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Saturday, January 23, 2010

EDITORIAL 23.01.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month  january 23, edition 000411, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

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

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

 

 

THE PIONEER

1.      DEBATING BT BRINJAL

2.      RESTARTING PEACE TALKS

3.      IPL HAS ADDED TO MEA OPTIONS - ASHOK MALIK

4.      IPL HAS ADDED TO MEA OPTIONS - ASHOK MALIK

5.      MATERIALISM IS THE PROBLEM - AJIT BISHNOI

6.      COMRADES IN DYSTOPIA - SAUGAR SENGUPTA

7.      AFTER ME, THE DELUGE - UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI

8.      JYOTI BASU, COMMUNISM WERE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS - SIDDHARTHA SHANKAR RAY

 

MAIL TODAY

1.      DON'T BLOW IPL ISSUE OUT OF PROPORTION

2.      DISTURBING FINDINGS

3.      NO COMFORT IN ANY CURRENCY - BY SAUMITRA CHAUDHURI

4.      THIRD UMPIRE - QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

5.      HEADLEY'S 26/ 11 HINT TO RAHUL BHATT

 

THE TIMES OF INDIA

1.      ALL'S WELL THAT SELLS WELL

2.      ADDING VALUE TO EDUCATION - JAMES TOOLEY

3.      OSCARS AREN'T EVERYTHING

4.      CULTURE NO BARRIER TO GREAT CINEMA - ANIL THAKKAR

5.      CHINA'S HOMELAND INSECURITY - NAYAN CHANDA

6.      THOUGHTS ON AMAN KI ASHA - C V S K RAO

 

HINDUSTAN TIMES

1.      SOWING SEEDS OF CONFUSION

2.      THE STATESMAN, NOT HIS POLITICS - PRATIK KANJILAL

3.      LIFE, DEATH, AND THE QUALITY OF MERCY

 

INDIAN EXPRESS

1.      AN EMPTY SEAT

2.      STILL UNDER WRAPS

3.      FIRST PROOF

4.      AN EMPTY SEAT

5.      STILL UNDER WRAPS

6.      RUNNING WITH THE CHINESE BULLS

7.      THE LOSS OF INHERITANCE - RAVINDER KAUR

8.      YOU TALKIN' TO ME? - KALPANA SHARMA

9.      PRINTLINE PAKISTAN - RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

1.      BANKING ON POPULISM

2.      AFTER THE HIMALAYAN BLUNDER

3.      BASIC TRUTH ABOUT CLEAN ENERGY - JEEVAN DEOL

4.      OBAMA'S FURY ON BANKS IS JUST POLITICS - AJAY SHAH

5.      PROHIBITED WITHOUT PERMIT - JYOTSNA BHATNAGAR

 

THE HINDU

1.      LESSONS FROM THE YSR CRASH

2.      TOUGH CHOICES

3.      RETURN TO GLASS-STEAGALL? - C.P. CHANDRASEKHAR

4.      HAITI: EXODUS TO COUNTRYSIDE STARTS - ED PILKINGTON

5.      HOW PRINCE WILLIAM BOWLED THEM OVER - STEPHEN BATES

 

DNA

1.      THE LAST OF THE TSARS

2.      FALSE ALARM, STAY CALM - V SUBRAMANYAN

3.      SEARCHING FOR BUNNY CHOW IN DURBAN - KAREENA GIANANI

4.      THE ITALIAN JOB - MAGANDEEP SINGH

 

THE TRIBUNE

1.      SUICIDES IN TELANGANA

2.      BT+BRINJAL
VICTIMS OF MARRIAGE

3.      IMPORTANCE OF DISSENT

4.      JAI HIND CLUB - BY RAJ KANWAR

5.      DECLINE IN LEADERSHIP - BY M.G. DEVASAHAYAM

6.      CHANGING FACE OF WEST ASIA - BY ROBERT FISK

7.      INSIDE PAKISTAN - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

1.      FOREIGN LINKS OF ULTRAS

2.      LIVING BEYOND DEATH

3.      INDO-BANGLA TIES AND IMPACT ON NORTH EAST - SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE

4.      SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE: THE PRINCE PATRIOT - SUREN RAM PHOOKUN

 

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

1.      BEING GOVERDHAN RAMJI

2.      MILK OUTPUT WOULD STAGNATE

3.      SCRAP COAL MONOPOLY

4.      THE DEBATE ON CEO PAY SLICE - LUCIAN BEBCHUK

5.      RISING URBAN & PROFESSIONAL SUICIDES - AKHILESHWAR SAHAY

6.      REMEMBER, ONLY HARD WORK PAYS - VITHAL C NADKARNI

7.      FAMILY OFFICES ARE PRODUCT-NEUTRAL - GAURAV PA

8.      EXPORTS ON TRACK TO HIT $250 BN BY '14 - DURBA GHOSH

9.      INDIA WILL NOT HAVE A DUBAI LIKE CRISIS: D SUBBARAO

 

DECCAN CHRONICAL

1.      'TAXI POLITICS' NOT JUST A MAHA ISSUE

2.      THE PAK ARMY PARADOX  - BY FARRUKH DHONDY

3.      THE TIWARI EFFECT

4.      YOUR HONOUR, MAY I SPEAK MY MIND? - BY ANTARA DEV SEN

5.      ONE-PARTY DEMOCRACY - BY ROGER COHEN

6.      TWITTERING TERRORISTS - BY ROD LIDDLE

 

THE TELEGRAPH

1.      ONE POST TOO MANY

2.      GRIM AND GRUBBY - SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

3.      DECCAN HERALD - VOODOO SCIENCE?

4.      TAPPING THE SUN BRUHAT BLUNDER - BY GAYATHRI NIVAS

5.      GODMEN & POLITICS - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

6.      WHERE THERE'S ONE GOD - BY A N SURYANARAYANAN

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES

1.      PAKISTAN HESITATES, AGAIN

2.      HERE'S HOW TO HELP

3.      A GOOD FIGHT

4.      STORM WEEK - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

5.      THE LADY AND THE ARLEN - BY GAIL COLLINS

6.      MOBS RULE - BY CHARLES M. BLOW

7.      THEY STILL DON'T GET IT - BY BOB HERBERT

8.      BRINGING DEMOCRACY TO NEW YORK - BY DAVID PECHEFSKY

 

I.THE NEWS

1.      DIALOGUE WITH GATES

2.      MEHSUD MATTERS

3.      OFF THE RAILS

4.      'THE UGLY AMERICAN' - ARIF NIZAMI

5.      YOU DON'T SCORN STARS - SANKHYA KRISHNAN

6.      A GENERAL'S SNARL - S KHALID HUSAIN

7.      JYOTI BASU'S MIXED LEGACY - PRAFUL BIDWAI

8.      A SEDULOUS RULING - shimPART I (LEGAL EYE)BABAR SATTAR

9.      KERFUFFLE - ANJUM NIAZ

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

1.      PRESIDENT AT WAR WITH ARMY, JUDICIARY

2.      ARMY COMES OUT WITH POLICE 'NO'

3.      GHAURI SEES DRONES FLYING IN KARACHI

4.      OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES! - NOSHEEN SAEED

5.      ILL-EQUIPPED TO HANDLE CRISIS - DR SYED JAVED HUSSAIN

6.      AMERICA ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION - MOHAMMAD JAMIL

7.      INDIAN DECEPTION AGAINST CHINA - AFSHAIN AFZAL

8.      TO HEAL HAITI, LOOK TO HISTORY, NOT NATURE - MARK DANNER

 

THE INDEPENDENT

1.      BISWA IJTEMA

2.      GAS RATIONING

3.      VALENTINE'S DAY COMIN' UP..!

4.      WORLD POLITICS 2010

5.      FORREST COOKSON

6.      SARKOZY'S NATO BET - CAMILLE GRAND

 

THE AUSTRALIAN

1.      RESOLUTE OR RATTLED?

2.      PM PROVES AN AUSTRALIAN WINNER IN A DEFINING YEAR

3.      BRINGING PPPS INTO THE LIGHT

 

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

1.      THE PRINCE IS CHARMING - AND AN ANACHRONISM

2.      TEA PARTY CAPERS POINT TO FULL MONTY

3.      TO FIX A FAULT, FIRST FACE THE FACTS

4.      GOODBYE, SWEET PRINCE. HELLO, REPUBLIC DEBATE.

 

THE GURDIAN

1.      UNTHINKABLE? WELCOMING BACK INFLATION

2.      GOVERNMENT INFORMATION: CREATIVE COMMONS

3.      BROWN AND THE CHILCOT INQUIRY: FACING THE FACTS

 

THE KOREA HERALD

1.      DEBT, MORE DEBT

2.      ALL FOR JOBS

3.      LOOK BEYOND AL-QAIDA FOR CAUSES OF PROBLEM IN YEMEN - MAI YAMANI

4.      GLOBALIZATION AFTER THE FINANCIAL CRISIS - JUSTIN YIFU LIN

 

THE JAPAN TIMES

1.      THE WILL TO SUCCEED KYOTO

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

DEBATING BT BRINJAL

LET'S NOT RUSH INTO A DECISION


It is perhaps the most quintessential vegetable on the Indian dinner plate, but the ongoing controversy regarding the commercial cultivation of genetically modified brinjal — or Bt brinjal — has brought to the fore several issues that have significant implications. The brinjal is a native vegetable of this land and was introduced to the West by Portuguese traders in the 17th century. Reportedly, there are around 2,500 varieties of brinjal available in India which account for nine per cent of total vegetable production. Hence, given the importance that the vegetable has in the Indian context, it is hardly surprising that a huge debate has erupted in the wake of the Government's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee's green signal to the introduction of Bt brinjal last October. Critics of the move contend that the genetically modified crop, spliced with genes of the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis, if introduced, would lead to severe consequences not only for the environment but also for consumers. Their argument is that given the structure of the brinjal flower, which is highly conducive for cross-pollination, introduction of the genetically modified variety would soon contaminate all other natural varieties. This would not only lead to the loss of genetic diversity of the brinjal crop available in India but also impact farmers who would then be forced to cultivate Bt brinjals only. The other concern is that Bt brinjal hasn't yet been proved to be completely safe for consumption. The genetically modified crop produces a toxin that acts like a pesticide for certain common pests. But the effect that this toxic has on consumers is a matter of debate. Many NGOs and activists point to the alleged harmful effect that Bt cotton feed has had on cattle in several parts of the country to assert how poisonous Bt brinjal can be to humans. Besides, there is also concern that the genetically modified brinjal's high yield characteristic might not last. For, the experience with Bt cotton has shown that after a few years of high yield, pests develop resistance to the Bt toxin, which in turn necessitates the use of excessive pesticides that further poison the environment.


There are both positive and negative aspects to the introduction of Bt brinjal. Nonetheless, whether the genetically modified crop should be introduced or not is something that all stakeholders must decide collectively. Even though field trials of Bt brinjal were conducted between 2007 and 2009, the results of the tests have been far from conclusive. There is no doubt that given the circumstances more testing needs to be done before the genetically modified variety is introduced on a large scale. It is welcome that Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh is holding consultations with farmers, scientists and activists across seven cities to gauge public opinion regarding the issue. In that respect, it is interesting to note that a common man's vegetable has highlighted our democratic credentials. In fact, Ministers within the Union Government have been on opposing sides of the Bt brinjal debate. This is how it should be for all important policy decisions. Keeping with our democratic traditions, it would be best if more people from various sections of society are included in the Bt debate. Far more research needs to done before a final call in the matter is taken. For the moment, caution should be the watchword.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

RESTARTING PEACE TALKS

OBAMA SHOULD AVOID BEING TOO PUSHY


US President Barack Obama is at last beginning to realise that not everybody is equally impressed by his highfalutin sermons on peace which are often tailored to please those irrevocably committed to waging war by any means, for instance Islamists who have pledged the destruction of Israel. In the early months of his presidency, he did try to bully Israel into capitulating before an obdurate Hamas, but that only further hardened positions in Jerusalem. The imperious command issued by Mr Obama, instructing Israel to halt all construction activity in the West Bank, was politely but firmly ignored; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, not wanting to alienate America, merely agreed to slowdown construction activity in some of the areas claimed by the Palestinians. While Hamas has by and large remained indifferent to Mr Obama's grandstanding, most noticeably during his Cairo visit, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has been less recalcitrant, though he, too, has sought to up the ante, albeit without raising hackles in Israel. As a result, the peace talks, which had progressed smoothly when Mr Ehud Olmert was Prime Minister — a significant role was played by then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who now sits in the Opposition in the Knesset — and held out the promise of an accord, have now been virtually abandoned. In retrospect, rather than set new, and unacceptable, terms of engagement to impress the Arabs, Mr Obama should have persisted with his predecessor's policy of tempered involvement that had paid rich dividends, as was witnessed at the Annapolis Conference. Tragically, that momentum has been lost, serving nobody's interest, apart from that of Hamas and its sponsors.


If the Obama Administration now plans to recalibrate its approach to the Israel-Palestine conflict, it must begin by getting real: There is no percentage in either expecting or demanding Israel to part with East Jerusalem; that is not going to happen. The 'Green Line' of 1967 can be reverted to, provided there are — and Israel has made this abundantly clear, irrespective of which party or coalition is in power — 'adjustments' to what was then the border. Although Fatah hasn't officially given up the demand for Palestinian refugees' right to return, this is an issue which is unlikely to figure high on the agenda for any future talks; the Fatah leadership is reconciled to the impossibility of this demand being accepted. Yet, there are many issues on which there is an agreement of sorts. It is on these that US special envoy George Mitchell should focus during his ongoing visit to the region. That could help kick-start the stalled peace process.

 

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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IPL HAS ADDED TO MEA OPTIONS

ASHOK MALIK


There are two ways of looking at the decision of the eight franchises of the Indian Premier League to not bid for a single Pakistani cricketer in this week's auction in Mumbai. The first is to criticise the boycott and resort to the old cliché that "sports and politics must not mix". The second is to consider a broader phenomenon — the increasing role of Indian business in both shaping and reflecting foreign policy and its concerns.


As one of India's largest leisure businesses, the IPL fits into this framework. Mixing politics and sport — avoidable or otherwise — is something Governments do. The IPL franchises are private entities, autonomous of the government. They are not mixing sport and politics; they are only refusing to mix business and risk.


An analogy may be useful here. Indian Information Technology and IT-enabled services companies have been expanding. There is a limit to how much they can grow within India. Enough quality human resource simply isn't available. To fill the gap, Indian ITeS companies have been setting up subsidiaries in countries as far apart as Ireland and Chile. As part its peace dividend, with the civil war having ended, Sri Lanka hopes its English-speaking graduates will attract Indian ITeS companies who may want to make Colombo a hub.


If peace and amity prevailed in South Asia, Lahore and Karachi would have been obvious choices for Indian ITeS companies looking to set up ancillary call centres, data-processing units or other outsourcing facilities. Both cities have a substantial young and educated population. Company executives would find it convenient to travel between headquarters in India and branch offices in Pakistan. There would be fewer food problems and no jet lag!


Yet, no Indian IT/ITeS company in its right mind would consider opening subsidiaries in Pakistan. There would be two compelling obstacles. One, the ability of Pakistani employees, partners and enterprise stakeholders to deliver on contractual commitments would be extraordinarily dependent on cooperation by extraneous, political factors. Two, the cost of keeping facilities located in Pakistan secure from terrorism and other law and order threats would be substantial. It would eat into profitability. Insurance companies would demand higher premiums.

This is exactly how the IPL franchises saw the prospect of recruiting Pakistani cricketers. Contrary to initial speculation, there was no hint from the Government of India. It is true, franchise sources say, that the IPL commissioner did have a chat with the eight city-based teams and told them they could buy Pakistani cricketers at their own risk. If there were visa or political issues and the players couldn't make it, a last-minute replacement or purchase of a back-up cricketer from another country would not be possible.


The franchise owners then took their call. Particularly in Mumbai, there were apprehensions about protests from groups like the Shiv Sena in case a Pakistani cricketer was part of an IPL team. In these circumstances, the cost of providing security to the single Pakistani in the squad would be disproportionate to what was being spent on safeguarding the rest of the team.


There was also danger of negative publicity. IPL teams are putting together expensive promotional campaigns centred on star cricketers. If one of these focussed on a Pakistani cricketer and happened to coincide with, say, a terror incident linked to Islamist groups across the border, it may have become inconvenient.


Finally, this was not a full-fledged auction; the teams were searching for specific spots and skills — the one fast bowler, a single top order batsman — rather than building complete teams. In this scenario, if a risk-free alternative to a Pakistani was available, he was chosen. That is why Kolkata Knight Riders chased Shane Bond and not Umar Gul. Cricketers from the West Indies, New Zealand and Australia got lucky. It was like Ireland and Chile benefiting from the Indian IT/ITeS sector's inability to invest in Pakistan.


What are the wider implications of the IPL auction? For a start, they must compel us to rethink the whole issue of civil society pressure in terms of Indo-Pakistani relations.


Thus far civil society pressure has been interpreted as a nudge to Governments in India to make unilateral concessions. The IPL experience suggests a section of civil society is conveying a very different message. It is sceptical of the practicability of meaningful engagement with Pakistan in the near future. Without going into whether this is good or bad, right or wrong, it has to be recognised that this message is a reality.


Next, in a time of greater democratisation, more vociferous expression of middle class opinion and of Indian business leaving its fingerprints on foreign policy, no government can choose to ignore the signal from the Mumbai auction-room. Essentially, key representatives of an industry (IPL/cricket) that has both a massive profile and huge revenues have said they are unsure of how their consumers and clients (or fans and sponsors) will react to an embracing of Pakistan.


This cannot be dismissed. It is indicative of at least a segment of the public mood. There is not necessarily hostility at work here, but perhaps only an abundance of caution. The UPA Government will need to factor it in before it makes itsnext moves towards Pakistan.


Finally, those who track the Ministry of External Affairs and the sources and imperatives of Indian foreign policy have a new animal to study: Cricket's potential for coercive diplomacy. The IPL franchises have placed the equivalent of an economic embargo on Pakistan.


India has very little leverage — political or socio-economic — within Pakistan and its ability to "impose costs" in the face of provocation is limited. The IPL boycott of Pakistan, the income loss to individual cricketers and the open snubbing of that country's cricket community, represents just such an "imposition of costs".


This has been done by civil society. Yet, it would be foolish to expect Indian diplomacy not to use it to its advantage. Whether agreeable or otherwise, the IPL has just added another arrow to the MEA's quiver.

-- malikashok@gmail.com

 

********************************************

THE PIONEER

COLUMN

IPL HAS ADDED TO MEA OPTIONS

ASHOK MALIK


There are two ways of looking at the decision of the eight franchises of the Indian Premier League to not bid for a single Pakistani cricketer in this week's auction in Mumbai. The first is to criticise the boycott and resort to the old cliché that "sports and politics must not mix". The second is to consider a broader phenomenon — the increasing role of Indian business in both shaping and reflecting foreign policy and its concerns.


As one of India's largest leisure businesses, the IPL fits into this framework. Mixing politics and sport — avoidable or otherwise — is something Governments do. The IPL franchises are private entities, autonomous of the government. They are not mixing sport and politics; they are only refusing to mix business and risk.


An analogy may be useful here. Indian Information Technology and IT-enabled services companies have been expanding. There is a limit to how much they can grow within India. Enough quality human resource simply isn't available. To fill the gap, Indian ITeS companies have been setting up subsidiaries in countries as far apart as Ireland and Chile. As part its peace dividend, with the civil war having ended, Sri Lanka hopes its English-speaking graduates will attract Indian ITeS companies who may want to make Colombo a hub.


If peace and amity prevailed in South Asia, Lahore and Karachi would have been obvious choices for Indian ITeS companies looking to set up ancillary call centres, data-processing units or other outsourcing facilities. Both cities have a substantial young and educated population. Company executives would find it convenient to travel between headquarters in India and branch offices in Pakistan. There would be fewer food problems and no jet lag!


Yet, no Indian IT/ITeS company in its right mind would consider opening subsidiaries in Pakistan. There would be two compelling obstacles. One, the ability of Pakistani employees, partners and enterprise stakeholders to deliver on contractual commitments would be extraordinarily dependent on cooperation by extraneous, political factors. Two, the cost of keeping facilities located in Pakistan secure from terrorism and other law and order threats would be substantial. It would eat into profitability. Insurance companies would demand higher premiums.

This is exactly how the IPL franchises saw the prospect of recruiting Pakistani cricketers. Contrary to initial speculation, there was no hint from the Government of India. It is true, franchise sources say, that the IPL commissioner did have a chat with the eight city-based teams and told them they could buy Pakistani cricketers at their own risk. If there were visa or political issues and the players couldn't make it, a last-minute replacement or purchase of a back-up cricketer from another country would not be possible.


The franchise owners then took their call. Particularly in Mumbai, there were apprehensions about protests from groups like the Shiv Sena in case a Pakistani cricketer was part of an IPL team. In these circumstances, the cost of providing security to the single Pakistani in the squad would be disproportionate to what was being spent on safeguarding the rest of the team.


There was also danger of negative publicity. IPL teams are putting together expensive promotional campaigns centred on star cricketers. If one of these focussed on a Pakistani cricketer and happened to coincide with, say, a terror incident linked to Islamist groups across the border, it may have become inconvenient.

Finally, this was not a full-fledged auction; the teams were searching for specific spots and skills — the one fast bowler, a single top order batsman — rather than building complete teams. In this scenario, if a risk-free alternative to a Pakistani was available, he was chosen. That is why Kolkata Knight Riders chased Shane Bond and not Umar Gul. Cricketers from the West Indies, New Zealand and Australia got lucky. It was like Ireland and Chile benefiting from the Indian IT/ITeS sector's inability to invest in Pakistan.


What are the wider implications of the IPL auction? For a start, they must compel us to rethink the whole issue of civil society pressure in terms of Indo-Pakistani relations.


Thus far civil society pressure has been interpreted as a nudge to Governments in India to make unilateral concessions. The IPL experience suggests a section of civil society is conveying a very different message. It is sceptical of the practicability of meaningful engagement with Pakistan in the near future. Without going into whether this is good or bad, right or wrong, it has to be recognised that this message is a reality.


Next, in a time of greater democratisation, more vociferous expression of middle class opinion and of Indian business leaving its fingerprints on foreign policy, no government can choose to ignore the signal from the Mumbai auction-room. Essentially, key representatives of an industry (IPL/cricket) that has both a massive profile and huge revenues have said they are unsure of how their consumers and clients (or fans and sponsors) will react to an embracing of Pakistan.


This cannot be dismissed. It is indicative of at least a segment of the public mood. There is not necessarily hostility at work here, but perhaps only an abundance of caution. The UPA Government will need to factor it in before it makes itsnext moves towards Pakistan.


Finally, those who track the Ministry of External Affairs and the sources and imperatives of Indian foreign policy have a new animal to study: Cricket's potential for coercive diplomacy. The IPL franchises have placed the equivalent of an economic embargo on Pakistan.


India has very little leverage — political or socio-economic — within Pakistan and its ability to "impose costs" in the face of provocation is limited. The IPL boycott of Pakistan, the income loss to individual cricketers and the open snubbing of that country's cricket community, represents just such an "imposition of costs".


This has been done by civil society. Yet, it would be foolish to expect Indian diplomacy not to use it to its advantage. Whether agreeable or otherwise, the IPL has just added another arrow to the MEA's quiver.

-- malikashok@gmail.com

***************************************

THE PIONEER

OPED

MATERIALISM IS THE PROBLEM

AJIT BISHNOI


With materialism taking deeper roots with each passing day, more and more people, especially the youth, are moving away from religious beliefs. Therefore, a natural query has arisen as to whether faith in god or a higher power is useful even in this age of scientific discoveries and high technology.

 

The answer is yes. There are many good reasons why spirituality is still very useful and will continue to be so. Practically speaking, one who has faith in a higher power tends to have a long-term perspective of life, whereas faithless people are likely to be attracted by immediate gains. It has been observed that those who are spiritual are usually calm and composed by nature while materialistic people tend to be very passionate. Spiritualists don't sin because they are mindful of god's omnipresence. Spiritual people also do not cheat themselves by squandering their precious human lives but try to make themselves as productive as possible. They set good examples for others around them to follow.


What does the Bhagvad Gita have to say on this topic? In verse 15.15, Sri Krishna states that from him come memory, intelligence and the ability to forget unpleasant occurrences of the past. We all know how useful memory can be in moulding our lives. People connected to god develop the sixth sense. Intelligence here refers to higher intelligence that is beyond material intelligence. In fact, god guides his followers (Gita, 18.66). Not only this, he also helps them overcome difficulties (Gita, 18.58).


It is a universal experience that those connected to god have peace of mind, whereas others are not likely to have this boon (Gita, 2.66). Devotees of god are more tolerant because they have strong faith in his fairness (Gita, 2.14). Spiritualists are patient since they know that real success is few and far between (Gita, 6.25). They are also more likely to be dutiful (Gita, 3.8). Equanimity is another quality often seen in people connected to god (Gita, 2.48). Devotees are also not as fearful as others. They seek liberation from the painful cycle of life and death (Gita, 5.17), and enjoy blissful existence in their present lives.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

COMRADES IN DYSTOPIA

JYOTI BASU'S PARTY'S BOURGEOISIE DEGENERATION GOT FRESH MOMENTUM IN THE WEEK OF HIS DEATH. A SATURDAY SPECIAL FOCUS

SAUGAR SENGUPTA


"Banglar maati durjoy ghati

Jene nebe durbritto"

(The raiders should know that Bengal is impenetrable)


The CPI(M) interpreted Tuesday's massive turnout for the last journey of their patriarch, Jyoti Basu, as sign of a fortunes turnaround. The Left Front had been in a comatose state for nearly a year and the passing of the former chief minister afforded them the chance to be a little active again. When the event concluded, every arm of the party — cultural, economic and political — felt a little less rusty. Now, they are out fishing for sympathy votes.


Prakash Karat, who is perceived widely in Kolkata as the woodcutter who often saws off the branch he perches on, must be clicking his tongue over the rapid descent of the CPI(M) into bourgeoisie hell. But everything that the CPI(M)'s general secretary saw and every word he heard this week reminded him of failures, mostly of his own creation. The passing of Basu revived many memories among Bengalis. They recalled the biggest of the historic blunders, the one Karat, as ideologue had scripted back in 1996 for the purpose of blocking Basu's date with history. Not only is he the villain in Communist folklore for depriving India its first red prime minister — a regret Basu held close to his heart till his last day on earth — but also because he prevented the Bengalis from seeing one of their own 'rule' from Delhi.


Then there was the ignominious sacking of Somnath Chatterjee. The dart which brought down Chatterjee was actually intended for Manmohan Singh. In a week of eulogies, Chatterjee got his back on Karat by openly claiming that Jyoti Basu had not approved of the CPI(M)'s opposition to the nuclear deal and had been quite 'hurt' with Karat's high-handedness. The pompously self-righteous Chatterjee affected his characteristic trembling voice to recall how 'hurt' Basu had been over his expulsion.


However, a bigger snub awaited the general secretary. Under pressure from his party he was forced to give ascent to the UPA government's overture of a military gun salute and transportation to his final destination in a national flag-draped gun carriage. This added insult to injury because the hardliner in Karat was certain to disapprove of a Communist leader going in anything less than the red flag. It was beyond his comprehension that the patriarch died more as a national leader than as a Communist. More bourgeoisie elements turned out to pay homage than Communists.


The huge sea of humanity which turned out to bid Basu adieu made many CPI(M) leaders interpret it a sign of 'homecoming'. And 'homecoming' for who? "Why," said a senior leader, "all those leftists who had rejected the Left Front in the 2009 election?" Not one to let opportunities slip by, the party's state secretary and Left Front chairman, Biman Bose, has drawn up plans for a campaign to resurrect the persona of Basu. This would see chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee go to districts and blocks which had given the Left a snubbing in the election. Unbelievable but true, the Communists are out for sympathy votes in the 2010 municipal elections which are scheduled for mid-2005.


The non-presence of Mamata Banerjee at the Raj Bhawan, in spite of having advance knowledge of Sonia Gandhi's visit, may have stirred hopes of an imminent rift in the UPA. Earlier, Banerjee had boycotted the prime minister during his brief visit on January 7 to the hospital where Basu was under treatment, and also on January 16 when he came to Kolkata on official work.

Going by the history of sympathy waves and their impact on elections, the election gods have always made an exception for politicians who had entered political graves long before their demise. Lyndon Johnson used it to defeat Barry Goldwater in the year after John F Kennedy's assassination. His campaign speeches were peppered with liberal references to the 'golden era of Kennedy'. American voters were swayed; they failed to realise that Johnson was hurling them into the Vietnam trap.


Nearer home, the Pakistan People's Party reaped the proverbial harvest following the murder of Benazir Bhutto. The PPP emerged the single largest party in the February 2008 election. The electorate forgot the corruption charges against her husband, Asif Ali Zardari. Eventually, Zardari came to be the president of Pakistan beating Ms Bhutto's deputy.


No Indian can forget 1984, when Rajiv Gandhi swept to power by an unprecedented margin by using his mother, Indira's face on every campaign poster. In 1991, Rajiv himself was subject of another sympathy wave when he was killed in Sriperumbudur half way through the election. The Congress was on an extremely wobbly wicket in that election, but Rajiv's death helped it pick up enough seats in the remaining rounds to emerge as the single biggest party.


In Tamil Nadu, actor-turned-politician J Jayalalitha built her first election campaign on the grave of her mentor and AIADMK founder, MG Ramachandran. The sympathy wave was so strong that it helped 'Amma' even two years after MGR's passing. There are little instances galore from all over India. Neeraj Shekhar, the politically unknown son of Chandra Shekhar, won the Balia Lok Sabha seat on the Samajwadi Party ticket in the bypoll that followed the former prime minister's death. More recently, the tragic accident that claimed 'YSR' generated enough sympathy for the Congress to win the by-elections in Andhra Pradesh. In West Bengal itself, the Trinamool Congress candidate, Firoza Biwi, was elected in the Nandigram Assembly by-election after her son was killed in the infamous police firing of March 2007. However, many felt that Firoza Biwi's victory was more a result of the anti-land acquisition struggle.


The Communists claim that their dogma forbids them from practicing idolatry. Yet, the Kerala elections of 2001 saw heavy use of the 1999 death of EMS Namboodiripad as a rallying symbol. It's another matter that the trick failed to work — the Marxists were trounced in that election as the power of anti-incumbency is always too powerful in Kerala. In West Bengal too a bid fill the vacuum left by maverick leader Subhash Chakravorty by fielding his widow, Romola, as the candidate for the Belgachhia East by-election backfired. Romola was defeated by a huge margin.


These little home truths are not deterring the 'Biman-Buddha' duo from playing for high stakes. The party has started printing Basu posters in their thousands and putting them up at strategic places in towns and villages all over the state. The Trinamool Congress, ever vigilant against the CPI (M)'s antics, must have got wind of the new game because barely 48 hours after the funeral the state had the first fracas over the posters. It was reported from Tiljala in east Kolkata that Basu posters were burnt on the very walls they were stuck on. This was not the only case. In SSKM hospital also the posters were defaced.


Expect more blood to flow, this time over a dead Basu. For, Bengal is back to where Jyoti Basu left it.

 

The writer is Kolkata correspondent, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

AFTER ME, THE DELUGE

JUST AS THE 'SUN KING' ANTICIPATED HIS BOURBON DESCENDANTS' FALL, JYOTI BASU'S LIFE STORY FORETOLD DOOM NOT JUST FOR HIS CPI(M) BUT ALSO THE LEFT CAUSE IN INDIA

UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI


Adulteress to lover while enjoying post-coital smoke: "My entire life is a lie, and you are the only truth".


Jyoti Basu, who died on Sunday, lived such a life. However, to be fair, the duplicity that shaped his persona belongs actually the Communist movement of India of which he was one of the more acceptable faces. The combination of the dangerous contradictions that characterised their dialectics came to tipping point in the rice fields of Nandigram and Singur. In the badlands of Lalgarh, yesterday's hunters are todays hunted. Since March 2007, it's been one, non-stop downward spiral for the CPI (M).


And the CPI(M) is taking down with it all those who shared its table.


The implications of 2011, when the coup de grace is expected to be administered by Mamata Banerjee in the Assembly election, are too large for the ordinary Bengali to comprehend. It will have the impact of crippling the Indian political Left, leaving its once proud ideologues groping in the dark for a political vehicle to carry the voice of the underdog into Parliament.


The coming fall of the Bengal Left Front would rank as a political event of outstanding definitiveness, along with it would go the last reminder of 1977. But there is a flipside. What's good news for the Bengali is actually better news for agents of the Washington Consensus. It will mark the end of the Indian socialist dream, which by supreme irony would coincide with globocapitalism's worst hour. Nobel laureate Amartya Sen wrote in the Financial Times' aptly titled special issue, 'Future of capitalism' (May 15, 2009): "The altered context of the post-2008 global economic meltdown triggered off by reckless speculation does not call for new capitalism, but an open minded understanding of older ideas."


A Nicolas Sarkozy today is not shy of posing with Das Kapital. Germany's finance minister Peter Steinbrück went on record saying, "certain parts of Karl Marx's thinking are really not so bad." But who will stand up for a socialist India after 2011? Which political combine will be effective in resisting sweetheart disinvestment deals? Does any formation have the capacity, numerical or intellectual, to check the sellout of State Bank of India and Indian Railways — plans for which are ready? What about the saving of provident funds and pensions, the stymieing of hire-and-fire through so-called 'labour reforms?'


The Communists were good at all this. When they blocked public sector divestment in 2004, the comprador Press bawled there'd be no money to build schools and hospitals. But now, you have to concede that India nearly made it to the double-digit growth regime by 2008, leaving more than enough money — Rs 63,246 crore in 2007-08, i.e. 17.24 per cent higher than the stretch of GDP — for the social sector.


Jyoti Basu led from the front in the post-Indira Communist aggrandisement of the Left space in national politics. But once that was achieved — the raising of the VP Singh edifice in 1989 was the defining point — he chose to embark upon a schizophrenic journey. He amortised his Communist ideals but professed resistance to the social democrat label. The launch of his New Industrial Policy in 1994 was the signal to some of the worst traditions of crony capitalism supplanting itself on the ruins of the earlier industrial complex of West Bengal which Basu had destroyed in an earlier avatar. The state gained nothing substantial from this paradigm shift. The number of manufacturing industries in Bengal, arguably the big-ticket employment generators, actually fell from their 1980-81 levels in the last year of Basu's term. As for his successor, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, all the media hype resulted in the state's share of FDI inflows in 2006 adding up to 1.36 per cent of the national aggregate.

At some point, Basu's ambitions — adoringly dubbed 'pragmatic' by the chattering classes — were destined to collide with the views of a party fundamentally opposed to almost everything he wanted to do. He could try to get big things done with the help of his industry backers. Or, he could work with his party. But it was impossible to do both. That resulted in personal frustration and the "historic blunder" outcry in January 1997 through an interview to MJ Akbar. Often times he was forced to undertake strategies of inside deal making, which alienated the many ordinary Bengalis who don't approve of such arrangements. This had the unhappy result of destroying the inner-discipline which the CPI(M) prided for itself. By 1998 it was not certain what Basu was defending — his right to be PM in the event of another offer coming his way; West Bengal's industrialisation through asset stripping, or his own survival?


The ugly scenes that marked the party conferences in the run up to the 1998 party congress are still etched in the popular consciousness. The draft political resolution that was scripted by the Politburo directly opposed Basu's 'pragmatic' line about joining a coalition government at the centre. When it was passed down for mechanical passing by local units, the Buddhadeb (Bhattacharjee)-Biman(Bose)-Anil (Biswas) troika opposed it virulently, violently and vulgarly. Things came to such a pass at the Calcutta district conference that a senior leader rose to scream at him "buro bham" — the Bengali equivalent of 'you old rascal'.


Polite society will not admit to two facts about Basu, but in the present context their mentioning is important. First, in 1996, his forked-tongued ways had almost cost Basu his Satgachhia seat. He would have lost had the BJP candidate not snatched 10,000-odd votes from the Congressman who finished a close second by about 8,000 votes. Reason: his party had withdrawn its famous rigging machinery for a chief minister they secretly despised. The second fact follows. Though Basu had been wanting out from mid-1998 onwards, he finally had to be pushed out. His 'resignation' happened just days after Harkishen Singh Surjeet declared that the 2001 Assembly election would be fought under Basu's leadership.


The fact that even as late as 2005, Basu kept claiming success with "land reforms" and "alternative development" speaks volumes of the destruction wreaked by his own hypocrisy on himself. In 2006, a member of the state's Planning Board, himself a Left Front appointee, revealed that West Bengal is a state where 55 per cent of the people hold 3.3 per cent of the land, which is less than the national average of 5.97 and 58.3 per cent respectively. The state is home to 11.1 per cent of the country's SC, OBC and ST population who have been roundly fooled by the 'class consciousness' forced upon them by Basu and his ilk. Muslims make up 26 per cent of the state, but never a poorer, more miserable lot would you encounter anywhere else.


Jyoti Basu avoided arguments over philosophy and ideology. And so he failed to offer a pointed and running explanation of why he was reversing his former policies. He had perhaps assumed he was Ouroboros from Greek mythology — a snake that could end itself only by self-consumption. After 2011, India's 80 per cent who live on Rs 20 a day, will suffer the pains of that fallacy.


 The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer and author, Bengal's Night Without End, New Delhi 2006

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

JYOTI BASU, COMMUNISM WERE TWO DIFFERENT THINGS

THE MAN WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR THE PARTY AND NEVER QUESTIONED THE 'LINE' GAVE THE COMMUNIST MOVEMENT (OR AN APOLOGY FOR IT) AN EXTRA INNINGS IN THE WORLD'S LARGEST DEMOCRACY WITHOUT KNOWING MUCH MARX HIMSELF

SIDDHARTHA SHANKAR RAY


Jyoti Basu and I were supposed to be sworn political enemies. We described each other as villains in our speeches and our respective parties portrayed both of us as murderers and corrupt and much else. But, at the end of the day, Jyoti and I got together and had a drink.


I was exactly six years his junior and practically followed his footsteps up to a point. He joined St. Xavier's and I went there after six years. After that he went to Presidency College, which too became my alma mater. That finished, he went to England to pursue a career at the Bar, which too was my chosen field. Eventually both of us joined politics, albeit in opposing parties.


There were mysterious aspects about Jyoti. He was externally a committed


Communist who made many personal sacrifices for the party. But deep down he lacked the viciousness and bitterness that marks a Communist's character and attitude to life. I know for a fact that he was not very well-educated in the Communist theory, because he told me so. He was more valuable to his party as a public face, a task he carried out quite well. That perhaps explains why he was different from anybody else I have met in my long political life. We were friends despite my hostility to Communism and the CPI(M). To me Jyoti was a class apart from the general CPI(M) leader.


He once admitted to me that he knew very little about Bengali culture and had practically zero knowledge of Rabindranath. That was understandable because he was brought up in a westernised atmosphere. In those days, students of St. Xavier's were not taught Bengali but Latin and Greek. The few Bengali boys on the rolls were expected to learn their mother tongue at home. Most of these boys had their homes in the cosmopolitan parts of town and their relatives were quite Anglicised. That is why Basu never developed strong communication skills. His speeches always proceeded through broken sentences.


But a transformation came in him later. Initially, after his return from England, he joined the Calcutta High Court and even participated in cricket matches with the top barristers of the city. But when he became a Communist organiser of railway workers, he went and lived among the poor and discarded all his old ways. He kept contact with his old society, however.


Snehangshu Acharya, who was from a princely family, remained his closest friend for life. Jyoti was the last reminder of an age when boys from rich and aristocratic families joined politics for the furtherance of their passion to change the world. There were people like Indrajit Gupta, who knew more about rural England than rural Bengal. Bhupesh Gupta, Mohit Sen and several others belong to that genre.


During the 1950s and 1960s, Basu struggled in great poverty. He received only Rs 250 as an MLA's wages and half of this he surrendered to his party. I was very moved by this and so I requested Dr BC Roy, the first chief minister of West Bengal, to see if he could do something. Dr Roy was a personal friend of Jyoti's father. He decided to award a higher salary for Jyoti, because he was the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly. This came to Rs 750, which in 1957 was a princely amount. But Jyoti declined to accept it. He continued living the way he did. Such was his commitment to principles.

Of course, I will not absolve him from the blame for most of the things that are wrong about West Bengal today. This may also be the result of the peculiar mindset of his party which forced Jyoti into maintaining the status quo. They were only interested in consolidating their party's administration. In that respect, Jyoti was a better administrator of the CPI(M) than of West Bengal. It was a real tragedy that Bengal failed to keep apace with the national mood. Other states that were far behind us surged ahead in education, industry and even culture.

The Congress also failed the Bengalis as an Opposition. I don't wish to grudge Jyoti of due respect (of course, he had many fine qualities for which the people gave him non-stop support for 23 years) but the Left Front could not have been so successful if there was an alternative set of credible people ready with a distinctive vision for governance. Besides, the Congress failed to attract new faces and as a result it continues to have the same people who were rejected in 1977.


The "historic blunder" bit was very much part of the Communist incompetence at judging the current. I don't know if Jyoti would have been a good prime minister or even a prime minister with a decent enough term to leave an impression, but this much is certain: the Congress which was supporting the coalition government led by HD Deve Gowda and then by IK Gujral, would not have treated Jyoti the way they treated those two.


You cannot run away from the fact that the politics of violence was firmly entrenched under Jyoti. It is doubtful if Jyoti could have done something to stem this, but maybe his primary loyalty was to his party. The Communists don't abjure violence as it is part of their philosophy to create divisions in society.


As told to Saturday Special

 

The author is Former CM and Ambassador


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MAIL TODAY

EDITORIAL

DON'T BLOW IPL ISSUE OUT OF PROPORTION

 

IT is no secret that relations between India and Pakistan are not good. But that should not mean that the two sides work actively to make them worse. The recent spat over the refusal of franchisees of the Indian Premier League to bid for any Pakistani player in an auction is a case in point. The response of Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik declaring that the episode brought into question India's seriousness vis- à- vis the peace process, or the cancellation of the visit of Pakistani members of parliament appears to be clearly over the top.

 

It is impossible to determine whether or not the Indian government leaned on the team owners. Pakistani leaders would have been better advised to take at face value the insistence of Minister of External Affairs S. M. Krishna that the government had nothing to do with the auction or its outcome and that of the owners who have said that issues of availability and security dictated their stance. At the same time, Mr Krishna is right in saying that Pakistan must " introspect on the reasons which have put a strain on relations between India and Pakistan." Relations between India and Pakistan have been more than usually fraught since the Mumbai carnage. More than the hypothetical issue of official Pakistani complicity in the event, is the perception that the Pakistani authorities have not been doing their best to act against those who carried out the attack. Hafiz Muhammad Saeed remains free and the trial of those charged, such as Lashkar- e- Tayyeba operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi seems to be taking place fitfully.

 

As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh realised in the aftermath of the Sharm el Sheikh joint statement, public opinion in India is not yet willing to delink the composite dialogue from the issue of terrorism.

 

Helpful actions by Pakistan such as acting and being seen to act against the perpetrators of Mumbai will certainly assist the process of getting the talks back on track.

 

Statements such as the one made by Pakistan prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that Pakistan cannot give India any guarantee that another 26/ 11 will not recur do not help things. Mr Raza, no doubt, meant that Pakistan had no control over its non- state actors but he ended up sounding insensitive.

