carteresque instincts, punishing friends while kowtowing to enemies, appeasing dictators while disappointing dissidents, viewing terrorism as a police matter not a military threat. All too often, his instincts have been wrong. He has been far too measured in reacting to the "Green Revolution" in Iran, protecting his thus far feeble outreach to the mullahs while underestimating just how much he could have helped Iran's protesters given the international pop star he has become.

 

He first reacted to the Fort Hood massacre legalistically, treating it as a regrettable criminal deviation rather than as a link in an unholy jihadist chain targeting Americans, Westerners, innocents. And by embracing the narrative that Israeli settlements are the biggest obstacles to Middle East peace, Obama clumsily bolstered Palestinian rejectionists, who happily placed more preconditions on Israel before even beginning negotiations while shifting attention away from their genocidal refusal to accept its existence, the true heart of the problem.

 

Nevertheless, Obama has disappointed his leftist allies by staying in Iraq, sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan and approving drone air strikes in Pakistan. These moves reflect the kind of centrist pragmatism Obama peddled in his campaign, rather than the knee-jerk leftism he has too frequently relied on in fighting the recession, seeking a needed solution to the health care problem and dealing with Iran, the Palestinians and the Saudis.

 

HEREIN LIES the path to redemption. Americans still like their new president and want him to succeed. "No Drama, Obama" has assembled a strong team with few embarrassments, scandals or distractions from the people's business, thus far. Obama himself has come across as serious, sober, scandal-free and still seductive, not yet frittering away all that rhetorical and political magic he deployed so effectively in 2008 to dazzle America and the world.

 

In the 1980s, conservatives used to cry "Let Reagan be Reagan," urging White House aides to banish the too-pragmatic, centrist and accommodating Reagan leading America in favor of the right-wing anti-communist they adored. Today, pragmatists and centrists must cry "Let Obama be Obama," urging his aides to banish the big-government-oriented, budget-busting, war-on-terror-negating, 1960s liberal he appeared so frequently to be this past year in favor of the more moderate, restrained, realistic, post-partisan visionary he promised to be last year.

 

It is true that, historically few presidents have been able to build popularity their second year, and that it has long been difficult for presidents to free themselves from the gravitational pull of a congressional majority. But Barack Obama did not become president by remaining imprisoned by historical precedents.

 

Just as his "yes we can" campaign broke free of the shackles of the past, in this, his sophomore year, America's rookie president must break free from the shackles of liberal Democratic orthodoxy.

 

In 2004, Barack Obama wowed America with a vision of a 21st century, post-baby-boomer liberal nationalism. He synthesized the liberal idealism of the '60s with the conservative anti-government skepticism of the '80s, balancing the selfishness of the 1980s with the altruism of the 1960s, while embracing America as a positive, powerful force for freedom and justice in the world without delusions that undermine the primary national mission of self-preservation. Let us hope that Obama sets the "reset button" on his own presidency in 2010, for his sake, America's sake and the world's sake.

 

The writer is professor of history at McGill University on leave in Jerusalem. He is the author of Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity, and the Challenges of Today and The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

FUNDAMENTALLY FREUND: ISRAEL'S FINEST HOUR INDEED

MICHAEL FREUND

 

If there is anyone who still doubts the ability of the State of Israel to accomplish great things, the events of the past week should lay those concerns to rest. From one end of the world to the other, the highest ideals of Judaism and Zionism were prominently on display, as Israel took part not in one - but two! - remarkable missions laden with meaning.

 

Across the ocean, amid the rubble-strewn streets of Port-au-Prince, three IDF rescue teams carefully searched through the ruins of the Haitian capital for survivors of the devastating January 12 earthquake. Racing against the clock, these young Jews in uniform, accompanied by specially-trained canines, heroically sorted through mounds of debris and wreckage to pull the wounded to safety.

 

Over the weekend, the guardians in green extricated a 58-year-old man from beneath his flattened home, and on Monday, they saved the life of a student who had been trapped for six days under a shattered university building.

 

Following their exploits in the press, one could only marvel at the valor and courage of our soldiers, as they risked their lives to save those of others, in the process bringing honor to us all.

 

Meanwhile, the field hospital established by the IDF to treat victims of the disaster was quickly making a name for itself as the best-run and most fully-equipped operation in the area. Set up last Friday on a soccer field, the complex boasts 40 doctors and 24 nurses, as well as teams of paramedics, X-ray equipment and personnel, an emergency room, a children's ward, a maternity ward and even a pharmacy.

 

No other nation, including the US, has yet to establish anything remotely as advanced or comprehensive, despite the passage of more than a week since the quake hit.

 

No wonder the American television network CBS went so far as to call the IDF hospital the "Rolls-Royce of medicine in Haiti." Indeed, Israel's health team has been doing such a terrific job that even CNN (a.k.a. the consistently negative network) couldn't find anything critical to say, as their senior medical correspondent heaped praise on the IDF's work.

 

Though a vast gulf separates Israel from Haiti, with more than 10,500 kilometers of ocean lying between us, the Jewish people demonstrated that their extended hand can bridge any gap and traverse any chasm when it comes to saving lives.

 

BUT THE residents of the Caribbean island nation were not the only beneficiaries of Israel's humanity this week. Much closer to home, we were witness to the arrival of 82 members of the Falash Mura, descendants of Ethiopian Jews who converted to Christianity centuries ago.

 

Landing at Ben-Gurion Airport early Tuesday morning, the new immigrants were greeted by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver.

 

It was a scene that should fill every Jewish heart with pride, as the remnants of Ethiopian Jewry complete the millennial-old journey back to the land of their ancestors. Hundreds more are expected to arrive over the next few months, as the government finally moves towards fulfilling its previous promises to allow the remaining members of the community to make aliya.

 

And so, even as our foes noisily continue to assert that Zionism is racism, Israel stands alone in embracing a black African community and welcoming it into our midst.

 

So it was quite a week for Jewish heroism. Over the course of a few days, the State of Israel saved lives and saved Jews.

 

It was, in every respect, Israel's finest hour.

 

Will all this change how the world views us? I doubt it.

 

But let it at least change how we view ourselves. We so often get caught up in the negativity that seems to fill the news each day that we tend to overlook the beauty and splendor of this country and its achievements.

 

It is moments such as these when we need to stop what we are doing, cast a gaze towards the heavens, and proudly declare: Thank God for the State of Israel. Without it, the world would be a far less noble place.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

RATTLING THE CAGE: THE PRIDE AND THE SHAME

LARRY DERFNE

 

The proudest moment I've experienced as an Israeli came in 1994 after the genocide in Rwanda. The news over here was full of stories about the IDF field hospital that was taking care of refugees, and I automatically assumed this was just more national self-promotion, something all countries do during a humanitarian disaster, the most vivid example being the giant-size, made-for-TV letters they print on the boxes of supplies they donate.

 

I'd gotten used to the local news stories about how we were donating $50,000 in aid to victims of this hurricane, $100,000 to victims of that earthquake, and I became very cynical. I imagined that Israel, with its Second World economy and 1/1,000 of the world's population, was doing its share, maybe a little bit more, yet the media here would carry on like we were leading the international relief effort. I figured the local stories about the field hospital for Rwandan refugees were more of the same sort of hype.

 

Then a friend of mine who'd been working for a CNN crew in Rwanda stopped here on his way home to France. He was telling me about the incredible scene, and I asked him, cynically, about the supposedly legendary IDF field hospital, expecting him to say, "Huh?" Instead, what he said was: "That was the place. That was the place everybody knew about, where they knew to go to for help."

 

I thought: Wow. It was true. And then I thought: This screwy little country. Compared to America, Europe and the rest of the First World, Israel has nothing - and look what it's doing. And for the greatest, purest cause that could possibly be.

 

Yeah, I was proud.

 

AND NOW, 15 years later, it's happening again in Haiti. "I've been here since Thursday [and] no one except the Israeli hospital has taken any of our patients," Dr. Jennifer Furin of Harvard Medical School told CNN. Walking past the IDF's medical tents, CNN reporter Elizabeth Cohen said: "I'm just amazed at what's here. This is like another world compared to the other hospital." Other leading US and British news media reported the same thing.

 

This time around, though, I'm not surprised. Over the years, Israel has become a bona fide world leader in disaster relief, best known for pulling survivors out of rubble and for healing victims under olive-green tents.

 

Bill Clinton praised the Israelis for bringing a lot of "battlefield hospital experience" to the task, and that's true: This country's medical professionals, in and out of the IDF, have logged a lot of hours on sudden disasters. Moreover, on a daily basis, Israeli doctors, nurses and medical technicians work at a very high, "Western" standard.

 

But what Israelis are doing in Haiti, like what they did in Rwanda and other catastrophe zones, has to do with more than just experience and knowledge. I have known for a very long time that if I were in really bad trouble and could choose a person of any nationality to be passing by, I'd choose an Israeli.

 

When it's a matter of life or death, they have the biggest hearts.

 

So the IDF field hospital in Haiti is a reflection of something very deep in the national character.

But so is everything that's summed up in the name "Gaza." It's the Haiti side of Israel that makes the Gaza side so inexpressibly tragic. And more and more, the Haiti part of the national character has been dwarfed by the Gaza part.

 

Gaza, too, is a matter of life and death - not just for the people who were trapped in the rubble there not long ago, but for Israel. When will this big-hearted nation stop being heartless to the people in Gaza?

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

RESERVES AND RHODES

DOUG GREENER

 

This year, my wife Trudy and I went on a five-day vacation to the Isle of Rhodes right after I finished my 12 days of volunteer reserve duty in the IDF. I preferred that order, having a restful vacation after sleeping on a cot with four other snoring men in the room. But Trudy says that she would have preferred a vacation from me after being on a vacation with me!

 

My stint in the army reserves brought me to the center of Samaria, to a little base manned and womanned by soldiers from the Home Front Command. These young soldiers are primarily trained for search and rescue operations in case of emergencies. But in the meantime, they perform vital security tasks along the Green Line.

 

I was sent with four other volunteer reservists to help them. Mostly, the pleasure was all ours. These were the best of Israeli youth, doing an incredibly responsible job.

 

A few brief observations:

 

• While not fully an "equal opportunity employer," the army is still taking progressive steps. The young man giving out equipment at the reception center was a uniformed soldier with Down's syndrome. He was no less responsive to our complaints than any other soldier in the Quartermaster Corps.

 

• The integration of women into the army - at least in this unit - is full and complete. On three of my assignments (one involving 48 hours in a very cramped "pillbox" watchtower), the commanding officers were 19-year-old girls. For the guys under their command, their officers' gender was irrelevant.

 

• The pillbox watchtower where I stood guard overlooks a military road which is off-limits to all civilian traffic. One morning, I saw a white minibus speeding toward us. When it passed the tower and stopped at a nearby Arab house, our female officer went over to tell the passengers they were not allowed on the road and had to leave. Through my binoculars I saw that some of them started a vehement argument with her before they finally got back on the bus and drove off.

 

When our officer returned, she was in tears. "It was a group of left-wingers from Tel Aviv." she sobbed. "They said what we were doing to the Palestinians was worse than what the Germans did to the Jews! We sacrifice two years of our lives to serve our country, and that's how they talk to us?"

 

I tried my best to calm her down, with little success. But I was also thinking, "If this is what the Israeli left has become - a spokesman for our worst enemies, expressing their contempt for young people who exemplify Jewish affirmation, then it's no wonder they collapsed in the last election."

 

• The figures are just in that 2009 has been Israel's quietest year in the last decade. This was not a decision made by the Palestinians; this was a decision made by Israel to stop them. To do this, we need to gather accurate and up-to-date intelligence on what is happening in the West Bank.

 

On one of my assignments, we set up a roadblock near the border of an area under Palestinian control. Our job was to stop every car and bring the identity cards of all men to a team of plainclothes personnel. They would then tell us which of the passengers should be "invited" over for a short talk. I don't know what was discussed. But I do know that this was the nuts and bolts of intelligence gathering that goes on continually - and that is why our years are quiet again.

 

• The privilege of serving in the IDF still moves people across oceans. Within my little group, there was one volunteer from Seattle and another from Frankfurt, Germany, who came here twice a year to do reserve duty. Among the young soldiers on the base, there were two girls who came from the US without their parents to serve in the army. Each one felt the need to help Israel in a tangible way. I stand in awe of such motivation - but I tried not to let them know.

 

AFTER MY reserve duty, we flew to the Isle of Rhodes. We enjoyed roaming through the Old City and the ruins of the island's two acropolises, and a tavern night of Greek music, song and dancing. One morning I swam in the icy waters of the "wine-dark" Aegean Sea (as per Homer), along with a handful of crazy Greeks who start every day like that.

 

On a day trip to the town of Lindos, we had a local guide, a young woman, born on Rhodes and well versed in the island's history. Like Israel, Rhodes has had a parade of conquerors. After achieving fame as part of the Greek empire, when the wondrous Colossus was built in the harbor, Rhodes has been ruled by the Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans and Italians.

 

After the guide went through this two millennia procession, she added, "And after World War II, Rhodes was returned to Greece."

 

These old ears perked up. "Wait a minute," I interjected. "What do you mean,' returned'? The island wasn't ruled by Greeks for over 2,000 years."

 

"Ah," she answered, "but there were always Greeks living on Rhodes and they never gave up their dream of living under Greek sovereignty someday." With a grin, she added, "And that is why we have to sympathize with Zionism."

 

The writer works in advertising and direct marketing in Jerusalem. He claims that doing volunteer reserve duty (since 2002) helps keep him young.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

PLAY NATION

ABE NOVICK

 

The block letters are like colorful playthings on Google's home page. They look like candy. They're shaped like toys.

 

But as Google grows ever more ubiquitous and as it enters into additional areas beyond search with its acquisition of YouTube, and now mobile communications with its new Nexus One, those playful letters stand as a larger cultural marker - the fusion between work and play.

 

Similar to the eroding divisions between church and state, editorial and advertising, technology has melded work and play together. And, just as there are ethical concerns to consider in the first two long-standing categorical divisions, there are also ones to consider in this latest union. Is this meta-merger a good or a bad thing?

 

Consider first, work was usually something that was deemed real, while play was often thought of as something imagined. Work was once done mainly with the hands, play done with the mind.

 

But technology has morphed away from industries where we make real stuff to manufacturing information. And when we do make hardware (stuff we can hold in our hands), it's geared to carry chimerical bytes of that ephemeral information.

 

Nowadays and compounded with this phenomenon is the explosion of mobile technology, the imagined and the real world of work and play that have converged, are constantly within reach.

 

Wired recently called the last decade "The Mobile Decade": "People got increasingly plugged into an always-on, totally portable, always-connected existence." Gadgetry ranged from 2001's original iPod to 2009's Kindle 2.

 

For most of the previous century, it was left to Hollywood to create and export movies and entertainment around the world starting as far back as 1895 eventually culminating to become one of the US's largest export businesses. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, between 1986 and 2005, foreign sales of US motion picture and video products rose from $1.91 billion to $10.4 billion (in 2005 dollars) - an increase of 444 percent.

 

BUT TODAY, because it's no longer a one-way boulevard and YouTube and social media and mobile communications allow anyone and everyone to freely upload and export entertainment, that number is off the charts and is next to impossible to quantify.

 

The same technology that is used to transmit and watch movies and entertainment are the exact same devices that carry the images of protest from Iran and more recently the devastation and destruction in Haiti via Twitter and YouTube.

 

Even the side-armed stalwart to the business traveler, the Blackberry, attached at the hip like a road warrior's armament, is advertised on television with a version of The Beatles, "All You Need Is Love," a song once sung signifying countercultural values - the very antithesis of money and commerce. Now the playfulness of flower power has become intimately linked to the transactions of a global economy.