 

The appointment of former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Shivshankar Menon as the new National Security Adviser provides an opportunity to come up with newer solutions to the Indo- Pak conundrum.

 

Since India cannot choose its neighbours, it has to work ceaselessly to get along with them.

 

 

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MAIL TODAY

DISTURBING FINDINGS

 

THE late Indira Gandhi once famously said that poverty was a global phenomenon. We might have to amend that to corruption.

 

Corruption has become endemic in our polity. Most forms of public or civil service — whether politics or government — are widely, and quite justifiably, considered to be riddled with corruption. But India Inc — the newer, bolder, globe conquering face of corporate India which has become familiar in post- reform India — has always been considered to be mostly immune to the virus of corruption infecting other parts of our society. Therefore, the finding of a recent survey of the corporate sector in India showing that a staggering nine out of ten employees perceive their company as corrupt comes as a rude surprise.

 

While an Enron might crop up every now and then, a Satyam was a rarity in India.

 

The Satyam scandal was a blow to the image of India Inc and its entrepreneurs and managers, but there was widespread belief that it was a stray incident. That belief is now shaken by the survey's findings.

 

Over 90 per cent of employees believe that their company window- dresses its balance sheet. It also appears that most of the corruption is of the straight- forward money variety. Nepotism, abuse of office and other such sins actually figure fairly low down the list.

 

Admittedly, these are the findings of a sample survey, and the results may vary with more exhaustive research. Nevertheless, the survey's report is extremely disturbing, and throws a fresh focus on the subject of corporate governance and ethics.

 

Legislative action or greater regulation alone will not be the answer. Corporate leaders need to introspect seriously, and come up with workable means of ensuring greater probity in business life.

 

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MAIL TODAY

NO COMFORT IN ANY CURRENCY

BY SAUMITRA CHAUDHURI

 

BE READYFOR AFTERSHOCKS OFTHE FINANCIALCRISIS

IN MY last column in November 2009, I had written that " we should not be surprised to see the occasional sudden retreats of business confidence and jitteriness in the financial and currency markets". That column had focused on the serious difficulties that the US economy still faces, the decline in the dollar and its fallout. After the emergence of the Euro, there is little choice left in the world currency markets. There is the dollar and the anti- dollar, namely, the Euro. And the Euro is still something of an artefact put together by the glue of politics and when pieces in that artefact come loose, so does the Euro.

 

The prime mover in the Euro- zone is Germany, with France being the auxiliary engine. Italy is still the third largest economy in the Euro- zone, but it is laidback and does not participate in the heavy lifting. The greatest beneficiaries of the single market which has culminated in today's Euro- zone are Spain, Portugal, Greece and Ireland. Thirty years back, these countries had a per capita income barely half that of rich west Europeans — Germans, French, British, Dutch, Belgians. Now it is just 20 per cent less. Portugal has gone from having less than one- third the per capita income of rich Europeans thirty years ago, to about 55 per cent. And then, voila, a decade back, there was one common currency, one monetary policy and ( ostensibly) one fiscal policy. It is not entirely unusual to have an economy composed of regions that vary in their level of economic development and prosperity. Large national economies such as the USA and India and China have states that vary quite sharply in the level of economic development and prosperity, yet they are a single nation. Fortunately they did not have a recent history of being violently competing rival kingdoms and republics.

 

Greece

 

In the Euro experiment, they were.

 

Indeed one of the guiding visions of the idea of the European Union was that never again will Europe's nations come to war against each other — a complete repudiation of a 500- year old legacy of violent history.

 

In this objective, the plan has worked excellently. However, in their impatience to achieve economic convergence, perhaps too much of a burden was placed on the better- off and too little demanded from those who were to catch up. Thus, the woes of the mortgage crisis which was prominent in its existence in Spain, Portugal and Ireland, sit to an unusually great extent on Brussels, that is, the rest of the Euro- zone members.

 

It is truly unbelievable when it turns out that the fiscal deficit of Greece was not 4 per cent of GDP last year, as had been bruited by the government, but 12.7 per cent — and that too with a debt/ GDP ratio of 86 per cent. As Martin Wolf writes in the Financial Times , " Having falsified its figures for years, violating the trust of its partners, Greece is in the doghouse". It is indeed a dismal commentary on how loose was the discipline in the march to " convergence" and thus the common currency. And one shudders to imagine what would have happened to a developing Asian country if it had done something like that? Greek government bonds are now priced 300 basis points ( bps) above German ones. Were investors not nearly certain that the Euro-" core" aka Germany and France would bail the Greeks out, you could have added perhaps another zero to that premium. The ridiculous situation in Greece is a farce reminiscent of a politically incorrect Peter Sellers- like spoof on Third World economies. If this is what the First World has come to, it can call itself First World no longer. And then you remember that Greece is not the only suspicious egg in the basket — there is Portugal and Spain ( the fourth largest Euro- zone economy) and Ireland too. Not to mention the Austrian banks that made large bad complex loans to Hungarian and Polish farmers reckoned in Swiss francs: Bad idea, bad loan, dud asset. Then there are the Dutch and Belgian banks, ABN Amro, ING and Fortis that ran aground in the storm of the financial crisis.

 

There is lots of strength in the Euro- zone, but right now the warts are showing up prominently. So the Euro has been tanking and the dollar rising. It is a wretched see- saw after all: when one goes down, the other has nowhere to go but up. There is the commodity alternative — gold, oil, metals or their ETF ( exchange traded fund) variant. The problem is that, the only earning is on value appreciation; there is no cash flow.

 

For many investors this is not an option — they need a steady, albeit small, income stream and interest bearing securities are the only thing that provides that. So capital sloshes around across the Atlantic and with it do exchange rates.

 

How much has the Euro left to go down from the $ 1.41 of today? Nobody knows, but most will agree that there is some way to go. When the Euro was launched in January 1999 it was priced at $ 1.18.

 

Euro

 

A year later it fell below parity and then in the second half of 2000 and much of 2001 it stayed between 82 and 90 US cents. Since the end of 2002, the Euro went back to over parity and then in the years that followed, as the US Federal Reserve kept interest rates very low, the Euro continued to climb to $ 1.25 in the closing days of 2004, staying well above that level since. At the lowest point of the financial crisis, as investors fled what was perceived to be " risky" assets and ran to the " safe" dollar, the Euro touched $ 1.25 in October and November 2008 and then again in early March 2009. Since then the Euro has gradually moved back towards $ 1.50 in recent months, before the Greek scandal broke. The " premium" on the Euro was based on the premise that the management of the Euro- zone was safer, more sober and conservative than their trans- Atlantic cousins. Then of course there was the small fact that interest rates were slightly higher in the Euro- zone, but add to it a strong credit perception and that small juice goes a long way.

 

Fears

 

Now that the curtain is lifted we see that yes the sober guys are indeed up there, but there are all these other chaps dancing their own gig and well the sober fellows have no control over them — they only pretend to; and while for the moment they are still paying the delinquents' bills, but for much longer? And when will the burden of all this become too much for the sober old guy and he too will take to bed? Then what? Not for nothing did the capital markets coin a new acronym last month: PIGS — stands for the four countries named at the beginning of this article. And when the troubles of the last guy, S for Spain show up, and people fear there are some, perhaps large, it will be big trouble.

 

One of the strange things, or perhaps not so strange, in the world of finance is that if there is a grievous injury, if the system can hold on, somehow staunch the haemorrhage and carry on for some more time, things do get back to normal. So here is hoping that Dr. Euro will achieve the cure and in a couple of years, things will be back to even keel. But people are troubled and when they are, they act on their fears.

 

One consequence of this is that the Euro will tend to go down and since there is only the dollar out there, that will be the cross- rate to change. If and whenever the Americans do something that alarms the market — like taking Paul Krugman's advice on a second stimulus seriously — things will reverse a bit. But then it will be back to the structural flow.

 

For the rest of us, the volatility in exchange rates, market jitters and switches in direction of commodity prices are going to be painful. Our advice is to tighten the belt — monetary and fiscal — grit our teeth and ride out this rough patch for the year or two when the terrors of the financial crisis still visit market participants every other night.

 

The writer is a member of the Planning Commission

 

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MAIL TODAY

THIRD UMPIRE

QAISER MOHAMMAD ALI

 

POLITICS CAN'T UNDERMINE SPORTING TIES

THE Indian Premier League ( IPL) auction controversy and the ongoing war of words between India and Pakistan notwithstanding, the sporting/ cricketing bond between the two countries is too strong to be broken just because a few businessmen gave priority to their interests at the IPL auction over the sentiments of millions of Indian cricket fans.

 

Players from both sides of the border — this includes all other sports and not just cricket — have historically been great pals and have always enjoyed each other's company off the field. After all, their forefathers belonged to a unified India. These sportspersons are just not friends, they also love the cuisine, the products, and the tourist destinations of their so- called ' enemy' country.

 

From buying Peshawari sandals in a unique way and treating their Hindu guests with fruit juices and vegetarian dishes keeping in mind their religious sentiments to sharing their playing attire, Pakistani people have always welcomed Indians to their country. Similarly, Indians have always treated Pakistanis with respect and warmth. From treating thousands of cricket fans from across the Attari border with hot jalebis and pakories to hosting ' strangers' from Pakistan in their houses, there are any number of examples that illustrate that Indians have always believed in brotherhood and friendship with their counterparts from across the border.

 

Former Pakistan captain Zaheer Abbas married a girl from Kanpur in the early 1990s

 

and she adjusted in an alien society much like fish does to water.

 

Rameez Raja got his Lahore home designed according to Rajasthani architecture after being mesmerised by the historical palaces in Jaipur in 1987.

 

When the Indian players were disappointed over not being able to visit Peshawar markets due to security considerations, shoe merchants brought scores of pairs to the team hotel for Sachin Tendulkar and his teammates to choose from.

 

When thousands of Pakistanis crossed the border to watch an India- Pakistan ODI in Mohali a few years ago, people in the city and in neighbouring Chandigarh opened their hearts and doors so that the guests had a jolly good time on their India trip.

 

A day before that match, when buses crossed the Attari border to reach the Sector 16 Stadium in Chandigarh,

the fans were welcomed with hot jalebis and pakoris . And after the match, the Punjab Cricket Association hosted a dinner for the fans.

 

Over the years, Zaheer's love for India and things Indian seems to have only grown as he is known to shop a lot when in Delhi and elsewhere in this country.

 

The best example of the warmth between the people of the two countries since the creation of Pakistan in 1947 was witnessed on our team's 2004 tour when 8,000 Indians crossed the border to watch the Tests and ODIs — and not a single untoward incident took place.

 

Unprecedented camaraderie and bonhomie marked the historic series that signalled the resumption of bilateral series after several years.

 

Even the UN took note of the event. " I believe that both national cricket teams are pioneers in the quest for peace and stability in South Asia," Adolf Ogi, special advisor to the secretary- general on sport for development and peace, wrote to the two cricket boards.

 

One of the most heart- warming moments of that tour came when a Lahore hotel stopped serving eggs keeping in mind the sentiments of its Hindu guests who were fasting during Navratri days.

 

DUPLICITY IS NO ISSUE FOR OUR POLITICIANS

POLITICIANS in India and Pakistan have often not just played spoilsport but also taken hypocritical stances with regard to the sporting ties between the neighbours.

 

The most glaring example of this double- speak is the stand taken by Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. He and his party have been opposing the Pakistani team playing cricket matches in Mumbai for many years. Think of it, no India- Pakistan Test match has been played in Mumbai for over 30 years and not a single one- day international has been hosted by the state capital! Mumbai, though, is a much loved city for Pakistani cricketers.

 

Thackeray has also not practised what he has preached to Maharashtrians.

 

His liking for former Pakistan batsman Javed Miandad is well- known and he has hosted the former cricketer a few times at his home. The point is that if he is so against Pakistani sportspersons, why this doublefaced conduct? By the way, Thackeray is also against foreigners in the entertainment industry. But he hosted Michael Jackson when the singer performed in Mumbai some years ago.

 

BALJIT SHOULD NOT POINT FINGERS AT THE SPORTS MINISTRY

THE upcoming Hockey India election has raised a lot of heat and dust. And, some players who should have refrained from jumping into the fray have also got involved.

 

Goalkeeper Baljit Singh, who underwent a successful eye operation in the US a few months ago and whose sporting career is virtually over, was rapped on the knuckles for unnecessarily speaking against the sports ministry. His utterances are seen as part of the intense lobbying by a particular aspirant for the top post of Hockey India.After the Punjab player said that the ministry had " called him back midway through his treatment in America", a top sports ministry official phoned him and gave him an earful for his " ungrateful and untrue" statement.

 

" They ( US doctors) said that you can get your treatment in India. I told them that since the first operation was successful, let me go through the second surgery before I leave, but they refused," said Baljit, who was injured during a practice session in Pune in July.The picture painted by Bajit is not true.

 

The fact is that he has become the highest paid non- cricketer in terms of the money spent on his medical treatment.

 

Around Rs. 55 lakh was spent by the sports ministry on surgeries on his right eye and when he returned from the US, Hockey India gave him a cheque for Rs.2.5 lakh as rehabilitation expenses.

 

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MAIL TODAY

 

HEADLEY'S 26/ 11 HINT TO RAHUL BHATT

BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI

 

TERRORaccused David Coleman Headley had hinted about the 26/ 11 Mumbai attacks to filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt's son Rahul . Just after the Marriott Hotel bombing in Islamabad on September 20, 2008, Headley told Rahul that India, too, would see such attacks soon.

 

Two months later, LeT gunmen launched coordinated attacks on various targets in Mumbai with the help of information provided by Headley.

 

Rahul has divulged this in an interview to Channel 4 News . He, of course, did not know of his American friend's role in the attacks then.

 

In the interview, Rahul described Headley as an impressive man who he never even thought would be a terrorist.

 

Rahul said after 26/ 11, Headley even sent him an email expressing shock over the attacks. " In an e- mail Headley sent on December 11, 2008, he said, ' Hey guys, so sorry to see what has happened in Mumbai.

 

We should go over there and kick their a**.' He ends off by saying ' stay safe, Dave'." Headley's gym trainer Villias Varak also spoke to Channel 4 News . Both Rahul and Varak recognised Headley from his photograph shown to them. Rahul said he was quite impressed by Headley's personality.

 

" He was an impressive looking man. He had presence. He was about six- foot- two- inch in height. He was broad, a physically fit man," he said.

 

" He was not even remotely a terrorist. He was a Yank, American in all regards — great sense of humour, extremely well- informed, sensitive and a good friend. A genuinely good guy, that's the Headley I knew.

 

" I liked hanging out with him because he was one person I could learn from. He could teach me things about my areas of interest — be it guns, intelligence, spy craft, those areas." A naïve Rahul thought his friend to be a US intelligence official. " I had a hunch then, and I have a hunch now, that he was an American agent of some sort. I had nicknamed him ' Agent Headley'. I suggested to him that he worked for the CIA and he did not like it."

 

In a crucial disclosure, Rahul said Headley had dropped hints of an impending attack on India.

 

" One incident, when we were going to south Mumbai, that he mentioned to us ( was that) there was a bombing in Islamabad, at the Marriott. I remember him very clearly telling me, ' You know guys, you are going to see things like that happening now in this country'." Rahul, whose name was mentioned in the documents seized from Headley, said he was unsure of what Headley had in mind for him.

 

According to Rahul, Headley referred to Pakistan as the " Wild West". " He was aware that I was going to be acting as the leading man in a movie called Suicide Bomber , which had been conceptualised for me based on the 7/ 7 London bombings. We used to have a lot of conversations about terrorism and counterterrorism ( while) preparing for that part." According to Rahul, Headley told him: " It would really help you for your role to visit the Wild West and get some first- hand experience. Visit the gun bazaars of Peshawar and go up to the tribal areas of Waziristan." When Rahul said Pakistan was a dangerous place to go to, Headley told him he would be well- protected there.

 

Mrinal Pande is the new Prasar Bharati chief

 

MAIL TODAY IN NEW DELHI

SENIOR journalist Mrinal Pande will be the new chairperson of Prasar Bharati. Another senior journalist Suman Dubey and filmmaker Shyam Benegal are likely to be members of the body.

 

Pande's name had been doing the rounds for several days. With her appointment, the government seems to have taken the first step to restore order in Prasar Bharati after it had been marred by allegations of corruption and bickering between its members.

 

A journalist, TV personality and author, Pande was until recently the editor of Hindustan. She also worked with Doordarshan and Star News. She edited the women's magazine Vama. Daughter of Hindi novelist Shivani, Pande spent many years on the National Commission for Self- Employed Women, probing into the conditions for rag- pickers, vegetable sellers and domestic help.

 

The last chairman of the board, Arun Bhatnagar, had resigned citing serious differences with CEO B. S. Lalli. A CVC inquiry on the allegations of corruption in the board is in progress.

 

Information and broadcasting minister Ambika Soni, the source added, has already sent a report to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding the course of action that can be taken to infuse professionalism into the public broadcaster that oversees the working of Doordarshan and All India Radio.

 

RAISINA TATTLE

 

KNOW OUR LEADERS

WEEKS after he fell from grace, there still seems to be some sympathy for N. D. Tiwari.

 

A silent minority feels the former Andhra Pradesh governor should not have been pilloried for his proclivities.

 

Let the sinless cast the first stone. And it will be difficult, nay almost impossible, to assail the octogenarian without a mea culpa ! The fact remains that not all our netas are who we think they are.

 

Springing a surprise

 

SULKING Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh stunned political observers when he visited the Allahabad residence of party vice- president Janeshwar Mishra, who died of a heart attack on Friday. Singh described him as one of those rare leaders revered across party lines.

 

Singh had repeatedly attacked Mishra in the recent past, especially after he quit from all party posts, for being critical of his closeness to film actors and corporates.

 

Singh along with actress- turned politician and Rampur MP Jaya Prada spend a few minutes at Mishra's house. " His death is a great loss to me, the party and also to the country. This is the second tragedy in the week which also saw the demise of veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu," he told reporters. One of the founding members of the SP, Mishra, who was a sitting Rajya Sabha member and a former Union minister, died at a hospital after being admitted on Thursday following complaints of chest pain.

 

Paramilitary boss

 

VIKRAM Srivastava, director general ( DG) of the Indo- Tibetan Border Police ( ITBP), is fast emerging as the frontrunner for becoming the CRPF chief after incumbent DG A. S. Gill retires on January 31.

 

A key factor going in favour of Srivastatava is that he still has over two years in service before his retirement. It will enable the Union home ministry to have him in the chair as the paramilitary forces conduct long- drawn anti- Naxal operations in various states. Gill retires after remaining in the top post for a little over 11 months. His predecessor, V. K. Joshi, too, retired after just 11 months. Hence, the ministry wants someone who can head the CRPF for a longer period.

 

The B- town effect

 

POLITICAL patrons of culture are not averse to Bollywood influencing even the most solemn religious ceremonies.

 

Known for discontinuing the distribution of the rather ' risqué' Kingfisher calendar among Members of Parliament by his vociferous objections on grounds of propriety, BJP Rajya Sabha member Prabhat Jha was not so censorious about playing Bollywood songs during Basant Panchami at his home.

 

While a priest was duly distributing offerings to visitors, a minister in the Madhya Pradesh government loudly sang romantic songs from old Hindi films. Chaudhavin ka chaand ho was widely appreciated while some of the others — more risqué numbers — were greeted with subdued applause.

 

The priest was so engrossed in listening to the songs that he forgot to recite the hymns while distributing

charnamrit after the prayers.

 

Jha happily escorted guests to the feast venue while another BJP leader appropriately sang Ram naam ki loot

hai, loot sake to loot .

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

ALL'S WELL THAT SELLS WELL

 

Rich boy falls for/weds poor girl. Rich dad gets mad. When the baby arrives, rich granddad forgives disinherited boy and demonised girl. All's well that ends well. Occasional plot tweaks and role-reversals aside, there's no bettering that money-spinning Bollywood formula, right? Wrong. Think of Romeo and Juliet. Or Antony and Cleopatra. Or Oliver and Jenny in that 1970s' cult American sob story called Love Story: passion defeats class barriers but is vanquished nonetheless. It was immortalised as high Hollywood melodrama: doomed lovers on a hospital bed, tearful boy cradling dying girl. Armed with embroidered handkerchiefs, romance buffs still sob hearing that famous line of tragic solace: "Love means never having to say you're sorry."


Erich Segal, Love Story's best-selling author, is no more. But his tale of doomed love made into the Oscar-nominated film lives on. Titanic's makers used the idea profitably, only they bumped off poor boy instead. Either way, know ye all who enter Venus's portals that, even in reality, when the guy gets the girl, he may still not get the girl. Darn!


Tell me about it, say China's richie rich. Its economy on steroids, China's been churning out dollar billionaires who as bachelors sing that Beatles song: 'Can't buy me love'. By inverse logic, Cupid's trade is thriving: agencies organising dos where rich boy meets poorer girl provided she's pretty. Just recently, Beijing saw a spectacular matchmaking ball with tickets at 1,00,000 yuan $14,650 per head! Truly, love's a many-squandered thing.

Can't sigh me love, lament lonely Londoners, on their part. An economist living on a boat has reportedly calculated his infinitesimal 0.00034 per cent chance of finding a soulmate in London. The scientific equation he borrowed, incidentally, estimated the equally feeble chances of finding aliens in our galaxy. Last heard though, the scholar's heart is a gypsy, thanks to a neighbour who complements his grey cells and lives on a boat besides. Match ho to aisi.


Others have had to work harder for love, like a Briton who's reportedly dated 1,000 suitors before finding Mr Right. Lucky for her researchers scanning couples' brains say love can last forever. Else, it'd be love's (hard) labour lost (or perhaps restarted with another 1,000?). As social service, other scientists give Lonely Hearts Club-members a fair warning: love's first flush, one study says, flags in 15 months. Worse, romance departs definitively in a decade!


In the land of the Taj Mahal, Bollywood-wallahs should ponder that. It'll help them sulk less whenever Hollywood's "doomed love" trick commercially trounces their "Marna Mana Hai" stock-in-trade. It'll also promote greater desi pride in Laila-Majnu, Mughal-e-Azam, Heer Ranjha, Devdas and an entire lorry-load of tear-jerkers that can give Love Story a run for its bioscopic money anyday. Let's just say there's a different happy ending we can all celebrate: all's well that sells well. What sells, you ask? Weepy love, actually.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

ADDING VALUE TO EDUCATION

JAMES TOOLEY

 

Something extraordinary is happening in education across rural India that's the conclusion that stands out in Pratham's ASER 2009 report launched recently. The extraordinary concerns private education: Pratham devotes two special sections to private schools, which shows it recognises their importance. But it's even more significant than highlighted. True, it points to enrolment of 6-14 year old rural children in private education being stable at around 22 per cent that's more than one in five children who go to private school. In some states it's much higher Haryana has 41 per cent and Uttar Pradesh 36 per cent private school enrolment. In those states, two in five children go to private school. And this is about rural India; it is much higher in urban areas.


It's true too that Pratham agrees children do much better in private than government schools although it doesn't seem particularly excited about it. Take 'reading in children's own mother tongue'. Here, the percentage of children in government schools who can read at least a class I text is 43.6. But in private schools it is 52.2 per cent. That's an 8.6 percentage point difference, or a huge 20 per cent advantage to private schools. Fair enough, Pratham cautions us to hold on: it might be the brighter children who go to private schools, or the ones with more educated or wealthier parents. So the report's writers adjust the results to take this into account.


Doing so, they find the private school advantage decreases: down from 8.6 percentage points to 2.9 that is, they write, "a measly 5%" advantage. Perhaps it is only small. But remember, this is the children's mother tongue. Most government schools teach in the mother tongue, whereas private schools are often English medium. You'd think that for all the criticisms levelled against English-medium private schools that they're damaging young children's prospects of learning, that at least government schools would do better in the mother tongue? Not a bit. Private schools are doing better in the area where everyone says government schools should have the advantage.

But what about English? This year, Pratham tested for English ability. Here the results are quite outstanding and incidentally answer those critics who say rural private schools are English medium in name only, fooling poor parents who can't really tell what they're teaching. In government schools, the percentage of children who can at least read simple words in English is 26.5, compared to 44.2 per cent in private schools a 17.7 percentage point difference, or a massive 67 per cent advantage. After statistically controlling for important variables, the difference falls, but only to 10.8 percentage points, still a huge 41 per cent advantage.


So private schools are serving a significant proportion of rural children, and are outperforming government schools. But here, Pratham misses a trick. Perhaps it's because we always think of private education as being elitist, that we don't then ask the next obvious question: what about cost? And here, the true remarkableness of this private education revolution is revealed. For private schools in general in the villages are not the expensive ones we're used to, but are low-cost, budget schools, affordable to many even on minimum wage incomes. My team looked at rural private schools a couple of years ago, in rural Mahbubnagar, one of the poorest districts in rural Andhra Pradesh. We found a roughly similar proportion of children enrolled in private schools in that district as Pratham found for the (rural) state we found 26.0 per cent, it found 29.2 per cent. But we also looked at fees: these were, for class IV, about Rs 100 per month in the recognised private schools, and Rs 70 per month in the unrecognised. That's up to Rs 1,200 per year, incredibly little. And these low-cost private schools are exactly the type of school that will make up the majority of Pratham's nationwide sample.


So the trick Pratham misses is about value for money. Even looking at the costs in the classroom alone, we found salaries in government schools are about seven times higher than private unrecognised schools, and about three and a half times higher than the private recognised schools. And that's ignoring all the other funding that comes from the state for all those people serving the education department, and it's forgetting contributions from central government too.


In other words, the revolution revealed by Pratham taking place in rural India today features private schools serving a significant minority of children, outperforming government schools, at a fraction of the cost. Now, surely that's something we should be celebrating?


The central government's flagship programme is Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, designed to increase access to, and raise the standards, in elementary schools across India. It alone brings in Rs 1,700 per child per annum - over and above what states already pay for government education. Now here's a thought: if all that money had gone on education vouchers, that alone would pay the fees for every child in India to attend a low-cost private school and leave something to spare for books. Wouldn't that have been a very simple, but rather effective, way of raising the quality of education in India today?


The writer is professor of education policy, Newcastle University, UK.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

OSCARS AREN'T EVERYTHING

 

Paresh Mokashi, director of India's entry to the Oscars, Harishchandrachi Factory, has shrugged off the disappointment of the Marathi movie not making it into the shortlist of the Academy's best foreign films by saying that American audiences might not identify with such an Indian film. Despite what film-makers would have us believe, he's absolutely right. Movies are a cultural product, and while some short-on-plot long-on-special effects spectaculars might hit the bull's eye around the world, the smaller, more intimate films that actually care about their characters often don't. And when the movie conventions are as different as those of Indian cinema and Hollywood, the cultural disconnect is even larger.


When was the last time an Indian film was a true crossover hit? Slumdog Millionaire, successful though it is, hardly qualifies as an Indian film. The director was British, and it was produced by British and American studios. Ang Lee, director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, makes his films for western audiences, which is why they do so well there. It's true that several big budget Hindi films hit the big time in the US and UK, but that is largely due to the NRI community in those countries. The song-and-dance routine with a three-hour plus runtime is hardly what audiences in the West expect from their films.


It cuts both ways. The majority of what Hollywood releases in India barely makes money. Sure, this year Avatar and 2012 were huge money-spinners, but those are exceptions. Just like western audiences don't expect heroes and heroines to dance around trees, Indian audiences find it hard to relate to talky, introspective films without any musical relief.


Why are we so obsessed with winning a western award anyway? Art doesn't have to have universal appeal to be regarded as art. It is understandable that a great Hindi, Bengali or Marathi film that speaks to Indians about their lives and experiences would utterly fail to move Americans, who don't have the same cultural idiom as their Indian counterparts. The Oscars are one barometer of good film-making, but we have plenty of our own to go around.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COUNTERVIEW

CULTURE NO BARRIER TO GREAT CINEMA

ANIL THAKKAR

 

Harishchandrachi Factory's elimination from the running for the best foreign film Oscar is the continuation of a fine Indian tradition. A meagre handful of Indian films have made it to the shortlist since the awards were established; three so far, with none of them going on to win. And often, when an Indian entry is knocked out, there are graceless observations about cultural bias and prejudice by observers here. Paresh Mokashi, director of Harishchandrachi Factory has not gone quite so far, but he has trotted out another old trope; that American tastes differ from Indian tastes, and therefore the Oscar jury's rejection of the movie does not truly reflect the movie's worth. His reasoning, unfortunately, is flimsy.


Cultural barriers may indeed prevent much of the dross being churned out by film industries the world over from crossing over to international audiences. But those movies are made to cater to the lowest common denominator. The Oscars, on the other hand, are meant to reward excellence. And that is where Mokashi's reasoning falls short. Cinematic excellence is not bounded by geographical and cultural limits. Movies of this kind are often like a Rorschach test; every audience can find something to take away from them. They present a localised narrative, but through it they reflect certain truths and observations that resonate across cultures. That these films are in another language or have a different aesthetic sensibility does not prevent audiences from recognising this.


If Mokashi's logic were true, there would be no explaining the movies that do go on to win in the foreign language category every year, many of them from cultures as or more alien to the US as India's. When an Indian movie, Lagaan, last made it to the shortlist, it lost out to No Man's Land, a film from Bosnia-Herzegovina, made in a language unknown to US audiences, set in the middle of a conflict alien to them. Yet, its blackly ironic reflection on the tragedy of human nature made a mockery of such barriers. Indian movies have lost for no other reason than they fall short of such standards.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

GLOBAL EYE

CHINA'S HOMELAND INSECURITY

NAYAN CHANDA

 

When the history of the 21st century is written, the year 2009 will likely be marked as the moment when China, seen as merely rising for over a decade, finally arrived on the world stage. Its president, Hu Jintao, strutted around global gatherings as a rich banker, promising to help western economies flattened after the financial crisis. As the biggest creditor of profligate America, Chinese leaders lectured Washington to better manage their economy and protect the currency in which China has so much invested.


But historians will perhaps also note that behind all its preening and bombast as a new world power, China remained a deeply insecure country. When Uighurs rioted in Urumqi against the Han President Hu in July, he abandoned the G-8 meeting in L'Aquila to rush back home. After a prolonged 'Strike Hard' campaign by security forces, a six-month internet blockade was imposed across the entire Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The region's budget for public security was nearly doubled. Since then, other signs of the regime's nervousness have multiplied, reinforcing the notion that more than its growing power, China's increasing sense of insecurity may be a matter of concern for the world.


Recently the Chinese authorities pulled the wildly popular Hollywood movie Avatar from all 2D theatres in order to release a patriotic biopic of Confucius. Rumour has spread on the internet blogs that Avatar provides inspiration for thousands of Chinese homeowners who were brutally evicted by developers much like the Na'vi people in the movie.


The Chinese Communist Party's seeming paranoia about national stability and its own grasp on power have driven almost every disputed measure it has taken. When US President Barack Obama addressed a town hall-style gathering in Shanghai, all the attendants were carefully selected and even their anodyne questions and Obama's uncontroversial responses (barring his stated distaste of censorship) were not allowed to be broadcast beyond Shanghai. The editor of a government-backed newspaper who secured an exclusive interview with Obama was demoted, even though he and the American leader discussed only the most harmless of topics. The impression was clear: any positive portrayal of an American president cannot be good for social stability.

With the latest sparring with Google, new evidence is filtering out about the lengths Beijing feels it must go to ensure stability. Google had already complied with Chinese demands by censoring searches for sensitive words, such as 'Tiananmen Square and 1989' and 'the Dalai Lama'. But by locating its servers outside China, Google had managed to keep its users' e-mails outside China's reach - or at least so they thought. But it has since discovered a sophisticated attempt to break into its most secret source code by hackers located in China. The Gmail accounts of critics both inside and outside the country were found to have been mysteriously forwarded to some addresses in China.


Given the impossibility of conducting a thorough investigation in Chinese territory, the charges against China will surely remain unproven. But faced with Google's public exposure of the threat to its business in China, a new line of rebuttals is in the making. Government-backed newspapers have accused Google of being "a convenient tool for promoting the US government's political will and values abroad". If China needed further proof of the nefarious plot to subvert its systems through the internet, it needed only to look at the US Congress. A group of senators have written to secretary of state Hillary Clinton to expedite spending of $45 million earmarked to support internet freedom in countries like China and Iran.


Meanwhile, China's quest for security has been extended to the censorship of text messaging between cellphone users, to intercept missives that contain "illegal or unhealthy content". Precisely what may be considered 'unhealthy' is not explained, but citizens who have grown up under the guidance of the Communist Party are expected to know what kind of words may be detrimental to their health. As with the Uighurs, Beijing is taking no chances. According to an official newspaper report, telecom providers will suspend the text-messaging function for users suspected of transmitting non-approved SMS content, in order to give the authorities time to evaluate the offending messages.

 

It seems for the world's newest power there is no safe corner.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

THOUGHTS ON AMAN KI ASHA

C V S K RAO

 

Swami Vivekananda said: "Bring all forces of good together. Do not care under what banner you march. Do not care what be your colour – green, blue or red – but mix all the colours and produce that intense glow of white, the colour of love. Ours is to work. The results will take care of themselves".


To focus on two things is important -- to energise the process of restoring peace and advance the ' Aman Ki Asha' mission. The first is to nullify the attempts of those limited few, who due to their selfish ends, fan the fire of conflicts, like for example, those who misinterpret holy books and scriptures. The second is to create a harmonious, conflict-free atmosphere, where a meaningful dialogue leading to peace is made possible.


The scriptures do not support violence and hatred; they clearly advocate nonviolence, peace and love. For example, the Mahabharata is often cited as one that advocates war and killing, even killing of cousins! In fact, more than one third of the Mahabharata deals with conflicts, preparation for war and violent war in gory detail. Yet it is the Mahabharata which says: "Ahimsa paramo dharmah" – Nonviolence is the supreme virtue and is the foremost duty.


The word Jainism is from the root `Jin' meaning the conqueror or the one who has overcome. Jains are followers of Bhagavan Mahavir – whose main teaching is nonviolence. Interestingly the foremost invocation of Jains is 'Namo Arihantanam' – salutation to those who destroyed their enemies.


Destruction of negative forces is possible only after overpowering and defeating them. Who are the enemies, who should be killed mercilessly? They are certainly not people with who we have a difference – that too when the difference can be resolved by peaceful means.


Sri Paramahamsa Yogananda explains the essential message of the Mahabharata, in his commentary of the Bhagavad Gita . The hundred sons of Dhritarashtra – symbolizing the blind irrational mind -- have characteristics of meanness, ill will, hardness, destruction, racial pride, temper, quarrelsome attitude, revengefulness, lack of vision and stupidity. These are the enemies and they must be defeated with all effort on a war footing. This is the real Mahabharata war, both at an individual and societal level.


The one who overcomes negative forces is the real 'Arihant' , whom the Jains salute. Satya Sai Baba says that truth, righteousness, peace, love and nonviolence are the five Pandavas, who can destroy evil tendencies. The essential teaching of all harbingers of peace, like Nanak, Kabir and others is also the same, in whose footsteps we must follow.


What is worth noting is that factors like lack of vision, destructive instinct and harshness which can ruin individuals, can also thwart peace processes and so these must be guarded against during negotiations. The next question is how to create a free and congenial atmosphere for proper dialogue.


Patanjali says that enmity is absent where ahimsa is the basis. What is ahimsa? Swami Vivekananda says that the test of ahimsa is the absence of (unhealthy) competition or jealousy. This can be made possible by following the dictum of Mathews 7:12 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Thus Aman ki Asha and peaceful co-existence are possible through nonviolence only since ahimsa is nonviolence in thought, word and deed.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

SOWING SEEDS OF CONFUSION

 

Instead of bickering over Bt brinjal, why don't we put all the facts on the table?

Is it Sharad Pawar, is it Jairam Ramesh, is it Prithviraj Chavan or is it an alien brinjal? Most people would be forgiven for being a little bewildered over the current spat over genetically modified brinjal, or Bt brinjal, given the contradictory signals from the ministries concerned. As things stand now, the vegetable that has been approved by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee for commercial use awaits a final decision on its safety from the environment minister on February 20. The wrangling over the safety of biotech crops will continue but there are certain irrefutable facts that the public needs to know. These should have been made public and easily available at the outset so that the current mess could have been avoided.

 

The Bt brinjal has been in the pipeline for over nine years and every conceivable test, including feeding it to animals, has been conducted. India is the second largest brinjal producer in the world with 550,000 hectares under cultivation. The Bt brinjal requires 77 per cent less pesticides than the normal variety and is 98 per cent insect resistant. This means a much higher yield for farmers who grow this low-calorie, high-nutrition vegetable. The experiment with Bt cotton has been highly successful in India with the country moving from being an importer to an exporter. Farmers in many parts that cultivate transgenic cotton have reported an almost doubling of yields. Now it may be argued that cotton is not edible. But with India being a party to the Convention on Biodiversity that mandates that all genetically modified crops be subject to stringent safety tests, the margin for error is negligible. The high price of GM seeds is often cited as a problem. But then, what is lost on the roundabouts is more than made up on the swings with the farmer being assured of his harvest, getting a higher yield, better quality and a better price.

 

Instead of getting bogged down over Bt brinjal, we ought to be looking at widening the scope of technology to improve the lot of our farmers. Next on the agenda should be saline- and drought-resistant crops that could address the issue of food security. But at every step the facts and figures should be made widely available, to put an end to scare-mongering and posturing by the anti-GM lobby. And, most of all, the public must know the views of the farmer, who is the most affected by this issue. So far, they are more than satisfied with the progress of this technology. After all, they've put their money where our mouths are.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE STATESMAN, NOT HIS POLITICS

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

About one million people turned out at Jyoti Basu's State funeral, and some Left leaders read it as a sign that the last surviving Marxist government in the world will not be history after the West Bengal elections next year. But they were completely wrong. The crowds had come to pay their respects to Basu the patriarch, not to demonstrate their support for his party.

 

The Left suffers from the peculiar delusion that the party is greater than the individual, that the 'apparat' eclipses mere humans. Similarly, it believes that the party's needs eclipse all competing interests. Basu fell victim to this delusion in 1996, when he was consensus candidate for prime minister of the United Front coalition government. The CPI(M) politburo nixed it, believing that his work in West Bengal was more important. The post went to the somnolent H.D. Deve Gowda instead, whose government flunked out in less than a year.

 

Coalition politics was then in bad odour because of unfortunate precedents. But we now know that coalitions are more responsive and responsible than monolithic governments, where power is monopolised by the few. Had Basu formed the government in 1996, he would have brought to bear the experience of running West Bengal's Left Front coalition for 20 years. And the modern national politics of consensus could have been established a decade earlier. Unfortunately, the politburo put party interest before the national interest.

 

Basu in West Bengal was the reason why the politburo in Delhi could stride the national political landscape so masterfully. While his colleagues in Kerala had to learn to ride the seesaw of anti-incumbency, Basu established a rock-steady alliance which has held power unchallenged for over three decades.  His brand of politics was marked by a rare humanity and an ability to translate high policy into terms which were easily understood and accepted.

 

A strong believer in equity and empowerment, Basu piloted radical agrarian reform and promoted local self-government. At least two lakh farmers have committed suicide in the last decade, but India still does not have a coherent agrarian reform policy. But Basu's government had launched Operation Barga in 1978 to secure rural income guarantees. Rajiv Gandhi is celebrated for foregrounding panchayati raj institutions, but Basu had empowered local self-government long before him.

 

Basu will be remembered for trying to create a decent society. But while his career represented all that is humane about the Left, the conscience-keeper of Indian politics, it also illustrated what is deplorable about it. Under his stewardship, Kolkata — once the industrial and commercial hub of the east — was reduced to an industrial wasteland as business fled labour unrest. Many of the Left's leaders had earned their spurs in labour politics — Basu himself headed a railway union — but in West Bengal, it turned into rebellion without a cause. And as the craziness at Singur and Nandigram showed, even the new Left, desperate for investment, doesn't understand business.

 

The million people who attended the State funeral had come to bid farewell to Jyoti Basu the reformer. But next year, most of them will vote against the degeneration in his party's political culture in recent times. And with the passing of its tallest statesman, the Left cannot remain a kingmaker in national politics.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

 

n pratik@littlemag.com

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

LIFE, DEATH, AND THE QUALITY OF MERCY

 

Isn't the irony just inescapable? A politician who has always refused to unequivocally condemn the now-slain Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) chief will get to sit in judgement on whether one of Prabhakaran's foot-soldiers deserves mercy after 19 years in prison. When the Sri Lankan army was closing in on the LTTE, the Tamil Nadu chief minister demanded "respect and dignity" for Prabhakaran, asking that he be treated with the same generosity that Alexander showed Porus. In the volatile environment of competitive politics, even senior Congress leaders in the state spoke about not wishing Prabhakaran ill. So, how is it that a man who actually plotted Rajiv Gandhi's assassination was the beneficiary of sudden benignity? And why is it then that any debate surrounding the release of Nalini Sriharan — who has already served her life sentence in jail — evokes such a messy response?

 

If that sounds like I think Nalini has the right to freedom based on some principles of natural justice — I do not. For anyone who remembers Rajiv Gandhi's smiling, unsuspecting face, in the seconds before Dhanu, the suicide bomber bent down to blow herself up, it's virtually impossible to work up any empathy for those involved in his killing. To imagine that Nalini may have been the back-up human bomb makes it even tougher to feel compassion of any kind. But we cannot have an honest conversation about Nalini's role as an accomplice in the assassination unless we also talk about the mastermind himself. And — at least in Tamil Nadu — any debate around Prabhakaran has always been obfuscated by political expediency. We cannot ignore the bizarre inconsistency of some of our politicians, whose outrage for Prabhakaran has always been qualified by ifs and buts.

 

Political hypocrisy aside, there is, however, something deeper that complicates the question of Nalini's freedom, and that is the extraordinary response of the Gandhi family. It was Sonia Gandhi, of course, who pleaded for her death sentence to be commuted so that Nalini's eight-year-old daughter would not be orphaned. But what has really changed the public discourse is Priyanka Gandhi's profound and deeply painful personal journey to make sense of her father's death.

 

I still remember the day the newspapers erupted with the story of her low-key visit to the jail in Vellore  — the meeting between a young daughter and the woman who conspired to kill her father. A cynical Opposition scored a self-goal by suggesting that politics had imbued her unconventional choice. But for the rest of the country it was the first glimpse into the mind of a very unusual, but deeply level-headed person, who was trying to come to terms with the violence and tragedy that had defined her growing-up years. That day, in a brief conversation, I recall that Priyanka pleaded for privacy and most of us respected her wish.

 

Later, on the campaign trail in Uttar Pradesh — as Congress allies like the DMK even ratcheted up the rhetoric on Prabhakaran and Tamil separatism — we sat in the shade of a friendly tree and spoke about Life and Death. Rarely has an interview moved me as much. I know it's fashionable to be generally cynical about all our politicians — but not this time. There was something almost unreal — and yet, all too real — about her Zen-like calm, clearly arrived at after decades of internal anguish. Priyanka didn't hide it either. She spoke about how she was "absolutely furious with the whole world," after she lost her father and about the slow process of recognising her own rage. But as the years passed, she spoke about understanding that "true non-violence was the absence of victimhood." It was probably the deepest thing that anyone I knew in politics had ever said.

 

Where had the family found the emotional strength to commute Nalini's death sentence to life, I asked. And why? Because, she explained, they knew what it felt like for a child to lose a parent. "Something has happened to you that has made you feel awful. Something has happened that has crushed you inside. So how can you want that to happen to someone else? An innocent child, what has that child got to do with anything?" she said.