 

Moreover, the lead business stories in the last month have been about NBC's bouncing comedian/entertainer Jay Leno's show back to 11:35 p.m. and whether celebrity golfer Tiger Woods should still be a spokesman for corporations.

 

What was once a purely entertainment story has been subsumed by the business of entertainment. All the while in the consumer's mind, work and play collide, creating a new reality while supplanting distinctions that once existed.

 

Ethereal celebrities become equated with the businesses they represent and then suffer a messy divorce, while once and future politicians become celebrity journalists delivering the news and spin that was previously aimed directly at them.

 

What are the existential ramifications of life lived on this new stratum? Is it purely a matter for the individual to make the distinction? Or has work and play become ever more indistinguishable?

 

The philosopher Jean Baudrillard used the allegory of a map so large and detailed and laid over the territory it represents that it becomes the real and precedes the territory. It is what he calls the hyperreal.

 

But while there's a truth woven into the allegory, his metaphor ignores the harsh facts on the ground. Critical of his take, Susan Sontag in one of her later books, Regarding the Pain of Others, pointed out, "It suggests, perversely, unseriously, that there is no real suffering in the world." Sontag's criticism is more apt than ever, given the non-stop news footage coming out of Haiti these days.

 

But what neither of them has lived to see is the enormous proliferation of lenses to view what fast become historical events and that create a global hall of mirrors. Likewise, as seen and heard through the same devices that are bringing songs and movies, the world of work and play converge closer together and the newest medium's message will impact the way truth and lie are distinguished.

 

In the end, while Google's childlike colors evoke play, the world they open us up to can often be more like the one seen through a glass.

 

The writer is based in Baltimore and works in communications. www.abenovick.com

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

MORE FREE SPEECH IN ISRAELI AND PALESTINIAN THAN US MEDIA

RAY HANANIA

 

The United States may be the world's most powerful nation, but I think Americans might be afraid of Israel. I know many of the politicians are.

 

Take the recent case of Jared Malsin, a Jew with US citizenship who covers the Palestinian territories from Bethlehem at the Palestinian news agency, Maan. Malsin took a trip to Prague last week and upon his return, was arrested and taken into custody by Israeli authorities at Ben-Gurion Airport. He was deported to New York yesterday.

 

During his interrogation and week-long detention, Israeli police took time to look him up on the Internet and read through his writings, which were largely critical of Israel. It's a fascinating story whenever a journalist is detained and jailed by any government. But did anyone in the US care or come to his defense?

 

Why would they, you might ask?

 

Well, last year, freelance American journalist Roxana Saberi was arrested by Iranian officials and charged with espionage. There wasn't one politician, candidate or elected official in the US who didn't come to her defense and demand her release.

 

Months later in March, two Asian-American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, were arrested and charged with espionage by the North Korean government. The response from the US was powerful and loud. Everyone, including President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, issued statements denouncing the arrests and demanding the release of the journalists.

 

In both cases, the mainstream American news media reported on their status almost daily, sometimes as their lead stories.

 

SO WHY the near-total silence from American leaders and muted coverage in the American press now over the

arrest and detention of Malsin?

 

It is a testament to the confidence of Israel's media that they, more than anyone else, have written and followed the Malsin story. In fact, if it wasn't for the Israeli media and the Maan News Agency, few others would be covering the story.

 

The Palestinian press is much like any media, including Israel's. Some, like the Maan News Agency, are professional journalists. Others, who I will leave unnamed, are not. The issue isn't Malsin's arrest as a journalist by a government, but rather that issues like these are frequently turned into political tools to bash Israel.

 

There is no doubt in my mind that the Israeli government was wrong in detaining Malsin, keeping him in custody for a week and then deporting him. His rights were seriously restricted.

 

Malsin is the victim of bad government policy. His arrest undermines principles of freedom and justice Israel claims it represents, though most Israeli media uphold journalistic principles by reporting on the incident.

 

It's the American mainstream media and its government officials who disappoint me the most, however. While the Israeli media sees this as a story about a government agency violating free speech, the American media and the elected officials in the US view it as a reason to bash Israel.

 

In a way, that puts the mainstream American press and American politicians in the same boat with those Palestinian and Arab media which see the issue not as one of principle but as an opportunity to attack Israel.

 

Malsin's arrest and deportation is not about whether Israel is a good or bad country. It's not about whether or not the Israeli government is fair or unjust when it comes to Palestinian rights. It is, though, about a government agency that has violated a journalist's rights and in so doing, compromised Israel's image as a free nation.

 

One of Malsin's colleagues told me that while there are restrictions that keep most Israeli journalists from entering and covering the West Bank, and most Palestinian journalists from entering and covering Israel, for the most part, Malsin was allowed to travel almost everywhere to get his story, until this incident.

 

You may not agree with his views, or maybe you do. That isn't nor should it be the issue.

 

But there is one thing for sure. Most of the Israeli and Palestinian media did a better job of covering his case than the mainstream news media in America, the country that claims to set the bar for the rest of the world when it comes to free speech.

 

Have the mainstream American media and American officials failed in doing their jobs, or are they just afraid to get on Israel's bad side?

 

Whatever the reason, many in the Israeli and Palestinian press are keeping the story on the front burner in a way that helps guarantee that Malsin's journalistic rights will eventually be protected, while putting the "free media" in America to shame.

 

The writer is a Palestinian American columnist, Chicago radio talk show host and coordinator of the National Arab American Journalists Association.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE INFRASTRUCTURE TEST

 

The flooding in the south should not have come as a surprise to the authorities. Every winter, wide swaths of the country are doomed to chaos by heavy rains and thunderstorms, and as of last summer, it was already clear that this winter would be unusually severe. The recent storm, which was admittedly very powerful, and the amount of rainfall, which was admittedly higher than normal, do not justify the destruction and the forced closure of essential roads - and certainly not the loss of life.


In Eilat, for instance, it was known that the storm was liable to flood some of the city's major arteries, but it was only a few days before the rain started that work finally began on deepening the clogged drainage ditches. It was too little, too late, and the main arteries of this southern city were flooded with huge quantities of water. Now the city will have to invest large sums of money in repairing the roads, buildings and public spaces - expenses that could have been spared by responsible forethought. And yesterday, it became clear that infrastructure in the north was also unable to withstand the storm.


The damage caused by the power outages, the broken water pipelines and the flooding in the south was enormous, but the Mekorot Water Company and the Israel Electric Corporation - which were supposed to have laid down long-lasting infrastructure that would not collapse - as usual made do with temporary emergency solutions. It is outrageous to discover, once again, that successive Israeli governments, which paved broad, well-protected roads for settlements in the territories, neglected both the north and the south within the Green Line. For example, a narrow, poorly maintained road links Kerem Shalom and Kadesh Barnea with the nearest major junction, and even if it is repaired now, it will once again be flooded and destroyed by the next storm. The Nitzana overpass was also not properly inspected and reinforced.

 

The news coverage has focused on the daring rescue operations mounted by civilian and military groups with expertise in conducting rescues in flooded areas. Such operations endanger the rescuers' lives and cost the taxpayer a sizable sum. Yet suitable investment in infrastructure and the precaution of closing off dangerous roads and areas in advance would prevent disasters, and thereby the need for rescue operations.


The state's responsibility toward its citizens is not tested solely by heroic rescues from roads that have turned into raging torrents. The true test lies in building infrastructure suitable for normal, safe living and making appropriate preparations for storms.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

MEDIA DIFFICULTIES

BY ARI SHAVIT

 

There is one subject journalists have difficulty dealing with: the press. For understandable reasons, newspapers and journalists who know how to critically look at the government, security, law and economics do not know how to deal with the media in the same way. Now there is no choice. The crisis in the Israeli media in 2010 requires public discourse and perhaps even public action. Newspapers and journalists no longer have the right to remain silent when it comes to the goings-on in their own backyard. They have to get rid of the skeletons in their closets, which are threatening the future of a free press in Israel.


Fundamentally, the crisis is global. In the United States and in Europe, the best and the strongest of media outlets are in danger. The Internet and the attention deficits of young people have caused the traditional press to lose paying readers at a murderous rate. Advertising is shrinking as a result. The business structure that allowed the existence of free, high-quality, privately funded media in the 20th century is no longer a valid model for the 21st century. One after the other, leading newspapers are closing, while the survivors are shriveling and becoming yellow and foolish.


In Israel, the global crisis has a unique dimension. Two and a half years ago the Jewish American billionaire Sheldon Adelson launched the free newspaper Israel Hayom, now distributed daily, with a circulation of about 250,000. In the short run, the appearance of this giant from Las Vegas in the local arena was good for the Haaretz Group, which cooperates in printing and distribution. However, from the point of view of the other two Hebrew dailies, Israel Hayom is an existential threat. Yedioth Ahronoth is bleeding and losing its hegemony. Maariv may fold in less than a year.

 

The result is all-out war. Yedioth Ahronoth and Maariv are trying to silence Israel Hayom through a bill prohibiting foreign ownership of newspapers. Other bills are now in the pipeline. Meanwhile, in an amazing coincidence, the two newspapers are furiously assailing those perceived as Adelson's proteges: Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu. Bibi's immediate ouster is not only a political aspiration, but now also an essential business interest of the two veteran afternoon papers. However, Adelson is made of strong enough stuff that threats do not deter him. On the contrary, he is upping distribution of his free paper to defeat, once and for all, Yedioth Ahronoth and its owner, Arnon Mozes.


In the short term, the Adelson-Mozes struggle is welcome. For too many years, too many Israelis have lived with the feeling that Noni Mozes is the strongest man in Israel. Politicians, businesspeople and journalists did not dare oppose him. Therefore, the fact that Adelson is undermining this hidden autocracy contributes to making Israeli society freer.


However, in the long term, this struggle of the titans is dangerous. If Maariv closes, it will be a serious blow to the Israeli press. If Haaretz has difficulties later on, it would be a disaster in terms of culture and values. Israel will be a different country. Even a very weak Yedioth Ahronoth is a serious problem. In the end, Israel could find itself in a situation in which total domination by one media giant is exchanged for total domination by another media giant.


The situation is clear: Israel's media are failing, and market forces alone are not enough to save them. The only solution is artificial intervention. Just as the American government saved the banks, the Israeli government should save the newspapers. Nicolas Sarkozy already did so in France. He granted the print media extensive tax breaks, distributed free subscriptions to young people and increased public advertising. At a cost of 600 million euros, he managed to implement an emergency program to save the press without interfering in its content and without impairing its freedom. A similar plan is now needed in Israel.


Israeli democracy needs Yedioth Ahronoth, Maariv, Haaretz and Israel Hayom. It must act with determination and creativity to ensure the future of a free press.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

MAZUZ THE POCKET FLASHLIGHT

BY GIDEON LEVY

 

He is leaving wreathed in plaudits. It's been a long time since we've had a civil servant who has been praised by almost everyone. Yes, the attorney general slipped up in the Greek island affair and let the Sharon family off the hook, but after that he took courage and prosecuted cabinet ministers and other bigwigs. No one doubts his integrity and everyone speaks about the modesty of this poor lad from Netivot who became a fount of the law. Menachem Mazuz deserves most of these laurels.


But what a surprise - one area has been totally distorted in all the flattery.


In the six years of Mazuz's term, especially in his final year, the State of Israel has become more stigmatized than ever before; it stands accused of being a serial offender against international law, with its leaders and military officers facing grave suspicions of perpetrating war crimes. In a few weeks, the six-month period of grace during which Israel was supposed to have set up an inquiry into Operation Cast Lead will come to an end, and Israel may find itself in the dock at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

 

Mazuz is responsible for this. He could have prevented it. He could and should have issued warnings when there was still time. That's the job of the attorney general, in his capacity as legal adviser to the government. He could and should have stopped the army from running amok in Gaza, in real time. When the first clouds of white phosphorus hovered over the homes of the people of Gaza, and burned children were being brought to the hospitals, Mazuz should have spoken up and advised the government that it is illegal to use this weaponry against civilians. When hospitals, schools, factories, workshops and UN facilities were being bombarded, we should have heard from him. When innocent, helpless civilians were shot dead while carrying white flags, Mazuz should have waved a black flag over the whole operation.


But Mazuz remained silent. He was busy with the plea bargain for former president Moshe Katsav, and had no time for trivia like observing the laws of warfare. And later, not having done what he should have done, he at least could and should have urged the government to cooperate with Richard Goldstone's inquiry, and not to boycott it so foolishly. And finally, he could and should have long ago called upon the government to try to redeem itself at least partially by setting up an official inquiry of its own. He did none of these things. They say he is still trying to decide between different types of inquiry committees, or perhaps neither. If he goes on deliberating, he may well find himself in The Hague.


Neither did Mazuz speak up against the disgraceful mass arrests of left-wingers protesting against the Gaza war during the dark days of Operation Cast Lead. Close to 800 people were detained, and the attorney general held his peace and collaborated. Neither did he speak up when, week after week, the same police force arrested protesters demonstrating against settlers taking over Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah. Then too, he was busy with matters that he apparently considered more important. How characteristic it is, and how depressing, that one of the last decisions he made was to join the libel action against Mohammed Bakri for his film "Jenin Jenin," a lawsuit that is provocative and propaganda-inspired, that threatens free speech, and that already has been rejected once by the courts.


So Israel's 12th attorney general will be remembered as one who fought corruption, but only small-scale corruption, the misdeeds of individuals. When it came to the misdeeds of the state, Israel found itself bereft of an adviser, lacking a legal and ethical guide to show it the way, as Mazuz should have done. But that would have taken courage, a great deal of courage, even more than it takes to prosecute a president or a prime minister. Nobody would condemn him for that, but to stand up to the state? That was too much, even for Mazuz.


In the historical balance, therefore, this breach of trust will weigh against him, to a large degree overshadowing his achievements in other spheres, which are not to be taken lightly, but which are far less fateful for the way Israel is portrayed. When history asks where the attorney general was when all this happened, the reply will be silence. With predecessors like Haim Cohn long gone, and Aharon Barak sending faint signals from the United States, Mazuz could have been a beacon of light. Instead, he was a tiny pocket flashlight.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BARAK'S BOOMERANG

BY ISRAEL HAREL

After three months of concentrated propaganda against "right-wing refusal to serve" - or in other words (with sweeping generalization), against the hesder yeshivas, which combine Torah study with army service - one of the two soldiers who held up a sign saying "Shimshon [Battalion] won't evacuate Homesh" has been ousted from the Israel Defense Forces.


A vigorous protest against his ouster is essential.


His demonstrative act of protest, which was clearly unacceptable (the soldier was rightly sent to jail), did not in any way amount to refusal to serve. A mere protest does not warrant such grave injury to a soldier's honor, the honor of his family and the honor of his social and spiritual milieu. All in all, what did he do? Refuse to fight the enemy? Spy? Sell weapons to terrorists? Sell drugs?

 

Granted, there is no military, social or moral justification for the arrangement allowing hesder yeshiva students to serve only 16 months in the army instead of 36. At the same time, the premilitary academies - whose graduates do full service, and in mixed units, rather than keeping to themselves, both socially and spiritually, as the hesder soldiers do - deserve the highest possible praise. If there is any justification for changing the state's relationship with the yeshivas, it has to do with changing this flawed status quo.


But instead, the system chose to take on and punish this one raw recruit. And this move is liable to push many young men into the arms of those who truly preach refusal to serve (and Har Bracha yeshiva head Rabbi Eliezer Melamed is not one of them).


Had the system's motives in this case been pure, it would have tried to lower the flames rather than fanning them. That is what it did, for instance, in the case of a public letter by pilots who announced their refusal to serve. Not one of them was sent to jail, and they were certainly not expelled from the IDF. And the pilots' case involved genuine refusal to serve ("we refuse to continue harming civilians," they said), not a mere protest. Moreover, it involved officers, including senior ones, rather than new recruits.