 

Today India is debating whether Nalini should be 'forgiven'. But, I remember Priyanka Gandhi dismissing the whole notion that it was her place to forgive, "The big learning that came from that meeting was exactly this, that though I was not angry any more, I did not hate her, and I wanted to meet her, I was still thinking that I was somebody who could forgive her for something she had done. And then I met her and I realised — what am I talking about?"

 

It was a magnanimity of mind and spirit that I'm not sure most of us would be capable of. Yet, strangely, the 26/11 terror strikes brought me face to face with others who seek peace even after — or perhaps because of — a deep horror has turned their lives upside down. I met a 16-year-old survivor in Mumbai, for example, who said she had never believed in capital punishment, and the experience of being holed up inside the Taj would not change her mind about the fact that Ajmal Kasab should not be killed by the State. Others I know have reacted furiously to the war-mongering with Pakistan that is sought on their behalf.

 

Tragedy, especially violent death, clearly evokes very individual responses. And, of course, as a country, India must have a position on Rajiv Gandhi's killers. And yet, if politics is standing in the way of a truthful conversation about the LTTE, perhaps we can leave the decision of Nalini's future to the family who suffered most. In this case, the personal seems to be much more large-hearted than the political.

 

Barkha Dutt is Group Editor, English News, NDTV

 

barkha@ndtv.com  

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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******************************************************************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AN EMPTY SEAT

 

The most elusive element in the fight against Naxal extremists has been joint political resolve. Unless every single affected state government is in the loop, Naxals hounded in one state will simply cross borders to find refuge elsewhere. When the Andhra Pradesh government — which had in 2004 taken a political decision to allow surrounded Naxal leaders in the northern forests to escape — finally cracked the whip, Naxal cadres crossed the state's borders and regrouped elsewhere. This is why Friday's review meeting in Chhattisgarh was so critically important. The meeting, taken by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, included Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil, and host Chief Minister Raman Singh. Patnaik's presence was crucial, given that his urbane notes of compromise have formed the backdrop for Naxal atrocities in his state — most painfully when 300 armed Naxals laid siege to the BALCO mines. It is hoped that his presence indicates a changed attitude.

 

But if the meeting was a show of strength of states affected by Naxal violence, there was one seat empty. The new Sibhu Soren government in Jharkhand has decided to halt operations against the Naxalites — just when a crackdown is due. Reports suggest that it has put off patrolling, that paramilitaries are being made to wait, and that the Special Task Force trained to take on Naxals is killing time in the barracks. The results were immediately evident: in a landmine blast last Friday, eight policemen were murdered.

 

Political apathy makes worse two existing coordination problems in tackling Naxals. Apart from the worry that Jharkhand is becoming a "safe haven" for Naxals on the run elsewhere, there is a second concern — about relations between state governments and Central paramilitary forces. Although 28 CRPF companies are stationed in Jharkhand, they are being made to wait by the state government, under whose direct command they must, by law, operate. So inaction — which may well be deliberate — on the part of the Soren government results in the waste of valuable Central resources that would otherwise have been deployed against the Naxals. Even one weak link, as Jharkhand is fast turning out to be, imperils the entire operation. Bringing Jharkhand on the same page is key to progress.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

STILL UNDER WRAPS

 

So, GP, when has the foreign office told you Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai? Don't you believe it. I don't trust the Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that." Generations in India that have grown up believing in Nehru's woolly trust in China might have to re-examine their ideas after reading the diaries of G. Parthasarathi, then ambassador to China.

 

Just weeks back, when our unfortunate junior minister for external affairs mentioned Nehru in a manner that deviated from the ironclad Congress narrative, the sky almost fell on his head. But how can we pretend to have any accurate picture of Nehru, the man and his motivations, when most of the jigsaw pieces are deliberately made unavailable? No matter where it falls between deification and dismissal, our sense of Nehru is constructed from woefully inadequate material. Recently, Chandrashekhar Gupta's War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, which excavated so-far classified material about the British diplomatic calculus in the 1947-48 Indo-Pak tussle over Kashmir, revealed the complexities that informed newly independent India's strategic conduct. Srinath Raghavan's book, War and Peace in Modern India also mines a rich lode of valuable sources to reveal new truths about the Nehru years. Unfortunately, much of such scholarship relies on documents preserved somewhere abroad, or on the resourcefulness of historians in ferreting out private material. The government gives away nothing. The Nehru Memorial Trust and National Film Archives are now digitising footage from the times (thus far, stacked in dusty cans and stored in Teen Murti House), and fully expect it to throw up some surprises. (Though some of the material even at Nehru Memorial cannot be accessed without appropriate sanction.)

 

Historians have to rely on the authority of the archive — but unfortunately there is no guaranteed access to official documents and papers from the time, and secrecy is the default mode in our official culture. The bureaucratic reflex to cover up embarrassment stretches back through the decades — unlike standard declassification procedures followed in other democracies — and ensures that the past is putty in the hands of those who want to deploy it for present purposes.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FIRST PROOF

 

It's not Henry Louis Gates Jr or Andrew Lycett they are missing at the fifth Jaipur Literary Festival. The distinguished gentlemen should take no offence where none is intended. But Jaipur is certainly poorer for not being able to resurrect, and host, André Breton. What the government has managed to do to a handful of writers with its newfound visa regulations (or the absurdity thus called) is surreal — of course, in the layman's sense of the term standing in for whatever defies plain logic, rising from deep within the dark, unfathomable recesses of our bureaucratic unconscious.

 

Gates Jr's visa was rejected apparently because his application didn't include his birth certificate or college diploma. And applications submitted before the stipulation was made last week were not "grandfathered in". Lycett made the mistake of visiting India in November; he is not welcome before "cooling off" for a while. Good men and women of letters, it seems, cannot claim benefit of clergy for strictly literary reasons. Take poet Suheir Hammad — the Palestinian-American was naive enough to apply for her visa in London, and awaits her passport sent to New York for verification. So Louis de Bernieres knows how lucky he is, after his passport's merry little trip to a Brighton jeweller's safe from the Indian high commission in London. Between the sacred aspiration and the profane experience falls no shadow; this is the beautiful evening etherised upon a table.

 

National security and intellectual or growth aspirations are not mutually exclusive. Lesson from Jaipur: we must reconsider the new strictures immediately, before academic-, corporate- and policy-types, to say nothing of tourists, have second thoughts about visiting an India flaunting short-sighted and misdirected restrictions. It is true that most other countries too have made, or are making, their visa regimes stricter. But as we upgrade our visa regime, there should be zero tolerance for ridiculous requirements.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

AN EMPTY SEAT

 

The most elusive element in the fight against Naxal extremists has been joint political resolve. Unless every single affected state government is in the loop, Naxals hounded in one state will simply cross borders to find refuge elsewhere. When the Andhra Pradesh government — which had in 2004 taken a political decision to allow surrounded Naxal leaders in the northern forests to escape — finally cracked the whip, Naxal cadres crossed the state's borders and regrouped elsewhere. This is why Friday's review meeting in Chhattisgarh was so critically important. The meeting, taken by Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram, included Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Maharashtra Home Minister R.R. Patil, and host Chief Minister Raman Singh. Patnaik's presence was crucial, given that his urbane notes of compromise have formed the backdrop for Naxal atrocities in his state — most painfully when 300 armed Naxals laid siege to the BALCO mines. It is hoped that his presence indicates a changed attitude.

 

But if the meeting was a show of strength of states affected by Naxal violence, there was one seat empty. The new Sibhu Soren government in Jharkhand has decided to halt operations against the Naxalites — just when a crackdown is due. Reports suggest that it has put off patrolling, that paramilitaries are being made to wait, and that the Special Task Force trained to take on Naxals is killing time in the barracks. The results were immediately evident: in a landmine blast last Friday, eight policemen were murdered.

 

Political apathy makes worse two existing coordination problems in tackling Naxals. Apart from the worry that Jharkhand is becoming a "safe haven" for Naxals on the run elsewhere, there is a second concern — about relations between state governments and Central paramilitary forces. Although 28 CRPF companies are stationed in Jharkhand, they are being made to wait by the state government, under whose direct command they must, by law, operate. So inaction — which may well be deliberate — on the part of the Soren government results in the waste of valuable Central resources that would otherwise have been deployed against the Naxals. Even one weak link, as Jharkhand is fast turning out to be, imperils the entire operation. Bringing Jharkhand on the same page is key to progress.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

STILL UNDER WRAPS

 

So, GP, when has the foreign office told you Hindi-Chini bhai-bhai? Don't you believe it. I don't trust the Chinese one bit, despite Panchsheel and all that." Generations in India that have grown up believing in Nehru's woolly trust in China might have to re-examine their ideas after reading the diaries of G. Parthasarathi, then ambassador to China.

 

Just weeks back, when our unfortunate junior minister for external affairs mentioned Nehru in a manner that deviated from the ironclad Congress narrative, the sky almost fell on his head. But how can we pretend to have any accurate picture of Nehru, the man and his motivations, when most of the jigsaw pieces are deliberately made unavailable? No matter where it falls between deification and dismissal, our sense of Nehru is constructed from woefully inadequate material. Recently, Chandrashekhar Gupta's War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, which excavated so-far classified material about the British diplomatic calculus in the 1947-48 Indo-Pak tussle over Kashmir, revealed the complexities that informed newly independent India's strategic conduct. Srinath Raghavan's book, War and Peace in Modern India also mines a rich lode of valuable sources to reveal new truths about the Nehru years. Unfortunately, much of such scholarship relies on documents preserved somewhere abroad, or on the resourcefulness of historians in ferreting out private material. The government gives away nothing. The Nehru Memorial Trust and National Film Archives are now digitising footage from the times (thus far, stacked in dusty cans and stored in Teen Murti House), and fully expect it to throw up some surprises. (Though some of the material even at Nehru Memorial cannot be accessed without appropriate sanction.)

 

Historians have to rely on the authority of the archive — but unfortunately there is no guaranteed access to official documents and papers from the time, and secrecy is the default mode in our official culture. The bureaucratic reflex to cover up embarrassment stretches back through the decades — unlike standard declassification procedures followed in other democracies — and ensures that the past is putty in the hands of those who want to deploy it for present purposes.

 

***************************************

INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

RUNNING WITH THE CHINESE BULLS

 

I'm bullish on China after a couple of weeks here and perhaps that sentiment begins with the little emperors and empresses. In upscale city parks and rundown urban sprawls, I've seen China's children pampered by grandparents, coddled by fathers, cared for by extended families.

 

Scarcity may explain the doting: China's one-child policy makes children special. But there are deeper forces at work. The race for modernity has not blown apart the family unit, whatever the strains. After witnessing the atomisation of American society, where the old are often left to fend for themselves, China feels cohesive.

 

It's seeing that most natural of conspiracies — between grandparents and children — flourishing. It's listening to young women in coastal factories talking about sending half their salaries home to some village in Guangxi where perhaps it goes to build a second floor on a parental house. It's hearing young couples agonise over whether they can afford a child because "affording" means school, possible graduate education abroad, and a deposit on the first apartment.

 

The family is at once emotional bedrock and social insurance. "My" money equals my family's money. All the parental investment reaps a return in the form of care later in life. "Children are a retirement fund," a Chinese-American friend living here told me. "If you don't have children, what do you do in old age?"

 

The Chinese, in other words, might be lining up to play karaoke after long factory shifts, but they're not bowling alone American-style. They're not stressing because they're all alone. That's critical. There is so much heaving change here — China's planning to open 97 new airports and 83 subway systems in the next five years — the family strikes me as the great stabiliser (even more than the regime's iron fist).

 

As Arthur Kroeber, an economist, said, "High-growth stories are not pretty. If you're growing at 10 per cent a year, a lot of stuff gets knocked down." It sure does: China looms through the dust. But the family has proved resilient, cushioning life for the have-nots, offering a moral compass for the haves (rampant corruption notwithstanding).

 

After the emperors and empresses, in my bullish assessment, comes the undistracted forward focus. After a while in Asia, you notice the absence of a certain background noise. It's as if you've removed a negative drone from your life, like the slightly startled relief you feel when the hum of an air conditioner ceases.

 

What's in that American drone? Oh, the wars of course, the cost of them, and debate around them, and the chatter surrounding terror and fear.

 

There's also the resentment-infused aftermath of the great financial meltdown, navigated by China with an adroitness that helped salvage the world economy from oblivion. In the place of all that Western angst, there's growth, growth, growth, which tends (through whatever ambivalence) to inspire awe rather than dread. The world's centre of gravity is shifting with a seismic inevitability.

 

I know, China has kept its foot on the gas of its stimulus package too long and there are bubble signs in housing and labour is no longer limitless, with resultant inflationary pressure. I also know there are tensions between state economic direction and market forces, with resultant waste. But my third bullish element is nonetheless an economy entering a 15-year sweet spot where rising disposable income will drive the domestic market.

 

Think of what Japan, Taiwan and South Korea went through decades ago, but with a population of 1.3 billion. Think of the 10 to 15 million new urban residents a year and the homes and infrastructure they will need. Think of all the stuff the world demands and can't get elsewhere with the same quality, quantity and price. Think underlying drivers. They remain powerful.

 

Of course, political upheaval could unhinge all the above. Given that China's open-closed experiment is unique in history, nobody can say how this society will be governed in 2050. Immense tensions, not least between the rage that corruption inspires and the difficulty of tackling it without a free press, exist. Still, my fourth reason for running with the Chinese bulls is perhaps the most surprising: single-party democracy.

 

It doesn't exist. It's an oxymoron (although a US primary is a vote within one party). It can easily be the semantic disguise for outrage and oppression. But it just may be the most important political idea of the 21st century.

 

Rightful resistance is growing in China. Citizens are asserting their rights, not in organising against the state (dangerous) but in using laws to have a say. Nongovernmental organisations are multiplying to advance agendas from the environment to labour rights. This is happening with the acquiescence of smart rulers.

 

"They know they cannot manage in the old way," Ma Jun, a leading environmentalist, told me. "They cannot dam the water, but they can go with the flow and divert it to the places they want."

 

Whether that place will ever resemble one-party democracy, I don't know. But I no longer laugh at the idea. Harmonious discord is an old Chinese idea. The extended Chinese family is a daily exercise in just that.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

THE LOSS OF INHERITANCE

RAVINDER KAUR

 

Should we not think more before we usher in new clauses to the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, which will most likely be impossible to implement? According to a news report (IE, 19 January 2010), the government is planning to extend the provisions of the act by making "it mandatory for couples to notify the gifts exchanged during the wedding ceremony before the dowry prohibition officer". The rule is expected to come up before the Cabinet this month.

 

As usual, one cannot fault the intention to give the anti-dowry law some teeth. And the desire to extend its coverage is a clear admission that dowry remains a robust and flourishing custom. The new rules seek to address a loophole in the law which allows parents to give 'gifts' to daughters. However, good intentions do not necessarily make good policy. The new proposals are ridiculous and invasive, and attempt to govern people's lives even more without providing concomitant benefits. These rules merely spell further opportunity for graft.

 

The report states that "the list of gifts worth Rs. 5000 has to be notarised in the form of a sworn affidavit to be signed by a protection officer or a dowry prohibition officer and kept by both parties". There are several problems with this. First, it would serve no purpose to notarise a list of gifts worth Rs. 5000 or even a larger sum when everyone knows that dowry amounts and gifts can easily run into lakhs. Even housemaids and rural labourers pay higher dowries. And it is a laughable sum for those giving and receiving Honda City cars or refrigerators or sets of jewellery worth many times more than Rs.5000. And some delicious ambiguity in the law — do gifts above Rs. 5000 go scot-free? Or is it that gifts above Rs. 5000 have to be reported? Also, who will police whether everything has been listed or not?

 

Other clauses mention that dowry givers will be charged a lesser penalty and that registration of gifts will allow a woman to claim these back if need be. Yes, no doubt, women should get back their jewellery, cash and substantial goods if they suffer dowry harassment and wish to leave the marriage. But how easy this is going to be can be gauged from any one claiming maintenance and child support through Indian courts. And claiming back of dowry gifts is barely a solution to dowry harassment or violence or breakdown of the marital relationship. Correctly recognising the fact that dowry is not a one-time transaction, the definition of dowry is being widened to include gifts given before the marriage, at the time, and at any time after the marriage. But how will this be regulated?

 

Let us recapitulate what we know about dowry today. Dowry giving and receiving, rather than having disappeared, has only spread to more parts of the country, covering many more castes, classes and communities. The reasons are several. Greater emphasis on consumerism fuels the desire for more consumer goods which can be acquired by demanding dowry from hapless parents who feel they have to marry off their daughters at any cost (here the necessity of marriage itself is at fault). Cash dowries can be used as a source of funds for young males who wish to acquire more skills through expensive education or training, or set up new businesses or — simply to get their hands on a large amount of cash at one go. Withdrawal from work of lower and middle class women whose marital families have gained some measure of prosperity, leading to their 'housewifisation'. Such women are then perceived as 'unproductive burdens' on in-laws and for who parents must pay dowry at the time of marriage and maintenance subsequently.

 

Emulation or copying of social superiors or neighbours plays no less a role in the spread of dowry. Dowry continues to be demanded by so-called educated Indians — foremost among them doctors, engineers and IAS officers. The expected future income of a male is quickly translated into an appropriate dowry amount by mathematically adept Indians. Even unemployed engineers in places like Bihar are known to command a fairly hefty dowry. We still consider marriage accompanied by dowry the ideal honourable marriage; it has replaced bride-price among various rural and low caste communities with everyone striving to conform to what was largely a pernicious upper caste norm.

 

An interesting reason for the contemporary survival of dowry is young women demanding dowry for themselves (especially in the form of branded goods) as they see it as their one-time chance at getting an inheritance. Inheritance, I believe, is the key to the whole dowry problem. Ensuring equal transmission of property to daughters (now made possible by the new Hindu Succession Act) by society and by government will be the only effective weapon against dowry - it happened in Europe and it should happen here. And young girls, instead of demanding dowry, should demand equal inheritance. When parents begin giving inheritance to daughters, the need for dowry will be obviated. With equal inheritance, parents can expect support from children of either sex thus addressing another dimension of discrimination against girls and women and its fatal consequence — female foeticide.

 

The writer is professor, sociology and social anthropology at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

YOU TALKIN' TO ME?

KALPANA SHARMA

 

They did not ask for it. But Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has given Bal Thackeray and his nephew Raj an unexpected and generous New Year gift. For two political parties virtually joined at the hip, what could have been sweeter than the so-called "secular" state government giving them a perfect chance to revive the much-flogged Marathi Manoos issue? Indeed, if proof was ever needed of the bankruptcy of Maharashtra's political culture, this action exemplifies it.

 

What, one wonders, was Chavan thinking when he told the waiting media after the weekly Cabinet meeting that from henceforth those holding permits to drive taxis in Mumbai would have to know how to "read, write and speak Marathi"? Did he really believe that by doing this, he would undercut the ground on which the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) base their politics? In any case, the rule already exists as part of the Maharashtra Motor Vehicles Act 1989 but has rarely been enforced. So why now?

 

The Congress and the NCP, despite having won a clear majority in the state assembly elections last year, are worried at the growth of the MNS, which won 13 assembly seats principally in urban areas. With Mumbai municipal elections due in 2012, they are concerned about the expanding base of this party. Yet, could this be the only reason for such a gimmick?

 

For that is all it is. Mumbai has around 56,000 taxis — kali pili taxis, or the black and yellow taxis that have become such a symbol of this city. Of these, 24,000 permits are lying unused. In other words, drivers or owners with permission to run taxis are not running them for a variety of reasons, including lack of funds to convert these vehicles to CNG (now mandatory), replacing old vehicles with new ones etc.

 

The government has now decided to sell these unused permits to anyone willing to bring in new air-conditioned taxis with global positioning systems (GPS). This is ostensibly part of the plan to modernise Mumbai's taxi system. The city already has such taxis run by private operators. But there are only a couple of thousand of these in a city of 17 million. Furthermore, not all the 24,000 permits will be sold at one go. Only 4,000 are up for sale this year. So the fuss being made is essentially about an additional 4,000 jobs as those who have been driving taxis for many years, irrespective of whether they speak Marathi or not, will not be affected.

 

Yet, by making this announcement, Mr Chavan has put the lives of the majority of ordinary taxi drivers who come from outside Maharashtra at risk. Given the standard tactics employed by the MNS and the Shiv Sena, these poor men will have to face harassment by their goons whenever these parties seek political mileage. Just as thousands of street vendors were once targeted by the MNS as "outsiders", taxi drivers will now come under attack.

 

Yet what does the taxi-using public of Mumbai want? Compared to other cities, Mumbai's taxis are a dream. Some of them might be broken down and dirty. Some of the drivers do drive rashly. Some of them do refuse to ply unless to a destination that suits them. But seven times out of ten you can easily hail a taxi on Mumbai's streets and give your destination, and the driver simply puts down the meter and takes you there. The only test these drivers need is that of safe driving and learning their way around a city changing by the day. Passengers barely care whether such a test is given in Marathi or any other language, so long as they get the service they are paying for.

 

Instead of dreaming about making Mumbai into Shanghai or Singapore, Ashok Chavan and his colleagues need to deal with the more urgent needs that Mumbai faces — water, better roads, an efficient public transport system and above all, affordable housing and of course, better governance. If he concentrates on these, both the Marathi Manoos and the so-called "outsider" will thank him.

 

The writer is a Mumbai-based journalist and author of 'Rediscovering Dharavi: Stories from Asia's Largest Slum'

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

PRINTLINE PAKISTAN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

FAULT LINES

India and Pakistan can't seem to help falling back on the age-old blame game — India's foreign secretary Nirupama Rao's recent statement demanding the dismantling of Pakistan-based terror infrastructure was, expectedly, not received well in Pakistan. Daily Times on January 19 quoted Pakistan 's foreign office spokesman, Abdul Basit as saying: "The Indian foreign secretary's vitriolic remarks against Pakistan yet again reveal the Indian government persists in its propaganda campaign that only vitiates the atmosphere, darkens the horizon and dampens hopes for peace and tranquillity in South Asia ." Dawn added: "Pakistan invites India to a deep introspection of its own policies and conduct, notably in Jammu and Kashmir as elsewhere... India sadly remains out of tune with the realities of today".

 

NO SPORTING MATTER

Cricket supposedly transcends all barriers between India and Pakistan, but the recent IPL misadventure has dealt a strong blow to already shaky Indo-Pak relations. Daily Times quoted former cricketer Abdul Qadir on January 21: "It is time the PCB organised its own league. If need arises we should hold this league even at a neutral venue and try to invite as many Indian players as possible to give out a clear message we don't mix sports with politics." Former captain Zaheer Abbas said: "The fact is the IPL is a private enterprise and if their franchises are not willing to take our players what can anyone do? But there is no doubt that our players and Pakistan cricket have been humiliated and insulted at such a big forum in a planned manner... Our players and officials should also not go to India for any reason. But if we want a betterment of ties with India then we should just keep quiet." he said. Former pacer Sarfraz Nawaz was more vocal in his take on the auction. "I think IPL and the Indian government have lost a golden opportunity to help improve ties between the two countries. I really do believe there were political reasons behind the way our players were snubbed at the auction and it is most unfortunate." Giving a diplomatic twist to this sordid saga was Pakistan 's office, one again, as Dawn reported on January 22: " The Foreign Office said that the exclusion of Pakistani cricketers from the bidding process of the IPL 'is a decision influenced by variables extraneous to sports."

 

NO RECONCILIATION YET

The controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) has been resurrected, extending the drama over the exonerated beneficiaries from Pervez Musharraf's era. An editorial in The News on January 19 said: "Precisely a month after the Supreme Court declared the NRO null and void the federal government has filed a review petition against the verdict. Its move suggests complete desperation given the government had opted not to defend the controversial law in the court when the case first came up for hearing. It now claims, rather lamely, that the short order delivered by the apex court on December 16 goes against previous rulings in the matter and that various mistakes were made. Constitutional experts seem to agree that the chances the petition will be accepted look, from the government's point of view, rather bleak. No definite error in the SC verdict has been pointed out while the government's change of lawyer is also a violation of SC rules which lay down that the same lawyer presenting the case should file the review petition." Daily Times on January 20 was crisper, predicting trouble for Zardari: "The Supreme Court held that criminal cases could not be withdrawn in the name of reconciliation as it declared the NRO never to have existed and against the constitution... The judgement cited the example of Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos, whose laundered money was brought back from the safety vaults of Swiss banks, adding the example could be taken as a reference."

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BANKING ON POPULISM


The political tide in America seems to have turned against Barack Obama for now—his approval ratings one year into office are just about 50%, a huge fall from his sky-high popularity just a year ago and his party, the Democrats, just lost one of their safest US Senate seats from Massachusetts. Like a lot of other politicians, Obama has decided that his best chance of a strong comeback lies in doling out a bit of populism—banks being the softest target. Before one gets to the flawed economics of Obama's latest announcements on breaking down banks to smaller sizes and banning 'proprietary trading', even the politics of his plan seems suspect. After all, it is not the Left-wing Democrats but the Right-wing Republicans who are in the ascendancy and Scott Brown, the surprise Senator elect from liberal Massachusetts, has already said that he plans to oppose Obama's Left-of-Centre plans including the overhaul of healthcare—he will no doubt oppose tighter regulation of banks like most other members of his party. Of course, Obama is probably trying to shore up his Left-wing base by attacking 'villainous' banks but it's a strategy that may backfire in the medium term.

 

In just under three years from now, when Obama fights for re-election what will likely determine his chances more than anything else is the state of the economy at that point in time. There is already enough evidence to show that the worst is over for the US financial system and indeed for the real economy. But the real economy always takes longer than the financial sector to register a strong turnaround. That is what gives the temporary impression of bankers making merry while Main Street suffers. Unfortunately, Obama and his closest advisors seem to have lost nerve relatively early into his four-year term. Temporary political setbacks are always a high probability in a difficult economic climate, but Obama's team should surely view his performance over a longer time horizon. By tampering with the financial system now, and clamping down on banking activity, Obama risks undermining the recovery over the medium term. If banks don't generate cheap finance and lend it out generously, the US economy will continue to stutter for longer than it should. Of course, there is public anger about big bonuses but there are signs that banks are cutting down on these under public pressure and pressure from shareholders. As we have maintained in these columns, decisions on pay and bonuses are best left to shareholders. In terms of regulation, rather than try and break banks into smaller sizes through government diktat, or ban certain types of trading that will be difficult if not impossible to tell apart from what will still be legitimate trading, the government should focus on ensuring that banks irrespective of size adhere to capital adequacy norms. That should take care of systemic risk.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

AFTER THE HIMALAYAN BLUNDER

 

IPCC has been forced to apologise for improper application of clear and well-established standards of evidence, which led its fourth assessment report to proclaim that Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than in any other part of the world and, at present rates, they would disappear by 2035 if not sooner. India's environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh, ever since taking charge in May last year, has questioned IPCC's glacier predictions, characterising them as alarmist. When he suggested a closer look at a paper arguing that "regional and local geomorphic features have had as much influence on the snout fluctuations as climate parameters" and highlighting that different glaciers have behaved in different ways over the last century, Ramesh was accused by the IPCC head of being a voodoo science supporter. Guess who's eating crow now? It turns out that, first, while the IPCC review process claims to have solicited 40,000 comments, these were not rigorous enough to catch out a basic problem—that the 2035 prophecy was completely missing documentary validation. Second, the research in question was looking at the prospects for 2350, which means the IPCC prediction was off the mark by 300 years! Third, IPCC would have done well to heed Ramesh's continued emphasis on different glaciers behaving differently—Himalayan ones aren't behaving exactly like the ones at the poles.

 

At a September Idea Exchange with Express, the minister emphasised that Arctic glaciers are fundamentally

different from the Himalayan glaciers. The former are at sea level whereas the latter are at 4,000-6,000 metres above sea level and more. In the Himalayas, going against the grain, we even find that some glaciers are advancing—the Siachen glacier represents one such anomaly. Here, we also find glaciers that are receding at a decelerating rate. None of this is to deny that the overall health of glaciers is a matter of concern, or that the world's governments need to invest more in mitigation efforts, or that a collaborative sensibility would best serve these investments. But greater localisation can only make for superior data collection. As Ramesh said in an exclusive interview with FE, India will soon have a well-equipped national agency for climate change assessment. This is a welcome move. The need for indigenous research and commentaries will only intensify as global policymakers take climate change more seriously, partly because there are many instances in which the 'natives' can best track changes in the earth's behaviour. More broadly speaking, it's clearly time to rethink the IPCC's basic structures. Ranging from the review process to its openness to criticism, the organisation needs to clean up its orders. With or without the present head.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BASIC TRUTH ABOUT CLEAN ENERGY

JEEVAN DEOL


This weekend, environment ministers from the BASIC countries will meet in New Delhi to try to seize the lead on climate issues. Brazil, South Africa, India and China have until the end of the month to present a slate of voluntary measures to cut carbon emissions as the next stage in agreeing to a legally-binding global climate pact.

 

Much as it needs to join with BASIC partners in finding a new way forward on the global stage, India also needs to revamp its own energy strategy. Last year the government wrecked its new solar energy initiative by caving in to political pressure to back away from a commitment to subsidies aimed at underwriting ambitious thirty-year energy-generation targets. Instead, it trotted out the tired argument that the West should correct historical imbalances by paying for clean energy in India.

 

Instead of asking for handouts to fund clean energy, India needs to recognise the major transformative opportunity that that the new energy economy presents. The major Western economies cannot meet their existing carbon targets with their current industrial base. Britain has to cut emissions by half by 2050, but the lion's share of the wind-farm contracts it awarded earlier this month went to foreign companies. Flush with cash, Gulf investors are rapidly becoming the funders of choice for Western clean-energy products. But their economies lack the capacity to produce the technologies they are funding, even as they realise that their oil-fuelled boom years will soon be over.

 

India needs to turn its energy politics around. The clean-energy economy is not about righting historical wrongs: it is a chance to leapfrog ahead of developed economies. What India needs is not Western subsidies but smart, market-based choices. India must leverage the size of its own infrastructure needs to incentivise Western companies into effectively subsidising its clean-energy drive by transferring production to Indian factories. Where Western companies struggle to scale up production at reasonable costs in their home economies, India's cheaper labour and capital costs allow expensive technologies to become affordable.

 

There will of course be bottlenecks and difficulties. For example, nearly all of the rare-earth elements that make up rechargeable batteries are currently mined in China. But the biggest emerging producers of rare-earths are Canada, Australia and South Africa, Commonwealth partners which India can and should convince to work closely with Indian industry. If it can secure access to the right raw materials, India is well-placed to service large emerging markets for clean energy in the Gulf and Africa.

 

But India needs to act sooner than later. Rising production and capital costs will eventually make it less attractive to produce new technologies in the country—and more expensive to underwrite real economic growth. At the same time, India's own energy needs are rapidly becoming a serious strategic challenge. India has been outflanked by China in the search for new oil and gas supplies in Africa and Myanmar, and it now faces the prospect of becoming dependent on Pakistan for piped supplies of gas from Iran and the Gulf.

 

India must act quickly in order to avoid paying other countries over the odds for its own clean-energy infrastructure. The neatest solution is one that might look distinctly retrograde in light of Indian industry's swadeshi past: domestic-content regulations. But technology and production standards in India are a far cry from their swadeshi predecessors, and the products of a temporarily regulated clean-energy economy will surely be able to compete and win in the global marketplace.

 

India also needs to spur enough innovation . This will not happen unless private enterprise, government and the universities learn to operate in new ways. If the country is to become a leader in clean-energy science, Indian universities need to produce engineers, technicians and research scientists who have been trained to solve energy problems. They will only be able to do so if corporates and private capital see a rationale for investing in the labs, researchers and teachers they need. That, in turn, can only happen if there is a strong and viable clean-energy sector. At the same time, diplomats and educationists will need to try to shift the global research economy: American and European scientific grant-giving bodies will have to be convinced to channel some of their funds into projects involving Indian partners and, eventually, to open up more of their research grants to Indian institutions.

 

Both government and the private sector will have to change the way they view risk-taking if innovation is to take off. A thriving clean-energy sector will need dense clusters of start-ups and venture capitalists to fund them. The best way to energise both is to do the opposite of what Indian business has often done: share information, create networks of entrepreneurs and encourage best practice by mentoring. The government will need to take an even bigger step: it needs to create an independent funding body driven by innovation that funds the best and brightest to take risks on big ideas. A good model is the US department of defense's DARPA research hub, which funds high-risk, game-changing research concepts that may later be taken up for production by the private sector.

 

Making India a hub of the new clean-energy economy will not be easy. But the old arguments about historical injustice are dead, and India needs a new approach.

 

The author has taught Indian history at Oxford and Cambridge Universities

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OBAMA'S FURY ON BANKS IS JUST POLITICS

AJAY SHAH


When Barack Obama came to power, he handed the task of crafting intricate financial reform to the technocrats. Their work has been slowly finding its way through the US lawmaking process. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party lost a critical Senate seat in Massachusetts. Now, Republicans have the 41 votes required to block law. As a tactical response, Obama has embarked on a campaign to harness popular anger against banks. This could improve Democratic vote share, but it could do damage to confidence in the Obama administration and it could damage the prospects for recovery of the world economy.

 

Obama the candidate had fairly Left-of-Centre views on many things. Yet, when the Obama team came together, there was confidence in its staff quality. Timothy Geithner headed the ministry of finance, Larry Summers was put into a critical position in the administration and Bernanke was retained to run the central bank. All three individuals have impeccable reputations and the world trusted their policy consensus.

 

The team first focused on getting the economy back on its feet. In the aftermath of a systemic financial crisis, it makes sense to first rebuild confidence in the economy, and slowly move on financial reform. The reasons are two-fold. First, to have confidence about the new medicine that is proposed, one has to have confidence in an understanding of what went wrong in the crisis. And understanding crises is not easy. The passage of time, the full release of data, and the buildup of research papers help in arriving at a sound diagnosis of what went wrong. The second reason lies in the problem of macroeconomic stability. At a time when confidence is low, one does not want to rock the boat. Hence, it is sensible to do financial reform well after the environment of a crisis has subsided.

 

In the last year, the US Treasury had been slowly making progress on putting down a group of legislative priorities which would incrementally make progress on financial reform. While many of the details are contentious, these proposals reflect the mainstream consensus about what needs to be done.

 

In public, Obama focused on reform of US healthcare and not on finance which was left to his deputies. The whole story changed when Ted Kennedy, Democratic senator from the state of Massachusetts, died on August 25, 2009. From 1953 onwards, democrats have won this seat. But on January 19, 2010, the election took place, and the Democratic candidate lost.

 

This came as a shock to Obama. His window of opportunity of being able to do legislation without cooperation from the Republicans had ended. On January 21, he switched tracks drastically, coming out with a populist speech that tried to tap into public hostility against bankers.

 

The caricature that makes the public irate is that of bankers getting money from the government and paying it out to themselves as bonuses. This caricature is largely inaccurate, but it has aroused widespread anger anyway.

 

What is Obama proposing? One key element is that when a bank benefits from deposit insurance, and access to emergency credit from the central bank, it would be prohibited from doing proprietary trading, and from owning or investing in private equity or hedge funds. (It is not a return to the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act: they would continue to do investment banking for clients). In addition, Obama proposes to force a reduction in the size of the biggest banks.

 

Does this make sense? Any economist will agree that the concentration of US banking in a few firms is a worrisome feature of the recent years—but few would support solving this through government diktat. Instead, it would make more sense to focus on the entry barriers and other regulatory mistakes through which the big banks have gotten bigger.

 

Banning proprietary trading sounds nice, but as every banker knows, it is hard to really draw the line between agency trading and proprietary trading. Regulators will find it difficult to enforce such a rule, in case it is enacted.

 

Perhaps the heart of the matter is that a weakened Obama administration knows that the gap between speeches and legislation is now bigger than it was. What is going on now is politics as theatre. Obama is attempting to consolidate his support from the Left and appeal to a middle that dislikes banks today. It is, hence, not surprising that most of the response to Obama's fire is a weary cynicism.

 

Could there be more at stake? If a bigger shift towards populism and Left-wing politics is required, then Obama could choose to disrupt the policy team of Geithner, Summers and Bernanke. If this comes about, then it would be an important piece of bad news for the world economy.

 

The author is an economist with interests in finance, pensions and macroeconomics

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PROHIBITED WITHOUT PERMIT

JYOTSNA BHATNAGAR

 

Guess who's the latest to join the chorus for lifting prohibition in Gujarat, the country's only officially dry state. No, it's not Vijay Mallya. When a well-heeled delegation representing some of the biggest names in the US's galaxy of multinationals trooped in to meet CM Narendra Modi, it listed the policy of prohibition as a 'key concern' while conducting business in Gujarat.

 

Interestingly, liquor flows quite freely in dry Gujarat. Statistics, studies and sporadic hooch tragedies show that over the years, Gujarat has, in fact, shown an increase in illegal liquor consumption. There's a flourishing business of bootlegging that thrives on a nexus between small business and the state. According to some estimates, the state is losing revenue to the tune of around Rs 2,500 crore per annum on account of prohibition.

 

Plus, the state has failed to rake in the moolah from tourism—partly because of prohibition. According to a recent study, Gujarat has the potential to earn as much as Rs 3,000 crore from tourism alone if prohibition is lifted. So, the time has come to do away with this self-imposed restriction that no one in the state, from the hoi polloi who lose their lives drinking spurious liquor, to the glitterati who savour the best brands with a little help from bootleggers, adheres to in actual practice.

 

To be fair to the state government, steps are being taken to tweak the policy a little. For instance, the policy has been relaxed for SEZs in the state as well as for important conventions, business and academic meets. Group permits are being granted for major events. Foreigners visiting the state can get their liquor permits without any hassles whatsoever.

 

On the flip side, Gujarat has still managed to claw its way up the investment sweepstakes to become one of India's most coveted investment destinations. Obviously, lack of liquor has not deterred serious investors from doing business in the most enterprising state. So what if you can't publicly mix business with pleasure, you are still allowed to clink glasses and raise a toast to happy times and more business with any drink of your choice, provided you have a permit.

 

jyotsna.bhatnagar@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM THE YSR CRASH

 

The weather was bad, visibility was poor; there was a technical snag in the helicopter; and the attention of the pilots was distracted for six vital minutes as they searched for correctives in the Flight Manual. The official investigation into the crash of the Bell-430 helicopter flying Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy in September 2009 has stuck the blame on some of the typical reasons that have made helicopter flying in this country extremely risky. The pilot had not gone through the mandatory recurrent simulator training due three months earlier, the State government did not have adequate manpower to maintain the helicopter, and most crucially the helicopter was flying in weather that was hardly appropriate. It had been cleared for Visual Flight Rules, which means the weather must be clear enough for the pilot to see where he is going; yet the weather at the time was bad enough to warrant flying only by instrument. The craft was simply not equipped for that. The question that still needs an answer is why the pilots took off (or were asked to take off) even when they knew the weather en route was adverse. The report has not thrown enough light on this aspect of the tragedy.

 

There have been 54 helicopter crashes in India since 1990, a depressingly high casualty rate given that there are just about 250 of them flying today. The politician and the industry tycoon need to risk such rides because they get him or her quickly to places that do not have airports for fixed wing aircraft to land. Helicopters can set down even in a small clearing with the minimum facilities. Yet it is precisely these advantages that turn lethal for their safety. There being no instruments at these often makeshift helipads, precise local weather data are seldom available to the pilots as they land; often there is also no monitoring by or guidance from an air traffic controller sitting at a nearby airport; and when they land there may be no engineering facilities at all. The human factor is not to be taken lightly: pilot errors have been blamed by accident investigators for more than half the number of crashes. At the heart of this issue is the inadequacy of training facilities — there is no full-fledged simulator in the country to train helicopter pilots as there are for fixed-wing aircraft — and of mechanisms to monitor the proficiency of pilots at regular points in their career or the safety record of the companies operating the helicopters. These are all shortcomings that have been pointed out time and again; correctives are known, yet not put in place. Rajasekhara Reddy was not the first VIP to perish in a helicopter crash; he will not be the last either given the abysmal safety record of helicopters, and the continued inability of the industry and the government to improve it.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

TOUGH CHOICES

 

In its forthcoming review of the annual monetary and credit policy, the Reserve Bank of India will once again try to balance the often conflicting objectives of accelerating growth and reining in inflation. That traditional policy dilemma has become particularly acute today. To a large extent, the RBI's quandary mirrors the current public debate on exit packages. Both the government and the RBI have indicated their preference for exiting from the stimulus packages but they are yet to spell out the time, nature, and extent of withdrawal. An exit strategy for the RBI would involve a reversal of its "super accommodative" stance that was formulated at the height of the global financial crisis in September 2008. Besides other measures, it pumped in a record Rs.600,000 crore of liquidity in a short span of time through reductions in reserve requirements and refinance facilities. The benchmark short-term repo and reverse repo rates were lowered by as much as 4.5 per cent. Like the other central banks, the RBI too resorted to unconventional measures such as quantitative easing for shoring up liquidity to forestall what appeared to be a major global recession. That threat has since receded.

 

However, as in many other countries, inflation has resurfaced in India, partly due to the surfeit of liquidity in the system. The Wholesale Price Index for December at 7.31 per cent exceeded the RBI's target for the whole year. More worrying is the stubbornly high food inflation. The RBI and the government seem to be of the view that monetary policy measures will have little effect in a situation where increased food prices are brought about predominantly by supply side factors. However, the high prices of food and other essential articles will reinforce inflationary expectations. Economic growth in the country has picked up momentum and there is a distinct probability of the growth rate climbing to 8 per cent next year. While growth at this level suggests an interest rate hike, a number of other factors point to the maintenance of the status quo. For instance, the credit off-take has been low despite the benign interest rate environment. It is quite likely that the RBI will mop up liquidity through a hike in reserve requirements, leaving the interest rates unchanged. The RBI has already signalled a retreat from its easy monetary policy. An immediate monetary tightening, though directed at inflation, will mark the beginning of the retreat.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

RETURN TO GLASS-STEAGALL?

INFLUENTIAL VOICES IN THE U.S. AND THE U.K. ARE CALLING FOR STRONG REGULATION OF THE BANKING SYSTEM OF THE KIND THAT THE GLASS-STEAGALL ACT OF 1933 IMPLIED.

C.P. CHANDRASEKHAR

 

With the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression having been stalled and partially reversed, the pressure to rein in unfettered finance, which generated the 2008 crisis, has eased. Moreover, with no agreement on the nature and extent of re-regulation of finance that is required, the debate goes on but little is actually being done to reform the financial system. There are, however, radical recommendations which are being advanced, even if by a minority. One such is the demand for a reinstatement of the regulatory structure shaped in the United States by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933. This regulatory framework was diluted over a long period starting in the 1980s and finally dismantled through the Gramm-Leach-Bliley (or Financial Services Modernization) Act of 1999, paving the way for financial innovation and proliferation.

 

The regulatory framework that Glass-Steagall defined (and served the U.S. well for more than four decades) was necessitated by the crisis that engulfed the free banking regime in that country in the early 20th century. During 1930-32 alone, more than 5000 commercial banks accounting for about a fifth of all banking institutions in the U.S. suspended operations and in many cases subsequently failed.

 

Underlying the 1930s crisis was the competition that characterised the free banking era in which interest rate competition to attract deposits necessitated, in turn, investment in risky, high-return areas. This soon showed up in a high degree of financial fragility and almost routine bank closures. The Banking Act of 1933 limited competition with deposit insurance, interest rate regulation, and entry barriers which together rendered any bank as good as any other in the eyes of the ordinary depositor. This preempted the tendency to push up deposit rates to attract depositors that would require risky lending and investment to match returns with costs. The regulatory framework went even further to curb risky practices in the banking industry. Restrictions were imposed on investments that banks or their affiliates could make, limiting their activities to provision of loans and purchases of government securities. There was a ban on banks underwriting securities and serving as insurance underwriters or agents, besides limits on outstanding exposure to a single borrower and lending to sensitive sectors like real estate.

 

Even though this regulatory framework was directed at and imposed principally on the banking sector, it implicitly regulated the non-bank financial sector as well. It is not often recognised that the size, degree of diversification and level of activity of the non-bank financial sector depends on the degree to which institutions in that sector can leverage their activity with credit delivered directly or indirectly from the banking system. Banks being the principal depository institutions are the first port of call for a nation's savings. So if direct or indirect bank involvement in a range of non-bank financial activities was prohibited, as was true under Glass-Steagall, then the range and scope of those activities are bound to be limited. Not surprisingly, right through the period of intensive regulation of the financial sector in the U.S., there was little financial "innovation" in terms of new institutions or instruments, though there were periods characterised by substantial and rapid growth in the financial sector. In the event, even by the 1950s, banking activity constituted 80-90 per cent of that in the financial sector and trading on the New York Stock Exchange involved a daily average of three million shares at its peak as compared with as much as 160 million shares per day during the second half of the 1980s, when leverage became possible.

 

The process of dismantling the Chinese Walls separating different segments of the financial sector began in 1982, when the Office of the Comptroller of Currency permitted several banks to set up subsidiaries to engage in the discount brokerage business. Since then the process has continued. Bank holding companies were allowed to underwrite commercial paper, municipal revenue bonds, mortgage- and consumer loan-backed securities, and corporate bonds and equities through securities subsidiaries. It was this new framework that Gramm-Leach-Bliley legalised in 1999.

 

The liberalisation encouraged banks to expand into areas and transform the nature of their intermediation activity. While banks did provide credit and create assets that promised a stream of incomes into the future, they did not hold those assets any more. Rather they structured them into pools, "securitised" those pools, and sold these securities for a fee to institutional investors and portfolio managers. Banks transferred the risk for a fee, and those who bought into the risk looked to the returns they would earn in the long term. The net result was an era of financial innovation that created products like "collateralised debt obligations" and "credit default swaps" that were the derivatives that exploded and precipitated a financial crisis.

 

That the complex structure which delivered extremely high profits to the financial sector was prone to failure has been clear for some time. For example, the number of bank failures in the United States increased after the 1980s. During 1955-81, failures of U.S. banks averaged 5.3 per year, excluding banks kept from going under by official open-bank assistance. On the other hand, during 1982-90 failures averaged 131.4 per year or 25 times as many as 1955-81. During the four years ending 1990, failures averaged 187.3 per year. The most spectacular set of failures, was that associated with the Savings and Loan crisis, which was precipitated by financial behaviour induced by liberalisation. Finally, the collapse of Long Term Capital Management pointed to the dangers of leveraged speculation. Each time a mini-crisis occurred there were calls for a reversal of liberalisation and increased regulation. But financial interests that had become extremely powerful and had come to control the U.S. Treasury managed to stave off criticism, stall any reversal and even ensure further liberalisation. The view that had come to dominate the debate was that the financial sector had become too complex to be regulated from outside; what was needed was self-regulation.

 

Underlying the current crisis too were two consequences of the developments outlined above. First, the "originate-and-distribute" model migrated out of the banking system to other segments of the financial sector. Second, this was facilitated by the fact that in more ways than one this resulting diversification and proliferation of Finance, was leveraged by the liberalised banking system. Because of this complex chain, institutions at every level assumed that they were not carrying risk or were insured against it. However, risk does not go away, but resides somewhere in the system. And given financial integration, each firm was exposed to many markets and most firms were exposed to each other as lenders, investors or borrowers. Any failure would have a domino effect that would damage different firms to different extents.

 

Not surprisingly, in the wake of the crisis, John McCain, the Republican senator for Arizona, and Maria Cantwell, the Democratic senator for Washington state, have (last month) introduced a bill to restore the Glass-Steagall Act. But it is not just this political move that keeps the issue on the table. On a number of occasions Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve has called for a new version of Glass-Steagall and a return to "narrow banking". And Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England has joined the chorus with a call for "utility banking" that restricts banks to the tasks of financial intermediation and payments facilitation, and disallows speculative investments. Volcker has also argued that there was no neutral evidence whatsoever that financial innovation improves economic growth. The image and track record of these central bankers gives the demand for a return to Glass-Steagall much credibility.

 

Needless to say, bankers have been quick to protest, since this would not merely restrict their freedom to do "God's work" (as Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs put it), but also limit the profits on which their bonuses depend. But as Simon Johnson, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund reportedly queried: "If independent experts told Congress there was a really dangerous nuclear plant that could blow up in the next 25 years, then lawmakers wouldn't take objections from the nuclear industry very seriously. So why are we only going to Wall Street for expert advice on how to re-regulate Wall Street?" Unfortunately, as of now, financial policy is still influenced by big finance, limiting progress in a policy area that needs urgent action.

 

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THE HINDU

HAITI: EXODUS TO COUNTRYSIDE STARTS

FLEETS OF BUSES BEGIN FERRYING PEOPLE FREE OF CHARGE OUT OF PORT-AU-PRINCE AND INTO THE COUNTRYSIDE, WHERE FOOD IS MORE PLENTIFUL AND SHELTER CERTAIN.

ED PILKINGTON

 

Haitians are used at the best of times to queuing up for things; waiting is, after all, the first cousin of poverty. But in the nine days since the earthquake struck, they have become experts.

 

All around Port-au-Prince there are crowds of Haitians queuing up. Outside the U.S. embassy, they jostle to present their credentials in an almost certainly fruitless search for work. Wherever aid trucks are parked they line up, buckets at the ready, for water and food. At the U.N. building they gather in the hope of securing plastic sheets to turn into makeshift tents.

 

Now the streets of Port-au-Prince are witness to a new form of waiting, as Haitians in their thousands scramble to board buses to quit the stricken city. An exodus is under way. The initial monstrous shock of the earthquake that left the three million residents of the capital dazed and paralysed has faded, replaced by an urgent instinct to flee.

 

Fleets of buses laid on by the government have begun ferrying people free of charge out of Port-au-Prince and into the countryside, where food is more plentiful and shelter certain. The government plans to create refugee villages outside the crushed capital, each housing 10,000 survivors, up to a total of about 400,000.

 

Many thousands more homeless residents of the capital are heading east by bus, to the border of the Dominican Republic, aiming to cross into a happier nation. At the ports there are similar scenes of people playing out their dreams of leaving. Scarce boats are overloaded, reports the Haiti Press Network, with refugees heading for Cuba, the Bahamas and Miami, while the U.S. military is preparing its base in Guantanamo to receive up to 2,000.

 

In the central square in Petionville, a heavily damaged suburb of the capital, more than 100 people had been waiting since dawn for the arrival of the government buses. Among the crowd was Geffard Guilene, a 21-year-old secretarial student, who is queuing for the bus to Jacmel. She had with her three shopping bags packed with clothes and shoes for her and her brother, who was coming with her. "We've kept it very simple," she said.

 

The beautiful 19th century town of Jacmel has also been badly hit by the quake, but Ms Guilene's family home lies in a village outside the town. There she will find her parents and old friends, a bed to sleep in, and food grown in the family's tiny plot.

 

That will be a stark improvement in the conditions of the past week. In Petionville she has been packed in among hundreds of homeless people, living in the square under those plastic sheets. "I can't stay here any more," she said. "It's too hot in the square, there are too many people."

 

A man who had been listening to us talk broke into the conversation. "We are living like animals here," he said. "We are having to pee beside our beds, and that's not healthy. The smell is awful, infection is setting into the wounds of the injured; the kids are in trauma."

 

Across the town the pattern is the same. In Delmas district, Arilien Georges, 42, waited with his family for a bus to Gonaives, north of Port-au-Prince. The school where he taught chemistry collapsed and he was taking his wife, three children and two cousins to his parents' house. "We have nothing left. It's our turn to run," he said.

 

The exodus is the story of modern Haiti, written backwards. Since the 1980s, the demographic flow has been from the country to towns, induced in part by disastrous U.S. trade policies that flooded the country with cheap subsidised rice, destroying Haiti's agriculture.

 

This urban flow partly explains why the earthquake has been so monumental in its impact. The capital, a city that should by rights house no more than 400,000, grew in 30 years to three million, packed into substandard houses on unstable hillsides.

 

Now the flow is in reverse. Haitians like Ms Guilene are returning to the rural homes in which they were born and where they grew up. Will this be the start of a new demographic trend of back-to-the-land?

 

Not if Ms Guilene is typical. She says she plans to stay in the village outside Jacmel for a month, two at most, before she returns to Port-au-Prince. "There's nothing for me in the countryside. Work is in the city," she said. Her intentions spell danger. Is Haiti about to repeat the errors of its past? Will Port-au-Prince bulldoze away the rubble, and then get straight back to building substandard houses on unstable hillsides? In the central square in Petionville, the temperature is rising. People are queuing, but there's less patience. "I'm in trouble. My wife is dead. I must get out of the city. Can you help?" a man in a brown T-shirt said. "Sir! Sir! What can you do for me? I'm in trouble," said another.

 

A third man approached us and opened his wallet to show us his badge that told us he was a clergyman in New Jersey. "Can you tell me how to get to America?" he asks. "I can't live here anymore. My house has fallen. I can't stay."

 

 

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THE HINDU

HOW PRINCE WILLIAM BOWLED THEM OVER

STEPHEN BATES

 

In the end, the lure of celebrity proved just too much. The arrival of the diffident 27-year-old Old Etonian, who might conceivably one day become their monarch, provoked sneers in Australia before he touched down on Tuesday. But by Thursday, he had been transformed from Willy the Wombat into — according to the tabloid Herald Sun — a Dinkum Aussie Larrikin. You could go a long way through the Outback to find someone less like a larrikin (which usually translates as a bit of a hoodlum), but that's what the presence of royalty can do for you.

 

Many thousands turned out to see the prince in Australia and in New Zealand earlier in the week. Outside the new Supreme Court building in Wellington, which William had been sent to open on behalf of his grandmother, people greeted him with cheers and worried about the effect of the sun on his bald spot. Maoris beamed with pleasure that the grandson of the Great White Heron had come amongst them.

 

In Sydney, Aborigines who spend their lives crammed into a dismal slum area called the Block came out in thousands to welcome a young man as different from them as it is possible to imagine. William's gay fanbase turned out in "I Love Willy" T-shirts.

 

And he did not disappoint. Like his mother before him, William hugged babies in hospital wards and spontaneously put his arms around elderly Aboriginal ladies. He listened gravely to survivors of last February's devastating Victoria bushfires. He joshed the parachute squaddies of the 3rd battalion Royal Australian Regiment on their firing range, where his shooting proficiency provoked genuine admiration.

 

So, as he and his advisers flew back home — business class on a scheduled flight, not by private jet like some royals — they will undoubtedly feel buoyed up by success. They may even have been chortling gently that the pro-republican Melbourne Age noted yesterday, under the headline "All-round Good Egg William Snares Many with his Charm Offensive," that the prince "may have done more to set back the republican cause than anything since the 1999 referendum" — which, of course, the republicans narrowly lost.

 

That is good news indeed for Buckingham Palace and, across the road, Clarence House, home of William's father Prince Charles. Because William is the best hope they have.

 

Things are looking bleak for the monarchy right now. There isn't much stardust around for the foreseeable future: the Queen is approaching her mid-80s and, with no sign of ill health, may be good for another decade or (if she has inherited her mother's longevity) two. Her famously grumpy heir, Charles, is now 61; he will already be an old man when he inherits. So it is to the next generation the family must turn, even though William, already approaching his 30s, will probably be middle-aged by the time he is crowned.

 

All the more reason, therefore, to pay attention to the prince's progress as he finally, by taking on grown-up engagements of this sort, begins to take the burden off the oldsters. This week was the first time that he has undertaken an official overseas tour (at least so far as the New Zealand leg of the trip was concerned) and, as fate would have it, it was to two countries that have been murmuring for years about dispensing with the monarch and having their own home-grown head of state.

 

No wonder then that accompanying the prince was a small, elite team whose job it was to keep him from gaffes and pitfalls. Major Jamie Lowther-Pinkerton, the leathery, hatchet-faced former SAS man who is the prince's private secretary, was to be seen alongside him, glowering as he was handed yet another bouquet of flowers to carry (the flowers having been thrust at the prince during his walkabouts). Beside him, equally discreet, was Sir David Manning, the former diplomat whose career peaked as Tony Blair's foreign affairs adviser and then ambassador to the U.S. during the period after the Iraq war.

 

There were also three security police, a young press officer and a secretarial assistant, but this was not all: watching beadily from the public seats as William opened the New Zealand Supreme Court was none other than Christopher Geidt, the Queen's private secretary. Clearly uncomfortable at being spotted, he protested that he had only dropped by because he happened to be in Wellington: "I am just on holiday and it was suggested I might like to look in."

 

What all these helpers, official or otherwise, will have reported back to senior royals was how well William did. He was charming, empathetic, approachable and informal. He smiled and told jokes, he listened seriously and engaged with what people told him, he was clearly moved by the victims of the bushfires and he asked serious questions, beyond the "Do you come here often?" that so many of the royals use as a substitute for conversation.

 

He also wore informal clothes — Asics trainers and cords and open-necked shirts — some of them the same two days running. In short, how unlike the life of his own dear father, who needs a valet on tours and has been known to change suits several times a day.

 

William even mingled with the press, albeit briefly, in a bar by Auckland harbour. I'd like to tell you what he said but, of course, it was all off the record, though he clearly knew the tabloid correspondents well and enjoyed the game of evading their attentions. Not surprisingly, they like him very much. It would be difficult not to.

 

And the stardust rubbed off. Here's Ali Williams, towering All Blacks skunk-haired lock forward: "He's got to do what he's got to do — he's only human, isn't he?" And another Ali: Aunty Ali Golding, a 67-year-old Aboriginal woman from the Block who has met the Queen and Princess Anne and showed William photographs to prove it. "You look as though you have met more of my family than I have," he told her. She said afterwards: "I think he's excellent in his mannerisms — a real human being. His spirit was really down-to-earth. He's got the character and spirit of his mother and as long as he exists, she will. I think he would be a most excellent king."

 

And here is a middle-aged, unshaven chap in vest and shorts, living in a cabin in the outback village of Flowerdale after his house burned down in last year's disastrous bushfire, who said to me: "Look at that — he shook my hand!"

 

As William flies back, perhaps he will reflect that the royal duty that he speaks about will involve encounters and lobbying and receptions and barbecues and walkabouts and meetings with politicians and governors and Prime Ministers for the rest of his life. It is part of what monarchs do and always have done.

 

What he will also know is that he will have to endure puerile analysis of everything he does. Then, of course, there will be the endless speculation about if and when he will marry his girlfriend Kate Middleton. "Wait and see," he said airily this week, a remark sufficiently ambiguous to prompt more exegesis.

 

So what have we learned of Prince William? Well, his taste in music turns out to include Linkin Park and Kanye West; that he believes he has no taste in clothes, though Harry's is worse; that he is a good shot and bad at table tennis (and even worse at Wii tennis); that he can keep a straight bat at cricket. And that his bald spot — the subject of much Australian mirth and New Zealand concern — is growing fast.

 

We have learned, too, that the public is interested in him and that royalty can still produce fawning. "God bless you William," the Aborigines cried as they queued up to have their photographs taken with him. ("Course you can, my loves," he told them and, lapsing into the demotic, "No worries.")

 

A palace aide said: "I would not like to say whether we achieved the objective of giving him the chance of getting to know the people of these countries, but he has been incredibly gratified by the welcome he has received. It was a very successful tour and he enjoyed every moment."

 

Does this turn back the long-term republican tide in Australia and New Zealand? Of course not: even though the impetus is currently lacking, a majority of both populations seems to want republicanism and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's spokeswoman this week suggested that, if Mr. Rudd's Labour government is re-elected later this year, it will initiate a debate "in due season." The fact is that celebrity and the royal touch will not sway everyone.

 

As Professor George Williams of New South Wales University and the national committee of the Australian republican movement wrote this week in the Sydney Morning Herald: "Having Prince William as our future king represents a failure, not on his part, but of ourselves."

 

 © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

THE LAST OF THE TSARS


India may be emerging as a tsar in the economic and political spheres, but it is not able to get rid of its

 

Third World tag when it comes to sports-related matters. We have the rare achievers, the routine underdogs and the murky officials and politicos calling the shots and enjoying every bit of their roles as villains.

 

Ugly tussles between sportspersons and sports administrators broke out over the last week in three instances and in quick succession.

 

First, it was the outburst of Indian men's hockey team players refusing to play their practice games in the run up to an international tournament unless they were paid what is due to them.

 

This was followed by India's lone Olympic shooting star and gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra crying foul, accusing the National Rifle Association of India and the ministry of sports of playing ping-pong with him and declaring despairingly that he would quit the sport altogether.

 

After that, women hockey players demanded the money due for their past victories. In the case of Bindra, there is certainly plenty of ambiguity and confusion on either side and there is much to split hairs over.

 

This does not, however, hide the plain fact that the NRAI does not respect achievers in the first place and it does not state rules clearly so that there is no room for a squabble. It is not exactly inspiring to let your lone Olympic gold medal winner lament so loudly and bitterly in public.

 

The same is true in the case of the men and women hockey players, where they have to beg for money that is their due. And it is a pretty embarrassing sight when philanthropists troop in with offers of money.

 

There has to be a more respectable way of dealing with our sports heroes than offering charitable doles, whether they come from state governments or from business and industrial tycoons.

 

If this be the case, it is futile to indulge in one of those endless debates over cups of tea and coffee as to why a billion plus country has so few champions in different sports. If you reduce your players to the status of shameful supplicants, how can you expect them to win glory for the country?

 

There are the basic issues of lack of standard stadiums, quality equipment and rigorous training that is needed to shape champions, and there is not even talk about it. We are stuck at a much lower level of squabble with the administrators playing petty tyrants and the players a bunch of wimps.

 

What is required is more than the ritualistic soul-searching and answering of questions of existential import. There has to be an action plan to throw out lock, stock and barrel all those living off the sports organisations and streamlining them to become auxiliaries of the players and not the other way round. The wicked reign of sports tsars has to end.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

FALSE ALARM, STAY CALM

V SUBRAMANYAN

 

Jairam Ramesh, the Union minister for environment and forests, has had the last laugh in his duel with the United Nations-led Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on the critical issue of the melting of all the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 as projected by the Nobel Prize-winning international body in its 2007 report.

 

He had the wisdom to put his money on sound scientific evidence to the contrary that came from a septuagenarian geologist and has justifiably come out trumps at the end.

 

The IPCC drew a lot of flak for its untenable prediction and is planning to withdraw its report in the face of recent damaging revelations about the basis on which its report was prepared.

 

As it has turned out now, the IPCC had based its significant global warning about vanishing glaciers on a news story reportedly carried by the New Scientist, a popular science journal way back in 1999.

 

It has emerged further that this news item which said that global warming would see the last of all the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 itself was based on a telephonic talk the reporter had with an Indian scientist working in the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

 

This cataclysmic claim has since been conceded by its author as mere "speculation not supported by any formal research".

 

That the prestigious IPCC, that was formed to provide the best possible advice on climate change to world leaders, had gone about scaring the whole world about impending doomsday on such flimsy grounds is hard to understand.It certainly makes a huge dent on its credibility and trustworthiness.

 

By contrast, the septuagenarian VK Raina, a retired deputy director general of the Geological Survey of India (GSI), chairman of the Himalayan Glaciology Monitoring Committee and author of the Glacier Atlas of India has all along been pointing out that data for the past 200 years on the Himalayan glaciers had shown that there was nothing abnormal about their melting and that their retreat, evaluated only on satellite images and not on field studies, was being sensationalised by a few. Out of some 9500 glaciers cradling in the mighty Himalaya, 50 important ones, including the Gangotri that feeds the Ganga, are being monitored regularly by the GSI and according to Raina it will take several hundred years for all these glaciers to melt and disappear in toto.While the IPCC pooh-poohed Raina's observations, the environment minister found a lot of sense in them from the start.

 

Where the IPCC had erred was in not realising that the glaciers are geological features and so the geological aspects need to be given their proper place in their programmes. Glaciers originate in snowfields through transformation of the light, fallen snow into a denser, more compact ice by the expulsion of the trapped air.

 

They can be a few hundred metres in thickness and are nourished by orographic snowfall that is related to the high altitude.Wastage of glaciers by melting is a normal process and the melt-water can flow on the sides, on top, through their mass or at the terminal ends.Without any melting our perennial rivers like the Ganga will not be fed.

 

The GSI, the oldest government organisation, has a separate Glaciology division to study the glaciers in all their aspects.

 

Though the IPCC has a few working groups and task forces, there is nothing to suggest that geologists find a place in any of them.

 

The much-decorated RK Pachauri, its chairman, is a reputed industrial engineer and an economist. The IPCC should have first talked to the glacial geologists of the GSI and taken their findings before making global pronouncements.

 

That it did not do so and went ahead with the Copenhagen summit involving some 190 nations armed with only suspect 10-year-old data was a grave mistake and amounts to taking the world for a ride.

 

The only way for the IPCC to redeem itself is to start afresh and rope in experienced geologists into its working groups.In fact with its United Nations funding, it should also be possible for it to help the GSI to recruit young geologists and put them on detailed studies of the Himalayan glaciers.

 

At present young geologists are not motivated to take up these studies. So much so that only a small number of the glaciers are being studied for their behaviour.

 

The IPCC should also avoid using unreliable data for its projections because it has a mandate to advise the whole world. It is also necessary to tell the world 'how seriously we need to take global warming'.

 

Finally, the IPCC should exercise restraint and care while arriving at acceptable predictions about likely sealevel rise and other consequences of the supposed warming.

 

The writer is a former professor of Geology at IIT, Bombay

 

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DNA

SEARCHING FOR BUNNY CHOW IN DURBAN

KAREENA GIANANI

 

In India, I may or may not always do like the Indians do, but in Durban I certainly did. Now, it had very little to do with the fact that Durban can easily be mistaken for an Indian town. And I am not the who-wants-to-meet-more-Indians-on-trips-abroad sort.

 

Anyway, while I chalked out grand plans for Durban and Pietermaritzburg, tasting traditional South African cuisine topped my must-do list (I had vowed to stay away from the usual suspect, Nando's).

 

I ran an internet search and loved the sounds of dishes like Mielie-meal, Potbrood, Potjiekos, Koeksisters and Mala Mogodu — provided there were vegetarian versions available, of course.Not to forget the legendary bunny chow. Bunny chow is to Durban what, perhaps, haggis is to Scotland.

 

Though it has deeper Indian roots than African, I wanted to know how delicious can some curry in hollowed-out loaf of bread be. Most South Africans insist that the dish dates as far back as the migrant Indian workers' arrival in South Africa.

 

One account suggests that the hollowed-out loaf of bread was a convenient way to transport the workers'vegetarian curries. Meat-based fillings came later. Some locals however, believe that the Indian banias at the famous Grey Street came up with the dish as a take-away for the discriminated during apartheid. Hence the name bunny chow.

 

At my first dinner in Durban, I saw the usual suspects on the menu — prawns, ravioli and so on. There's time, I told myself and smiled when two from my group of journalists called for the vegetable curry. I think I also heard "intrigued to try out an Indian curry in SA" and "let's see if it's better than home" from one side of the table.

 

Was I betting on the next morning's breakfast? Not really. On the contrary, I was glad at the familiar baked beans, omlette, cheese toast and yoghurt affair. I wanted to be in the right mood to roll a local dish around my tongue. Drowsy, early mornings when you're gulping down breakfast just aren't my time for that.

 

But the prospect of my dinner at a glittering casino that night certainly seemed to be — surely, this must be the place where people would want to stomach the unknown. "The highlight of this casino," began my affable tour guide, "is the award-winning restaurant, Silverani's, which serves the best Indian curry." Overheard somewhere at the table: "Can't wait to taste how an award-winning Indian curry taste like…"

 

Don't get me wrong. Silverani's did serve very good Indian food. So did an endearing Pakistani restaurant owner at Peitermaritzburg. As I began my rant about my bunny chow pangs, he shook his head and said, "Kya khaas baat hai bunny chow mein? It's such a messy dish. Your tour operators have arranged the best foods for you, my lady!"

 

During my tour to a Zulu village, the closest I came to South African cuisine was when I heard about a restaurant that challenged its guests to eat crocodile meat sitting in a pit full of crocodiles (I'm vegetarian), when the Zulu tribe showed us their kitchens, pots and pans (they were empty), and when they gave us some of their beer to taste (I'm a teetotaler). It was time to give up hope.

 

Or was it? One of our last lunches took us to a restaurant called Moyo's, complete with African interiors and artifacts on display. As the waitress offered to paint my temple as Zulu women often do as body art, I wondered if the tradition would extend to the food too.

 

And it did. We were served some thick, African soup made of carrot and other vegetables. One of my fellow-travellers who knew of my erstwhile angst smiled at me across the table. I happily piled my plate with dishes whose names I still cannot pronounce. It was curious, exotic and different all at once. Gastronomical satisfaction, uninterrupted.

 

Overheard at the table this time: 'Yeh khaana samajh mein nahin aaya…Anyone for a round of vegetable curry and rice?

 

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DNA

THE ITALIAN JOB

MAGANDEEP SINGH

 

Wines are gradually becoming less the buzzword and more the daily ration. There was a time when dropping the word wine was like announcing your son's singledom on an island full of desperate moms with unmarried daughters.

 

Today the scene is a lot calmer. Think of the same island above but with some of the girls not really caring for the boys, preferring instead to sit and comb each other's tresses, like on one of those mystical siren islands. Okay, fantasy moment passed; back to wines.

 

I was recently part of a wine event in the capital which brought in several Italian winemakers and allowed the trade to interact with them, taste their wines and learn about them first hand. It
was heartening to see a good turnout — both with exhibitors and visitors — and the recession seemed to be finally, receding.

 

Hoteliers too came along for a serious tete-a-tete with these wine makers. Italian wines have been fairly strong on the scene for some time now and this is largely due to two simple reasons: Italian winemakers are aggressive about the Indian market and leave no stone unturned in making their presence felt and their wines tasted. Second, the number of Italian restaurants cannabis-ing (mushrooming is boring) on the eatery scene is making Italian wines more accessible. A sub-point here would be that Italian cuisine affords a large vegetarian fare and that in India is important when deciding a place to dine with the family.

 

But wine remains expensive mainly due to the inexplicable amount of taxation they are subjected to. If I could capture the look of disbelief on the faces of all the people who came to the show, tasted the wines and stood stunned by just how affordable these great wines really were, I'd easily have enough footage to cut for a film.

 

On the whole we saw a good turnout. The dinners were packed and teeming, the tastings buzzing and the overall feel, professional yet fun. Nobody complained about pairing possibilities, wine temperatures or glassware.

 

They all were there to learn and not schmooze and hence I labelled it a trade event instead of a page 3 gala. So why didn't this delicious event come to Mumbai? Because, between the customs and the excise while trying to request exemptions from certain state laws, I had a harrowing experience the first time.

 

No one cared about wines or winemakers, all they wished was to impress upon me how what I was doing was

illegal and impossible and unhelpful to anybody in the long run. Funny then how their notion changed when I made the event 'helpful' for them, if you know what I mean.

 

Meanwhile, Delhi too has turned for the worse. A legal system that keeps getting more complicated and provides less clarity to the citizens combined with more loopholes for the officials to exploit the situation in their favour is not a conducive environment to promote or encourage business. How I wish some 'act of god' would wipe our offices clean of corruption and help us start anew.

 

Forget wines or winemakers, the entire country stands to gain from it.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SUICIDES IN TELANGANA

POLITICAL CONSENSUS ALONE CAN DOUSE PASSIONS

 

It is most unfortunate that Telangana region has seen seven suicides in the last one week as a reaction to the delay in resolving the statehood tangle. That the Osmania University in Hyderabad and student campuses elsewhere in the Telangana region are charged up over the issue is reason enough for political parties in the state to work together to lower the temperature by not indulging in brinkmanship. Politicians have a tendency to arouse passions for gaining political mileage but the situation in Andhra Pradesh is too explosive to be played around with lightly. History has shown that students have a tendency to go overboard if their anger is fuelled on an emotive issue. In Telangana there is an added factor of Naxalite menace which can hardly be ignored. Naxalites of the People's War Group have a stake in fuelling chaos and it would be dangerous if student activists were to become unwitting pawns in their designs.

 

After the fiasco over the midnight announcement of Central acceptance of the Telangana statehood demand — apparently to pull out K.Chandrashekhar Rao from fast unto death — any knee-jerk reaction to the spate of suicides would be ill-advised. It is good that the ice has been broken between various political parties with the meeting called by Union Home Minister Chidambaram on January 5 to evolve a consensus. While it would have been unrealistic to expect any dramatic breakthrough at the very first meeting, it is time now that the process be taken forward and pursued earnestly.

 

With pressure building up from students on the legislators in Telangana to quit their seats, a political consensus on the issue cannot wait much longer. Parties like the Congress, the Telugu Desam, and the Praja Rajyam Party which are sharply divided along regional lines will have to take a call sooner than later on where they stand on the issue of statehood for Telangana. The spectacle of their Telangana legislators canvassing for a separate state and their coastal Andhra and Rayalseema legislators pitching for a unified state cannot go on. Not only would this delay a decision based on consensus but it would also encourage a takeover of the movement by vested interests, with disastrous consequences for all the regions of the state. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BT+BRINJAL
MORE TESTS NEEDED TO ALLAY SAFETY CONCERNS

 

The common man is justifiably confused. Science and Technology Minister Prithviraj Chauhan and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar insist that genetically modified (GM) Bt brinjal is totally safe, considering that the biotech regulator, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has given it a clean chit on October 14, 2009. On the other hand, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh maintains that the committee's safety tests are flawed. With so much divergence of views in the Union government itself, the consumer does not know whom to believe. Under the circumstances, the best option would be to check and double check all aspects so that there is no scope for misgivings. Not only the short- term impact, but also the long-term effects of Bt brinjal on human health should be analysed thoroughly. After all, what is at stake is the future of millions of people.

 

What lends authenticity to Mr Jairam Ramesh's apprehensions is the warning by noted molecular biologist Dr

Pushpa Mittra Bhargava that a nod for Bt brinjal would be one of the biggest disasters for the country. Dr Bhargava, a Supreme Court appointee to the GEAC, has revealed that less than 10 per cent of the 30 mandatory safety tests had been conducted before the decision was taken by the GEAC. The GEAC members allegedly turned a blind eye towards major discrepancies, fudging of data and misinformation in the MNCs' records of the tests.

 

Bt brinjal will be the first genetically modified food crop to be introduced in India. Brinjal happens to be the country's second largest produced vegetable after potato. Human safety is paramount and it will be advisable to err on the side of caution. This is all the more necessary in the light of previous efforts by multinational corporations to use the citizens of Third World countries as guinea pigs. Other indigenous techniques available to increase productivity should also be evaluated. For example, Andhra Pradesh, which has not allowed cultivation of Bt brinjal, has one lakh acres of land under organic farming and yields of cotton are equal to the farms of Punjab and Maharashtra where Bt varieties of cotton were sown. At stake, however, is the question how safe is Bt brinjal for the health of the people. It certainly requires deeper research before the government grants its clearance. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

VICTIMS OF MARRIAGE

LAW MUST PROTECT NRI BRIDES

 

Tales of NRI's deserting their wives are not uncommon. Yet precious little has been done till now to protect the interests of brides marrying men based in distant lands. Thus the National Commission for Women's demand for a separate law to cover NRI affairs, particularly with regard to matrimonial disputes, maintenance of women and children, ex-parte divorce, alimony, etc, is valid. With the number of cases of harassment of NRI brides rising, there is an urgent need to redress the grievances of these unfortunate women who are often cheated by unscrupulous husbands on the promise of a better life.

 

While the Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs recorded 331 cases of harassment last year, actual figures are likely to be much higher. Punjab — where the craze for going abroad is widespread — tops the list with maximum number of brides facing desertion. Individual efforts of men like Balwant Singh Ramoowalia and Jagdip Singh are welcome. Ramoowalias's Lok Bhalai Party has done well to bring to light the unenviable plight of abandoned brides. However, legal recourse can help them. The Law Commission's report "Need for Family Law Legislations for Non-Resident Indians" had made useful recommendations including changes in the law to provide for maintenance and alimony. The opening of NRI cell to register complaints by NCW is a step in the right direction.

 

The Ministry of Women and Child Development's proposal for a second passport for women who marry NRIs too can be explored. However, more is needed to check fraudulent marriages involving NRIs. The government must take up the matter with governments of foreign countries especially those where NRI population is fairly large. Parents too would be well advised to check the antecedents of prospective NRI grooms and verify their marital and financial status lest their daughters become victims of marriage.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

IMPORTANCE OF DISSENT

CONGRESS SHOULD NURTURE INTERNAL DEMOCRACY

 

India is a democracy without democrats because most parties that are active in the national polity lack internal democracy not only by their structural arrangements but also in their functioning. The young general secretary of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi is on records on more than one occasion to admit that internal democracy was missing from the Congress structure.

 

However, recent controversies around Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor clearly point out the lack of functional democracy within the party. The sum and substance of the upbraiding of the young minister for the controversies he triggered off by his candid opinions suggests that the party high command expected a total conformity not only with the present but also with the past of the party.

 

For the party what the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi said and did was the ultimate word and would remain for perpetuity right and so. Hence the party could not and would tolerate any criticism of their actions or their words.

 

Tharoor had made a mistake of publicly agreeing with the criticism levelled by Lord Bhikhu Parekh, Labour MP from Britain of Nehru's foreign policy as a moralistic running commentary. He had no hesitation in concurring with the view as he too belonged to Parekh's political philosophy.

 

The Congress party spokesman reminded Tharoor that he was a minister in the Congress-led government and expected to carry forward Nehru's policies and not to express a differing opinion. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to initiate a meeting with Tharoor to convey him the party high command's displeasure.

 

Tharoor has publicly not confessed to pointing out that the UPA government had blatantly given up the Nehru path in the current foreign affairs by seeking close relations and partnership with the United States. Nevertheless, he tried to wriggle out of the situation caused by his remarks in usual political fashion of blaming the media for misquoting him. He claimed that he was merely quoting opinions of leaders of other countries who felt that Nehru foreign policy was a moralistic commentary only.

 

The episode merely reflected how doors of the party remain closed even on trivia to any differing opinions or even to introspection of past mistakes if it involves critical element for the Nehru Gandhi regimes. Tharoor is accustomed to a different style of functioning even at the United Nations. He always had enjoyed freedom of expression and had fearlessly given his opinions in free debates internal or external for his functioning.

 

He must now feel strangled to find no avenue within the party and in any internal forum for any debate. Neither there is any debate within the parliamentary party nor in the organisational wing. The practice has come into existence ever since Indira Gandhi had combined two posts, leader of parliamentary party and the organisational head into one and held it. The tradition continues even today as Sonia Gandhi occupies both the chairs.

 

In Indira's time, members were not allowed to express their views in the parliamentary party meetings which were mere rituals before and at the end of every session of parliament .The leader delivers her address and other members are expected to nod their heads in approval. No issue has been discussed at the parliamentary part meetings since 1980.

 

Even at the party forums, known critics of the party leadership are carefully weeded out to deny them an opportunity to hold the mike at the party sessions. Many have in the past revealed the character of debates within the Working Committee where no dissenting words are allowed to reverberate.

 

Known supporter initiates the debate and the Working Committee meetings have generally concluded by authorising the party chief to take necessary actions whether it was dealing with other parties or for disciplining errant members or effecting even a change of the leadership of the legislature party or nominating candidates for controversial seats. No dissenting voice has been heard in the party's decision-making bodies.

 

The authoritarian character of the military chain command is an inherent necessity for a strict obedience for success of every campaign with enemy. However, functioning of politically parties differ radically. They are not fighting enemies. They are supposed to serve public causes for welfare of people and society. Fighting other parties is incidental need and not primary function. Unless the ground realities are known and proper evaluation of past mistakes is taken into account, correct strategies cannot be evolved.

 

Strategies evolved to fight political opponent alone but fail to satisfy masses and their needs and aspirations have a habit of recoiling on the party. The left of centre swing that Indira Gandhi gave to her economic focus during the days of internal crisis in the Congress in 1967-70 periods was her political compulsion. But it also raised hopes and expectations of people.

 

As the Indira Gandhi government failed to satisfy the raised urges, controls slipped out of her hands within the next two years. Rajiv Gandhi had also raised expectations but could not meet them. Hence his unprecedented majority of 1984 had dwindled down to nearly the half numbers won in the December1989 election.

 

However, there has not been a serious introspection by the party high command even to understand causes of its failures to win the election leave aside the causes of its success earlier and later so that the party can understand what the masses desire from it. The party believes that it was able to defeat the Bharatiya Janata Party twice on its slogan that identified it with the Aam Adami.

 

If so, why there has been no serious debate within the party forum on the impact of and causes for the current price rise on the people? There has been a lot of effort in playing the blame game for the price rise but not on suggesting how to control the situation. How can it come about without a clear understanding of what caused it?

 

The parties need to understand that people's aspirations and fears have a direct impact on fortunes of parties in power or outside it. Without internal democracy and two-way traffic for communication, the Congress would not be able to deal with developing political situation. When the party attempts to stifle differing voices even on trivial issues such as the character of Nehru's foreign policy 40 years ago and have no potential of effecting lives now, where is the hope that it would be able to meet the challenges ahead?

 

Merely projecting a person as a future leader is not a sure cure for rebuilding the party with a brighter future. The charismatic leader also requires a functional and democratic structure to keep him tuned to what people whom he desires to rule and lead in future want from him, of him and by him.

 

After a few more controversies, Tharoor may be cast aside and there would be none to shed tears for him since

he is alone even in his state party unit but he would, certainly, leave an indelible mark on the party for his views are a warning that introspection is must for a brighter and errorless future.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

JAI HIND CLUB

BY RAJ KANWAR

 

THE early and mid 1940s were politically turbulent years in India in general and Lahore in particular. All the Congress leaders from Gandhi downward had been jailed in the wake of the Quit India Movement. It was then left to the sundry unlisted soldiers, viz. college and school students and the unknown rank and file of the party to keep the torch alight.

 

I was then a student of DAV School; we lived off Nisbet Road, in close proximity to Dayal Singh College. Its students were the most vociferous, and regularly took out boisterous processions, despite restrictions, lathi charges and arrests. Salim, (whose full name I do not remember now), was their leader. His impassioned speeches greatly influenced the younger students like me. I too, with my school friends, would join the processions, albeit at the rear.

 

Those processions then became a regular feature. The processionists braved police lathis, though it must be said to the credit of the policemen that they used reasonable force; their object seem to disperse us, and not hurt us, as the today's policemen in Free India do. Most of us would run helter-skelter but the leaders would lay on the road daring the police to arrest them. That the police routinely did, took them to the thana and then ritually released them in the evening. My schoolmates and I were spared because of our tender years, and to save the police extra paper work.

 

The World War II then raged furiously. The Japanese had scored some notable victories in the South-east Asia War theatre, and had captured Rangoon, Singapore and even the Andamans. The city of Calcutta had come within the air bombing range of the Japanese.

 

It was in this background that the news filtered in the summer of 1943, despite censorship, of the exploits of Indian National Army or Azad Hind Fauj under the leadership of Subhas Chandra Bose. A provisional government of Free India or Azad Hind was proclaimed. The INA soldiers even successfully managed to enter Assam, and liberated Kohima and Imphal in May 1944. However, their success was short lived.

 

But by then the slogan Jai Hind given by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had become the war cry of the country, fighting to liberate India from the clutches of British rulers. The trials of Sehgal, Dhillon, Shahnawaz at the Red Fort in Delhi further roused our nationalistic passions.

 

My schoolmates and I then thought of commemorating Netaji's birthday and formed a Jai Hind Club on 23rd January 1946 in Lahore. Eight of us had our right arms tattooed with "Jai Hind". A club member retired as an army general, and another is a reputed doctor in Mumbai. I live in Dehradun. But the other five founders of the Jai Hind Club got lost in the upheavals of the Partition. May god bless them wherever they are, or may their souls rest in peace if they have gone to their Maker.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DECLINE IN LEADERSHIP

LET SPORTSPERSONS LEAD FROM THE FRONT

BY M.G. DEVASAHAYAM

 

With the recent revolt of hockey players against the non-payment of subsistence salaries and Hockey India's action in suspending the World Cup training camp, Indian sports has further descended into the bottomless pit of malaise and maladministration.

 

Though the impasse has ended with a temporary patch-up on the intervention of Suresh Kalmadi, president of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), the damage has been done.

 

It is a different matter that the IOA itself is in crisis over the state of preparedness for the forthcoming Commonwealth Games in October this year!

 

It now transpires that as of November 2009, Hockey India had a total of Rs 1.78 crore in its kitty given by its sponsor, Sahara. Out of this amount an 'unknown' sum was spent on clearing an overdraft inherited from the old federation; a 25-lakh-rupee loan from the Indian Olympic Association was repaid and an 'undisclosed' amount was used to meet expenses related to foreign trips for the men's and women's teams from May 2009 onwards.

 

This left a paltry Rs 30 lakh, a fraction of the moolah money-bags paid for purchasing a cricket player for the IPL, to prepare the teams for the World Cup, Commonwealth Games and Asian Cup – all falling this year.

 

In the event, the assuring exhortation of Union Sports Minister MS Gill – "I will do everything possible to give the players a fair deal. The duty of all players is to continue training. Everyone knows in the country that it is my objective to lift Indian hockey to the glorious level it has had in the past." – sounds hollow and unconvincing.

 

Does this mean that he has been unaware of this dismal state of affairs all the while? Or did he know but did not care? It appears to be so because the minister is a self-proclaimed worshipper of cricket and promoting other sports does not appear to be his priority.

 

It should be remembered that it was during his watch India's Olympic achievement remained at the pathetic level of 1980, while neighbouring China rose to the pinnacle of world sports.

 

India's only 'Olympic' achievement seems to be the massive spending of over Rs 5,500 crore to build infrastructure for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and its messing up so far.

 

Hardly anything is heard about the preparations for the various games and sports and India's prospects in these. It would be worthwhile to remember that the same city hosted the 1982 Asian Games, for which also a huge amount of money was spent on infrastructure.

 

But has it benefited the promotion of sports in the bureaucratic city in any manner? What kind of achievements have Delhi teams and sportsmen posted during the last near three decades?

 

The fact of the matter is that the administration of sport and games in the country is reeling under a crisis of leadership. This is reflected in the hockey players' sharp response to the charge that they were putting money before the country: "We are not playing for money. We never have and we never will…….But a little money does play some role. Hockey India came into existence to take the national game to another level altogether, but it seems to have backfired. If they cannot take care of us, they better resign….We are willing to play the World Cup on our own money and will bear all our expenses." The expression of no-confidence in the leadership is indeed jarring!

 

The reasons are not far to seek. As it is, leadership in this country in all walks of life is mediocre and weak. But in the arena of sport, it is worse, even destructive.

Those in charge of these games and sport, barring honourable exceptions, are nothing more than self-seeking charlatans using the sport bodies more for personal aggrandisement rather than the promotion of sport or sportspersons!