The army brass should have been overjoyed that at a time when more than 50 percent of young men and women do not serve at all, there are still idealists serving in the IDF - people who view combat service as a matter of honor and a supreme obligation. They should have made do with the jail sentence and not taken such an extreme step. And because the expulsion was an act of vengeance, not a justified penalty, it will be seen as an assault on the entire camp to which the ousted soldier belongs, with all the attendant consequences. Did the politicians who approved - or perhaps ordered - the army's decision to oust him take the ramifications of such an assault into account?


The soldier fell victim to public hysteria. His unacceptable protest served as a pretext for a campaign against the school system in which he, and thousands of others, were educated. Those who joined this campaign included many who gave backing to leftists who refused to fight the enemy. His unnecessary protest gave them a pretext to sit in propagandistic judgment on those, like A., who "suffer" from motivation to fight the enemy (as has been clearly proven for years, especially in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza).

Those who were tolerant of, and in some cases even sympathetic to, the phenomenon of refusing orders in the midst of battle - in Lebanon, for instance - have stigmatized precisely those who are most highly motivated, by tarring them with the brush of refusal to serve ("the soldier who refused," the headlines announced, "has been ousted from the army"). And they have inflated a marginal act of protest to absurd proportions.


What truly hurts, however, is that at the head of this unholy alliance against the soldier and the environment in which he was raised stands a politician in trouble: the defense minister. If Ehud Barak thought this humiliation was supposed to "let them see and tremble," so far, the response of many young men from this community has been the opposite: They are outraged, fighting back and entrenching themselves in their positions.


And the principal victim will be the Israel Defense Forces.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

STAND AT ATTENTION - AT HOME

BY NERI LIVNEH

 

"Remember, you are the avant-garde of our young generation," said then minister of education Aharon Yadlin, after reviewing a parade of hundreds of pupils at the Reali School in Haifa. They were standing at attention to honor the fallen and sweating in their khaki uniforms. Yadlin believed in the avant-garde; today's education minister, Gideon Sa'ar, believes in reaction.


The minster reached the conclusion (how?) that "where there are uniforms, their contribution is apparent in an improved school climate, through an emphasis on what is common, on equality, and on school pride." Apparently, if there are schools that instill such pride in their pupils, it's not those where the socioeconomic gaps among the students are wide and uniforms create a kind of fictitious equality. Presumably, Sa'ar was speaking of the schools that belong to an education system whose students are all from well-off families and who bring to school the pride they get at home.


Moreover, the notion that students should stand up when the teacher enters the classroom is also an ancient one. It could be combined with the proposals of one of Sa'ar's predecessors, Limor Livnat, that students not only stand but sing "Hatikva" and salute the flag. Indeed, this will improve the behavior of the students toward their teachers, if only for the time it takes to sing the national anthem. Students who are standing at attention and saluting cannot throw spitballs at the teacher or be impertinent at the same time. Possibly some semblance of change may be achieved, but it is not reasonable to expect that these kinds of enforced manners will really bring about the internal change necessary to make students feel they want to respect their teachers because of their profession and status in the classroom.

 

From the day that I was admitted to Reali, my teachers never ceased their efforts to foster school pride. To this end, I was instructed to get a light blue dress with a white collar and to sew on the embroidered motto "Walk Humbly." I heard marvelous stories about famous alumni, but what I remembered was the story about a member of the school's second graduating class, my grandfather, who was slapped by the principal and slapped him back, thereby quitting while he was ahead. I learned the words of the prayer "O Lord of the Universe," which we had to sing right after standing to attention when the teacher entered the classroom. At first, I thought the teacher was the lord of the universe, and that this was why we were allowed to address him only in the third person.

All of the boys in their khaki uniforms and the girls in their light blue dresses wore the same badge, but we knew that Dani's father was a shipping magnate, that Romi's father owned a chemicals plant, Esther's father was a beverage importer and Ziyad's father a big building contractor. On the other hand, Ziyad was also an Arab, so he didn't count for much.


I had so much school pride that I used to take a spare outfit in my bag, and as soon as school was over, I got out of uniform and into regular clothes. I was ashamed to attend the school for rich kids from the Carmel neighborhood - where, as I explained to our homeroom teacher, Golan, I was being turned into little more than a well-educated sheep - a remark for which I was a given a week's suspension. If there was school pride there, it was the feeling of "Look at me, I'm a prodigy" of the rich kids.


What about respect for the teachers? Indeed, we did treat them with more respect. Not because we stood up for them, but because that is what we were brought up to do at home. To regard a teacher as someone important, the person who decides what's what in the classroom. And this is really the change that's needed now: to educate parents to regard teachers with respect.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE MASSACHUSETTS ELECTION

 

If anyone should have seen it coming in Massachusetts, it is President Obama — the long-shot candidate who rode to electoral victory on a wave of popular impatience and an ability to identify and address voters' core anxieties.

 

There are many theories about the import of Scott Brown's upset victory in the race for Edward Kennedy's former Senate seat. To our minds, it is not remotely a verdict on Mr. Obama's presidency, nor does it amount to a national referendum on health care reform — even though it has upended the effort to pass a reform bill, which Mr. Obama made the centerpiece of his first year.

 

Mr. Obama has done many important things on the environment, and in foreign affairs, and in preventing the nation's banking system from collapsing in the face of a financial crisis he inherited. But he seems to have lost touch with two core issues for Americans: their jobs and their homes.

 

Mr. Obama's challenge is that most Americans are not seeing a recovery. They are seeing 10 percent unemployment and a continuing crisis in the housing market. They have watched as the federal government rescued banks, financial firms and auto companies, but they themselves feel adrift, still awaiting the kind of decisive leadership on jobs and housing — in terms of both style and substance — that Mr. Obama promised in 2008.

 

Mr. Obama was right to press for health care reform. But he spent too much time talking to reluctant Democrats and Republicans who never had the slightest intention of supporting him. He sat on the sidelines while the Republicans bombarded Americans with false but effective talk of death panels and a government takeover of their doctors' offices. And he did not make the case strongly enough that the health care system and the economy are deeply interconnected or explain why Americans should care about this huge issue in the midst of a recession: If they lose their jobs, they lose their health insurance.

 

Mr. Obama has not said or done the right thing often enough when it comes to job creation and housing. He appointed an economics team that was entwined with the people and policies that nearly destroyed the economy. He made compromises that resulted in a stimulus bill that wasn't big enough or properly targeted. Even now, despite a new, rather awkward populist tone, serious relief for homeowners is lacking and financial regulatory reform is in danger of being hijacked by banking lobbyists and partisan politics.

 

The victory by Mr. Brown, a Republican, should be setting off alarms in the White House. Most immediately, it jeopardizes passage of the reform that the nation desperately needs. The Democrats could try to get the House to pass the Senate's bill, although their chances seem dim, or as Mr. Obama seemed to suggest on Wednesday, they could seek a stripped-down measure that could win bipartisan support. They certainly should not try to ram a combined House-Senate bill through the Senate before Mr. Brown is sworn in.

 

The Democrats had an exceptionally weak candidate in Massachusetts, but the results call into question their tactical political competence. The party now has less than 10 months to get it right before the midterm elections, when they are in danger of losing more seats in the House and the Senate. It is indisputable that the Republicans have settled on a tactic of obstruction, disinformation and fear-mongering, but it is equally indisputable that the Democrats have not countered it well.

Mr. Obama has three years to show the kind of vision and leadership on the economy that got him elected — not just because his chances of a second term are at stake, but because the nation needs to get a handle on joblessness and mortgages or the nascent economic recovery could turn into a lost decade or a double-dip recession, or both.