 

As a result, while the level of sport activity within the country is abysmally low, in international competitions we move from one shame to another. There appear to be no end to this sordid saga of incompetence, mediocrity and non-performance!

 

If the sport associations and bodies are dens of non-performing vested interests, government machinery in India, both at the Centre and in the states, is no better. Except earmarking a pittance for sports development, and perpetually promising grandiose policies, governments have done precious little towards genuine sports promotion.

 

In their present form and functioning it is futile to expect any improvement in the sport bodies or government departments in charge of sport. Things are going only from bad to worse as is clear from our dismal performance in hockey, football, athletics and other sports.

 

India's occasional good performance in shooting, billiards, chess etc. is more due to individual and family efforts rather than that of government's or sport bodies' support.

 

It is, therefore, high time that outstanding sportsmen, professionals and sport lovers took charge and prevent Indian sport from sinking any lower. Distinguished and eminent sportspersons, including cricketers, should come together and form a nucleus in order to make this possible.

 

Such a profile is essential to take on the vested interests, deeply entrenched in the organisations managing the affairs of sport in the country.

 

In the event of the involvement of outstanding sportsmen in the promotion of sport in the country, it will become easier to enlist the support of industry and institutions, who otherwise shy away from this venture.

 

The present hockey crisis is a gloomy example. Some leading corporates that were willing to chip in with huge funds, backed out when they came to know that elections for Hockey India are due in February and some ugly politics, including the reemergence of KPS Gill, who almost single-handedly destroyed the game, cannot be ruled out.

 

The matter of excellence in sport, being vital to the youth of the nation and the honour of the country, needs to be taken up and pursued as a national movement. This calls for dynamic, dedicated and devoted service to the cause of sport and a thorough professional approach to its development.

 

Outstanding sportsmen have imbibed these characteristics in their blood and, therefore, are ideally placed to lead the movement. They can always access the services of experienced administrators and professionals who will be only too glad to assist. So let the sportsmen come to the fore and lead from the front instead of sitting and sulking at the rear.

 

The writer is former president of the Chandigarh Olympic Association and founder president, Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

CHANGING FACE OF WEST ASIA

BY ROBERT FISK

 

It looks like a hop, skip and a jump. There's the first electrified fence, then the dirt strip to identify footprints, then the tarmac road, then one more electrified fence, and then acres and acres of trees. Orchards rather than tanks. Galilee spreads beyond, soft and moist and dark green in the winter afternoon – a peaceful Israel, you might think.

 

And a peaceful Lebanon to the north, tobacco plantations amid the stony hills, just an occasional UN armoured vehicle to keep you on your toes. "Major Pardin says you cannot take pictures," a Malaysian UN soldier tells me. Then a second one says the same. Then along comes a Lebanese army intelligence officer and stares at our papers. "OK, you have permission," he declares, and I snap away with my old 36-frame real-film Nikon; the fields, the frontier fence, the high-tech surveillance tower on the horizon. This must be the most photographed border in the world.

 

Of course, the gentle countryside is an illusion. Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues in the Israeli government have been announcing that the only "army" of Lebanon is the Hizbollah, the Iranian-armed and Syrian-assisted guerrilla force whose bunkers and missiles north of the Litani river might just tip the balance in the next Hizbollah-Israeli war.

 

The Hizbollah claimed that the 2006 war with Israel was a "divine victory" – it didn't feel that way to us in southern Lebanon at the time – yet even Israel admits it was a near-defeat for its own ill-trained soldiers.

 

But how would Israel react if the Hizbollah managed to enter Israel itself? Israeli army commanders are talking about this in the Israeli press. A fast, dramatic spring across the frontier to the west – in the direction of Naharia, perhaps, or a grab at the settlement of Kiryat Shmona – and Hizbollah would announce it had "liberated" part of historic "Palestine". Israel would have to bomb its own territory to get them out.

 

This is no game. The Israeli army wants to revenge itself on the Hizbollah, which humiliated it in 2006. Nasrallah – on giant-wide screens, for security reasons – often talks as if he's the Lebanese president. Did the Israelis really think al-Qa'ida or the Hizbollah were beind the attempted killing of two Jordanian diplomats between Amman and the Allenby bridge, Nasrallah asked. No friend of al-Qa'ida, Hizbollah would have succeeded in blowing them up if it had been involved. The crowd roared its agreement.

 

But the threats continue. The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, says that the Lebanese government will be held responsible for any future war and the Lebanese have had the usual warnings from Israel. Lebanon's infrastructure will be attacked, its bridges and highways destroyed, its villages erased. Israel, Mr Barak has been saying, was restrained in 2006 – when it attacked Lebanon's infrastructure, destroyed its bridges and highways and erased its villages. Plus ça change.

 

But there's a good deal of "change". Syria is being courted by the Obama administration. Its old allies in Lebanon – Druze leader Walid Jumblatt among them – are uttering honeyed words to Damascus. Indeed, Jumblatt has been meeting both Nasrallah and his old enemy Michel Aoun, and concluding that he is three-quarters of the way down the road to Damascus. And President Assad of Syria has been visiting Tehran again, to assure the Islamic Republic of his ever-loyal support.

 

You can see the way everyone is thinking. And here's the big question, the camel in the room. If Israel ignores Obama and attacks Iran's nuclear sites – a real aggression if ever there could be – the Hizbollah could fire rockets into Israel, perhaps even revealing its new anti-aircraft missile capacity. Hamas might join in from Gaza. Hamas is a tin-pot outfit; the Hizbollah is not. An Israeli attack on Iran will unleash Iranian military power against America. But part of that power is Hizbollah in Lebanon. This is serious business.

 

The United Nations has been complaining at the increase in Israel's overflights of Lebanese territory. The Lebanese army has been opening fire on Israeli aircraft flying over the border – useless, of course, because the Americans don't give the Lebanese army weapons that can hurt Israel.

 

By arrangement with The Independent

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INSIDE PAKISTAN

ARE TRIBAL ELDERS AGAINST TALIBAN?

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan seems to be no longer in the good books of the tribal population in South Waziristan. This inference can be drawn from a Daily Times report datelined Tank (Jan 21) that a jirga (tribal assembly) of the Mehsud tribes on Wednesday offered to hand over to the government Pakistani Taliban chief Hakeemullah Mehsud along with 377 others, believed to be his followers.

 

The jirga, which had 300 participants, accepted all seven conditions of Islamabad, including no opposition to efforts to establish the writ of the government in the tribal agency, put forth for ending the Army operations in South Waziristan. After the jirga decision comes the Pakistan Army announcement that it will not launch any new anti-extremist offensive in the area. The Army's explanation is that it wants to consolidate the gains it has made so far.

 

What actually happened between the Pakistan Army and the tribal elders is not known. But the kind of offer the jirga has made cannot be expected when the discontinuation of the armed forces' offensive is for a limited period of six months. Moreover, such agreements in the past only helped the Taliban to regroup itself and emerge stronger later on.

 

How the tribal elders react to Friday's development that Hakeemullah Mehsud has been killed in a drone attack remains to be seen. Has he really been killed? Or is it a ploy to help the tribal chiefs not to bother about handing over the Pakistani Taliban chief to the government, which was not easy in any case? Meanwhile, a spokesman of the Pakistani Taliban has claimed that the extremist leader is very much alive, according to The Daily Times.

 

Govt, judiciary on collision course

 

Despsite denials by President Asif Zardari that the government is preparing to meet the challenge posed by the judiciary through the scraping of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), efforts are on to ensure that the Supreme Court verdict does not affect Mr Zardari's position. While one review petition was filed in the apex court on behalf of the government last Saturday, indications are that another such petition may be there soon now that the full text of the judgement has been released.

 

According to a Dawn report, the government "hinted in the National Assembly on Wednesday that it could file another review petition after studying the Supreme Court's detailed ruling" against the infamous NRO. The report, carried on January 21, quoted Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Babar Awan as saying, "the government is examining this judgement".

 

As The News says, "Indeed, the review (petition) filed against the NRO (verdict) just days before indicated that panic was already rising… There are some indications that the government has decided not to follow the Supreme Court directions".

 

A Business Recorder editorial says, "If anyone is fearful" of the 287-page judgement, "he must be the one who had been convicted but the NRO relieved his burden. And there are not many such beneficiaries among the political elite; only some 35 who made hay while the sun shone".

 

Meaningless "strategic depth"

Pakistan's efforts for securing "strategic depth" by having a puppet or friendly government in Afghanistan after the departure of the US-led multinational forces from there are meaningless, as argued by Kamran Shafi in an article in Dawn (January 19). In his opinion, the much-discussed idea is nothing but "poppycock".

 

He says Pakistan is engaged in the "Great Game in Afghanistan, we are told, because 'strategic depth' is vital for Pakistan due to the fact that our country is very narrow at its middle and could well be cut into half by an Indian attacking force."

 

Whatever fear the Pakistan Establishment has in its mind, seeking strategic depth in Afghanistan is like chasing the mirage. No government in Kabul will ever allow this advantage to Islamabad in view of the history of relations between the two countries.

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

FOREIGN LINKS OF ULTRAS

 

Growing foreign links of the militant groups based in the North East has become a matter of serious concern and the Government of India should take advantage of the global feelings against terrorism to force the neighbouring countries to take action against those involved in directly or indirectly helping the ultras. In recent times, most of the militant groups of the North East are reportedly procuring sophisticated weapons from the clandestine arms dealers of China and the Government of India has already taken up the issue with the Chinese authorities. It is an established fact that different militant groups including the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) have contacts in China and it is now reported that the weapons offloaded by the Chinese Army in the process of modernization are sold to the ultras by the clandestine arms dealers. Of course, Chinese Government agencies may not be involved directly in such supply of weapons to the militants waging war against India, but India should put diplomatic pressure on China to take action against the clandestine arms dealers involved in strengthening the hands of the ultras by selling them sophisticated weapons including AK series rifles. At the same time, the ULFA commander in chief, Paresh Baruah is reportedly in Bangladesh and the Indian security agencies should try to find conclusive evidence of the same to put pressure on China to prevent use of the territory of the neighbouring country by anyone wanted by India.


It is also an established fact that militants are using the territory of Myanmar to set up strong bases and though the Government of Myanmar has been promising action against the militants, no sustained effort is seen on the ground as yet. Though the Assam Rifles has been entrusted with the task of guarding the border with Myanmar, it is almost impossible to completely seal the border to prevent movement of the ultras because of the terrain and the Government of the neighbouring country also has very little control over the areas where the ultras of the region have their bases. Only coordinated operations by both India and Myanmar on both sides of the border will be able to deal with the problem to some extent. The militant groups of the region are also receiving assistance from Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) for a long time but normally only the help of Pakistani agencies to militants in Kashmir often come to the limelight in the international forum. However, on the positive side, the change of heart of Bangladesh towards India's concern over use of the territory of that country by the militants is a positive development and following the arrest of ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and other leaders of the outfit after they were handed over to India by the security forces of Bangladesh, it will not be easy for the ultras to use the neighbouring country as safe haven, at least for the time being.


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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

LIVING BEYOND DEATH

 

A few munificent souls live beyond death, not by fame or fortune, but through the biggest gift any human being can bestow on another – donating one's body to those requiring organs. In several countries like Spain and Australia they are actually not few in numbers; the frequency of organ transplantation is great, and not just the dead the living too have joined in some cases. Unfortunately the situation is uninspiring when one considers India, and more specifically States like Assam where donating the body after death continues to be an exception rather than a common practice. Doctors recently told this newspaper that even though people have pledged to donate their bodies, in reality that has not translated into the needy getting the required organs. This has had an obvious impact on patients, and in an area such as corneal transplant there is a long queue of people who literally see no light at the end of the tunnel. Expert opinion states that if only two percent of the dead would have donated their eyes after death, the problem of corneal blindness in Assam could have been solved.


It is now apparent that a range of factors are restraining people from opting for organ donation, among which is poor awareness among the masses. Besides, a large section is yet to become aware about the suffering of scores of people who require one organ or the other. While some others are aware, they do not have access to information on how they could donate organs or the process that is involved. Of course there is another section who would not embrace the idea due to religious beliefs. But the really unfortunate are those who even after pledging to donate their eyes or bodies do not see their wish fulfilled when family members decide to act otherwise. The need has come for people to become aware, and if willing, to give informed consent so that the shortfall of organs or bodies gradually become a thing of the past. While civil society groups, NGOs and conscientious people can perform exemplary acts to motivate people, the Government would have to shoulder its responsibility to ensure that the ethically sensitive issue is handled with due regard to the donors, their families and the recipients. It should especially be ensured that people with malicious or pecuniary intent do not exploit the poor and the uninformed in the guise of organ donation. 

 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

INDO-BANGLA TIES AND IMPACT ON NORTH EAST

SHIBDAS BHATTACHARJEE

 

It is quite unfortunate that despite great expectations and numerous possibilities, the relations between India and Bangladesh have not developed to the extent as per expectations as India and Bangladesh always have been distant neighbours, separated by distrust and suspicion despite their visceral connections of geography and ecology, language and culture, economy and politics. Sheikh Hasina Wajed had been in power before but she and her party had always their hands full battling tendencies that were not well disposed towards cutting the umbilical cord with Pakistan dominated by the mullah-military complex. Now on a visit to India, the Bangladesh leader promised to take her country away from seeds that have given rise to extremism and terrorism, and ushered in a new era of democratic change underpinned by the notions of peace and justice. This was really promising as situation changed and took positive turn during the last few months. This time, Sheikh Hasina has powerful hands in shaping her country's domestic and foreign policy. She promised to take Bangladesh's relations with India to a new level. Dr Manmohan Singh too noted that Sheikh Hasina's visit opened a new chapter in ties that would lead to complete unity of heart and mind. The five far-sighted agreements signed between India and Bangladesh marked the beginning of a new chapter in the bilateral relationship. From this it is quite evident that the new Bangladesh regime prioritises peace and development more than anything else. It is good to see that in the present power structure, there is hardly any place for radicalism.

This is particularly important for the northeastern States of India. Thus the most significant aspect of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister's recent India visit was certainly the interaction between Seikh Hasina and the Chief Ministers of North East as the policy and progammes of Dhaka affect this region of the country more than any other part. So it was good to see that the leaders of this region took a pro-active role in this regard as they have better knowledge of the ground realty of this region than the policy makers of New Delhi. Seikh Hasina made it clear that the Bangladesh government is keen to increase trade, business and connectivity with the North East. Chief ministers of northeastern States also pleaded for more connectivity and trade between the northeastern States and Bangladesh. The Chief Ministers of Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya attended the State banquet hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in honour of his Bangladesh counterpart at New Delhi. The Chief Ministers stressed the need for air, rail and bus services between important cities of Bangladesh, including capital Dhaka, with all the capitals of the northeastern States. The northeastern States are surrounded by Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and China and the only land route access to these States from within India is through Assam. But this route passes through hilly terrain with steep roads and multiple hairpin bends. Bangladesh Commerce Minister Colonel (retired) Faruk Khan, while addressing a trade related meeting recently at Akhaurah (India-Bangladesh check post near Agartala), said his government has no problem in allowing India and other neighbouring countries to use Chittagong international port, which is just 75 km from southern Tripura. India and other south Asian nations have sought access to Chittagong port because of its location in order to cut huge transport costs and time. New Delhi is also pursuing its proposal to designate Ashuganj port in Brahmanbaria (in eastern Bangladesh) as a new port of call and to allow India to use Chittagong port. The protocol between India and Bangladesh on Inland Water Transit and Trade that emanated from the provision of the trade agreement between the two countries was renewed last year up to March 31, 2011. It includes four inland water routes on which vessels of both the countries can ply. The four inland water routes via eastern Bangladesh are Kolkata-Pandu (in southern Assam), Kolkata-Karimganj (in southern Assam), Rajshahi (in Bangladesh)-Dhulian (in southern Assam), and Karimganj-Pandu.There are also four ports of call in each country through which inter country trade through inland waterways can take place. These are: Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla and Sirajganj in Bangladesh and Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj and Pandu in India. On an average, distance between important cities of Bangladesh and northeast India is 30 km to 200 km.

On the other hand, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi raised the all-important issue during his meeting with the Bangladesh Prime Minister. He appreciated the recent efforts of Seikh Hasina-led Bangladesh Government in taking strong and bold action against the extremists from the North East, which, he said, would help a lot in bringing durable peace in the country in general and the North East in particular. Gogoi hoped that Bangladesh would continue to extend help and cooperation for lasting peace and progress in the region. The Chief Minister further urged the Bangladesh Prime Minister to take up steps for opening up the frontiers for development of tourism.

In fact, the crushing victory of the Awami League-led Grand Alliance over the four-party alliance headed by the BNP in the last general election was an important political event not only for Bangladesh but for the peace and development of the entire region. It highlighted one important fact that people of Bangladesh exercised their franchise for a stable, developed and responsible Bangladesh. The most remarkable outcome was the summary rejection of the Jamaat, including the defeat of its leaders because it delineated that the Bangladeshi rank and file rejected the traditional concept of religious politics in the election as well as radicalism. The victory of the Awami League under Hasina Wajed, for this and other reasons, gave satisfaction to New Delhi.

Still then all this will not be so simple for the present Bangladesh regime to implement the agreements made in New Delhi. As far as the internal politics of Bangladesh is concerned, relation with India has always been a sensitive issue. It also happened this time. Ahead of Premier Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi, country's main opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia warned her against inking any unequal deal with India and threatened to take to streets if the government compromised the country's interests. The country's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) asked party workers to prepare for a mass movement against the government for signing the pacts with India. The opposition leadership and the Bangladesh media said that Bangladesh had gained nothing from Seikh Hasina`s India trip. The leading English daily The Daily star opined that the treaties signed during the visit would not bring any welfare for the people of Bangladesh. But this time things are positive for the Bangladesh Prime Minister as this time she got from New Delhi enough to convince her countrymen that Dhaka can gain a lot by cementing friendly relations with India. We also wish her success for the better interest of India-Bangladesh bilateral relations and particularly for the cause of North East.
 

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THE ASSAM TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SUBHAS CHANDRA BOSE: THE PRINCE PATRIOT

SUREN RAM PHOOKUN

 

Subhas Chandra Bose embodies the highest qualities that a man might possess. He effectively combined in him the noblest ideals with vigorous zeal for planned action and reconstruction. A review of his career reads like a legend ; it seems unbelievable that a man so adventurous, so regardless of consequences, so much dedicated and yet so intensely practical, should have born in this beloved land of ours.


Subhas Chandra Bose was born in Cuttak on January 23, 1897 - younger son of well-to-do parents. Subhas' father sent his children to be educated at the local European School. Though he liked the school, his mind was too Indian to be comfortable there. Soon he obtained a transfer to an Indian school,–the Ravenshaw School from where he matriculated in 1913, standing second in order of merit in Calcutta University. But even when a student of Calcutta Presidency College, he once managed to escape from his home, and wandered over northern India in quest of spiritual illumination or answer the call of the Himalayas. On his return home he was sent back to the Presidency College of Calcutta to complete his studies. A clash with an arrogant European teacher, Prof. Oaten, led to his expulsion from the college. However, he graduated with First Class Honours in Philosophy in 1919 and was sent to England to qualify for the Indian Civil Service. Subhas stood fourth at the ICS examination, scoring highest marks in English. But by that time the Non-Co-Operation Movement under Gandhiji's leadership, started. Subhas' burning patriotism did not allow him to join service. He reported himself to Gandhiji for instructions. Gandhi sent him to Deshabandhu Chitta Ranjan Das.


CR Das cast his spell on Subhas almost immediately. He entered the - Non-Cooperation Movement heart and soul. For the few years that CR Das lived, Subhas was his right-hand man. He suffered imprisonment. On his release, Deshabandhu, as Mayor of Calcutta Corporation, appointed Subhas the Chief Executive Officer. Subhas displayed his administrative capacity and wonderful organising ability. But by now he had formed connections with the secret revolutionary societies and for the next three years he was in detention without trial in Mandalay Jail. He was the leader most dreaded by the British Government. It was he who, in opposition to Gandhiji, openly declared in 1928 that India's goal should be independence. In those days, Jawaharlal Nehru and he usually worked together as the young leaders of the left-wing group in the Congress. In 1938 he became president of the Congress at Haripura and warned the leaders of the impending war in Europe. He also initiated schemes of national planning for modernising India's economy. To Gandhi this step was not congenial for his rural economy scheme. So Gandhiji next year opposed Subhas' re-election. But such was Subhas' popularity that he was reelected Congress president. The other Congress leaders, the old guards, however, non-co-operated with him and he had to resign the presidentship of the Congress in April-May, 1939.


Subhas Bose now formed a party, the Forward Bloc, to combat the moderate policies and programmes of the Congress. He headed a successful movement for the removal of the Black Hole Monument of Holwell in Calcutta, in 1940. He was imprisoned but after a few months was released, following his hunger strike in the Presidency Jail, on parole, in January, 1941 on grounds of ill-health. And then the world wad startled by the news that Subhas Bose had escaped. It was subsequently revealed that disguised as a Pathan he made his way to Kabul and from Kabul he went to Germany via Russia.


In Germany, Subhas set about organizing an armed revolt in India. From Germany he was transported to Japan in a submarine. From Japan he went to Singapore and soon got into touch with the Indian officers and soldiers who had been taken prisoners by the Japanese after the humiliating retreat by the British army. Aided and inspired by Rashbehari Bose, the great revolutionary, Subhas organized these prisoners of war into a disciplined national army, to enter India and led an armed revolt against the British. The Japanese possibly could not give Netaji Subhas, then Head of the Azad Hind Army, all the help that he needed. Subhas was able to penetrate only up to the hills of Manipur and hoisted the National Flag of India at Mairang field in April, 1944. He had expected national help and uprising as soon as he set his foot on Indian soil but the British kept his activities a well-guarded secret. Very soon want of food and weapons compelled Netaji to withdraw. Subhas left Singapore in a Japanese plane on August 16, 1945. Two days later, on August 18, India was stunned to learn that the plane had crashed at Taihaku in Formosa (Tiwan) and Subhas was killed. Since then, years have passed, the mystery of the air-crash has not been satisfactorily explained even by the two Committees appointed by the Union Government. The balance of evidence inclines to the belief that the air-crash was a hoax.


So ended the career of one of our countrymen's most admired leaders. Those last years of his life made him immortal. He showed the qualities of leadership and flair for organization that he possessed. He was the leader not of the Hindus or Muslims, but of Indians. Gandhiji regarded Subhas as the prince patriot and asked all to emulate his principle of communal harmony. It has been acknowledged by all that Netaji's Azad Hind Army might have failed in the battlefield and yet hastened the independence of India by stimulating the Indian army under the British with burning patriotism. It is also felt that our country would not have been divided had Subhas returned.


It was he who looked forward to a Pan-Asiatic unity as the need of the hour. Netaji was the first to show what frightened the British most, since the Sepoy Mutiny (1857), what an Indian Army, led by Indian officers, could do. All these have left their mark in history.


(Published on the occasion of Netaji's Birth Anniversary)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

BEING GOVERDHAN RAMJI

 

If he had used a few less expletives, could Britain's best known — though not best-loved — chef Gordon Ramsay have morphed into Goverdhan Ramji on his recent whirlwind visit to shoot for a TV food show?

Highly unlikely .

 

Far from being the bluff, cheery (and occasionally tipsy) British foodie Indians have gotten used to encountering ever since the Empire struck back, the pugnacious Michelin-starred celeb-chef has, instead, been the epitome of the purple-faced , loud-mouthed sahib of yore; the type who used to apoplectically roar 'Koi hai?! ', sending their turbaned Indian minions into paroxysms of panic .


Only, during the Raj, the British swore wearing sola topis and white suits; circa 21st century Ramsay did his routine in tees and shorts. Some would say that cuss words are Ramsay's USP, but their effect depends on the audience. Ramsay can't be blamed for trying to be himself in India but he must have been baffled to find that most of his colourful phrases elicited mostly benign smiles, both knowing and unknowing.

 

The truth is, for the denizens of Indian kitchens 60 odd years since the British left, a Scotsman's rudeness in English is about as effective as Punjabi epithets in the Outer Hebrides. Ramsay, of course, has the distinctive talent of being rude even when being nice, so his TV audience may be somewhat befuddled about whether he really intended to offend his non-English-speaking interlocutors or to please — in a gauche kind of way.


His penchant for prurience may have been a mite more believable, though, if he had picked up some choice Indian terms of the same genre, or even their abbreviations in English devised by deracinated city dudes. Sadly, Ramsay seemed to have not even picked up a Namaste or a Helloji-havvar-yew , much less anything more

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MILK OUTPUT WOULD STAGNATE

 

Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar would appear to have lost the felicity with words essential for a politician. He has been accused of encouraging milk producers to demand a hike in milk prices. His suggestion that there is a case for a rise in milk prices given the shortage of milk in north India would have passed off as a wholly innocuous statement in a gathering of economists.


However , when Union ministers speak, they address the entire nation, not just a tiny subset of the population. For consumers as a whole, who have already seen milk prices rise 13% since March (as measured by the wholesale price index ), the minister seems to be egging milk producers to hike prices even more. Opposition parties have roundly criticised Mr Pawar for fuelling food price inflation, with the Congress maintaining an eloquent silence. Given the steep rise in food prices, and the evident mismanagement of the sugar economy, Mr Pawar deserves a great deal of the ire targeted at him. But, on the milk front, in all fairness , Mr Pawar was only stating the obvious.


Shortage of supply in relation to demand would put upward pressure on prices. The reality is that while Indian milk output has been rising, and rising quite fast for a farm product (at 4.6% compound annual average growth rate over the last four years), the demand has been rising even faster, thanks to changing food patterns.


As National Sample Survey figures show, Indians' consumption basket has been changing across the board to incorporate more and more high-value foods such as egg, fish, meat, milk and milk products as also processed foods. This rising demand for milk and milk products, along with new export opportunities , has been pushing up milk prices. A short-run rise in price is the only signal that would induce the farmer to rear yet more milch animals to produce yet more milk.


As is typical in farm produce, there would be over-investment in milch animals and oversupply of milk, putting downward pressure on milk prices. But that process would take years. Till then, prices are likely to reflect excess demand in relation to supply. If the government manages, somehow, to hold milk prices, that would only aggravate future shortage.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SCRAP COAL MONOPOLY

 

If you needed one more reason to scrap the public sector monopoly on mining coal, here it is. Even as the country reels under mounting power shortage, owing, in part, to shortage of coal, Coal India (CIL) has lowered its output target for 2012.


The excuse is that it has failed to get environmental and forest clearances for as many as 17 mining projects. But such delays are, unfortunately, routine . CIL, surely, ought to have factored in the longer gestation periods likely into its project planning, to proactively step up coal output. Instead it has, perversely, preferred to opt for continuing slippages on production. Note that the shortages of domestic coal this fiscal is put at 70 million tonnes (mt), thanks to lax output by CIL. Its latest projection is that production in 2012 would be 486 mt, rather than 520 mt as targeted.


Now, reducing the output gap to 34 mt two years hence may look like progress. But it's plain that we need opening up and reform of coal mining, without further policy pussyfooting. Coal remains our main source of commercial energy and a scenario of shortages would only be at huge national cost. Hence, the urgent need to repeal the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973, and purposefully modernise the sector.


The fact is that our productivity levels in coal mining and overburden removal remain low, at rock bottom. Abroad, the use of modern Longwall mining systems have long been proven as the safest, most-productive and cost-effective method for coal mining.


Yet, Longwall systems are few and far between here, and more likely to be used sub-optimally for want of maintenance and faulty planning, according to a recent study. Meanwhile, CIL has, of late, procured Rs 2,000 crore of mining equipment from vendors like Caterpillar and Atlas Copco to improve operations.


It would certainly make sense to boost productivity at CIL to arrest output slippages, in the face of project delays. However, as various studies show, there are systemic reasons for mishandling and under-usage of sophisticated equipment. This needs to change, pronto. Also, what's required is mandatory beneficiation postmining , to significantly rev up coal quality, and reap other attendant efficiency gains downstream.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE DEBATE ON CEO PAY SLICE

LUCIAN BEBCHUK

 

There is now intense debate about how the pay levels of top executives compare with the compensation given to rank-and-file employees. But, while such comparisons are important, the distribution of pay among top executives also deserves close attention.


In our recent research, we studied the distribution of pay among top executives in publicly-traded companies in the United States. Such firms must disclose publicly the compensation packages of their five highest-paid executives. Our analysis focused on the CEO 'pay slice' — that is, the CEO's share of the aggregate compensation such firms award to their top five executives.


We found that the pay slice of CEOs has been increasing over time. Not only has compensation of the top five executives been increasing, but CEOs have been capturing an increasing proportion of it. The average CEO's pay slice is about 35%, so that the CEO typically earns more than twice the average pay received by the other top four executives. Moreover, we found that the CEO's pay slice is related to many aspects of firms' performance and behaviour.


To begin, firms with a higher CEO pay slice generate lower value for their investors . Relative to their industry peers, such firms have lower market capitalisation for a given book value. The ratio of market value to book value, termed 'Tobin's Q' by financial economists, is a standard measure for evaluating how effectively firms use the capital they have. Moreover, firms with a high CEO pay slice are associated with lower profitability. The operating income that such firms generate, relative to the value of their assets, tends to be lower.


What makes firms with a higher CEO pay slice generate lower value for investors? We found that the CEO pay slice is associated with several dimensions of company behaviour and performance that are commonly viewed as reflecting governance problems.


First, firms with a high CEO pay slice tend to make worse acquisition decisions. When such firms make acquisition announcements , the stock-market returns accompanying the announcement, which reflect the market's judgment of the acquisition, tend to be lower and are more likely to be negative.


Second, such firms are more likely to reward their CEOs for 'luck .' They are more likely to increase CEO compensation when the industry's prospects improve for reasons unrelated to the CEO's own performance (for example, when oil companies benefit from a steep rise in world oil prices). Financial economists view such luck-based compensation as a sign of governance problems.


Third, a higher CEO pay slice is associated with weaker accountability for poor performance. In firms with a high CEO pay slice, the probability of a CEO turnover after bad performance (controlling for the CEO's length of service) is lower. Lower sensitivity of turnover to performance reflects less willingness on the part of directors to discipline the CEO.


Finally, firms with a higher CEO pay slice are more likely to provide their CEO with option grants that turn out to be opportunistically timed. A high CEO pay slice is associated with an increased likelihood of the CEO receiving a 'lucky' option grant with an exercise price equal to the lowest price in the month in which it was granted. Such 'lucky' timing is likely to reflect the use of insider information or the backdating of option grants.

What explains this emerging pattern? Some CEOs take an especially large slice of the top five executives' compensation because of their special abilities and opportunities relative to the other four. But the ability of some CEOs to capture an especially high slice might reflect undue power and influence over the company's decision-making . As long as the latter factor plays a significant role, the CEO pay slice partly reflects governance problems.


We should stress that a positive correlation between a CEO's pay slice and governance problems does not imply that every firm with a high CEO pay slice has governance problems, much less that such firms would necessarily be made better off by lowering it. In some such firms, the large pay slice captured by the CEO may be optimal, given the CEO's talents and the firm's environment, and reducing the CEO pay slice might thus make the firm and its shareholders worse off.


Still, our evidence indicates that, on average , a high CEO pay slice may signal governance problems that might not otherwise be readily visible. Investors and corporate boards would thus do well to pay close attention not only to the compensation captured by the firms' top ex-ecutives , but also to how this compensation is divided among them.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RISING URBAN & PROFESSIONAL SUICIDES

AKHILESHWAR SAHAY

 

Year 2010 has heralded a spate of suicides in Indian cities and towns. While our deciding decade has just begun, the country is suddenly confronted with the defining problem of 20X — growing menace of urban and professional suicides. More than 100 such suicides have been reported in just few days of New Year, mostly of young and productive, and largely attributed to silent killer Depression. Equally depressing is double whammy of jurisprudence . Repeated attempts to commit suicide as well the threats to commit suicide could amount to cruelty and a ground for seeking divorce as held by division bench of Hon'ble Justices S A Bobde and SJ Kathawala of Bombay High Court.


Because etiology of urban suicides is complex and collateral damage is substantive and debilitating, it is worthwhile to put suicides of the year just gone by in perspective . As the official statistics are dated by two years, unreliable even by government belief, I have gone by my own random sampling with two key findings:

The year 2009 saw some high profile suicides worthy of front page news coverage , like that of father-in-law of Priyanka Gandhi, a retired feted Air Vice Marshal, half a dozen senior IAS and IPS officers, a famous Telugu film director and daughter of noted Ghazal singers Chitra and Jagjit Singh. There were thousands of other suicides reported in the inner pages of newspapers and these included — psychiatrists and doctors, nurses, media personnel, scientists, CAs, management professionals, a disproportionately large number of IT professionals , professors, businessmen, corporate executives, brokers, government officials , budding and bright students of engineering , medical, other professional courses, house wives, senior citizens and the youngsters in school.


Two third of suicides are in the age group 14-44 and that and for every reported suicide case there are at least four which are hidden. And, even with the incomplete statistics India is near the top of suicide table of the world. Further, the menace of urban and professional suicides is increasing and becoming game spoiler for the Indian century. It is instructive to note that annually more Indians die from suicide than combined curse of naxalism, terrorism and deadly lungs cancer. Still the national festival of complete denial of the problem at governmental level, unmitigated stigma at societal level and unacceptable shame at familial-level continues unabated.

Country needs urgent root-cause analysis of the malaise which is causing heavy collateral damage in terms of psychological devastation, societal strain, and humungous economic and financial consequences to families, organisations and society. In addition, the survivors of suicide attempts have to be freed from the ignominy of imprisonment.

We are one of the last countries which treat suicide a criminal offence, and not a serious public health problem. Scourge of growing suicide in 21st century cannot be fought with 19th century mindset and statute and by branding the victims as criminals and banishing them in prisons. Lost productivity, health and social care costs of suicides are estimated at many billions of dollars each annually and suicide accounts for 20 millions years of healthy life lost in the world, with India being a prime contributor. These are good enough reasons for priority action.


The question remains — Why people commit suicide or fail in even the desperate act of killing themselves? I should know, having remained 24X7 under the watch of doctors and family for suicidal ideation and likely suicide attempt for five years due to my bipolar disorder . But the first hand experience did not provide an answer. Etiology of suicide is a complex mixture of genetic, environmental , cultural and religious factors but, researchers globally are unanimous that there is a common thread running across majority of annual one million completed and five million failed suicides — the mental disorders particularly untreated ones .


Rigorous studies in developed countries have concluded that there are two groups of people who commit suicide — 50% are those with diagnosed or treated mental disorder and 90% of the balance 50% in whose case psychiatric autopsies and retrospective studies confirmed that a psychiatric disorder existed. This makes mental illnesses, more particularly the subgroup of clinical depression and bipolar disorder as the prime contributor to completed and attempted suicide.


The cancer of suicide needs to be tamed immediately before the scourge becomes unmanageable. Following is the seven-point national agenda worth pursuing to combat the epidemic:


We need to get the suicide statistics right. With barely 20% deaths medically certified in the country, the task is difficult . But dramatic improvements made in South Korea can act as a role model.


We need to humanise and decriminalize suicide by deleting Section 309 of Indian Penal Code. The Law Commission in its 210th report recommended deletion and found it as the stumbling block for prevention of suicide and improving the access of medical care to survivors. There is a case to emulate UK Suicide Act, 1961 which abrogated the law which made attempt to suicide a crime but enhanced punishment for complicity in another s suicide to 14 years.


With mental illness being prime contributor to suicide, there is urgent need to set up a standing empowered National Commission for Mental Health to work as nodal agency for all the policy and action for prevention, early detection, treatment and rehabilitation of men-tally ill.


A paradigm shift is needed government , school, workplace and family level to accept that suicide is preventable. Education and awareness of all including health professionals, is central to such an approach.

Outlay and utilisation of budget for mental health and suicide prevention needs exponential augmentation the economic and financial return of the same will be high as most who commit suicide are in productive age group.
Non-governmental efforts require mainstreaming and working in tandem with government, sufferers and carers.
Media has collateral responsibility in dissemination of information, education , creating awareness and self regulation for humane portrayal of suicide.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REMEMBER, ONLY HARD WORK PAYS

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

La Monte Young, an American singer, composer and musician, had a shattering first encounter with Ustad Abdul Karim Khan's vintage records. When he first heard the Khansaheb's Jamuna ke tear in the raga Bhairavi, he thought that perhaps "it would be best if I gave up singing, got a cabin up in the mountains, stacked it with a record player and recordings of the Kirana guarana maestro and just listened for the rest of my life!"


Raw genius often has that kind of chilling effect. Not every singer can hope to achieve the kind of legendary status that Abdul Karim Khan carved out with his magical voice in the 20th century. Lest we forget, such an attainment also needs something more than sheer talent. "Achievement is talent plus preparation ," writes the great thought-provocateur Malcolm Gladwell in his best seller Outliers : "The problem with this view ," he goes on the clarify, "is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play."


The inventor Thomas Alva Edison even put a figure on the respective mixes or proportions : genius is 1% inspiration (talent) and 99% perspiration (tyyari or preparation), said the Wizard of Menlo Park at the start of the 20th century. Since then a number of studies have confirmed Edison's sweaty hunch — only practice leads to perfection; that there are no 'naturals' ; musicians who float effortlessly to the top while practising a fraction of the time their peers do; nor could they find any 'grinds' , people who work harder than everyone else, yet just don't have what it takes to break the top ranks.

 

"( New) research suggests that once a musician has enough ability to get into a top music school , the thing that distinguishes one performer from another is how hard he or she works," Gladwell explains. "What's more, the people at the very top don't work just harder or even much harder than everyone else. They work much, much harder." The challenge then boils down to keeping up one's motivation during the slog overs. That separates the men from the boys. One sure-fire way enjoined by the Bhagavad Gita is to enjoy the ride rather than the destination. Don't waste time and energy worrying about final goals and outcomes. Once you realise nothing real is threatening you, you can fly free!

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

FAMILY OFFICES ARE PRODUCT-NEUTRAL

GAURAV PA

 

As a veteran in the Indian stock market, the move by Sunil Shah to set up Evergreen Family Office came as a surprise to many. He had thrown up the comfort of a regular job as the managing director of HDFC Securities to start up a business.


As a multi-family office, Evergreen helps in decision-making at family business structures, managing succession at the company level and ultimately transferring wealth from one generation to another. But for Mr Shah, who had joined his family business straight after graduating from IIMA, it was only a homecoming of sorts. He had started up Evergreen Broking straight out of management school and then sold it when India allowed foreign investment bankers to set up shop.



Family offices are a vehicle for wealthy entrepreneurs to manage their wealth independently and professionally from their business. "When it comes to managing wealth, what a family office seeks to provide is peace of mind and concentration of efforts." So, instead of different advisers managing different portfolios — investment, insurance, taxes and estate planning — for the family, a family office consolidates all the personal and family wealth solutions in one place. So, what is potential such business?


Globalisation has led to several family businesses being flooded with takeover offers from Indian and international firms. At such times, the family often faces a dilemma on whether to sell or scale up businesses for futures generations . Family offices such as Evergreen can play a big role here. Managing cash flows from partial or total liquidation, after evaluating all options, is another area where such firms can help. Finally, family offices can act as a private equity investor and real estate purchaser.


Family office is relatively a new concept in India, although India perhaps has the largest number of family-run businesses in the world. Then, how does a family office differ from wealth management services and private banking services offered by banks?


Firstly, family offices are product-neutral . Private banking outfits have an obvious conflict while managing funds of the ultra-rich , of trying to push their own products. "We coordinate and collaborate with sectoral experts to develop an integrated wealth strategy for our clients ." This way, family offices are essentially 'zero-

onflict'

 .
Succession planning in family business is integral to managing family offices well.


How is that managed,reducing conflicts and heart burns? Formulating a family constitution is a significant and time-consuming undertaking, and if the process is to be successful, a major commitment is necessary from everyone involved . Family offices have a broadbased commercial and financial experience , and are skilled in managing group interactions and the special dynamics that operate within families. But for an outsider to be able to play a meaningful role in the succession process, they must be trusted by both generations.


"It is often helpful if both generations involved have a hand in the selection of an adviser. This would reduce mistrust and a feeling that the adviser is protecting the interest of one generation of the family . Besides, interacting with the second and third generations, it is crucial to know their needs and aspirations — on whether they would like to continue in the family business at all."

What are his plans for Evergreen? Mr Shah now hopes his firm will eventually rise to be one of country's top experts in aiding decision-making and addressing all the challenges of family governance. For clients, he follows a fixed-fee structure against the normal, performancelinked structure of professionals employed by banks. The latter often results in advisers targeting revenue sales and getting into risky investments for clients to improve returns, he points out.


"With many ultra-rich Indians opting for customised solutions for their wealth, the multi-family-offices businesses could take off phenomenally in the coming years." Evergreen has only a handful of families as clients in hand at the moment, but his wealth of relationships over the years should help Evergreen grow in the coming years.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

EXPORTS ON TRACK TO HIT $250 BN BY '14

DURBA GHOSH

 

India's exports are showing signs of a steady recovery after struggling for over a year under the impact of an economic downturn that affected key markets such as the US and EU. Commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma is chasing a stiff export target of over $250 billion by 2014 and is confident of achieving this through increased investments. Mr Sharma recently met ET's Durba Ghosh on the sidelines of 'Namaskar Africa' – a business forum jointly organised by the government and industry body FICCI . Excerpts:


We are lagging China in terms investments in the African region. What is government's stand in that regard?
We (India and China) have different models. China is a bigger economy. It has trillions of dollars in forex reserves. But, we have the respect and trust of Africans for a strategic engagement. We will engage ourselves wherever possible and would utilise African resources in a positive manner.


Should India venture into Africa for production of food?

We should look at partnerships between private sector in India and Africa. African countries should be in a position to enhance their production and meet domestic demand, while the surplus can be supplied to India. Barring pulses and edible oil, we are not short of food. Both rice and wheat procurement is good. African region is a large producer of pulses. So, that can be looked into.


Would you push for more incentives in the foreign trade policy to increase exports to China?

We have a huge trade imbalance with China. Our exports to China are much less compared with its exports to our country. Therefore, we have given incentives for increasing exports to China. Market development assistance and market access initiative schemes do not violate WTO agreements. It is a part of national policy to identify a market to increase exports. Don't confuse these incentives with dumping or subsidies. We will be talking to China on the imbalance. But there is no talk on a Free Trade Agreement with China at this stage. China's accession to the WTO in 2001 was on the condition that it will get market economy status in 15 years. Some countries have given China that status. But we haven't. China is a major trading partner and we want to review our current engagement.

 

Is the government considering a land procurement policy for the SEZs? What are the plans to boost manufacturing sector?

Land is a state subject. I hope all states will have a policy in place for identification and zoning of industrial land. The preference should be to take non-agricultural land, barren land and wasteland. Even if we have a single window in Delhi, the country has a federal structure. There is a coordinated mechanism. I am for greater uniformity and predictability when it comes to investments in India from the investors' perspective. There needs to be consultation with all the stakeholders to bring about policy changes. Besides inter-ministerial discussions are also required. There are no discussions right now on labour flexibility in SEZs. We are planning to set up dedicated investment and manufacturing zones that will focus on the manufacturing sector. This big zone will come up along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. States are identifying zone areas. We want the zone to be an integrated complex. This will have industries across sectors, both labour intensive and hightechnology . A manufacturing policy, the first of its kind in India, should come by June. Now manufacturing accounts for 16% of GDP. We want it at 25%.


Could you share the government's outlook on India's exports?

Exports have found their positive growth trajectory again and we expect that by March-end, the gap in exports will narrow down considerably compared with the previous one. Our exports will reach $200 billion by the next fiscal-end . By 2014, we will double our exports from last year's $287 billion, including $186 billion in goods exports and $101 billion in service exports.


How is the progress on single-window FDI?

We have taken steps to simplify the FDI policy. It will be a single policy document that will subsume 177 Press Notes. The draft document was put out in December-end. Consultations with stakeholders are going on and people from across the globe are responding to it through our interactive website. We will close stakeholder consultations on January 31 and will start work on the policy document.


Should we allow FDI in retail?

We allow FDI in single-brand retail. That is doing very well. The government has no intention to revisit it at this stage for multi-brand retail. It is the back-end, which is more important. That is what Bharti is doing with Wal-Mart. There is value addition and it is also beneficial to farmers as they get better prices for their produce. We are encouraging organized retail industry to create value addition. Agro-processing and food-processing industry will be a priority for us and is as important as energy and infrastructure.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA WILL NOT HAVE A DUBAI LIKE CRISIS: D SUBBARAO

 

Dr D Subbarao, Governor, RBI, in an interview with ET Now says that India should not be concerned about a sovereign debt default and believes that the country will not have a Dubai like crisis.


How did you manage the crisis and were you worried about a serious economic dislocation?

Well the classic case of "Baptism by fire" - now post September 2008 when world financial markets choked, confidence completely dried up it became clear fairly soon that we were having a crisis of different dimensions.


It also became evident that India despite all the talk about decoupling was going to be impacted by the crisis. So we were driven by two considerations; first, that we must keep our money and credit mortgage functioning normally and that we must ensure that liquidity stress does not trigger solvency cascades.


So we were cautious actually that we must maintain ample rupee liquidity, we must maintain comfortable dollar liquidity and that we must ensure that credit flows to all productive sectors of the economy. There was, of course, criticism. Criticism that our aggressive easing was an over reaction, criticism that we were compromising medium term sustainability. But in the event - with the benefit of hindsight - now I can say that it is better to err on too much rather than doing too little.


But what was it like personally for you because when Lehman Brothers went down you had had what some nine days of experience as a Central Bank Governor. Did you feel sort of under equipped at any point in time, did you have enough people guiding you, supporting you, giving you advice who did you rely on?

Yes, that's right. I was barely days into my job when Lehman Brothers collapsed and coming into the Reserve Bank actually I was on a steep learning curve and the learning curve got suddenly much-much deeper. Now that you ask me I think I depended largely if not entirely on the Reserve Bank.


There was of course a high level coordination meetings with the Prime Minister and there was lot of learning from international conferences and there was, of course, lot of analysis advice coming from the academia, from media. But in the ultimate analysis I depended on the analysis of the staff of the Reserve Bank and on the advice of the senior management. The final call of course was mine.


Let's go to March 2009. Were you surprised by the speed of recovery?

To be honest, yes. Because this crisis was hitting us from the outside and there was lot of uncertainty, there was lot of anxiety and how the crisis would evolve was difficult to know and largely beyond our control. So even as I knew that our exports sector is small, even as I knew that our financial sector is safe and sound, even as I was confident that the fundamental drivers of India's growth growing entrepreneursim, rising productivity they were all intact but there was a concern that things are happening outside the country and we have to respond to them.

There was anxiety about which institution might fall which day and there was anxiety about whether all the dirt had come out. So in the period between October 2008 and March 2009 there was uncertainty. The only comfort in fact I would say was that we were not alone there was uncertainty all around and as I said we had a silver lining in the dark clouds. So, yes, given looking back on the anxiety at that time I would say that I was surprised by the speed of the recovery.


Joseph Stiglitz says that the crisis, the financial crisis is not really over. What if he is right? What if the crisis resurfaces? Are you prepared for such a scenario?

 

The mainstream view today is that the global economy is on its way to recovery. There is, of course, widely shared concern that the recovery is rapid it is not robust enough. Some people believe that this couldn't be a double dip recession and another recession before we are on our way to a sustainable recovery. Some people believe that we are probably sowing the seeds of the next crisis in trying to resolve this crisis.

So Joseph Stiglitz is a noted Economist, Nobel Laureate, an influential thinker and I believe he is speaking for a lot of people this lack of confidence in sovereign debt in fear to money I think that's partly triggered by the Dubai Developments in November. Countries which have had a history of sovereign debt defaults and currency crisis I think should be concerned.


But as far as we are concerned in India, the entry of foreign debt into sovereign debt is quite limited. The share of FIIs in sovereign debt is quite limited. So I don't think we should be concerned about a sovereign debt default and I believe that we will not have a crisis like that.


One billion Indians are perfectly happy accepting and holding your IOUs. But crisis has really forced a lot of policy makers to reassess their assumptions. Have you had to reassess some of your own assumptions?


Oh! Definitely. This crisis has been an intellectual challenge. It has reopened all questions, renewed old debates and tact a stereotype views and I believe that there is lots of new questions arising. As far as I am concerned for example, yes that decoupling theory, it is ironic that people believed in the decoupling theory in an age of globalisation but I was given the evidence at that time I was persuaded.


Now I know that it is not credible - at least the strong version of the decoupling theory is not credible. I also believe that if you ensured price stability and macroeconomic stability, you could ensure financial stability. Now I know that it is not true, you have got to guard financial stability as an explicit variable and something where I did not necessarily reassess my beliefs but was reiterated my beliefs was about the financial sector development.

Now before the crisis, there was euphoria about the financial sector that you could add value by shear financial engineering. Now there is realisation that financial sector development has value, has importance only to the extent it aids the growth of the real sector. So I believe that's very important that there is realisation about that across board.


What about financial globalisation, fully mobile capital flows? Where did you stand on this debate before the crisis and where do you stand on it now?


I stand the same place actually, you know. Pardon that our approach to financial sector liberalisation, globalisation and capital account convertibility - we treat that as a process and not an event.

 

There is a roadmap for that and we are traversing along the roadmap but the roadmap itself is dynamic irrespective of the crisis because we have gone to recalibrate it along the way depending on the development support here and around the world. When people talk about financial sector globalisation and India's approach to globalisation - in particular Reserve Bank's world view of financial globalisation - they tend to look at it from a micro perspective.

A corporate looks at it from his point of view but what is collectively optimal is not necessarily what is individually optimal. I believe we in the Reserve Bank take the macro perspective.


Do you think the Reserve Bank needs to become more accountable to democratic institutions – let's say the parliament?

There is accountability at two levels, accountability for delivery of public service at the interface with the public and there is accountability for our policies. Now this first dimension of accountability where we are accountable for public services I believe that we need to be sensitive through reducing transaction costs without compromising on due diligence.


Now I get a lot of complaints, a lot of grievances about people having problems with banks and I believe that we should be sensitive to that and we are accountable as much as any other public agency.


Accountability at the parliament level, in a parliamentary system there is accountability through their executive and Reserve Bank redeems its accountability through the finance ministry and of course the Reserve Bank and I as the Governor we appear and testify before parliamentary committees.


So I believe there is a fair amount of accountability and you know it's a difficult balance of enforcing accountability and preserving the economy and independence of the institution and this is an issue that's come up, that has been with us all through and has come up again through the crisis. I think we should be concerned about maintaining the independence on autonomy of Central Banks.


Do you think the Reserve Bank of India has enough autonomy?

 

I believe so, yes. Contrary to popular to perception we do enjoy autonomy, yes.

 

***************************************

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA WILL NOT HAVE A DUBAI LIKE CRISIS: D SUBBARAO

 

Dr D Subbarao, Governor, RBI, in an interview with ET Now says that India should not be concerned about a sovereign debt default and believes that the country will not have a Dubai like crisis.


How did you manage the crisis and were you worried about a serious economic dislocation?

Well the classic case of "Baptism by fire" - now post September 2008 when world financial markets choked, confidence completely dried up it became clear fairly soon that we were having a crisis of different dimensions.


It also became evident that India despite all the talk about decoupling was going to be impacted by the crisis. So we were driven by two considerations; first, that we must keep our money and credit mortgage functioning normally and that we must ensure that liquidity stress does not trigger solvency cascades.


So we were cautious actually that we must maintain ample rupee liquidity, we must maintain comfortable dollar liquidity and that we must ensure that credit flows to all productive sectors of the economy. There was, of course, criticism. Criticism that our aggressive easing was an over reaction, criticism that we were compromising medium term sustainability. But in the event - with the benefit of hindsight - now I can say that it is better to err on too much rather than doing too little.


But what was it like personally for you because when Lehman Brothers went down you had had what some nine days of experience as a Central Bank Governor. Did you feel sort of under equipped at any point in time, did you have enough people guiding you, supporting you, giving you advice who did you rely on?


Yes, that's right. I was barely days into my job when Lehman Brothers collapsed and coming into the Reserve Bank actually I was on a steep learning curve and the learning curve got suddenly much-much deeper. Now that you ask me I think I depended largely if not entirely on the Reserve Bank.


There was of course a high level coordination meetings with the Prime Minister and there was lot of learning from international conferences and there was, of course, lot of analysis advice coming from the academia, from media. But in the ultimate analysis I depended on the analysis of the staff of the Reserve Bank and on the advice of the senior management. The final call of course was mine.


Let's go to March 2009. Were you surprised by the speed of recovery?

To be honest, yes. Because this crisis was hitting us from the outside and there was lot of uncertainty, there was lot of anxiety and how the crisis would evolve was difficult to know and largely beyond our control. So even as I knew that our exports sector is small, even as I knew that our financial sector is safe and sound, even as I was confident that the fundamental drivers of India's growth growing entrepreneursim, rising productivity they were all intact but there was a concern that things are happening outside the country and we have to respond to them.

 

There was anxiety about which institution might fall which day and there was anxiety about whether all the dirt had come out. So in the period between October 2008 and March 2009 there was uncertainty. The only comfort in fact I would say was that we were not alone there was uncertainty all around and as I said we had a silver lining in the dark clouds. So, yes, given looking back on the anxiety at that time I would say that I was surprised by the speed of the recovery.


Joseph Stiglitz says that the crisis, the financial crisis is not really over. What if he is right? What if the crisis resurfaces? Are you prepared for such a scenario?

 

The mainstream view today is that the global economy is on its way to recovery. There is, of course, widely shared concern that the recovery is rapid it is not robust enough. Some people believe that this couldn't be a double dip recession and another recession before we are on our way to a sustainable recovery. Some people believe that we are probably sowing the seeds of the next crisis in trying to resolve this crisis.


So Joseph Stiglitz is a noted Economist, Nobel Laureate, an influential thinker and I believe he is speaking for a lot of people this lack of confidence in sovereign debt in fear to money I think that's partly triggered by the Dubai Developments in November. Countries which have had a history of sovereign debt defaults and currency crisis I think should be concerned.

 

But as far as we are concerned in India, the entry of foreign debt into sovereign debt is quite limited. The share of FIIs in sovereign debt is quite limited. So I don't think we should be concerned about a sovereign debt default and I believe that we will not have a crisis like that.


One billion Indians are perfectly happy accepting and holding your IOUs. But crisis has really forced a lot of policy makers to reassess their assumptions. Have you had to reassess some of your own assumptions?


Oh! Definitely. This crisis has been an intellectual challenge. It has reopened all questions, renewed old debates and tact a stereotype views and I believe that there is lots of new questions arising. As far as I am concerned for example, yes that decoupling theory, it is ironic that people believed in the decoupling theory in an age of globalisation but I was given the evidence at that time I was persuaded.


Now I know that it is not credible - at least the strong version of the decoupling theory is not credible. I also believe that if you ensured price stability and macroeconomic stability, you could ensure financial stability. Now I know that it is not true, you have got to guard financial stability as an explicit variable and something where I did not necessarily reassess my beliefs but was reiterated my beliefs was about the financial sector development.

Now before the crisis, there was euphoria about the financial sector that you could add value by shear financial engineering. Now there is realisation that financial sector development has value, has importance only to the extent it aids the growth of the real sector. So I believe that's very important that there is realisation about that across board.


What about financial globalisation, fully mobile capital flows? Where did you stand on this debate before the crisis and where do you stand on it now?


I stand the same place actually, you know. Pardon that our approach to financial sector liberalisation, globalisation and capital account convertibility - we treat that as a process and not an event.


There is a roadmap for that and we are traversing along the roadmap but the roadmap itself is dynamic irrespective of the crisis because we have gone to recalibrate it along the way depending on the development support here and around the world. When people talk about financial sector globalisation and India's approach to globalisation - in particular Reserve Bank's world view of financial globalisation - they tend to look at it from a micro perspective.


A corporate looks at it from his point of view but what is collectively optimal is not necessarily what is individually optimal. I believe we in the Reserve Bank take the macro perspective.


Do you think the Reserve Bank needs to become more accountable to democratic institutions – let's say the parliament?

There is accountability at two levels, accountability for delivery of public service at the interface with the public and there is accountability for our policies. Now this first dimension of accountability where we are accountable for public services I believe that we need to be sensitive through reducing transaction costs without compromising on due diligence.


Now I get a lot of complaints, a lot of grievances about people having problems with banks and I believe that we should be sensitive to that and we are accountable as much as any other public agency.


Accountability at the parliament level, in a parliamentary system there is accountability through their executive and Reserve Bank redeems its accountability through the finance ministry and of course the Reserve Bank and I as the Governor we appear and testify before parliamentary committees.


So I believe there is a fair amount of accountability and you know it's a difficult balance of enforcing accountability and preserving the economy and independence of the institution and this is an issue that's come up, that has been with us all through and has come up again through the crisis. I think we should be concerned about maintaining the independence on autonomy of Central Banks.


Do you think the Reserve Bank of India has enough autonomy?

 

I believe so, yes. Contrary to popular to perception we do enjoy autonomy, yes.

 

***************************************

******************************************************************************************

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

'TAXI POLITICS' NOT JUST A MAHA ISSUE

 

Maharashtra chief Minister Ashok Chavan put his foot into his mouth trying to push a pro-Marathi agenda in explaining his government's move to revive 24,000 lapsed taxi permits in Mumbai. Unfortunately, the reaction to the conditions he spelt out — that such permits would be given to those who could speak, read and write in Marathi, besides being domiciled in the state at least 15 years — forced the CM into a flip-flop in just 24 hours. This raises the question of whether it had at all been discussed by the state Cabinet before the hurried announcement, or it was a spur-of-the-moment move. A minister at the Cabinet meeting had suggested to the Chief Minister that instead of framing new laws to give jobs to Marathi-speaking people, it would be better to enforce existing legal provisions strictly. This was what lay behind Mr Chavan's announcement, in the context of Sections 4 and 24 of the Motor Vehicles Act and the relevant rules, that anyone seeking a taxi driving permit should undergo a test in the local language. But the law, which dates back to the British period, never mentioned any language by name. In Maharashtra, an official resolution in 1971 had spelt out that Marathi was the state's official language, and all government work, including in the courts, would be in that language. The CM, when questioned in the midst of intense flak from all sides, reinterpreted "local" language to include Hindi and Gujarati as well, which set off a new furore among the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. It is more than obvious that the move by Mr Chavan and his government was an attempt to upstage outfits like the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray's Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, to cut the ground beneath their feet as it were. It would have been far better though if the state Cabinet had discussed the matter threadbare, and visualised the likely consequences, before any such announcement. They cannot have forgotten that while Marathi-speaking people constitute a majority of Mumbai's residents, the number of Hindi-speaking North Indians as well as people from other states who live and work in the nation's commercial capital is not inconsequential, and many of them play a vital role in keeping essential services running. The other reason behind the government's move to revive lapsed licenses was possibly to encourage commercial taxi fleets like those that ply in Singapore, with the state transport minister acknowledging such proposals have been received from local as well as Singapore-based businessmen. This is why it was also spelt out that the new taxis would be required to have facilities such as GPS, GPRS, electronic meters with printing facility and run on CNG. To this was added the Marathi requirement — but the chief minister was at a loss to explain why a rule which is said to have existed for several decades was suddenly sought to be implemented now. The real answer is that the corruption-ridden regional transport offices blithely looked the other way, so much so that it was possible for someone to get a licence to run a taxi three days after arriving in Mumbai after putting Rs 3,000 on the counter.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE PAK ARMY PARADOX

BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "When your back's against the wall,

Turn round and fight! –

The wall won't hit back!"

From The Proverbs

of Bachchoo

 

I don't suppose that, say, Benjamin Netanyahu could write an approving biography of Adolf Hitler and expect to remain as Prime Minister of Israel. Or that the Grand Dragon of the Ku-Klux Klan could publish a book approving of Martin Luther King and not expect to be derobed and have his white pointy cap taken off him. On the other hand though, it is perfectly possible for British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to make a speech praising Winston Churchill and be applauded on all sides for it, or for David Cameron to participate in a documentary (he couldn't write anything so taxing as a book!) about Karl Marx and say the fellow certainly had a few good ideas, even though he personally would never have signed his admission ticket to the British Library Reading Rooms. There would be some comment in the Daily Telegraph and no doubt some wag would remark, "Can't you see how deep socialism has gone!", but the storm would be confined to the cups of the Commons tearoom.

 

So it is with some alarm that we witnessed the expulsion of Jaswant Singh from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the "crime" of having written an honest biography of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the barrister who won an argument, got landed with a country, was treated as a saint by some of those who inherited it and as a sinner by those who felt betrayed by the division of their subcontinent.

 

Amongst the latter were the elements that later formed the BJP. The internal dynamics of such an expulsion, some of them not very clean, some of them arising from the betrayal of old loyalties in search of power have been speculated on in the Indian press. For a watching world, or the tiny bit of it that was watching, the political immaturity of the party was, with this expulsion, clearly on display. Mr Singh had served the party and the people in ministerial capacities, had contributed to the formative ideas and leadership of the party and he was being expelled for writing a book?

 

The book is to be published in Britain and I had the privilege of being a guest at a London party to which Mr and Mrs Jaswant Singh had been invited by our mutual friend. It was an intimate gathering in which the other guests were an aristocratic Pakistani family. I chatted briefly and inconsequentially with Jaswantji and didn't give rein to my curiosity or my opinions on the book or events flowing from it. Some of my talk with our hostess was about the current state of Pakistan about which one can't, from any vantage, be cheerful.

 

I left the party and took the night bus home (one doesn't drive in London if one is drinking even a glass of wine) and regretted the fact that I hadn't even asked Mr Singh what he intended to do now that he was out of the Party. What was apparent was here was a statesman of some experience who had been ejected from a political party whose appeal to its base was in the main an espousal of "Hindutva" and an opposition to the historical religio-sectarian conviction that the Muslims of the subcontinent needed a homeland and state of their own. Mr Singh's sin was to give an airing to the complexity of forces that led to that homeland being born and to fail to demonise Jinnah, the accepted proponent of such division.

 

The book will undoubtedly be read in Pakistan. Having been expelled from what Pakistanis see as the bigoted "Hindu fundamentalist" party (though philosophically there are no revealed fundamentals to follow), Mr Singh may even be welcomed in Pakistan as a friend, as perhaps Richard Nixon was in China.

 

There's the clue. The division within Pakistan at present is essentially a divide within its Army which has a history of nurturing Islamism and is now paradoxically the only force that can stand between sanity and a conquest of the country by Islamist infiltration, insurrection and ideological imposition. The Pakistani Army, or sections of it realise this as does the government of Asif Ali Zardari and as do the Americans who used Pakistan as a base to launch the Islamist battle against the socialist, Soviet-backed government of Afghanistan and are now trying to use it to fight the monster they paid to create.

 

To put it at its mildest, Pakistan's anti-Indian (read anti-Hindu or "kafir") stance has been a central ingredient of its ideological cement, stirred by its military governments as a stop-gap for having very scanty developmental policies or room to manoeuvre. India meanwhile has, over the last 60 years, nurtured its sui generis corrupt but ultimately ebullient and dogged democracy and its capitalistic vibrancy. I believe India and Indians don't lose much sleep over Pakistan and only think about it when there's a cricket game in progress or when terrorists trained across the border attack Mumbai. If that indifference were translated into concrete foreign policy and enshrined in assurances that India, if left alone, would pose no threat of any sort to Pakistan, then Pakistan's Army could turn to the task of purging itself, ideologically and practically, and get on with the job of purging the country of its dire and manifest threat.

 

Direct bilateral talks between New Delhi and Islamabad have yielded uneasy agreements and deferred agendas on the vexatious questions. In the negotiations they have one eye on the political game they have to play. Neither country is willing to accept the mediation of outside forces to broker the necessary "truce" or a real understanding which should eventually lead to an end to a wasteful hostility, the opening and dissolution of borders to the extent that the European Union has managed.

 

Enter Mr Singh — not as an envoy of the state of India but as a negotiator with no powers but the authority of brokerage to begin and facilitate a continuing dialogue between governments and other institutions, military, commercial, educational and visionary. His qualification? He was able to go back to the origin of the division — a pre-lapsarian thinker.

 

Elsewhere Tony Blair has been appointed Europe's mediator in West Asia. George W. Bush has been recruited by a Democrat President to advise on disaster relief in Haiti. India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr Zardari would even score ironic political points by picking up that phone.

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE TIWARI EFFECT

 

Politicians of AP have become doubly careful after the N.D. Tiwari 'sting' operation. Everyone from aging veterans to the young crowd are discreetly but thoroughly checking their offices and houses to find out if hidden cameras have been installed by overzealous TV channels or their moles. Bureaucrats and ministers are not too comfortable having journalists (especially the visual kind) around. Grapevine is that some have postponed appointments given to women's groups. Why invite unnecessary trouble? Personal staff has also come under suspicion.


The Raj Bhavan is extra cautious. A thorough search was carried out there after Mr Tiwari's exit to remove any "suspicious objects". A security review was also conducted to ensure there is no 'breach' in the future. We can safely say, "Once stung, twice shy".

 

POWER IS NOT IN THE GENES

Family politics is commonplace in India. But that does not mean that scions of powerful dads and moms have it easy.


Most of them have to go through the grind to get to the gaddi. Indira Gandhi had to wait before she stepped into her father's shoes. And Rahul Gandhi is now trudging dusty roads of the country to earn his perch.
But Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy, the son of the late Chief Minister, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, is an impatient man. Though the Congress high command subtly told him that he was yet to learn the nuances of politics and administration, this ambitious MP continues to indicate he is a natural heir to his father's throne. His supporters are making things worse by trying to push his case at every opportunity. They even told him that he had endeared himself to both people of Telangana and those in coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema by espousing "Golden Telangana" and the united state at the same time. Who needs enemies when you have such friends?

Cops want media to part with pictures

 

Cops and journalists always have a love-hate relationship. The AP cops, for instance, now want journalists to be their informants.


The state witnessed hundreds of cases of arson and attacks on private and public properties during the pro- and anti-Telangana agitations recently. However, the police is finding it difficult to build up a good cases because of lack of evidence.


The cops still do not have closed-circuit cameras installed at spots that are vulnerable to violence. They did not even bother to put them up at the trouble-prone Osmania campus. Now desperate cops are bombarding media offices with notices calling for photographs or videos of violent acts.


The CID, which is probing the attack on the TD MLA Nagam Janardhan Reddy on the OU campus, also wants the media's help. Surely, this is a compliment of sorts for mediapersons who rush in where angels fear to tread.

SINGAPORE OBSESSION HAS GRIPPED ASCI

 

A Singapore obsession has gripped the prestigious Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad. Four senior academics from Singapore have already undergone training at ASCI and two others had delivered lectures. More than a dozen Indian academics have visited Singapore last year.


What's with Singapore, one may wonder? It is learnt that a senior journalist who served in the PMO has quite a good number of contacts in Singapore since he was teaching there for a year. He has also got links with the ASCI.


It was this journalist who facilitated the to and fro trips for his old friends from both the countries. Let the Grove Academe thrive.

 

***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

YOUR HONOUR, MAY I SPEAK MY MIND?

BY ANTARA DEV SEN

 

So after celebrating the birth of a fresh new decade in the still new millennium, we go right back to being our primitive selves. It's so comfortable to be in a thought rut, like being in your soft old frayed shoes or shabby, tattered jeans. Not quite presentable maybe, perhaps rather shocking to behold, it may indeed make you look like a destitute in urgent need of help. But who cares, as long as you are comfortable?

 

Sadly, thought processes are not as personal as apparel. Your thinking affects others — sometimes pretty gravely — and moulds the world you belong to. Refusing to change your thoughts is as odious as refusing to change your underwear. If you are strong enough, you may even try to impose your curious beliefs on others. Sure, wear designer garb and fancy shoes if you wish, use the latest gadgets and be real hip and trendy, but hold on to your most intimate clothing — you must not change your underwear. That would be shameful! Naturally, if such personal beliefs of some dictate the personal choices of others, the society they make up may fall gravely sick.

 

That is precisely what is happening to us. Look at the state of free speech in this vibrant democracy in the beginning of year 2010. This week the Supreme Court has snubbed Khushboo for her moderately liberal views on pre-marital sex. Meanwhile, the International PEN, the high profile global organisation of writers, has appealed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to uphold the Constitution and drop criminal charges against Murzban Shroff, a writer in Mumbai accused of inciting communal hatred by using a colloquial word in his work.

 

And Paul Zacharia, the distinguished writer in Malayalam, was roughed up for speaking out against state-supported moral policing in Kerala. His attackers were supported vocally by the state. For the moment, let's just examine these three immediate cases attacking free speech.

 

Paul Zacharia's matter was simple. Members of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) youth wing were outraged by the private friendship of two Congress leaders, a man and a woman. They accosted the two at the Congresswoman's house at night, dragged them out in front of television cameras and got them arrested amidst lurid shaming. Zacharia spoke out against such bizarre moral policing. They had no right to barge into a woman's house at midnight and defame her, he said. Moral policing betrayed the narrow fascism of the once enlightened communists.

 

As a result, enraged left lumpens roughed up the author in the street. Then Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala secretary of the CPI(M), justified the act with the usual spiel about the victim inviting the outburst by hurting the sentiments of the people. Once again, mob intimidation as a tool of governance was on grand display.

 

The attacks on Murzban Shroff, an Indian writer in English, were not as basic. He got slapped with legal cases for his book Breathless in Bombay. Last year one disturbed Marathi manoos (I won't name him — people often sue just to get publicity) sued Shroff for using the word "ghaati" in one of his short stories. The author was booked under section 153(B), for imputations and assertions prejudicial to national integration, a non-bailable offence that could land him in jail for three years.

 

Ghaati means one from the ghaats — a country bumpkin. That the mere utterance of this word could lead to national disintegration is an eye-opener for the uninitiated like me. But more importantly, in the book it is used not by the authorial voice but by a villainous character. Expecting villains in fiction and film to use politically correct language may be a bit excessive. If we choose to go down that path, we may have to rewrite all our fiction and plays and dub and delete dialogue from most of our films. And be left with fine, bland stuff with the beauty and consistency of baby food. Look Ma, no edges — nothing that could possibly hurt. Or make art.

 

Confusing the voice of the author with that of his villain needs serious lack of literary — or just common — sense.

 

But rushing to court because you are affronted by the behaviour of a fictional character requires an alarming blur between the real and the imaginary. After the Mumbai manoos was offended by the villain's speech, a Tamil man of Kodaikanal was offended by the behaviour of a fictional character. In one story, he objected to the heroine's love life, decided that her attitude was obscene and derogatory to women in India and promptly sued Shroff. He also objected to the word "wily". In his haste to be horrified, the poor man took it to be "willy".

 

This peculiar protectiveness about the Indian woman's image exhibited by some Tamil men has been a dreadful curse for Khushboo, the Tamil superstar. Back in 2005 she had said to a magazine, in response to a survey on changing attitudes towards sex, that there wasn't anything particularly wrong for women to have sex before marriage, but they should use proper protection. She had also said that educated men would not expect their wives to be virgins. All hell broke loose as the moral brigade, including the Dalit Panthers, accused her of denigrating Tamil women, attacked her and slapped her with 23 lawsuits.

 

This week, while hearing her appeal against these cases, the Supreme Court bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Justices J.M. Panchal and B.S. Chauhan seemed miffed. "Why did you make such an extensive wise statement on virginity?" they asked. And according to some reports also ticked her off for being immature and irresponsible, even declaring: "It is difficult to digest her statement. We cannot accept her contention that she did not commit any offence". The Supreme Court bench asked for the full transcript of the magazine interview.

 

This offhand comment from the country's highest judiciary is terrifying. The issue is free speech — not whether Khushboo is right or wrong. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of justice in our country, the ultimate protector of our rights, values and Constitution. Even if the Supreme Court judges are uncomfortable with what is being said — and it would be tragic if our Chief Justice and others find liberal values undesirable — the right of an Indian citizen to speak her mind cannot be denied.

 

Unfortunately, often the state and the courts fail to protect free speech, fearing popular unrest. This lends credibility to mob intimidation. If we value democratic freedoms, free speech needs to be protected more than ever by the state and the judiciary. Neither personal nor popular belief must come in the way.

 

Antara Dev Sen is editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at: sen@littlemag.com [1]

 

 ***************************************

DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

ONE-PARTY DEMOCRACY

BY ROGER COHEN

 

BEIJING, china

I'm bullish on China after a couple of weeks here and perhaps that sentiment begins with the little emperors and empresses. In upscale city parks and rundown urban sprawls, I've seen China's children pampered by grandparents, coddled by fathers, cared for by extended families.

 

Scarcity may explain the doting: China's one-child policy makes children special. But there are deeper forces at work. The race for modernity has not blown apart the family unit, whatever the strains. After witnessing the atomisation of American society, where the old are often left to fend for themselves, China feels cohesive.

 

It's seeing that most natural of conspiracies — between grandparents and children — flourishing. It's listening to young women in coastal factories talking about sending half their salaries home to some village in Guangxi where perhaps it goes to build a second floor on a parental house. It's hearing young couples agonise over whether they can afford a child because "affording" means school, possible graduate education abroad, and a deposit on the first apartment.

 

The family is at once emotional bedrock and social insurance. "My" money equals my family's money. All the parental investment reaps a return in the form of care later in life. "Children are a retirement fund", a Chinese-American friend living here told me. "If you don't have children, what do you do in old age?"

 

The Chinese, in other words, might be lining up to play karaoke after long factory shifts, but they're not bowling alone American-style. They're not stressing because they're all alone. That's critical. There so much heaving change here — China's planning to open 97 new airports and 83 subway systems in the next five years — the family strikes me as the great stabiliser (even more than the regime's iron fist).

 

As Arthur Kroeber, an economist, said, "High-growth stories are not pretty. If you're growing at 10 percent a year, a lot of stuff gets knocked down". It sure does: China looms through the dust. But the family has proved resilient, cushioning life for the have-nots, offering a moral compass for the haves (rampant corruption notwithstanding).

 

After the emperors and empresses, in my bullish assessment, comes the undistracted forward focus. After a while in Asia, you notice the absence of a certain background noise. It's as if you've removed a negative drone from your life, like the slightly startled relief you feel when the hum of an air conditioner ceases.

 

What's in that American drone? Oh, the wars of course, the cost of them, and debate around them, and the chatter surrounding terror and fear.

 

There's also the resentment-infused aftermath of the great financial meltdown, navigated by China with an adroitness that helped salvage the world economy from oblivion. In the place of all that Western angst, there's growth, growth, growth, which tends (through whatever ambivalence) to inspire awe rather than dread. The world's centre of gravity is shifting with a seismic inevitability.

 

I know, China has kept its foot on the gas of its stimulus package too long and there are bubble signs in housing and labour is no longer limitless, with resultant inflationary pressure. I also know there are tensions between state economic direction and market forces, with resultant waste. But my third bullish element is nonetheless an economy entering a 15-year sweet spot where rising disposable income will drive the domestic market.

 

Think of what Japan, Taiwan and South Korea went through decades ago, but with a population of 1.3 billion. Think of the 10 to 15 million new urban residents a year and the homes and infrastructure they will need. Think of all the stuff the world demands and can't get elsewhere with the same quality, quantity and price. Think underlying drivers. They remain powerful.

 

Of course, political upheaval could unhinge all the above. Given that China's open-closed experiment is unique in history, nobody can say how this society will be governed in 2050. Immense tensions, not least between the rage that corruption inspires and the difficulty of tackling it without a free press, exist. Still, my fourth reason for running with the Chinese bulls is perhaps the most surprising: single-party democracy.

 

It doesn't exist. It's an oxymoron (although a US primary is a vote within one party). It can easily be the semantic disguise for outrage and oppression. But it just may be the most important political idea of the 21st century.

 

Rightful resistance is growing in China. Citizens are asserting their rights, not in organising against the state (dangerous) but in using laws to have a say. Non-governmental organisations are multiplying to advance agendas from the environment to labour rights. This is happening with the acquiescence of smart rulers.

 

"They know they cannot manage in the old way", Ma Jun, a leading environmentalist, told me. "They cannot dam the water, but they can go with the flow and divert it to the places they want". Whether that place will ever resemble one-party democracy, I don't know. But I no longer laugh at the idea. Harmonious discord is an old Chinese idea. The extended Chinese family is a daily exercise in just that.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

OPED

TWITTERING TERRORISTS

BY ROD LIDDLE

 

This following is definitely in bad taste, isn't it? I don't always have a working moral compass when it comes to black humour, but I think this is just the wrong side of the line. Although I'm not sure.

 

A disc jockey (DJ) from Revolution Radio, in Manchester, played the song Jump, by Van Halen, as police attempted to coax a suicidal woman down from a nearby motorway bridge. The DJ, Steve Penk, had been inundated by complaints from motorists held up on the road while the police went about their delicate counselling work. Penk did not mention the woman when introducing the song.

 

Somehow the case is not helped by the fact that the woman did indeed jump, although failed to hurt herself (I don't know how. Maybe they had put mats out).

 

I only became interested in the story when it was reported in the press that mental health charities were "horrified" by Mr Penk's insensitivity and started calling for all sorts of action to be taken against him. I don't know what it had to do with them.

 

Luckily, the owners of Revolution Radio ignored their complaints (the owners including a certain Steve Penk). It was a callous thing to do and might convince you to stop listening to his station; alternatively it might make you more inclined to listen. It might be the sort of humour which tickles you, in which case I expect the mental health charities will investigate you too.

 

It is not quite as bad as the recent case in China where a suicidal man was crouched atop a bridge being spoken to by the police when a passer-by came along, offered to help, and pushed the bloke off.

 

Let's all agree that's going too far. I'm not sure what to think — truth be told I can't get past the horror of any DJ, anywhere, playing anything by Van Halen.

 

More straightforward is the case of Paul Chambers, who has been banned from ever flying again, suspended from his job, interviewed by the police for seven hours and faces a court case in February — all for something he posted on the Twitter site. Worried and frustrated that his local airport was going to be shut as a consequence of bad weather when he intended to fly abroad, he twittered: "You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high".

 

The Robin Hood airport "takes all terrorist threats very seriously", some buttock-clenched twit in its head office asserted. The police became involved; Chambers was banged up for the best part of a day and had his laptop, iPhone and home computer taken away from him. Then he was charged and bailed to appear before court next month, told he was banned from every airport everywhere and allegedly suspended from his job.

 

Now, I don't have much time for Twitter and am always suspicious of people who use it — there is something incalculably narcissistic about it. But is there anybody stupid enough, reading that Twitter from Mr Chambers, to consider him to be a serious terrorist threat? Or a terrorist threat per se? How thick would you have to be to think such a thing? Is that what terrorists do, post warnings on Twitter, referencing the weather? Did nobody who read his Twitter — and previous Twitters, for a bit of context — not understand that he was joking and that in fact he had no intention whatsoever of blowing up the Robin Hood airport (much though he might want to do so now)?

Did the police not realise it was a joke once they'd interviewed him? And why has he been suspended from work? There's a coming together here of several strands of grotesque officiousness, self-righteousness, self-importance and a complete and utter lack of common sense and natural justice. What Chambers did was silly, no more and no less. His punishment should be someone calling him a stupid prat and maybe slapping him once about the ears. If that.

 

But there are no jokes to be enjoyed anymore, certainly not using these new media which we were jubilantly assured would usher in a new democracy and connectivity. Paradoxically, this greater openness has had the consequence of empowering an infinite number of complainants and thus actually results in the restricting of freedom of speech much more than it was back in the days when the likes of Mr Chambers would have whispered to his mates, on the phone, "If that airport isn't open next week, I'll blow the bloody thing up!"

 

Those complainants, of course, begin with the state and the statutory authorities and continue down a long list of concerned single-issue interest groups and then conclude with a roll call of feverish and perpetually upset individuals who are apt to complain about everything they see, hear or read and demand redress.

 

There is no room for context, no room for common sense, no sense of proportion, no accounting for nuance. What the DJ Steve Penk should play for Mr Chambers is Luke Haines' baleful and clever Everything You Say Will Destroy You, with the emphasis on the word "everything".

 

As I've mentioned a couple of times before in my articles, we need to come to a new consensus about how we deal with stuff on the Internet; the weight we give it, whether it should be deemed public or private.

 

To find our way between forms of discourse which are, in essence, the same as Saussure's ideas of langue and parole; the distinction between the basic and formal ways in which we communicate. Otherwise the great opportunity of the new and instant media — its hot-headed demand for frankness and immediacy, its demotic, the notion that what you write, on Twitter or Facebook or a billion websites, is not a tablet of stone but a sudden reaction to a very specific inquiry or circumstance — will be lost. I've had experience of this whole business in the last week or two. But I've tried not to let it influence this article too much.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

ONE POST TOO MANY

 

Hype has an innate tendency to deflect attention from the most critical aspects of any given situation. Very recently, the post of the National Security Advisor has come in for some attention. This was a function of a number of things: the departure of the present incumbent, M.K. Narayanan, for a gubernatorial position in West Bengal, his falling out with the home minister, P. Chidambaram, which might have caused his exit, and finally the appointment of Shiv Shankar Menon to the post. The point that was missed in all this is a fundamental one: should there be a post called the National Security Advisor? The answer, however startling this may sound, is no, since the post bypasses the existing system and, with no rationale, conflates security and strategy.

 

The origins of the NSA lie in the internal squabble within the administration of the United States of America. Henry Kissinger won for himself the real leverages of power as the NSA and became the person who monitored the internal security of the US and also coordinated external intelligence-gathering and operations. Mr Kissinger thus made himself the mastermind of US policy during the Nixon years. This idea was imported into India during the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee by his powerful and crafty principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra. Not satisfied with his critical and ubiquitous role in the prime minister's office, Mr Mishra also wanted to run India's foreign policy. So he got himself appointed as NSA.

 

The post of a NSA has embedded in it an ambiguity. This concerns the second letter in the acronym. Does it stand for security or strategy? If it does stand for security, as it is made to in its present incarnation, then it has no place in the prime minister's office. It should be directly under the home minister and its relationship with the existing security agencies should be clearly defined. The question why there should be a post over and above the existing agencies should also be addressed and clearly answered. In fact, there is no clarity on these issues and the NSA is caught between the prime minister's office and the home ministry. If, on the other hand, the S stands for strategy regarding foreign policy, then it makes redundant the post of the foreign secretary and the foreign minister. It is the responsibility of the foreign minister and the foreign secretary, in consultation with the prime minister of course, to lay down the principles of foreign policy and to ensure its implementation. What need then of the NSA?

 

The simple principle of not multiplying entities and responsibilities is ignored by the creation of posts like the NSA. There already exist within the system positions whose holders should do the job that the NSA does. If those officers are not fulfilling their responsibilities adequately, they should be removed and better people brought in. The creation of additional posts that bypass the system are, in fact, self-defeating.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

GRIM AND GRUBBY

THE AFTERMATH OF DEATH IS ESPECIALLY DEMEANING IN CALCUTTA

SUNANDA K. DATTA-RAY

 

Louis Édouard Fournier's painting of Shelley's cremation on the beach at Viareggio in Italy, where his body was washed ashore, romanticizes death. There is no hint in that tranquil scene of the poet's discoloured and decomposed flesh, cracking bones and brains that "literally seethed, bubbled, and boiled as in a cauldron" that prevented Leigh Hunt from emerging from his carriage and forced Byron to flee the site and swim off to his yacht, the Bolivar. The macabre details are from Edward John Trelawny's eyewitness account. Fournier's idealized painting came 67 years later.

 

Death is demeaning. Its aftermath can be even more so, especially in India, more particularly in Calcutta. Attending a cremation in Delhi, I was about to say how clean Nigambodh Ghat looked compared to Keoratala when George Fernandes, standing next to me, exclaimed how dirty it was. James Cameron, the distinguished British journalist who thought Calcutta was "dedicated to the maintenance of suffering", was also haunted by the nightmare of falling ill in Kipling's city of dreadful night. He did break his leg in a car accident somewhere near Murshidabad during the Bangladesh war and had to be brought back here and hospitalized, but was spared the ultimate ignominy of dying in Calcutta.

 

Wealth and status are no barriers against indignity, which makes me suspect that few see anything unseemly about either the grim setting or the mix of callousness and curiosity that attends the last trump. Death is public tamasha, especially when the deceased is a person of consequence. "The funerals of cultural icons always lean towards Grand Guignol rather than mere street theatre," a Business Standard columnist, Devangshu Datta, wrote. Had Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee attended the obsequies that never were for Jyoti Basu, he would have recalled the fracas 17 years ago when the body of another famous son of Bengal was consigned to the flames.

 

According to newspaper reports, the police tried to use the occasion of Satyajit Ray's funeral at Keoratala to arrest a "goon who had made the burning ghat his hang-out". Described as "an extortionist-turned smuggler", the cornered man called out for help to the police commissioner, addressing him familiarly as dada "in the presence of the city's glitterati, including the then home minister", that is, Bhattacharjee. The man was later "picked up from an illegal country liquor shop …. A revolver was recovered from him". The police officer lost his job not so much, apparently, for consorting with such unsavoury types as because the association became public knowledge.

 

Such connections are probably routine. This one attracted notice only because the episode occurred at the wrong time in the wrong place. Few cremations are as dramatic. But they are all chaotic and they are all marked by a total absence of reverence or sobriety. There can be little question of grief being insulted when even breast-beating mourners often seem to revel in the attention. Moreover, the tradition of lusty local youths, by definition not the most modest or well-behaved of young men, carrying the bier (now dying out as hearses take over) and the rewarding of them with food and drink makes for an air of unconcerned jollity. The "goon" may well have been one of these muscled gangs.

 

There is (or was) a padlocked collapsible gate at one end of the Keoratala building directly opposite the oven doors, outside which a crowd gathered every evening, clutching the bars and gawking into the waiting room for the hereafter. My impression over the years is of mainly respectable middle-aged married women — ginnis in Bengali — sometimes with children in tow. You could sense their mounting excitement as the time drew near for the rusty iron doors to be cranked up. The salutations and deep namaskars reached an orgastic crescendo as yet another corpse was lifted off its bamboo stretcher and trundled into the flames. Visiting Keoratala once as a duty and not to mourn, I deliberately stationed myself with my back to those collapsible gates. You should have heard the shrill protests. "Move! Move! You are blocking our view! We can't see!" I told them the burning ghat was not a place for sightseeing but sightseeing was precisely what took them there day after day. Thus might the ancient Romans have thrilled to a gladiator's death throes.