 

The president is fighting hard for a consumer financial protection agency, in part because he sees it as one element of financial reform that people will understand. What Mr. Obama has to understand is that the agency is unlikely to be as effective as he intends unless other parts of financial reform — regulating derivatives and limiting "too big too fail" banks — also are robust. And homeowners need mortgage relief — not just lower interest rates, but the ability to renegotiate and restructure their loan balances.

 

We admire Mr. Obama's intelligence and the careful way he makes decisions. It is reported that he seeks out dissenting views doggedly. He tells Americans the truth. We don't want Mr. Obama to turn into a hot populist, but he can be too cool and often waits too long to react at big moments. If White House reporters are still making jokes two years from now about checking the president's pulse, the nation will be in big trouble.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

HEIGHTENED CONCERN OVER BPA

 

The Food and Drug Administration has raised its level of concern over the safety of bisphenol-A, or BPA, an industrial chemical found in baby bottles and the linings of canned goods and other consumer products. That is a welcome shift in attitude by an agency that seemed bent, during the Bush administration, on minimizing the potential for harm. But it sheds little light, for now, on how dangerous the chemical might be in the small amounts that leach out and are imbibed by infants and older people — or how rigorously it should be regulated.

 

In August 2008, the Bush-era F.D.A. released a draft report asserting that the small amounts of BPA that leach into milk or food are not dangerous. One month later, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency assessment group, came to a less reassuring conclusion. It expressed "some concern" — midway between "negligible concern" and "serious concern" — about the potential effects on the brain, behavior and prostate in fetuses, infants and children. Now the F.D.A. has also expressed "some concern" about the same risks.

 

Still, the message remained murky. Health officials said they have no proof that the chemical has harmed either children or adults. They have not taken any regulatory action to curb its use. Nor have they urged families to change their use of infant formula or foods because the benefit of good nutrition outweighs the potential risk from BPA exposure.

 

Instead, the two agencies will conduct crucial research on the safety of BPA over the next 18 to 24 months to reduce "substantial uncertainties" in assessing the risks of low-dose exposures. And the F.D.A. will seek more robust and flexible regulatory authority to clamp down on the chemical if the evidence warrants.

 

Meanwhile, the agency is suggesting ways that people can limit exposure to BPA (such as not putting very hot liquids into bottles or cups containing BPA). The six largest manufacturers, in response to consumer preferences, are already producing baby bottles without BPA.

 

Canada has banned BPA from children's products. And several states, counties and local jurisdictions have bans

or restrictions on several uses of BPA in various products. Bills are pending in Congress to do the same.

While waiting for the regulators to amass more conclusive evidence, wise consumers will try to avoid BPA.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

INDIAN TRIBES AWAIT THEIR DUE

 

After more than a century of obstruction and delays, still another deadline looms for a settlement that would compensate hundreds of thousands of American Indians for billions of dollars lost by a government that failed miserably to manage tribal lands that had been entrusted to it.

 

A law passed in 1887 conveyed the land in trust to the federal government. The government-controlled trust accounts were mishandled and lost, cheating the Indian owners out of fees from grazing livestock and gas and oil royalties.

 

Last month, after 13 years of court wrangling, both sides agreed to a historic settlement that would pay $3.4 billion to the Indians. The settlement would provide partial compensation of $1.4 billion to individual holders of the trusts, plus $2 billion more to fractional claimants.

 

By any measure, this was a bargain for the federal government and a small fraction of what is actually owed to the tribes, which agreed to the deal after watching the years roll by, and generations expire, without economic justice.

 

The settlement needs Congressional approval, but Congress — its agenda clogged with health care and myriad pressing issues — missed one deadline in December and now confronts another. Failure to approve the deal by the end of February risks throwing the dispute back into fresh rounds of negotiations.

 

The nation's honor demands that the settlement finally be approved. Surely this Congress does not wish to join the long line of administrations, lawmakers and paternalistic bureaucracies that have made a shell game of justice for American Indians.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A TERN AROUND THE WORLD

 

We are all used to miniaturization in our daily lives — the steady shrinking of the electronic tools we use, like telephones and video screens. But what happens when miniaturization reaches the natural world?

 

The best example is new research on the migratory patterns of the Arctic tern, using a minute electronic device designed by engineers at the British Antarctic Survey. Called a geolocator, the device weighs 1.4 grams, or about 0.05 ounce, and is about the size of a tiny halogen bulb. Affixed to the tern's leg, the geolocator measures variations in light levels as the bird flies — data it compresses and stores, creating a map of the tern's movements.

 

And what a map it is! Ornithologists had guessed at the range of the tern's migration, but evidence drawn from geolocators confirms that it is almost certainly the longest of any species on the planet — about 44,000 miles round trip from breeding sites in Iceland and Greenland to its wintering sites in the marginal ice near Antarctica.

 

The long, looping migration, which averages more than 300 miles a day, includes a monthlong hiatus in the North Atlantic. There was no single migratory pattern. Some birds followed the coast of Africa south, while others tracked the eastern edge of South America. The shape of the route is determined both by the biological richness of the waters they pass and by global wind patterns.

 

Our ability to track the movement of Arctic terns does not yet translate into an understanding of how they map the world for themselves. And for all our increasing ability to follow the movements of a creature as expeditionary as this, it still takes all our imagination even to begin to guess what it must be like to have both poles, and the winds and seas between them, as one's proper habitation.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

SOME FRANK TALK ABOUT HAITI

BY NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

 

On my blog, a woman named Mona pointed to Haitian corruption and declared: "I won't send money because I know what will happen to it." Another reader attributed Haiti's poverty to "the low I.Q. of the 9 million people there," and added: "It is all very sad and cannot be fixed."

 

"Giving money to Haiti and other third-world countries is like throwing money in the toilet," another commenter said. A fourth asserted: "Haiti is a money pit. Dumping billions of dollars into it has proven futile. ... America is deeply in debt, and we can't afford it."

 

Not everyone is so frank, but the subtext of much of the discussion of Haiti is despair about both Haiti and foreign aid. Pat Robertson, the religious broadcaster, went furthest by suggesting that Haiti's earthquake flowed from a pact with the devil more than two centuries ago. While it's not for a journalist to nitpick a minister's theological credentials, that implication of belated seismic revenge on Haitian children seems defamatory of God.

 

Americans have also responded with a huge outpouring of assistance, including more than $22 million raised by the Red Cross from text messages alone. But for those with doubts, let's have a frank discussion of Haiti's problems:

 

Why is Haiti so poor? Is it because Haitians are dimwitted or incapable of getting their act together?

 

Haiti isn't impoverished because the devil got his due; it's impoverished partly because of debts due. France imposed a huge debt that strangled Haiti. And when foreigners weren't looting Haiti, its own rulers were.

 

The greatest predation was the deforestation of Haiti, so that only 2 percent of the country is forested today. Some trees have been — and continue to be — cut by local peasants, but many were destroyed either by foreigners or to pay off debts to foreigners. Last year, I drove across the island of Hispaniola, and it was surreal: You traverse what in places is a Haitian moonscape until you reach the border with the Dominican Republic — and jungle.

 

Without trees, Haiti lost its topsoil through erosion, crippling agriculture.

 

To visit Haiti is to know that its problem isn't its people. They are its treasure — smart, industrious and hospitable — and Haitians tend to be successful in the United States (and everywhere but in Haiti).

 

Can our billions in aid to Haitians accomplish anything? After all, a Wall Street Journal column argues, "To help Haiti, end foreign aid."

 

First, don't exaggerate how much we give or they get.

 

Haiti ranks 42nd among poor countries in worldwide aid received per person ($103 in 2008, more than one-quarter of which comes from the United States). David Roodman of the Center for Global Development calculates that in 2008, official American aid to Haiti amounted to 92 cents per American.

 

The United States gives more to Haiti than any other country. But it ranks 11th in per capita giving. Canadians give five times as much per person as we do.

 

As for whether aid promotes economic growth, that's a bitter and unresolved argument. But even the leading critics of aid — William Easterly, a New York University economist, and Dambisa Moyo, a banker turned author — believe in assisting Haiti after the earthquake.