 

They were richly rewarded when a titled aristocrat was brought to be burned. Death is the great leveller but a jeep preceded the cortège, the shroud was of crimson silk and the mourners were visibly fashionable folk. "Who's he?" the excited whispers rippled and rustled through the crowd, but the name and title were as much beyond their comprehension as the Man in the Moon. Nevertheless, death was the spectacle they had come to enjoy and death in such resplendent garb was deeply gratifying. Keoratala's voyeurs suffer from an extreme form of what Cyril Connolly called an "unseemly preoccupation with the cadaver" when introducing The Loved One, Evelyn Waugh's satire on Californian burial customs.

 

Not long ago I had to go to the Garia crematorium of whose existence I was unaware till then. Whereas Keoratala is brightly lit and packed, Garia seemed dark and deserted. One of its only two incinerators was not working, a tattered charpoy placed vertically against the closed door. A mangy street dog was curled up on a piece of grimy gunny that someone had considerately spread out in one corner. The Sanskrit phrases as a mourner performed the last rites, the periodic opening and shutting of the oven door and intermittent bursts of sobbing did not impinge on its slumber. The creature was used to it all.

 

Keoratala and Garia, and the other five Calcutta burning ghats, have this in common — they are all exceedingly dirty. Nimtala's licking flames look impressive from the distance of mid-river deck parties but close up the ghat is no exception. Unlike Fernandes in Delhi, nobody notices. There is no profound philosophical aversion to keeping clean a place that might be said brutally to demonstrate the ultimate illusion of life itself. It's just that no one cares.

 

It's the same with hospitals, public offices and even universities. They are festooned in cobwebs and thick with dust for the same reasons. The jemadars who are paid to keep them clean are both dishonest enough to pocket the pay without doing the work and have no understanding of hygiene and sanitation in their own private lives and environment. Second, as in most chains of command in West Bengal, the managers and supervisors to whom Class IV staff are accountable have become too lazy, corrupt or powerless to impose discipline.

 

Basu's admirable gesture to the storehouse of scientific knowledge provoked an unaccustomed frenzy of sweeping, swabbing and painting in one particular corner of the SSKM Hospital. But for that decision, the burning ghat of his choice might also have benefited. But a lick of paint and a touch of polish would have made little difference to a rite of passage that is rendered unwholesome by grubby surroundings and greedy personnel who will not allow a corpse anything that has resale value. The climb down dingy steps to forage for the remains among glowing cinders and the slippery stone, mud and slush that have to be navigated before the final immersion in filthy waters could not be farther removed from the English crematorium where I attended a friend's funeral. After a sedate service, the curtains moved automatically across a flower-decked stage to shield the coffin as it slid slowly away into eternity. Soft music and dimmed lights marked that last journey.

 

However elevated the spiritual symbolism of a Hindu cremation, circumstances make the sequence even in so-called modern electric crematoria loathsome and degrading. In escaping that humiliation, Basu also spared his family and friends a harrowing ordeal.

 

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in

 

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EDITORIAL

VOODOO SCIENCE?

'THE IPCC HAS DAMAGED ITS OWN REPUTATION.'

 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had no option but to express regret over its claim, made in a report it released in 2007, that the Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, after it came to light recently that the claim was based on speculation. The retraction is fine but the controversy has done no credit to the IPCC, the premier UN agency which has an important role in climate change policy formulation. It has received the Nobel Prize for its work and advocacy. It is surprising that a body with such credentials would base its claim, by its own admission, on "poorly substantiated estimates" and forgo "clear and well-established standards" of evidence. It now turns out that a news story that appeared in the journal 'New Scientist', based on an interview with a researcher, was the source of the IPCC claim. The article had not been peer reviewed, nor its content verified against research findings.


The incident reflects poorly on the professionalism and scientific rigour of the IPCC and has done damage to its credibility. When India's environment ministry had challenged the IPCC claim, the UN body's chair, Rajendra Pachauri, had dubbed Indian glaciologists' opinion as 'voodoo science.' The description unfortunately suits the IPCC's claim. Doubts have now been raised about the IPCC's claim on the rise of sea levels also. The IPCC has made good contribution to increasing global awareness on climate change issues. But when it makes alarmist and sensational claims, it is harming the cause it is campaigning for. Some months ago there were charges that scientists had cooked up data to make the impact of global warming look more serious than it is. Such controversies are used as weapons by those who deny or doubt the role of global warming in climate change. The threat to glaciers from global warming is real. Those who espouse and support corrective action for this should desist from cavalier and irresponsible ways.


The IPCC has also attracted adverse attention with some recent media reports questioning the business interests and financial dealings of its chief. Pachauri has denied any conflict of interest in his positions and the charge of any wrongdoing. It is for the UN body and its chief to ensure that it does not lower its moral and professional standing by any further lapses or errors. Its actions and processes should be guided by the best standards of scientific research and ethical conduct.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TAPPING THE SUN

'TECHNICAL AND FINANCIAL CHALLENGES ARE IMMENSE.'


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has finally launched the national solar mission after discussions at various levels of the government for years, drafting and redrafting of documents and revisions of plans. The initiative is part of the eight missions that make up the National Action Plan on Climate Change. It was scheduled for launch last year but considering the scope and scale of the plan the delay is not major. The plan is ambitious and aims to make the country a global leader in solar energy with an installed solar generation capacity of 20,000 mega watts by 2022, 1,00,000 mw by 2030 and 2,00,000 mw by 2050. A lot of effort will be required to achieve them. The present solar power output in the country is 500 mw. Even if the scheme is in mission mode and gets top priority, the technical and financial challenges may not be easy to overcome in a short period.


Harnessing solar energy is costly, and the 20,000 mw target calls for an investment of Rs 90,000 crore, much of it in the private sector. Indications are that the private sector may not come forward to make large investments in an area where the technology is still evolving and returns are not immediate. The power to be produced from solar energy with the presently available technology will be prohibitively costly. The higher the production, the higher the subsidy the government will have to bear. Consumers will also have to bear a share of the high cost. The government should proceed slowly to make the programme a success.


The country is endowed with an abundance of sunlight. What it receives in four minutes is enough to meet the power needs for an year. Development of technology should receive prime attention so that costs can be brought down. The major advantages of solar power are that it is clean and inexhaustible. The pressure to reduce carbon emissions must have been a consideration in double-speeding the mission. The vision of solar valleys as hubs of solar science, engineering and manufacturing is exciting. The idea of meeting the lighting, pumping of water and other needs of lakhs of villages with solar energy is also equally exciting. The mission is important for the country's future. But it must be ensured that the modalities of the mission and the implementation do not weaken its purpose.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

BRUHAT BLUNDER

WHICHEVER PARTY WINS IN THE BBMP ELECTION, IT WILL INHERIT A BANKRUPT CITY CORPORATION.

BY GAYATHRI NIVAS


After former prime minister H D Deve Gowda uttered a more than four-letter-word against Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa for allegedly conceding undue land demands of Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise for Gowda's not so pet project — the NICE expressway and infrastructure corridor — it is the turn of Governor H R Bhardwaj, who accused the state government of 'maladministration' and 'neglect of duty'. The constitutional head of state made the not very nice utterances in respect of Bangalore city's traffic bottlenecks and slow paced infrastructure development, at a conference on e-governance and digitisation of government earlier this week.
Whether Gowda rightly or wrongly used the yuck word has been debated enough and the issue laid to rest after the JD(S) patriarch made a public apology to the chief minister. Hence, the governor's latest barb needs examination.

The Yeddyurappa government has completed 18 months in office and is into the 19th month. Meanwhile, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike or city corporation, has completed three years without an elected council. During this three-year Opposition-free run of the corporation, Yeddyurappa was deputy chief minister holding finance portfolio under the previous JD(S)-BJP coalition regime and later became the chief minister, keeping the charge of Bangalore city to himself. During this period, at least two state budgets and two corporation budgets have been adopted. But no funds transfer worth its name, from the state coffers to the civic body, had taken place. Nevertheless, the corporation took up Rs 800-1,000 crore worth of works, which were paid for from the huge property tax money it generated after lifting a two-year freeze on tax collection. The corporation had temporarily stopped accepting tax as it wished to graduate from a voluntary or self-assessment method to a capital gains-based method, which met with some resistance.


Empty coffers

At least Rs 6,700 crore worth of outstanding bills, on going works and works already allotted to contractors through work code are still to be financed. And the corporation kitty is ostensibly empty, if the contractors, who went on a strike recently demanding clearance of their dues, are to be believed.


For the record, Yeddyurappa can be adjudged the richest chief minister of all his immediate predecessors as his government has received funds from the World Bank, from the Central government under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), besides the tax monies. But there is hardly any concrete gameplan to justify the huge spending or ensure planned development of nearly 600 sq km of newly added areas, which upgraded the corporation from plain Bangalore to Bruhat Bangalore or Bigger Bangalore.


The state government frittered away a golden opportunity to turn the new Bangalore areas into an urban model worth emulating. The lack of an overarching plan has resulted in sporadic development of the city at the whims and fancies of the more influential city MLAs, who are putting the cart before the horse. For instance, before laying sanitary and water supply lines, roads have been tarred, which will not only necessitate their inevitable digging at a later date but also cost precious funds for relaying them. Kerbs built with long lasting stones have been uprooted to be replaced by concrete slabs of limited lifespan.


The five new layouts envisaged are begging for attention. With housing building activity yet to takeoff, the government can freely lay roads, flyovers, identify waste dumps and create other amenities. But inaction is conspicuous. Similar is the case of the traffic signal-free corridors proposed, barring a few stretches — again the handiwork of a few ruling BJP MLAs close to the powers that be.


Debt and neglect

A slew of projects worth a whopping Rs 22,000 crore has been cleared by the state Cabinet a couple of months ago but there are no funds to foot them, it is said. Conveniently, the government kept the tenders called for these projects in abeyance after some questions were raised regarding the post haste manner in which the financial bids were opened, ostensibly to overcome the poll code of conduct, which took effect on January 15. The chief minister, in a magnanimous gesture, said the new elected council could take up the tendering and blamed the Opposition for the delays which would entail in implementing critical infrastructure projects.


Well said chief minister but whichever party is elected to power, it will inherit an unenviable heirloom of debt and neglect. And if there is one word that is meaningless in politics, it is speculate. Almost all politicians speculate all the time, gameplanning ahead for likely, and unlikely, outcomes. And if it is an election year, they are at it with full fury. The latest theme for speculation? Will the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike election happen on February 21 or not.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

GODMEN & POLITICS

I WONDER IF UMA BHARATI STILL LOVES ASA RAM BAPU AS SHE DID A FEW YEARS AGO.

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


As a one-time ardent watcher of TV programmes of 'pravachans' delivered by our godmen and godwomen, I came to the conclusion that most of them support right-wing Hindu political parties like the Hindu Vishwa Parishad and the BJP. All of them preach their own versions of Hinduism. But their right-wing leaning is less comprehensible. Some are out-spoken in their support, others subtle.


Amongst the outspoken supporters is Asa Ram Bapu, now in dire trouble — charged with amassing property and abetting murders of his detractors. I don't know much about his past except that he is a Sindhi settled in Ahmedabad and at one time ran either a cycle repair shop — or perhaps a 'chai' stall. He found preaching religion and goodness more profitable. He grew a long beard, wore loose white robes and cultivated the benign image of a Bapu. He gathered a large number of admirers, mostly women, built large ashram with a temple and sponsored educational institutions. He became much respected.


I watched Asa Ram Bapu many times: huge audiences, largely females with a sprinkling of males. He could be quite amusing at times with his mimicry and gestures. There was nothing startling in what he said but his heady bright eyes pierced into watchers eyes. He occasionally broke into song in a totally unmelodious voice, but it did not seem to matter.


One time I noticed the Rajmata of Gwalior (Vasundhara's mother) sitting in the audience listening to him in rapt attention. Another time it was Uma Bharati in the front row. At the end of Bapu's discourse Uma stood up and said loudly in English: "Bapu, I love you." Bapu beamed a rapturous thank-you smile. I wonder if Uma Bharati still loves Asa Ram Bapu as she did a few years ago.


Not one people yet


I often ask myself "What is a truly integrated society?" I put our own society through different tests to see if we as a secular State are also integrated.


When communal tensions are chronic and periodically break out in violence, claims to be integrated sound hollow. So do our displays of cordiality. We have non-Muslims throwing Iftar receptions during Ramzan; we see them offering chaddars at dargahs of Muslim saints and embracing them on Eid-ul-Fitr and Bakr-id.


We have Muslims celebrating Holi and Diwali by inviting Hindu friends and offering them 'mithai'. I dismiss all this as politically motivated display of open-mindedness without any substance. I have come to the conclusion that the nitty-gritty of integration is when people of different races, religions beliefs, castes and speaking different languages marry and there are no tensions created.


Using this as criteria I conclude we are far from being an integrated society. Every inter-religious marriage is looked upon as a kind of battle. If the boy subscribes to one faith, the girl to another, the boy's kinsmen regard it as a victory; the girl's kinsmen regard it as surrender.


I know of dozens of inter-faith marriages: Hindus and Sikhs married to Muslims, Christians or Parsis. And a large number of Muslim men married to Hindu and Sikh women. In any case if one or the other party converts to the faith of the spouse, it is making mockery of religion. I regard conversions as demeaning to the dignity of the person who converts.

The worst example of refusal to integrate are the 'Khap Panchayats' of Haryana. They are relics of the past when elders of a village, mostly illiterate peasants, sit round on their 'charpoys' smoking hookas, pronounce against boys and girls of different castes getting married. The couple is often exiled from their village, declared outcasts and occasionally murdered. What we can do is to rid society of these self-appointed arbiters of matrimonial affairs. I am not sure if we can abolish them by legal enactment?


In any case many legislators depend on votes of these rustics. Perhaps the best way to handle them is by massive media campaign mostly on TV channels, exposing them to ridicule. It will be worth trying because making Indians a truly integrated people is a noble ambition.


Bhai-bhaism
Manjitinder Singh of Ludhiana has written to me of an incident while he was on pilgrimage to Sikh shrines in Pakistan. He was travelling by bus from Lahore to Panja Sahib near Rawalpindi. At a midway halt, a beggar woman came around asking for alms. He gave her a five rupee note. The woman looked up at him, saw he was a Sikh and returned the note. When she came round again, Manjitinder Singh pressed the five rupee note in her hand. Again she gave it back saying in Punjabi: "Nabin Sardarji, asseen mehmaana toon nahin mangdey — we don't ask for money from our guests."


Holy birthdays

 

Teacher: "Ghanta, what is common between Bhagwan Ram, Buddha, Jesus and Guru Nanak?


Ghanta: "All were born on holidays."


(Contributed by J P Singh Kaka, Bhopal)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

WHERE THERE'S ONE GOD

IN THE ARMY, WE DON'T HAVE ONE RELIGION OR CASTE.

BY A N SURYANARAYANAN


There is no one god for a soldier because he treats all religions, castes, classes as one. Having served for 35 years with various 'class'-compositions and religions, I can vouch for it. I recently read in a blog: "Army genuinely believes in two central truths: 'One god and victory in operations'."


For every 150 troops and more of a particular religion, there is a religious teacher of that faith with qualifications and training, who conducts functions and delivers sermons. You may find a Sikh granthi, Hindu panditji or Muslim moulvi in the same unit. Nor would it be surprising to see a common 'Dharma-sthal.'


Training centres invariably have mandir, masjid, gurudwara and a church. You will find non-Hindu drivers stopping their vehicle on the Sunderbani Road, to pray to 'Mata' and offer coins into the 'hundi.' Likewise, you will see non-Muslim soldiers praying to a Peer Baba in Ambala. On Tuesdays or Thursdays, depending on location, it is total no-meat-no-drink in J&K and Himachal.


There once was a Kayamkhani Muslim unit of Grenadiers which replaced a company of Dogras in LoC. Enemy started shelling the posts. The company subedar approached the company commander with a request to re-open the mandir, remaining closed, which may have attracted the wrath of Gods. The Hindu-officer did not know the full wordings; but the Muslim-JCO overnight learnt the 'aarti' and thereafter, evenings reverberated with Muslims singing it! As 2Lt, I have been witness to our Christian subedar major organising all Hindu functions and praying with us. Thirty years later, as a brigadier, my Goan catholic general always joined me in prayer in my brigade. I have the Gitas and kirpans religiously presented to me in mandirs, gurudwaras even today, 14 years after retirement.


Having learnt Sanskrit as a Brahmin, I have given sermons in units; as a kshatriya, I have served Indian Army; I have done a vaishya's role by maintaining accounts of messes, institutes and canteens; as a 'shudra,' I have dug/filled shallow trench latrines or smoked out deep trench latrines as YO. So you see, we have no one religion or caste.


Let me quote another incident from that blog: On finding  December 25 a holiday, a raw Sikh recruit asks his senior: "Why holiday for Christmas?" The senior says, with his eyes half-shut in reverence and hands in spontaneous prayer-clasp: "It is the Guruparb of the Christians!"

 

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******************************************************************************************THE NEW YORK TIMES

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN HESITATES, AGAIN

 

For years, Pakistan's leaders denied that extremists — in Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan — posed a mortal threat to their country. After the Pakistani Taliban got within 60 miles of Islamabad last April they decided that they had no choice but to fight back. They were right. Unfortunately, their understanding of self-interest seems to stop at a border that the Taliban certainly does not respect.

 

During his visit to Pakistan this week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates pressed Pakistan's military leaders to open a new front against Afghan militants using Pakistani territory to stage attacks into Afghanistan — and was promptly rebuffed.

 

Displaying an alarming denial about the nature and urgency of the threat, an Army spokesman said there would be no offensive in the tribal region of North Waziristan — where the Afghan Taliban are based — for at least six months and perhaps as long as 12 months. Given the speed and virulence with which the extremists have spread their hatred and violence in the past year, that's too long to wait.

 

To its credit, Pakistan's Army has mounted big offensives against Pakistani Taliban factions in the Swat Valley and South Waziristan and paid a steep price: losing 2,000 soldiers in battle. It may need some time to solidify these gains and prepare a new assault. But that is almost certainly not the real reason behind the delay.

 

Pakistan's Army and spy service helped create the Afghan Taliban, and even now they see the group as a proxy force to limit India's influence in Afghanistan once the Americans leave. That is truly playing with fire.

 

Pakistan's failure to pressure both Taliban groups could doom President Obama's military and political offensive in Afghanistan — or force him to make good on his threat to go after militants in the Pakistan border region if Islamabad does not. This is not just America's fight. As Mr. Gates warned this week, extremist groups on the border are interconnected and determined to destabilize the entire region.

 

Pakistan cannot afford to give the Afghan Taliban a pass, and Washington must make sure that Islamabad faces up to that reality. Mr. Gates tried to nudge Pakistan when he spoke publicly about how Islamabad cannot "ignore one part of this cancer and pretend it won't have some impact closer to home." We hope he was firmer in private.

 

Mr. Gates and other officials are working hard to persuade Islamabad that the United States will not repeat past mistakes and abandon Pakistan as it did after the Soviets withdrew 20 years ago.

 

The Obama administration's decision this week to grant Pakistan's longstanding request for aerial spy drones (unarmed, at Washington's insistence) should help bridge the "trust deficit." Washington must also do more to help lessen tensions between Pakistan and India. That may be the best chance of persuading Islamabad that it can and must focus more of its troops and attention on fighting all of the Taliban.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

HERE'S HOW TO HELP

 

President Obama promised this week to reconnect to the concerns and needs of Americans who are suffering from the recession. One important way to do that is to help hard-pressed families hang on to their homes.

 

It's not just the moral thing to do. It also would help avoid the spillover effects of the next expected round of defaults. Coupled with high unemployment, a coming surge in foreclosures is likely to further depress house prices. That would hurt an already fragile recovery and, in a worst case, could provoke a double-dip recession.

 

Unfortunately, advance word of coming changes to the antiforeclosure effort are not encouraging.

 

When the effort was announced nearly a year ago, the administration said it would help as many as nine million at-risk families keep their homes by the end of 2012 — by lower payments through loan modifications, mainly lower interest rates, or by refinancing loans for borrowers who have little or no equity.

 

Yet recent tallies show that through 2009, only 66,465 loans had been successfully modified, and through last November, 155,700 loans had been refinanced. That's abysmal. An estimated 2.4 million borrowers are expected to lose their homes this year alone because of joblessness, negative equity and, in many cases, unaffordability as teaser rates expire on adjustable mortgages.

 

It would take 100,000 successful modifications a month, starting now, to significantly counter the threat that so many foreclosures would pose to the economy, according to estimates by Moody's Economy.com.

 

As early as next week, the administration is expected to ease up on the paperwork requirements for a loan modification and to announce temporary assistance — probably low-cost loans or grants — to help unemployed people pay their mortgages. A loan would likely be tacked on to the mortgage, for repayment over time.

 

Those changes, however, would not correct the program's biggest flaw: the current preferred way to modify a loan — reducing the interest rate — is of limited use to millions of so-called underwater borrowers, those who owe more than their homes are worth. Reducing the loan's principal balance is more valuable because it lowers monthly payments and restores equity. Various studies show that having equity also reduces the likelihood of redefault on a modified loan.

 

Administration officials, however, have been unwilling or unable to persuade lenders to reduce the principal on underwater loans. One obstacle is that many troubled borrowers have two loans on their home, and conflicts exist between the first and second mortgage holders over who gets how much out of a loan whose principal has been cut. Several months ago, the Treasury Department detailed a plan aimed at resolving the conflicts, but lenders have yet to cooperate.

 

It is less clear why the refinancing arm of the antiforeclosure program has flopped. But for many borrowers, refinancing may not be worth the cost unless mortgage rates drop and stay low, which is not likely.

 

Treasury officials say that they continually review the antiforeclosure effort and consider changes. It's hard to see what they need to convince them that it's time to restore some equity to drowning borrowers.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

A GOOD FIGHT

 

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton picked the right battle this week, calling for an end to Internet censorship and naming governments that suppress the free flow of information — including China, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Tunisia and Uzbekistan.

 

Her speech, at the Newseum in Washington, had pointed echoes of the cold war, including a warning that "a new information curtain is descending across much of the world." Anyone who finds that overheated should remember how hard Iran's government worked to shut down the Web during last summer's bloody, pro-democracy protests — and the power of the images and words that managed to get through.

 

Mrs. Clinton also placed the Obama administration squarely on the side of Google in its fight with China over Internet censorship and cyberattacks. She called on the Chinese government to conduct a thorough and transparent review of Google's accusations that Gmail accounts used by Chinese human rights activists had been hacked into from the mainland. And she called on other American companies to challenge "foreign governments' demands for censorship and surveillance."

 

It will take more than just a tough speech to change China's policies, and more than a tough speech to change the policies of far too many companies that enable Beijing and other repressive governments when they accept censorship as a normal price of doing business.

 

But there is no doubt that Chinese authorities — which had hoped to play down the fight with Google — are listening and getting nervous.

 

On Friday, the day after the speech, a spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry called on the United States "to stop using the so-called Internet freedom question to level baseless accusations." The spokesman also insisted that "the Chinese Internet is open." The Chinese people know better. So should China's government.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

STORM WEEK

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

On the radar maps, the storms that swept across California this past week looked like a series of Rorschach tests in primary colors. They swirled down out of the Pacific only to fracture and disintegrate when they hit land. No matter what measurements you used — snowpack depth at Bishop Pass, swell height data from the coastal buoys or the drip rate off the porch roof — everyone was watching the storms, hoping for a blossoming desert or simply to get over the mountains before the Grapevine closed with snow.

 

On the ground, the palette was far more monotonous. That's just the way several inches of gray rain falling from gray clouds onto gray looks. Add in traffic, and you get a towering mist rising over the freeways. Even when the rain let up, you could judge the quality of the coming pavement by the detonations of spray when a car hit a brimming pothole.

 

Everything about the storms was muddying. The waves breaking just south of Santa Barbara carried a heavy load of sand, stirred up by four days of storm swells. The terraced slopes of a vineyard — not yet planted — near San Luis Obispo were fraying and breaking apart at the edges. At a vegetable farm near Soledad, the fieldworkers' rain suits, the mud, and the sky all seemed to be a single substance.

 

I've been trying to understand the different feel of these Pacific storms — compared with the nor'easters that vault across my farm in upstate New York. It isn't just the nostalgic surprise people feel here when thunder and lightning hit Los Angeles. When a nor'easter plasters the Northeast, the rainfall is usually extra because most years there's been fairly regular rain. In California, of course, these storms are a respite, another deliverance from an arid destiny.

 

There's another difference. When a big winter storm tracks eastward across the nation, you see footage of its effects — the icy roads, the downed power lines — long before it reaches you. Not so the Pacific storms. They swoop down on the jet stream, tracking across open water, and when they hit the coast — and California is essentially all coast — they are fresh and vigorous, carrying all the energies of a storm surge with them. No matter that this is old water falling from the sky. It feels like new water, like a baptism.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE LADY AND THE ARLEN

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

This is not the hour of the good loser in Democratic circles.

 

On MSNBC, Keith Olbermann called Scott Brown, the senator-elect from Massachusetts, "an irresponsible, homophobic, racist, reactionary, ex-nude model, teabagging supporter of violence against women and against politicians with whom he disagrees."

 

Yipes. It was a Senate race, not the Battle of Hastings.

 

"In the personal scheme of things, I went too far. In the broad scheme of things, this was a blip on the radar," said Olbermann, in a telephone interview, citing the multitudinous cases when right-wing talk-show hosts have said much worse. Given the fact that Glenn Beck has already claimed that Brown could wind up "with a dead intern," I believe he may have a point.

 

Meanwhile, on a radio show in Pennsylvania, Senator Arlen Specter lost it completely and told Representative Michele Bachmann, the irrepressible heroine of the Tea Party movement, to "act like a lady."

 

Specter, you will remember, switched parties last year. Democrats must be asking themselves why they wanted him. Oh, yes, the 60th vote. Well, that's all over. The good news is that Joseph Lieberman is only about one-tenth as important as he was on Monday. The bad news is the remaining 59 includes a self-important 79-year-old who makes wildly patronizing remarks about his female opponent during a radio debate.

 

To be fair, Bachmann does have a terrific talent for driving people nuts. When you ask a person what legislation she's supported and the answer is "prosperity," you can assume this is not going to be a day for meaningful dialogue.

 

"Prosperity wasn't a bill," snapped Specter.

 

"Then why don't we make it one?" Bachmann responded, in a tone of extreme reason.

 

Sputtering, Specter said: "I'll treat you like a lady. So act like one." Not once, but twice.

 

This is about as inept as you can get. When Bachmann started lecturing him about how Americans want less government, the correct response was: "Yeah, unless it's $250,000 in subsidies for the Bachmann family farm." Instead, Specter kept complaining and calling for ladylike deportment until the host mercifully intervened and ended the show.

 

He has to run for re-election this year. If the Democrats are looking for a wake-up call from Massachusetts, the big rooster in the room is the plethora of underwhelming candidates they are fielding.

 

In Illinois, where Barack Obama's former Senate seat is on the line, the leading Democratic contender is a 33-year-old who spent almost all of his adult life working for the bank that his family owns. Perhaps the president forgot that last week when he told Massachusetts voters that "bankers don't need another vote in the Senate."

 

Maybe John Edwards was sniffing desperation in the air when, in the same week that he admitted that the campaign love child was indeed his daughter, he called the White House and said he was going to Haiti to help in the relief efforts.

 

The White House pretended it was a wrong number.

 

A spokeswoman said Edwards also had been doing charitable work in El Salvador. If this was the plan of his wife, Elizabeth, to get him out of the house, it seems reasonable. But is it a road to rehabilitation?

 

Sure — as long as he stays in disaster zones. It would be great if all our disgraced politicians decided to devote themselves to helping the poor, providing they understand that this is not a second act but the thing they get to do after the curtain has dropped and the audience has gone home.

 

Eliot Spitzer was going to devote himself to good works, too. But now, every time you turn around, there he is talking on TV or blogging about current events. He's trying to warn the country about evil robber barons. But I was thinking more along the line of distributing mosquito nets in Chad.

 

Meanwhile, a lot of Democrats who ought to be preparing to take the field in November seem to be running for shelter. In Illinois and Connecticut, the best candidates available have announced that they're running to be the state attorney general. These days, everybody wants to be an attorney general and cuddle up and sue dairies that sell curdled milk until the political weather improves. It is very hard to be unpopular when you're an attorney general. Even Martha Coakley was a popular attorney general.

 

This would not have happened if Senator Charles Schumer of New York was still in charge of recruiting candidates. Schumer was completely manic. Promising Democrats would open the door to get the newspaper in the morning and they'd find him curled up on the front porch with a dead squirrel he had brought them as a token of love.

 

Bring back Schumer. Maybe he could get Conan O'Brien to run in North Dakota.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

MOBS RULE

BY CHARLES M. BLOW

 

Welcome to the mob: an angry, wounded electorate, riled by recession, careening across the political spectrum, still craving change, nursing a bloodlust.

 

There is a scene in the movie "Gladiator" where two Roman senators are discussing the games that the emperor has revived. One laments: I think the emperor "knows what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they'll be distracted. Take away their freedom and still they'll roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the senate. It's the sand of the coliseum. He'll bring them death. And they will love him for it."

 

That was America during the dawn of W. — too many too easily manipulated. But people grew wiser and restless. And they revolted. As they did, a young crowd-pleaser in Chicago, cloaked in hope, sprang up, won them over and shaped the mob into a movement.

 

That was then.

 

Unfortunately, many now see Barack Obama as a left-leaning version of George W. Bush: just another out-of-touch emperor. It seems as if Obama and the Democrats made the mistake of believing that a heart once won was forever won, that people would be patient, and that the mob would accept their reasoning for lack of results.

 

They were wrong. The mob is fickle. And it's back with a vengeance.

 

While the left slept, the right saw a void and leapt in. They feted the fearful to a steady stream of dread and circuses, and now the pendulum of enthusiasm has swung in the other direction.

 

According to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey conducted last week, the percentage of people who view President Obama "very negatively" has more than doubled since he was elected. Over the same time period, the number of those who view the Democratic Party "very negatively" has increased by three-quarters, while the number of those viewing the Republican Party "very negatively" has dropped slightly.

 

The most recent manifestation of the shifting landscape is the election of Scott Brown, a Republican in reliably Democratic Massachusetts, which shattered the Democrats' filibuster-proof Senate majority and their sense of security.

 

In an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News this week, Obama acknowledged as much: "The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office. People are angry, and they're frustrated."

 

It's smart to acknowledge this, but can he get out in front of it?

 

Obama continued, "If there's one thing that I regret this year, is that we were so busy just getting stuff done and dealing with the immediate crises that were in front of us, that I think we lost some of that sense of speaking directly to the American people about what their core values are."

 

He underestimated the mob, and his agenda will suffer now that the emperor has no cloture.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THEY STILL DON'T GET IT

BY BOB HERBERT

 

How loud do the alarms have to get? There is an economic emergency in the country with millions upon millions of Americans riddled with fear and anxiety as they struggle with long-term joblessness, home foreclosures, personal bankruptcies and dwindling opportunities for themselves and their children.

 

The door is being slammed on the American dream and the politicians, including the president and his Democratic allies on Capitol Hill, seem not just helpless to deal with the crisis, but completely out of touch with the hardships that have fallen on so many.

 

While the nation was suffering through the worst economy since the Depression, the Democrats wasted a year squabbling like unruly toddlers over health insurance legislation. No one in his or her right mind could have believed that a workable, efficient, cost-effective system could come out of the monstrously ugly plan that finally emerged from the Senate after long months of shady alliances, disgraceful back-room deals, outlandish payoffs and abject capitulation to the insurance companies and giant pharmaceutical outfits.

 

The public interest? Forget about it.

 

With the power elite consumed with its incessant, discordant fiddling over health care, the economic plight of ordinary Americans, from the middle class to the very poor, got pathetically short shrift. And there is no evidence, even now, that leaders of either party fully grasp the depth of the crisis, which began long before the official start of the Great Recession in December 2007.

 

A new study from the Brookings Institution tells us that the largest and fastest-growing population of poor people in the U.S. is in the suburbs. You don't hear about this from the politicians who are always so anxious to tell you, in between fund-raisers and photo-ops, what a great job they're doing. From 2000 to 2008, the number of poor people in the U.S. grew by 5.2 million, reaching nearly 40 million. That represented an increase of 15.4 percent in the poor population, which was more than twice the increase in the population as a whole during that period.

 

The study does not include data from 2009, when so many millions of families were just hammered by the recession. So the reality is worse than the Brookings figures would indicate.

 

Job losses, stagnant or reduced wages over the past decade, and the loss of home equity when the housing bubble burst have combined to take a horrendous toll on families who thought they had done all the right things and were living the dream. A great deal of that bleeding is in the suburbs. The study, compiled by the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, said, "Suburbs gained more than 2.5 million poor individuals, accounting for almost half of the total increase in the nation's poor population since 2000."

 

Democrats in search of clues as to why voters are unhappy may want to take a look at the report. In 2008, a startling 91.6 million people — more than 30 percent of the entire U.S. population — fell below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which is a meager $21,834 for a family of four.

 

The question for Democrats is whether there is anything that will wake them up to their obligation to extend a powerful hand to ordinary Americans and help them take the government, including the Supreme Court, back from the big banks, the giant corporations and the myriad other predatory interests that put the value of a dollar high above the value of human beings.

The Democrats still hold the presidency and large majorities in both houses of Congress. The idea that they are not spending every waking hour trying to fix the broken economic system and put suffering Americans back to work is beyond pathetic. Deficit reduction is now the mantra in Washington, which means that new large-scale investments in infrastructure and other measures to ease the employment crisis and jump-start the most promising industries of the 21st century are highly unlikely.

 

What we'll get instead is rhetoric. It's cheap, so we can expect a lot of it.

 

Those at the bottom of the economic heap seem all but doomed in this environment. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston put the matter in stark perspective after analyzing the employment challenges facing young people in Chicago: "Labor market conditions for 16-19 and 20-24-year-olds in the city of Chicago in 2009 are the equivalent of a Great Depression-era, especially for young black men."

 

The Republican Party has abandoned any serious approach to the nation's biggest problems, economic or otherwise. It may be resurgent, but it's not a serious party. That leaves only the Democrats, a party that once championed working people and the poor, but has long since lost its way.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

BRINGING DEMOCRACY TO NEW YORK

BY DAVID PECHEFSKY

 

IN Mayor Michael Bloomberg's State of the City speech on Wednesday, he spoke of the City Council as if it were an equal partner in government. Indeed, the mayor's surprisingly close re-election, the unusual defeat of a handful of council members and some spirited races in the general election in a city where winning the Democratic primary is tantamount to victory, might lead one to expect the 51-member body to be imbued with new democratic vigor. However, the council members inaugurated this month have joined a body whose governance structure is hardly more democratic than a high school student council's — where the principal calls the shots.

 

Ultimately, all City Council decisions are made by the speaker and the speaker's staff. The speaker controls which members get to sit on which committees and who heads those committees, what legislation comes up for a vote, the hiring and firing of the 250-plus central staff and the money that members get to dole out to their districts.

 

Since the 1989 City Charter reform enlarged the Council's powers, a strong speaker has been seen as necessary to counterbalance the mayor, but this balance doesn't hold. Because the current speaker, Christine Quinn, has so much control over the Council, Mayor Bloomberg can deal almost exclusively with her, ignoring the members and, by extension, their constituents.

 

The consequence of a cozy relationship between the speaker and the mayor is a Council that goes along with the mayor on most major issues. That's why we've seen the City Council approve — at the mayor's initiative — the rezoning of large areas of the city for high-end development, congestion pricing and the overturning of referendum-approved term limits.

 

Fortunately, creating a representative and transparent City Council that can check mayoral power won't require a wholesale rewriting of the charter. All that is needed are three small but significant changes.

 

First, the Council should reform its process for approving the city budget. The mayor now prepares the budget with his Office of Management and Budget and city agencies, and then submits a relatively final document to the Council. Council committees hold hearings to review the mayor's plan, but they have no real ability to make changes.

 

The Council's budget negotiating team then spends torturous hours behind closed doors, proposing a few alternative cuts, which are usually rejected by the mayor's side, and haggling over additional expenditures, which make up a tiny fraction of the whole. The final size of the Council's "pot" is decided between the speaker and the mayor.

 

There are better alternatives. For instance, Council committees should vote on the components of the budget under their purview, like Congressional appropriations committees. Votes in committee would be in the form of resolutions and would therefore lack the force of law, but they would be a template for the Council's negotiations with the mayor and carry more weight than the current closed-door deliberations.

 

This would engage more members earlier in the process, instead of allowing all the action to happen around the end-game exercises of the negotiating team, and encourage the Council to look at the budget in greater detail and more comprehensively. Best of all, city agencies would have to publicly substantiate the worthiness of their programs or risk an embarrassing vote in the Council.

Second, we need to restructure how the Council is staffed. The members of the central staff, which provides technical assistance and policy advice, serve at the pleasure of the speaker, meaning they can be fired at any time.

 

So if a councilman requests an analysis of a particular piece of legislation, staff members need to assess whether that councilman is in good standing with the speaker and whether his proposal is likely to get the speaker's support. If the answer is no to both, then the request gets a low priority on the work pile. This results in some good ideas never getting a full vetting and some bad ones that are never put to rest.

 

As many parliamentary democracies have already done, the Council should establish a legislative services commission that sets the rules for hiring, compensation, promotion and retention of legislative staff. The result would be a professional staff that works for the Council as a whole, is better insulated from politics and better able to provide objective aid and analysis.

 

The third fix is to reform how the speaker is selected, and it would require a charter amendment. Instead of being chosen by the council members, the speaker should be popularly elected citywide (and the redundant public advocate position should be eliminated). The speaker should then be subject to a recall vote by three-fourths of the council members; if the speaker lost that vote, a special election would then be held to fill the position. This would ensure that the speaker remains responsive to council members and the electorate.

 

With these reforms, the speaker would lose some power, but gain a public mandate akin to the mayor's — as well as leadership over a strong institution that could fulfill its true potential as an agent of democracy.

 

David Pechefsky, a former assistant director of the New York City Council's finance division, ran

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DIALOGUE WITH GATES

 

Terrorism and all the complex issues around it topped the agenda for the visit to Islamabad by the US secretary of defence and his flurry of meetings with the president, the prime minister, the COAS and other key officials. Robert Gates mixed praise for Pakistan's efforts against militancy with warnings of the need for still more endeavour to defeat the militants. His carrot-and-stick strategy was obviously designed to maximise pressure on Pakistan. The request for a guarantee that there would be no further Mumbai-style attacks on India and the warning that there could be military retaliation from New Delhi if this happened was one example of this. The offer of drones to the Pakistan military represented a new willingness to cooperate on all fronts.


Islamabad needs to drive home to Washington and its other allies overseas that there is little to be gained by threats to Pakistan. It seems evident that at least in FATA, the military is doing all it possibly can to thwart terrorists. The attacks on the GHQ and the Parade Lane mosque make it obvious that the Taliban are enemies. As the prime minister quite correctly explained to Mr Gates, Pakistan can hardly offer up assurances to India of no further attacks given the dangers it itself faces from militants. What we need at this juncture is a rational assessment of quite why Pakistan continues to face so immense a threat. The deprivation of people, particularly those in the tribal areas, is linked to this. There are complications too in the fact that so much about current strategy on militancy is kept secret from people. The operations of Blackwater and other private security agencies are a case in point. All those who wish to see an end to terrorism – including Washington and New Delhi – need to put heads together with Islamabad and see how this goal can best be achieved. The answers lie in strengthening Pakistan and working towards addressing the grievances of its people. Some of these stem from the unjust US policies pursued in the region for decades. Simply issuing warnings or suggesting more emphatic military action will serve little purpose. In this context, Pakistan needs to come up with a blueprint for action and persuade its key allies that this needs to be followed if there is to be any headway against terrorism and an end to the internal threat it poses to the people of Pakistan.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MEHSUD MATTERS

 

Mehsud tribesmen from Waziristan, displaced by fighting in their homeland, appear to hold the key to any future peace in these parts. Indeed they appear to be becoming pawns in the game being played out between militants and authorities. While Mehsud tribal elders have been describing the military action as inevitable and indicated that they are fast losing patience with militants, the TTP has warned the nearly 300,000 tribal people currently based away from their homes – both due to fighting and seasonal winter migration – against returning, because of the conflict. Meanwhile the political administration is making its own demands. It has said that the Mehsud tribe must ensure that key militants – including Hakimullah Mehsud – be handed over and heavy weapons removed from the area. The issue that has not been raised is what the tribal people can hope for in exchange for their help in the effort to end militancy.


Years of conflict have ruined the economy of South Waziristan. Fruit orchards and agricultural lands have been destroyed and people have been robbed of livelihoods. Some strategy has to be put in place to rehabilitate these people. They must also be provided with schools and hospitals which are denied to the majority in one of the least developed tracts of the region. The possibility of a peaceful future in Waziristan and other tribal areas lies in the degree of success in achieving this. The Mehsud tribesmen have made it clear that they seek an end to militancy. But their efforts must be supported by authorities for people to see improvement in their lives. If this happens, then they can certainly be expected to act as allies of the state rather than militants.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

OFF THE RAILS

 

Like so many other things in the country our railway system is dying on its feet. Once again the government is going to be obliged to come to the rescue of this ailing giant as it has been revealed that PR does not have the cash to pay its employees in the coming months. When PR went to pay its oil bill to PSO recently its cheque for Rs25 million bounced due to lack of cash in the bank. Twenty-five million rupees may sound a lot but it is a relatively small sum in the larger scheme of railway finances and for PR to be unable to meet even this modest debt is ominous indeed. The Finance Ministry has announced a lifeboat package of Rs10 billion (which really is a lot of money) in order to avoid default and keep the rakes rolling. The government already subsidises the railways to the tune of Rs16 billion a year -- which is but a straw in the wind compared to the projected loss by PR of Rs46 billion in the operating year 2009-10.


As is evidenced by frequent crashes, de-railings and other mishaps at unregulated crossing points, PR is little more than a collection of accidents connected by rails. As ever, something is being 'chalked out' in an attempt to clear up the mess, but as ever it is no more likely to succeed than the last time. This time, the railway and finance ministries are making a 'stabilisation plan' to manage PR interest payments on their overdraft of Rs35 billion -- which come to Rs400 million a month. The secretary for railways has submitted a business plan that required several more sticks of chalk; but what is really needed is competent management by railway professionals rather than political appointees and a drive for inwards investment. Since both are, almost by definition, impossible to achieve we may expect to wave farewell to one of the few colonial legacies we ought to have nurtured. Pakistan Railways – a textbook example of how to turn an asset into a liability by a liberal application of politics.

 

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I. THE NEWS

'THE UGLY AMERICAN'

ARIF NIZAMI


Despite the Pakistani army's crushing offensives against the Taliban in Swat, Malakand and, more recently, in South Waziristan, serious policy differences persist between Washington and Islamabad. The pressure on Pakistan to take the fight to North Waziristan to neutralise the Jalaluddin Haqqani network is mounting since the nexus between the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban is becoming increasingly obvious.


One manifestation of that was the visit of US special envoy Richard Holbrooke to the region in the wake of the successful suicide attack on a CIA base in Afghanistan on Dec 30, conducted with the joint support of the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban.


Apart from doing the usual meetings with the president, the prime minister and the army chief, Mr Holbrooke met a select group of parliamentarians belonging to different political parties. During the meeting with the parliamentarians the special envoy sounded more like the fictional "Ugly American" who in real life represents a stereotypical perception of loud, arrogant, demeaning and overbearing attitude of most members of the US administration when they interact with their Third World clients.