 

"I think we have a moral imperative," Ms. Moyo told me. "I do believe the international community should act."

 

Likewise, Professor Easterly said: "Of course, I am in favor of aid to Haiti earthquake victims!"

 

So, is Haiti hopeless? Is Bill O'Reilly right? He said: "Once again, we will do more than anyone else on the planet, and one year from today Haiti will be just as bad as it is right now."

 

No, he's not right. And this is the most pernicious myth of all. In fact, Haiti in recent years has been much better managed under President René Préval and has shown signs of being on the mend.

 

Far more than most other impoverished countries — particularly those in Africa — Haiti could plausibly turn itself around. It has an excellent geographic location, there are no regional wars, and it could boom if it could just export to the American market.

 

A report for the United Nations by a prominent British economist, Paul Collier, outlined the best strategy for Haiti: building garment factories. That idea (sweatshops!) may sound horrific to Americans. But it's a strategy that has worked for other countries, such as Bangladesh, and Haitians in the slums would tell you that their most fervent wish is for jobs. A few dozen major shirt factories could be transformational for Haiti.

 

So in the coming months as we help Haitians rebuild, let's dispatch not only aid workers, but also business investors. Haiti desperately needs new schools and hospitals, but also new factories.

 

And let's challenge the myth that because Haiti has been poor, it always will be. That kind of self-fulfilling fatalism may be the biggest threat of all to Haiti, the real pact with the devil.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

DEMOCRATIC SILVER LININGS

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

Poor Democrats, cheer up. There's always a bright side.

 

On the one hand, the Republicans have a new superstar, Scott Brown, the senator-elect from Massachusetts. On the other, he's already beginning to come off as a little strange.

 

During Tuesday night's victory speech, Brown veered off-script and offered up his college-student daughters to the crowd. ("Yes, they're both available!") As his girls laughed with embarrassment and his wife yelled at him to stop, Brown just dug deeper. ("Arianna's definitely not available, but Ayla is.")

 

By the end, even Glenn Beck was weirded out. However, in a spirit of even-handedness, let us say that Beck may have gone overboard when urged that Brown be equipped with a chastity belt and announced: "This one could end with a dead intern."

 

For some Democrats, particularly the ones in Washington, looking on the bright side came down to blaming the Massachusetts Massacre on the party nominee, Martha Coakley. ("Political malpractice," sniped one Obamaite.)

 

True, she seemed to have the public persona of a flounder. But if warmth and charisma were a requisite for being in the Senate, three-quarters of the members would have to go home immediately. A body where Arlen Specter can be courted by both parties is not a place that puts much premium on personal charm.

 

The White House would really rather not see the vote as a commentary on Obama. In this they are in accord with Scott Brown, who when asked whether his victory was a referendum on the president, said cheerfully: "It's much bigger than that."

 

Gradually, we are reaching a consensus that Coakley lost because the irritable voters wanted to send a message. Which was: change.

 

Change all over the place! Except apparently not in beating up the bankers, since the Democrat favored a tax on big banks to pay for the bailout and the Republican opposed it.

 

And not change that involves getting out of Afghanistan. That was Coakley's idea. Brown wants to stay the course.

 

Stay the course, for sure. But stop spending so much money on the course. Cut the budget! Except when it comes to the troops, who need all the support we can give them. As Scott Brown kept pointing out.

 

Scott Brown has a truck. Maybe there could be more trucks.

 

Health care! The voters were definitely sending a message, which was that Obama should have pushed harder, or else been more bipartisan. Many of the morning-after advocates of bipartisanship said Obama's big error was failing to appease the Republican desire for doing something about malpractice insurance and torts. The people hate torts. Except the creamy chocolate kind.

 

The voters of Massachusetts were definitely angry about taxes, although the ones they seemed most ticked off about were in the state. Everyone was really, really angry about the state government. This is a national theme. Vitriol also abounded last November in New Jersey and Virginia. And payback is coming soon in Illinois, which is going to have its primaries in a couple of weeks.

 

So many states are knee-deep in debt, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it since no matter how hard the various governors try to change things, the recalcitrant, entrenched state legislators always resist.

 

That drives people crazy, causing them to express their ire by voting out the governors. Or Martha Coakley. The only officials who never get voted out are the legislators. Because they are entrenched.

 

Back in 2008, the public swung around to Barack Obama in a big way when the economy suddenly collapsed and John McCain responded by sounding impulsive to the point of flakiness. Things looked scary, and we liked the cool, calm, cerebral guy.

 

Now people are less scared than irate because the stock market seems to have come back while they're left behind. The angrier they get, the crazier their political objects of affection become. You can't drive home the point that you're hopping mad by voting for some sensible centrist. Really, the scarier the better. Sarah Palin, be my valentine.

 

Meanwhile, about that bright side: Some commentators have been arguing that having 60 votes in the Senate was really more trouble than it was worth. That once the Democrats hit a filibuster-proof majority, they were saddled with unrealistic hopes.

 

Now that they're down to 59 votes, the theory is that we'll have such modest expectations that we'll fall down with admiration if the senators manage to get their shoe laces tied in the morning.

 

My positive thought is that we should appreciate what a good outlet democracy can be for public dissatisfaction.

 

There was a time when, if people got worried about the way things were going, they would throw a virgin off the side of a cliff. Now they just kill a politician. And only metaphorically! Is this a great country, or what?

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

AFTERSHOCKS

BY ÉVELYNE TROUILLOT

 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti

THE family has set up camp in my brother's house. I live just next door, but it makes us feel better to be all in the same house. My brother, a novelist, is writing his articles; I am writing mine. From time to time a tremor will make us pause and run back outside, just in case, to be safe. I wonder how long we will have to be so cautious, and I long for normalcy.

 

We sleep; we listen to the radio; we exchange information. Mostly, we have been trying to stay alive and sane since that Tuesday afternoon a week ago when the earthquake changed our lives forever. It doesn't help that the earth continues to convulse. Just this morning, we felt another tremor, the most violent since the earthquake itself. Let us hope it did not cause more deaths and damage.

 

I do not recognize the streets of Port-au-Prince. In front of what used to be a school, three corpses are covered demurely by a blue sheet. Feet and eyes carefully avoid the small cadavers.

 

A few miles down, the Sacré-Coeur church, where the upper-middle class used to be baptized, married and buried, is a big pile of rubbish.

 

Under the broken glass and bricks of the five-story Caribbean Supermarket — which carried the most varied imported products and where foreigners were most likely to meet one another — women, men and children lie trapped, given up for dead. On Monday, rescuers managed to free from the site a young woman who was still alive. That same day, a grief-stricken family identified the body of a 27-year-old mother of a 6-month-old girl, who was not so lucky.

 

In the evening, the digging for bodies ceases, as does the search for drinking water and food, for news about missing parents and friends. Tired; terrified of the dark and its dreams of tremors, of the morning and its bad news; secretly — or not — relieved to be alive, we try to sleep.

 

In the background, the few radio stations that can still broadcast convey the messages of agonized families and friends. A father comes all the way from a little village in the south of Haiti looking for his two daughters. Although his voice is breaking, he manages to enunciate their names and please could somebody, anybody tell him if they are alive? The newscaster quickly repeats the message and introduces someone else. There are so many of them, a litany of desperate voices.

 

Night settles. The stars provide the only light; the electricity has not been restored. We save the energy from our Inverter generator system to run the Internet, so we can stay in contact with friends and family. The telephone lines are unreliable.

 

But we Haitians are nevertheless connected — regardless of our social conditions, our economic status, our religious beliefs, if only because we share the same uncertainties, the same fears about the monstrous size of the task at hand.

 

Although the earthquake does remind us of our common and fragile destiny, the fact that the earth trembles and destroys with equal brutality luxurious and shabby houses, small and huge enterprises, does not obscure the inequalities that divide Haiti. Social and economic disparities, the unjust distribution of our resources and the dire poverty of the majority of the population cannot magically evaporate with the dust. But maybe this disaster will constitute a new beginning. Maybe the reconstruction effort that is now so urgent will also work to narrow the gaps between us.

 

It is with a sense of warmth that I think of all the messages of solidarity I have received from around the world. Like most Haitians, I marvel at the signs of humanity — fund-raisers, simple letters of sympathy, offers of help: "Just tell me what you need!" But it is our government's responsibility to help those most in need.

 

I am focusing now on what is essential in life: love and friendship. Like most people here, I am not watching the news. We have limited power, and anyway it seems futile and even absurd to be a spectator of my own life, especially when the TV images highlight only the misery of our country. Many of us Haitians are offended by the coverage of the earthquake. Once more, a natural disaster serves as an occasion to showcase the impoverishment, to exaggerate the scenes of violence that are common to any catastrophe of this type.

 

No, I am not watching the news. I am too busy trying to find a way to keep my hope alive because the work in front of us is humongous. I am busy rejoicing in the laughter of the children in the camp near our house, smiling at the comical reactions of a passer-by after a recent aftershock. I am busy shedding tears at the news of a miraculous rescue of six students from the wreckage of a university building. I am busy collecting the fragments of life that reflect the enormous courage and resilience among us.

 

I am busy loving life and my country.

 

Évelyne Trouillot is a novelist whose short stories have appeared in English in the collection "Words Without Borders."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

TORTURE'S LOOPHOLES

BY MATTHEW ALEXANDER

 

TOMORROW will be one year since President Obama signed an executive order outlawing torture, yet our debate about interrogation methods continues. Though the president deserves praise for improving matters, the changes were not as drastic as most Americans think, and elements of our interrogation policy continue to be both inhumane and counterproductive.

 

Americans can now boast that they no longer "torture" detainees, but they cannot say that detainees are not abused, or even that their treatment meets the minimum standards of humane treatment mandated by the Geneva Conventions, the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 (the so-called McCain amendment), United States and international law, or even Mr. Obama's executive order.

 

If I were to return to one of the war zones today — as an Air Force officer, I was sent to Iraq to head an interrogation team in 2006 — I would still be allowed to abuse prisoners. This is true even though in my experience, torture or even harsh but legal treatment never got us useful information. Instead, such tactics invariably did just the opposite, convincing detainees to clam up.

 

The adoption last year of the Army Field Manual as the standard for interrogations across the government, including the C.I.A., was a considerable improvement. But we missed a unique opportunity for progress last August when the president's task force on interrogations recommended no changes to the manual, which was hastily revised in 2006 in the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.

 

For example, an appendix to the manual allows the military to keep a detainee in "separation" — solitary confinement — indefinitely. It requires only that a general approve any extension after 30 days. Rest assured, there will be numerous waivers to even that minuscule requirement.

 

Yes, there are legitimate reasons to isolate detainees. Domestic law enforcement agencies do it to prevent suspects from colluding on alibis and allow investigators the leverage to use non-coercive interrogation techniques like confronting one detainee with the other's statements.

 

But military interrogators do not operate in a vacuum. The consequences of their actions have far-reaching effects — like Al Qaeda's exploitation of American abuse of prisoners as a recruiting tool. And, in any case, extended solitary confinement is torture, as confirmed by many scientific studies. Even the initial 30 days of isolation could be considered abuse.

 

If we truly wanted to come up with a humane limit on solitary confinement, we would look at the Golden Rule: what would we consider inhumane treatment if one of our own soldiers were captured by the enemy? My answer: Given the youth of our men and women in uniform, that number is probably around two weeks. This limit, however, should be determined by medical professionals, not soldiers or politicians.

 

The Army Field Manual also does not explicitly prohibit stress positions, putting detainees into close confinement or environmental manipulation (other than hypothermia and "heat injury"). These omissions open a window of opportunity for abuse.

 

The manual also allows limiting detainees to just four hours of sleep in 24 hours. Let's face it: extended captivity with only four hours of sleep a night (consider detainees at Guantánamo Bay who have been held for seven years) does not meet the minimum standard of humane treatment, either in terms of American law or simple human decency.

 

And if this weren't enough, some interrogators feel the manual's language gives them a loophole that allows them to give a detainee four hours of sleep and then conduct a 20-hour interrogation, after which they can "reset" the clock and begin another 20-hour interrogation followed by four hours of sleep. This is inconsistent with the spirit of the reforms, which was to prevent "monstering" — extended interrogation sessions lasting more than 20 hours. American interrogators are more than capable of doing their jobs without the loopholes.

 

The Field Manual, to its credit, calls for "all captured and detained personnel, regardless of status" to be "treated humanely." But when it comes to the specifics the manual contradicts itself, allowing actions that no right-thinking person could consider humane.

 

The greatest shame of the last year, perhaps, is that the argument over interrogations has shifted from debating what is legal to considering what is just "better than before." The best way to change things is to update the field manual again to bring our treatment of detainees up to the minimum standard of humane treatment.

 

The next version of the manual should prohibit solitary confinement for more than, say, two weeks, all stress positions and forms of environmental manipulation, imprisonment in tight spaces and sleep deprivation. Unless we rewrite the book, we will only continue to give Al Qaeda a recruiting tool, to earn the contempt of our allies and to debase our most cherished ideals.

 

Matthew Alexander is the author of "How to Break a Terrorist."

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SILENCE FALLS

 

After many days of hearing regularly from the president, the prime minister and members of the government all kinds of assertions in the context of the Supreme Court's short verdict on the NRO, we now have what seems a deathly silence. There has not been a squeak, a peep or a whisper from either the Presidency or the Prime Minister's House following the release of the Supreme Court's detailed judgment on the NRO on Tuesday. This is astounding, given the historic nature of the verdict and its potential impact on the national political scene. The ruling, drafted by the CJ and signed by 17 judges, lays down that no one can simply be declared immune in cases involving corruption. This means President Zardari must put his claim to immunity before the court and that his position as president is now more precarious than ever. It is hard to believe he can, for all his bluster, continue to cling on. The court's tone has been scathing, stating that the NRO protected the corrupt at the cost of the people. The court has also cited examples of the Philippines and Nigeria as countries to which looted funds were brought back from overseas. Some who maintain large bank accounts abroad will undoubtedly be shaking in their shoes. We all know who the most prominent among these individuals are. Their actions over the coming days will decide much of what is to happen.


Indeed, the review filed against the NRO just days ago indicated that panic was already rising. Following the detailed SC verdict, the government now faces a decision that it will struggle to make. The prime minister and his team must implement the decision, and by doing so lop off heads within the PPP. Or else they must defy the court and go back on the promises made to enforce the judgment and avoid any kind of clash with the judiciary. For the country, and for democracy, this could be a disaster. A high-level meeting of the party has reportedly been called at the Presidency. Mr Zardari is also said to have been conducting desperate meetings with key party members in Lahore before heading back to the capital. There are some indications that the government has decided not to follow SC directions. This act of defiance could of course mark the start of the final act in a political drama that has acted to paralyse the system. It cannot continue much longer.


The verdict is being hailed by people everywhere. They are directly affected by the lack of governance, the inflation and the chaos they face as a result of power and gas shortages. They are unwilling to take more. It would be unfair to compel them to do so. We stand today on political ground that shakes and trembles with every step. This cannot be sustained. A logical end must be reached. It is true that, technically speaking, the matter can continue before the court. But people now seek real change and the start of an era that can lead towards progress and an end to corruption. They want leadership that is not based on rhetoric alone, but on something more substantial.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A BLOW TO CRICKET

 

The third edition of the Indian Premier League could have helped resume India-Pakistan cricketing ties, which have also fallen victim to tensions triggered off by terror attacks on Mumbai in November 2008. It was a great opportunity but it was squandered when all of the 11 Pakistanis who went under the hammer at an auction in Mumbai on Tuesday were ignored by franchises. This snub is both embarrassing and surprising; embarrassing because Pakistani players were neglected despite their national team