Although President Zardari in his meeting with Mr Holbrooke termed the surge in US drone attacks and the new US screening regime for Pakistani citizens as "cause for concern," the US envoy was least impressed. In his meeting with the parliamentarians he termed the issue of profiling of Pakistani citizens at US airports as a routine matter. With scant regard for the humiliation caused by profiling on the basis of religion, he reportedly remarked: "What are a few extra minutes for the sake of safety of our citizens?" He brushed aside the issue of drone attacks and their immense collateral loss of innocent lives in a similar perfunctory manner.


When one of the parliamentarians pointed out that US-Pakistan economic ties could greatly benefit if Washington removed restrictions on textile imports from Pakistan, Mr Holbrooke evasively responded that it could take years as it involved the interests of textile businesses in South Carolina. Obviously, winning votes for the Democrats is as important, if not more, than winning the hearts and minds of the people of Pakistan.


Notwithstanding the serious divergence of views, Mr Holbrooke thought that Pakistan-US relations have vastly improved in the past one year. In the same breath, however, he lamented the visa problems being faced by the US diplomatic and aid missions in Pakistan. He claimed that owing to inordinate delays in granting of visas to American personnel the disbursement of $1.5 billion aid earmarked under the Kerry Lugar Bill is yet to take place. He added: "If you do not want this money it is up to you."


Mr Holbrooke, on the eve of his visit to New Delhi, also made it plain that although Washington welcomed better ties between India and Pakistan, it had no plans to mediate between them. On the other hand, US defence secretary Robert Gates, while visiting India, praised New Delhi's "restraint" after the Mumbai attacks. It is obvious that in sharp contrast to their attitude towards Pakistanis, most visiting US dignitaries are extremely cautious not to ruffle any feathers while engaging the Indian leadership.


Our parliamentarians, including luminaries like Asfandyar Wali, Ishaq Dar, Salim Saifullah, Farooq Sattar and Tehmina Daultana, did not care to counter him, or simply walk out, when they were being given a dressing down by a relatively junior-level US diplomat. Military strongmen lacking legitimacy can be forgiven for tolerating the "suck up and kick down" approach of overbearing Western diplomats. An elected leadership is expected to behave differently. But in actual practice all norms of protocol are thrown to the winds when US diplomats are received.

The red carpet is generally rolled out for Mr Holbrooke whenever and wherever he visits Pakistan. A consummate partygoer, he claims personal friendship with Mr Zardari since his days in exile in New York. The president is so fond of Mr Holbrooke that reportedly he once chided his prime minister and foreign minister for not having adequate diplomatic skills in dealing with the special envoy.


Islamabad has rightly rejected the idea of a regional contact group which goes beyond the immediate neighbours of Afghanistan. However, at the London conference on Afghanistan scheduled at the end of the month, in which India is also participating, US efforts to include New Delhi in a regional group could gain impetus. It is strange that on the one hand India rejects any third-party mediation over its disputes with Pakistan, but on the other it is keen to fish in troubled waters in Afghanistan and seeks a regional role for itself.


With President Zardari, increasingly embroiled in legal battles in the light of the detailed Supreme Court verdict on the NRO, Islamabad is bound to face increasing pressure form Washington to do its bidding. Senator John McCain, after his recent visit to Islamabad, has already spelled it out by giving the verdict that President Zardari has been weakened as a consequence of the apex court's verdict while Prime Minister Glani is satisfactorily pro-US, in his opinion.


Some US diplomats based in Islamabad have been openly briefing media persons and opinion leaders since the Supreme Court verdict on the NRO that Mr Zardari has been weakened to the extent that in his dealings with the army he is longer of any use for Washington. They also do not see him lasting beyond March.


Like numerous times in the past, such pundits' soothsaying might be pure humbug. But it is obvious that the US is already looking beyond the Presidency as the fulcrum of power to implement its agenda in the region. Optimistic projections of some military analysts that there is no longer a trust deficit between the COAS and senior US military and visiting officials and that Washington fully understands Pakistan military's concerns are noteworthy in this context.


Nevertheless, it is unlikely the US is giving up its mantra any time soon of asking Pakistan to do more in pursuit of its strategic goals in the region. Given the recent belligerent rhetoric of the Indian army chief, the Pakistani military has no cogent reason to change its strategic paradigm. Weak political institutions and a failing economy dependant upon US largesse and IMF bailouts is a recipe for disaster. Squabbling politicians who refuse to rise above their narrow interests have made matters worse. In this scenario the hapless Pakistani people can see impending disaster looming on the horizon.


President Obama after his first year in office increasingly sounds like his predecessor George W Bush, whose post-9/11 policies had made the world a far less safer place to live. As the Spanish newspaper ABC recently commented in an editorial: "After all, this is the president who ramped up the bombing of Pakistani villages and ordered another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan." In the wake of increased profiling of Muslims Obama's much-touted dialogue with Islam has come to naught. Nearer home, thanks to a manifold increase in suicide attacks, a sense of insecurity pervades amongst the Pakistanis compared to a year ago.


The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: arifn51@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

YOU DON'T SCORN STARS

SANKHYA KRISHNAN


There was a general impression that the India-Pakistan relationship had plumbed the depths and could only get better. The peace initiative by the Jang group and the Times of India group was especially heartening. Low-hanging fruit like sporting contacts appeared to be ripe for the picking. But this week, the fruit tantalisingly slipped out of reach. The unanimous decision of all eight IPL franchises not to bid for any Pakistani players for this year's edition showed that regressive forces still reign supreme. As a cricket fan, I was looking forward to the Pakistanis playing in the event, hoping that they would be chosen by the Chennai Super Kings or indeed by any other team. The signs were ominous when Shahid Afridi, the first name pulled out of the hat, invited no takers, and it was not the exception but the rule as we soon discovered. However much Lalit Modi tries to rationalise the outcome, the sheen has been taken off the tournament.


Pakistan is, by a distance, the best T20 team in world cricket and, unlike some other countries, does not have any international fixtures overlapping with the IPL. Its players would under normal circumstances have been in high demand. The Pakistani government had issued a no-objection certificate and the Indian government had issued visas to all Pakistani players who went under the hammer. These were insisted upon by the IPL in advance of the auction and justifiably so. The franchises, however, were not persuaded that they would turn up to play in India despite the clearances already obtained, a position bereft of common sense. Barring another terror attack from Pakistani soil, it's hard to believe that either government would have thrown an eleventh-hour spanner in the works after having facilitated the inclusion of Pakistani players in the auction. They would have everything to lose by raising an objection after players are signed up and thereby explicitly appropriating the role of spoilsport.


Of course, if there's another terror attack in the next couple of months, all bets are off, but even in such an eventuality, it should still be possible for teams to sign up late replacements who are not going to turn their noses up at the opportunity of making several thousand extra bucks. That is exactly what some teams did last year. It's more likely though that in the event of another terror attack most foreign players will cry off, making all of them, not just Pakistanis, a risky investment. While franchises have the right to focus exclusively on the bottom line without being concerned about the political or diplomatic fallout, in this case their collective decision is dubious even if seen as a purely commercial judgement. It's not as if they were going to be taking a massive punt on the Pakistani players. If it was a punt at all, it was a low risk one but with potentially high returns. Umar Gul has immensely more to offer than Kemar Roach. Buying Roach for $720,000 is a much riskier investment and whoever did so, ought to have his, or possibly her, head examined.


One can imagine a few franchises being obtuse but given that all eight behaved similarly, it is bound to provide fertile ground for conspiracy theories. However, there's nothing to indicate that the Indian government informally asked the franchises not to sign up Pakistani players. If it did so, the franchises would have every reason to advertise the fact if only to appear less retarded. But the government is guilty of an error of omission, if not commission. Since the silence it maintained was apparently mistaken for ambiguity and failed to give the franchises adequate reassurance, there is a case for it to have been more active in dispelling those concerns, even if they were largely imaginary, rather than washing its hands off the matter after granting the visas. The importance of distinguishing between those in Pakistani society who are hostile to India and those who want to engage with India and of going out of the way to encourage the latter constituency cannot be overstated. Sport is one of the few instruments we have at the moment to repair the present state of the relationship. Getting Indians to root for and identify with Pakistanis playing for local franchises helps to blur the us-vs-them distinction and create a more inclusive worldview. It would have initiated the process of healing the wounds of 26/11 and returning to the state that we were on 25/11.


The stars were aligned for India to send a powerful signal that it has nothing against Pakistan but only against a specific section of Pakistanis who seek to prosecute terror against India. Instead the opposite signal has been unwittingly despatched which will no doubt reinforce hardline elements across the border. As Abba Eban almost said, the Indians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.


Does this mean that the desire for peace is naive? No, but it is clearer than ever that it has to be a bottom-up enterprise driven by civil society and the significance of initiatives like the one by the Jang group and the Times of India group is magnified rather than diminished by the events of this week. The ICC World Twenty20 begins five days after the end of the IPL and if it's any consolation to the Pakistani players, there's no correlation between playing in the IPL and winning the World Twenty20 as they showed last year. Given the injustice done to them, it's hard to resist the temptation to support Pakistan in the World Twenty20.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor based in Chennai. Email: sankhya@gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A GENERAL'S SNARL

S KHALID HUSAIN


In his article, "Cultivating brevity and calmness" (Jan 8), Ayaz Amir appeared to be implying that Indian army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor's declaration of his country's new military strategy to fight on two fronts was nothing out of the ordinary.


Military chiefs do not usually harp on the warring potential of their countries, unless there are reasons, and Gen Kapoor doing so has a lot to do with President Obama's visit to China in November 2009, which clearly marked the beginning of a new Sino-US strategic relationship.


The West and the US have quietly backed India as a counterpoise to China, and India sees benefits in this role similar to the benefits of its left-leaning "neutralism" during the Cold War.


The benefits under "neutralism" were directly proportional to how cold the Cold War got; the colder it got, the more the benefits. On the other hand, the benefits in the "counterpoise" role are inversely proportional to the state of Sino-US relations: the more they develop less the benefits for India.


President Obama's acts and policies are leading towards Sino-US relations turning into a strategic partnership, and he could well be the harbinger of the redundancy of India's "counterpoise" role.


India's concerns, however, are more than just the redundancy of this role. India must be more concerned that the stronger the strategic flavour of Sino-US relationship, the less it would render India's chances of stamping its place as a major power in Asia and the dominant power in South Asia.


What Gen Kapoor was doing when he enunciated India's new military doctrine was announcing, on his government's behalf, that despite a new level of Sino-US relationship, India's importance as a dominant regional power and a future world power cannot be ignored.


India can be predicted to use further equivocal measures to convey the above. It can emphasise its powerful presence and reach through further stagy actions, or startling statements, including those on its economic power.

For Indians, the need to proclaim its military power in the aftermath of President Obama's China visit, before India parades it on Jan 26 to mark its Republic Day, was clearly greater than the negative fallout from the statement being interpreted as belligerent.


To get a handle on India's concerns and unease on the growing Sino-US ties, one has to delve a little into the past. India has tried to act as mother hen towards its smaller neighbours in the region, but Pakistan has been the spoiler. China, while not smaller than its neighbour, let India act as the principal Asian power during the period it remained ostracised by the West under US influence. This suited China, for it gave it time to develop internally. When China began to emerge on the world scene as a major player, the Indian chant of "Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai" of the 1950s died.


A perspective of Indian sensitivity to Pakistan, and for the past many years also to China's relations with the US, is provided by the US visits of two Indian prime ministers – Pundit Nehru in 1961 and Manmohan Singh in 2009. The similarity between the two visits nearly fifty years apart is uncanny, although one concerns US-Pakistan relations and the other US-China relations. The paradigms of the two visits match exactly, almost to the button.


Nehru had arrived pouting, much as Manmohan Singh did. It was Jack Kennedy then, a Democrat who had taken over in January of that year as president from Republican Eisenhower, who held office for eight years. It was Barack Obama in 2009, also a Democrat, who took over as president in January from Republican George W Bush, who held office for eight years.


Nehru was displaying annoyance at what India saw as a change in the Democrats' attitude towards Pakistan after Ayub Khan's successful state visit four months earlier. Perhaps also at the visit of Bashir, the camel-cart driver from Karachi, who was Vice President Lyndon Johnson's guest a month earlier, and took America by storm with his homilies. Between them, President Ayub and Bashir the camel-cart driver had made 1961 the year of Pakistan in the US.


India felt Pakistan had benefited unfairly from eight years of supportive Republican rule and Nehru held Kennedy responsible for the shift in his party's traditional hard line towards Pakistan. Kennedy found Nehru "brooding," "stoical," and "arrogant," and termed the Indian prime minister's visit as the "worst state visit I ever had."

However, nothing out of the way was done to soothe Nehru until October 1962 when he ordered his army to evict the Chinese from "Indian territory." This triggered the easily roused anti-China passion of the US of that period, and after that there were no bounds to US support for India.


Like Nehru in November 1961, Manmohan Singh arrived pouting in November 2009 less than a week after President Obama's return from his China visit. He was displaying annoyance with events in China during Obama's just concluded visit. India was unhappy with Obama's attitude, which to India was a sign of the mounting importance of China for the US under the Obama administration.


India was irritated at Obama declaring that China has an important role to play in South Asia. It was upset with references to South Asia and India-Pakistan relations in the joint communiqué, such as "the US and China are ready to strengthen…co-operation on issues related to South Asia"; and on India-Pakistan relations, such as "they (the US and China) specifically pledged to support improvement and growth of relations between India and Pakistan." India viewed Obama's not receiving the Dalai Lama during his US visit as appeasement of China.

For India, the mention of a role for China in South Asia is bracketing India with Pakistan and Afghanistan, which India regards as gross denigration of its self-appointed role of dominant power in the region. India is resentful that the US and the West are not treating it as an upcoming global power at par with China. The aftermath of Obama's China visit has raised the spectre for India of it playing second fiddle to China in South Asia, which it considers its backyard, and this must be a worrisome new dynamic for India.


During the Cold War India tried to promote the notion that all Asia was watching the democratic experiment in India, and the communist one in China, and Asia will go the way of the experiment that succeeds. The US was the chief buyer of this notion, and despite its left-leaning neutralism, India remained one of the countries most indulged by the US.


India has come out second best in the experiment it said all Asia was watching, not for reason of its democracy but for the Chinese leaders' vision, their pragmatism and their timely shift in policies. That the change in the US attitude towards China -- from extreme hostility to grudging respect, to strictly functional relationship, and which under Obama is showing signs of transforming into strategic relationship -- is disconcerting for India should not be a great surprise.


The US, for all its sermons on democracy, is more concerned with political, economic and strategic advantages of any relationship, and China scores heavily over India on all these. Even if India scores heavily on democracy and, but for its abysmal record in Kashmir, perhaps also on human rights.

The Indian prime minister during his state visit to Washington must have looked for signs from the US side of substance, not form, on the concerns in his mind as to whether the US will continue to attach the same high priority to a strategic relationship with India as it did in past. It is hardly likely that whatever signs there were have pleased him.


With Sino-Indian relations acquiring a strategic dimension, India's role as "counterpoise" to China will be considerably reduced. It will have to move on own steam and work harder to be worthy of the high regard that its size, its potential and, most of all, its democracy, undoubtedly merit.

 

The writer is a retired corporate executive. Email: husainsk@cyber.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JYOTI BASU'S MIXED LEGACY

PRAFUL BIDWAI


In communist veteran Jyoti Basu's death, India has lost its most illustrious politician and the last leader who embodied a personal link between the many phases of Indian politics since the early 1940s.


Basu was not just a major Left leader in a country with the world's biggest Communist party outside China. He participated in numerous processes which shaped politics, including trade union and peasant movements, radicalisation of the intelligentsia, contestations between social-group identities, and crystallisation of the party system.

Unlike other distinguished communist leaders -- S A Dange, E M S Namboodiripad, P C Joshi, B T Ranadive, Gangadhar Adhikari, P Sundarayya and A K Gopalan -- Basu was neither a theoretician nor a mass leader. Nor was he an organisation man such as Harkishan Singh Surjeet, the last general secretary of the Communist Party (Marxist), or Pramode Dasgupta, who built and controlled the CPM party machine in West Bengal. Basu chose to concentrate on his greatest strengths -- electoral politics, administration and governance.


Basu was a party pragmatist with a managerial style. He worked on the public side of the CPM and built successful election-oriented social coalitions. He was chief minister of West Bengal -- a state with 80 million people -- continuously for 23 years. This is a world record. Basu could have stayed on as chief minister beyond 2000 if he wanted to.


Basu was a maverick in many ways. When the undivided Communist Party split in 1964, he was the only individual from a group of privileged European-educated young communists who went with the CPM. All others, including Adhikari, Indrajeet Gupta, Hiren Mukherjee and Nikhil Chakravartty, stayed with the CPI, as did most party intellectuals.


More significantly, Basu unquestioningly accepted the CPM's organisational hegemony. He was an unbending party loyalist, who believed in orthodox forms of discipline and "democratic centralism" -- based on concentric circles of authority within the party, and the norm that party members must unquestioningly follow a decision taken after internal debate.


In 1996, Basu famously became "the best prime minister India never had." The United Front unanimously offered the position to him. But the CPM central committee rejected the offer. The decision was driven by a narrow control-based consideration: with its 51 MPs, the Left wouldn't be able to dominate the Front. But the Left would have gained much advantage, including prestige and mainstream acceptance, with Basu as prime minister. This would probably have delayed or prevented the BJP's rise to national power in 1998. Ironically, those in the CPM who opposed Basu's candidature the most later backed Mayawati as prime minister!


Basu was a pragmatist par excellence. On any issue, he would choose the most practical and least radical of the options made available by the CPM. This would satisfy both privileged industrialists -- whom his party has been wooing for investment -- and poor people, among whom it had its roots. In land reform in West Bengal, the Left avoided a radical transfer of ownership to the tiller and the landless -- unlike in Kerala in the 1950s. Its Operation Barga registered tenants and gave them a 75-percent harvest share and tenure security.


In his first term as chief minister, Jyoti Basu said: "Let [the] capitalists understand us. We shall also try to understand their point of view." No wonder he developed a close rapport with several industrial magnates, including Dhirubhai Ambani, Ratan Tata and R P Goenka. He favoured multinational takeovers of some of Bengal's sick industrial units and wanted the West Bengal Electronics Development Corporation to form a joint venture with Philips.


Basu's upper-class, upper-caste Bhadralok identity endeared him greatly to Bengal's elite. But Basu's politics largely excluded Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs -- and even Muslims, who form one-fourth of the state's population -- from governance and political representation. In this respect, and in social development indicators, West Bengal lags behind many other states. The rate of decline in its rural poverty has halved since 1994.


Worse, according to the National Sample Survey, "the percentage of rural households not getting enough food every day in some months of the year" is highest in West Bengal (10.6 per cent), worse than in Orissa (4.8). West Bengal has more than 900,600 school dropouts in the 6-14 age group, higher than Bihar's nearly 700,000. Of India's 24 districts which have more than 50,000 out-of-school children, nine are in West Bengal.


The official Human Development Report (2004) admits that spending on and access to health services have stagnated. Some indicators -- immunisation, antenatal care, women's nutrition, and doctors and hospital beds per 100,000 people -- are below the national average. West Bengal has not opened a single new primary-health centre in a decade. West Bengal has the lowest rate of generating work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act -- 14 person-days per poor family. The national average is 43. (The promise was 100.)


India's worst recent food riots have occurred in West Bengal -- especially in poor districts like Purulia, Bankura and Birbhum -- when starving people raided the storehouses of dishonest ration-shop owners, all CPM members. Purulia is one of India's poorest districts -- with 78 percent of its population below the poverty line. More than two-fifths of West Bengal's poor don't have ration cards, which entitle them to subsidised food. Meanwhile, some of the gains of Operation Barga are eroding. Seventeen percent of registered tenants have lost their land and another 27 percent are in insecure possession.


Clearly, the Left Front has failed the poor in numerous ways during its 32 years in power. The rationale of the CPM's tenure in office has eroded. Basu bears a good share of responsibility for this.


Basu, then, is akin to Yasser Arafat, the tallest leader of the movement for an independent Palestinian state, who died in 2004. Arafat put Palestine on the world agenda -- a great historic contribution -- but signed the Oslo Peace Accords under Western pressure. These imposed a hideously unjust settlement on his people. Arafat's once-secular and -progressive Fatah has lost its credibility. The Islamicist Hamas won a plurality in a free and fair election. The CPM might similarly lose West Bengal to the Trinamool Congress.


Basu leaves a mixed legacy. The Left Front is still paying the price for its advocacy of "industrialisation at any cost." Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee believes that industrialisation of any kind is progress. Actually, neoliberal corporate-led industrialisation lacks classical capitalism's employment and social-political potential and destroys livelihoods.


Poor people are increasingly alienated from the CPM. If it loses the 2011 West Bengal Assembly elections, Trinamool will unleash unspeakable violence to settle old scores and capture new areas. In Kerala, the Left faces an uphill battle. It was routed in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections. A nationally weakened Left could go into serious long-term decline. The Left has grown in India even while communism went into a tailspin globally after the collapse of the USSR. This was a great achievement. Its reversal would be an equally great pity. Luckily, Basu won't be there to see the unravelling and humiliation of the Left.


Finally, Jyoti Basu must be admired for standing by his atheist convictions and donating his body for medical research. Not many show such courage at a time when it's most needed -- amidst the explosion of blind faith, superstition and worship of so-called godmen and every conceivable irrationality in India.


The writer, a former newspaper editor, is a researcher and peace and human-rights activist based in Delhi. Email: prafulbidwai1 @yahoo.co.in

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A SEDULOUS RULING

PART I (LEGAL EYE)

BABAR SATTAR


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


The hype around the Supreme Court's detailed judgement in the NRO case is understandable in view of the elevated political temperature in Pakistan, the conspiracy-mongering propensity of Asif Zardari and the aspiration of his detractors to see him pushed out of the Presidency through the judicial process. The only problem with the hullabaloo is that it is not justifiable in view of the text of the judgement.


We have heard wishful interpretations of the judgement claiming that the president has been denuded of his constitutional immunity against prosecution while in office, and that his fate is now in serious legal jeopardy. And we have also heard proponents of the Zardari-led PPP lobbing insinuations that the judiciary might be functioning as the implementing arm of the establishment to oust him, and that such witch-hunt will be fought by the party tooth-and-nail.


While Zardari's opponents and proponents seem to be interpreting the ruling in similar fashion with their respective spins, neither position is supported by what the apex court has actually said in its detailed judgement.

Let us recall that there were two major criticisms against the NRO short order: one, that it was jurisprudentially unsound, given that it relied on Articles 62(f) and 227 of the Constitution in striking down the NRO, that this would open a Pandora's box with eligibility of parliamentarians being questioned for their not being "honest, sagacious and non-profligate," and all kinds of laws being challenged for being un-Islamic; and, two, that it was a politically motivated ruling aimed at creating adverse political consequences for the person of the president. A dispassionate reading of the text of the detailed judgement puts to rest such fears and apprehensions.


The Supreme Court has held that the NRO was in conflict with Article 62(f) as it scuttled the due legal process through which the qualifications of a candidate are to be determined. The Constitution mandates that the corrupt should not be elected as legislators. In the event that there are allegations of corruption, such charges have to be proved or dismissed through the court process.


The NRO simply shut down cases where corruption allegations were being verified by courts, and was unconstitutional as it simply took away the opportunity to determine the eligibility of a public officeholder for purposes of Article 62(f). The court, however, clarifies that this article "cannot be considered self-executory," and only "if a person involved in corruption and corrupt practices has been finally adjudged to be so, then on the basis of such final judgement" can his or her candidature be challenged on the basis of Article 62(f). In short, eligibility of parliamentarians cannot be challenged unless a competent court has convicted them.


Further, in relation to Article 227, the apex court has opined that Article 25 of the Constitution (that guarantees equality between citizens) "has its origins in Quranic injunctions," and thus any law violating Article 25 is also in breach of requirements set out by Article 227. But that "the observations relating to the application of Article 227 and to the morality and conscience of the Constitution are only further supportive observations." And in reiterating the role of the Islamic Ideology Council in declaring whether or not laws are in contravention of Article 227, the court has emphasised that the precepts of Islam and the morality and conscience of the Constitution "cannot be invoked as a matter of course, and certainly not to strike down formal legislation or executive action which is otherwise found to be within the scope of the Constitution and the law."

The ruling in the NRO case has elevated the quality of our constitutional jurisprudence by advancing a textual theory of constitutional morality. The Supreme Court has elaborated that our fundamental law is a living document and that its provisions need to be interpreted in a purposeful manner, in view of the objects of the Constitution -- i.e., its underlying soul, conscience and morality must be provided a legally enforceable formulation in order to actually benefit the people of Pakistan.


But in elaborating the values of our Constitution and giving them effect, the Supreme Court has not been oblivious to its limited role and authority within the constitutional scheme of separation of powers. The decision of the apex court in the PCO Judges Case to afford the parliament an opportunity to approve the Musharraf ordinances (including the NRO) in view of the concept of trichotomy of powers was proof of such realisation.


Further, through the PCO Judges Case as well as the NRO Case, the court has started weaving a doctrine of judicial power that requires purposive constitutional interpretation clubbed together with a considered and cautious exercise of institutional authority in line with the principles of democracy. While this may sound apparently contradictory, the court seems to be suggesting that while it would not shirk its responsibility to interpret and implement provisions of the Constitution to secure the fundamental rights of citizens, it is fully aware of the role and responsibilities of other pillars of the state. For example, Justice Jawad Khwaja's note in the NRO Case provides an insight into the court's thinking when it states that "the court, while exercising the judicial function entrusted to it by the Constitution, is constrained by the Constitution and must therefore perform its duty in accordance with the dictates of the Constitution and the laws made thereunder.


"If the court veers from this course charted for it and attempts to become the arbiter of what is good or bad for the people, it will inevitably enter the minefield of doctrines such as the law of necessity, with the same disastrous consequences... Decisions as to what is good or bad for the people must be left to the elected representatives of the people, subject only to the limits imposed by the Constitution…"Legislators and functionaries performing executive functions may resort to expediency, compromise and accommodation in achieving political and policy objectives considered in their judgement. So long as such decisions conform to and are not violative of the Constitution, the executive and the legislature are only accountable to the electorate and not to courts. This is the democratic principle enshrined in the Constitution."


In other words, in propagating its theory of constitutional morality, the Supreme Court is not usurping the functions of other organs of the state or arrogating to itself the right to judge other institutions from a moral standpoint. The court is interpreting the Constitution as a social contract that enables the state and the citizens of this country to order their lives in accordance with the social, moral and ethical values of this society.


But at the same time, it is recognising the fact that the Constitution speaks not merely to the courts, but to all institutions and individuals that comprise Pakistan. To the extent that an individual or institution contravenes the law and the Constitution, the court must step in to uphold the law. But should the representatives of the people in the executive or the parliament frustrate political, social or ethical expectations of the society as opposed to the requirements of law, it is for the people to judge them, and not the court.


The perception that the court is about to skin the leadership of the ruling party (an element being decried by Asif Zardari's proponents and celebrated by his detractors) must therefore be evaluated in view of (i) this unfolding doctrine of democracy, constitutional morality and limited judicial powers, and (ii) the text of the NRO judgement reflecting on provisions of the Constitution that could affect Asif Zardari's eligibility as president, and consequently his incumbency.

(To be concluded)

Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

KERFUFFLE

ANJUM NIAZ


A troupe of lawyers wants a political kerfuffle. A loud hoo-ha, if you please. The probability of President Zardari's disqualification is on every lawyer's lip. He's toast, declare most. The government stooges hit back and shout that the apex court must target the Sharifs and sundry; faujis and miscellany for their alleged corruption as well. The politicisation of the punditocracy on our plasma screens is catching fire. We can flick and flip; riff or click our TV controls to get in as much of the 'wisdom' we possibly can cram in a couple of hours each night. What fun! We're like the ancient Romans cheering and yelling while watching gladiators grapple each other or wild animals to death.


Furthermore we can pick and choose our characters on the mini-screen. There's a wide array of pinheads pandering their views. They push their own agendas on interpreting the NRO judgment. Each gasbag has his/her vested interest while lecturing the viewers on the Constitution of Pakistan. By now, we all can earn our PhDs (the same way our law minister, a lawyer, became a Dr) via the telly on the Constitution. How wonderful, is that.

Beware of lawyers. Not all, though.


In America, lawyers are too often hated for being rapaciously greedy. Most follow the money trail and not the trail of truth. They have run the government, past and present. The US Congress has many lawyers as senators and congressmen. Today, the president is a lawyer from Harvard; their secretary of state is a lawyer from Yale and their vice president is a lawyer from Syracuse.


Politics and law make dodgy bedfellows. But to climb up the slippery pole of fame, wealth and power, you have to have the sharp mind of a 'Juris Doctor' or JD as we call a US attorney. That's America. What about Pakistan? The same, I would wager. Some famous lawyers aligned with Gen Musharraf as architects of the reference against the chief justice are back and bouncing on our television screens.


But wait. They have changed their tunes. Most are stroking the NRO judgment as though it was their house pet. A cat or a dog. Advocate Ahmad Raza Kasuri has seen many governments come and go. Along the way, he's changed his loyalties according to the law of necessity. What else to call it? He was in the vanguard clapper clawing the chief justice. Then came Asif Zardari. He needed fixers like Justice (r) Qayyum and Raza Kasuri to guide him against the soon-to-be independent judiciary. Many in the PPP camp were stricken with grief to see Zardari confer with the man who had sent Z A Bhutto to the gallows. As a bitter critic of ZAB, Kasuri lodged a first information report or FIR accusing Prime Minister Z A Bhutto as the brain behind the murderous attack on his father.


Today, Mr Kasuri is convincing the television viewers that Zardari cannot escape Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution. "He suffers from pre-election disqualification and anyone can challenge his office."


Advocate Naeem Bokhari is perhaps the only lawyer sticking to guns. His criticism against the judiciary is evergreen. Bravo! At least the man has the courage of his convictions. A quality you will not find among our lawyers today. Abdul Hafeez Pirzada who was the lead counsel for Mubashir Hassan's NRO case plays it both ways. Today he's leading the chorus on Zardari's possible disqualification while simultaneously defending the government for a whopping fee against the petition challenging promotions in the bureaucracy.

Then there's attorney Ashtar Ausaf. He's Nawaz Sharif's lawyer. According to him the Supreme Court can put Zardari on trial while an 'acting president' can run the show. What's he hinting at? Does he want Mian Sharif to slip into Zardari's shoes?


Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan, Ali Ahmad Kurd, Tariq Mahmud, and Athar Minallah – our real heroes are back, but with dissenting views. How sad!

 

Email: aniaz@fas.harvard.edu & www.anjumniaz.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PRESIDENT AT WAR WITH ARMY, JUDICIARY

 

IT has become almost a daily routine of President Asif Ali Zardari to talk about so-called conspiracies against him and the threats to the system. Previously, he had been making oblique references to some institutions that, according to him, were destabilizing his Government. But on Thursday he made pointed references when he claimed 'pen stroke, bayonets can't kill us'.


One can say without fear of any contradiction that the worthy President was referring to the 'Constitution Avenue' and 'Rawalpindi'. This state of mind of President Asif Zardari is indeed mind-boggling because no one expects tirade of this sort from a person of that stature and responsibilities. Of course, the President must be feeling uneasy following judgement of the Supreme Court in the NRO case and the accompanying developments but he is not an ordinary person. As Head of the State, he is also Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Pakistan and such statements on his part are causing extreme frustration and dismay among patriotic circles. It is all the more regrettable that it is not for the first time that the President has referred to the Judiciary or the Army as he has been launching frontal attacks of the sort for the last several weeks despite counselling by some saner voices in the country not to pursue the path of confrontation. This also shows that people around him are totally devoid of far-sightedness and political acumen as they are pushing him to the wall by rendering wrong advice. They have devised a strategy to deal with the situation arising out of NRO verdict that is bound to cause disaster not only to the President but also to the entire system. Peoples Party is a big Party having in its folds people and leaders of different calibre and sober thinking and, therefore, we wish some of the stalwarts of the Party should come forward and try to convince the President to follow a statesmanlike attitude. But, perhaps, PPP, at present has no personality that could pick up courage to call a spade a spade and tell the President not to create difficulties for himself and the Party. We would, however, urge Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, who has acquired reputation of a leader capable of serving as a bridge between conflicting interests, to play his due role to save the system.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ARMY COMES OUT WITH POLICE 'NO'

 

THURSDAY saw Pakistani leadership conducting itself in a dignified manner during interaction with the powerful visiting American Secretary of State Robert Gates, who landed in the country following a threatening statement he churned out in New Delhi in an apparent bid to 'harass and terrorize' Pakistani people and the Government over prospects of a war with India.


We are glad that both the Government and military leadership adopted a posture during talks with Gates that was commensurate with the status and position of the country. While President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had straight talks with the visiting Secretary of Defence on a host of issues of concern to Pakistan, the leadership of the Pakistan Army conveyed a police 'No' to ever demanding United States that always asks for 'do more' without fulfilling its own obligations as a partner. The carefully worded statement of Major General Athar Abbas, Director General, ISPR shows that the visitor was apprised of both constraints and requirements of the Army and the resolve to eliminate the threat of terrorism. However, according to reports, Gates wanted Pakistan to extend the military operation to North Waziristan Agency as well but he was told that the ongoing operation in South Waziristan Agency would take at least a year more and the country was not in a position to open more fronts, which could have destabilizing effect on the overall environment. This is reflective of the mainstream thinking in Pakistan that there should be limits to military action as mere use of force is causing more terrorism and resultantly the country stands more destabilized. We too have been emphasizing in these columns that apart from military operation against hard-core elements and their foreign cohorts, dialogue should also be initiated with, what are being dubbed, as 'brother' and 'good' Taliban. There is absolutely no logic to expand the area of operation blindly on demands from the United States that also has its eyes on Muridke, Quetta and South Punjab. Therefore, Army's police 'No' is a significant and welcome development and would have a soothing effect on the overall security environment.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

GHAURI SEES DRONES FLYING IN KARACHI

 

STATEMENT of Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Khan Ghauri that there was a threat of drone attacks in Karachi as well has shocked every one. Talking to media on Thursday he claimed that the US drone attacks could take place in Karachi over presence of some elements. The statement of the Minister has come at a time when there was universal condemnation of the drone attacks being carried out by American forces in border areas of Pakistan.


The entire nation is opposing these provocative attacks that amount to trampling sovereignty of the country. This is despite the fact that these attacks are launched in the rugged and mountainous areas where damage is limited and one can imagine the destruction that such attacks could cause in a populous city like Karachi. Both President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani strongly conveyed to the American Secretary of Defence that drone attacks were unacceptable and must be stopped. Instead they demanded that the drone technology should be given to Pakistan for use by Pakistan's own forces and Gates indicated that the United States was considering supply of several drones to Pakistan. In this backdrop, the statement of the Minister is flabbergasting and devoid of any wisdom. We believe that Babar Khan Ghauri, who is one of the senior most, vocal and considerate leaders of the MQM, made off-the-cuff remarks without pondering over the fuller implications of such an eventuality. MQM too has adopted a more nationalistic posture through a combination of measures and influence and one doesn't expect such irresponsible statements from one of its stalwarts.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

OLD WINE IN NEW BOTTLES!

NOSHEEN SAEED


The equality of mankind is one of the fundamental principles of Islam. In Islam there is no difference between man and man. The qualities of equality, liberty and fraternity are the fundamental principles of Islam—the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was the greatest man the world had ever seen. Thirteen hundred years ago He (PBUH) laid the foundations of democracy."(All India Muslim League session in Delhi on April 24, 1943)

 

Pakistan's great leader Mohammad Ali Jinnah believed in democracy, as he did in justice, equality, fair play, tolerance, unity, integrity, brotherhood and freedom. His ideal was an independent, democratic Islamic Pakistan to grow into "one of the greatest nations whose ideal is peace within and peace without" The Governor- General believed in "representative government and representative institutions," but warned sternly against the dangers of official corruption and "personal aggrandizement." Jinnah's faith in elective Government was unequivocal." With the removal of foreign domination, the people are now the final arbiters of their destiny," Quaid-e-Azam told his nation in March 1948. No "group" should ever "attempt by any unlawful methods to impose its will on the popularly elected Government of the day. The Government and its policy may be changed by the votes of the elected representatives." He envisaged Pakistan as a "people's government, responsible to the people—on democratic lines and parliamentary practice—Make the people feel that you are their servants and friends," he urged officers to "maintain the highest standard of honour, integrity, justice and fair play." Pakistan was conceived and spelled out in democratic terms; established through the democratic process or in other words through the ballot box. The Muslim League which had demanded Pakistan won 87.7 percent of central and provincial Muslim seats and about 85 percent votes in the contested Muslim constituencies. With such democratic credentials why couldn't we establish a viable democratic dispensation? The two most outstanding leaders who could have nurtured democracy died within a few years; Quaid-e-Azam died within thirteen months and Liaquat Ali Khan thirty-seven months later; a tragic episode for the sapling of democracy to embed its roots into the firm democratic soil. After their demise securing Pakistan's survival was the topmost agenda and the problems confronting the fledgling state were manifold. During the formative years the Kashmir and the Islamic state issue consumed most of Pakistan's energies and attention. While the politicians and the religious Jamats wrangled among themselves, the praetorian civil and military concentrated on the stability and security of the state.


The bureaucracy and the police were the most organized group which helped in making Pakistan viable economically and administratively, mainly because they were independent functioning bodies, trained by the British and answerable to the people— not to politicians; neither were they appointed and sacked according to their whims. Their elevation was on merit and competence. Another fatal weakness was the unbridgeable gap between West and East Pakistan. The bond of Islam was not enough to keep them united. Their linguistic, economic, cultural, social and political differences became grave with the passage of time; there was no sagacious and politically wise leadership to settle differences amicably. India exploited the hostile environment and divided Jinnah's Pakistan into two. Pakistani leadership allowed ambitious and greedy feudals and tribal chiefs to stake their claims to power; they provoked linguistic, provincial, sectarian conflicts and bitter rivalries that deprived Pakistan of national unity. The Sindhs fought Punjabis and both looked down upon the Bengalis; the Frontier and Balochi tribes reverted to their own tribal and jirga system, following their own code of violence. The Mullahs played their own bugle of turning Pakistan into a theocratic state. They fueled sectarian violence and tried to turn Pakistan into an intolerant, orthodox, extremist state, contrary to the wishes of its founder.

Quaid-e-Azam envisaged and projected Pakistan as a modern, liberal and a progressive state; not bound by conservatism, intolerance and authoritarianism but a state in which Muslims were in majority and therefore could preserve their cultural distinctiveness. His Pakistan was based on sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism. A social system based on civilized values, democratic culture, time honoured judicial traditions, supremacy of law, good governance and above all a country based on a modern, non feudal foundation; where the life, property, honour and beliefs of all Pakistanis are fully protected; irrespective of caste, colour, creed, race and community; where negotiations, consensus and reasoning are considered the solution of every problem; where corruption, nepotism, black-marketing, bribery and jobbery would be crushed relentlessly; which would be cleansed of provincialism, sectarianism, ethnicity and discrimination; where fundamental human rights, the dignity of women and the labour force would be guaranteed.


While discussing the future constitution of Pakistan on a broadcast talk addressing the people of U.S.A, recorded in February 1948, the Quaid stated, "Pakistan is not going to be a theocratic state — to be ruled by priests with a divine mission. We have many non-Muslims – Hindus, Christians and Parsis but they are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges as any other citizens and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan." On another broadcast addressing the people of Australia, recorded on 19th February 1948, he said, "We are members of the brotherhood of Islam in which we all are equal in rights, dignity and self-respect. Consequently, we have a special and a very deep sense of unity. But make no mistake: Pakistan is not a theocracy or anything like it." The fact is that Jinnah abhorred theocracy and condemned obscurantism. He stood steadfastly for equality, social justice and tolerance. Sick of the landlord, the greedy merchant, the demagogic politician, the corrupt civilian bureaucrats and the religious parties, that tend to exploit Pakistan, the military periodically staged interventions that are considered regrettable but necessary by them. As one military leader followed another, the Army's vision of Pakistan began to define the state mainly because our politicians were unable to achieve it. Instead of brotherly love being spread and a culture of compassion and goodwill being preached our politicians are tempted to indulge in self-serving interests. Jinnah pleaded for solidarity and cohesion amongst all Pakistanis; desiring them to develop a sense of patriotism by sinking individualism and petty disputes and welding themselves into one united, strong nation, working towards a glorious and prosperous future.


Pakistan's major tragedy has been that those who benefited the most from the creation of Pakistan bite the hand that feeds them and they feel no shame in doing so. They are pests that have been living off other people's hard labour. The silent majority of Pakistan has suffered enough; their leaders whether political, religious, military, judicial, bureaucratic, feudal, educated or the intelligentsias have been manipulating the ignorance of the masses, their simplicity and their passions, to their own ends. The truth is that it was a frail and sick man who worked incessantly to create Pakistan by his indomitable will and determination. It is the hard work and labour of the people that has kept Pakistan afloat and God's will that has made it weather all storms. Successive incompetent leaders have created a heap of mess, and have always added to the heap; never cleared it. The masses have never looted their country; its leaders have. The people have never failed Jinnah or his vision, in fact they have been the torch bearers of his mission; the ones who have failed repeatedly are the tried, tested and failed leaders. The masses believe that with the same old faces around, nothing will change and their cries will be cries in the wilderness. Supportive of what they think, it would be appropriate to mention a famous quote of Albert Einstein, "We cannot solve today's problems using the mindset that created them."

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ILL-EQUIPPED TO HANDLE CRISIS

DR SYED JAVED HUSSAIN


We have become a country of crisis. We have crisis at all levels of our political, social and economic strata. The unfortunate aspect of the problem is not that we have ever increasing and ever mounting crisis one after another that belie solution and threaten peace and stability of our society. It is the absence of will to take them head-on. Or it is the obsequiousness of our leadership to the vested interests that has incapacitated it entirely to accept the challenge to bring some relief to the populace. Under inexplicable duress our political leadership seems rather siding with the exploitative, racketeering and swindling fraudsters who have made people's lives miserable day by day.


One wonders why our men in charge take so much time to decide upon matters requiring urgent decisions? Why should they make promises if at the very outset they have no intentions to honour? Whereas, even a layman understands that once trust is gone it is very difficult to recover it. Lost grounds can be regained but not the trust.A political party requires a generation to build upon people's trust. The PPP has done so through great sacrifices in men and materials and its devout workers called 'Jiyalas' have dedication and devotion to party principles because of its inspiring and self sacrificing leadership in Bhuttos who have met unnatural death only to translate the dreams of the poor of this country into reality, and only because they stood for certain principles; the principles they were never wiling to compromise; and never did they try to realise them through unfair means. Anyone who understands Pakistan politics can never fail to appreciate the daring, towering and self-sacrificing leadership of the biggest political party in present day Pakistan.


But is it enough for the PPP to remain contented with what they used to be and should not further their political capital by emulating the examples of its erstwhile leaders? Should not the party shun its petty differences with all political forces and take them on board to help sail the country through the turbulent waters successfully? Onus of responsibility lies on the PPP because it is in the driving seat at the centre. More so because its Co-chairman is also serving as the president of Pakistan. The PPP singularly is indebted to Pakistan to steer it from its present malaise.


It has all the support it needs from all political quarters. Further to that the so-called establishment, numbed due to the pressure from the masses, is predisposed towards keeping hands off distance from politics: president's flabbergasting destabilisation claims notwithstanding. It has four parties coalition plus an opposition that so far, despite millions of temptations from vested quarters to destabilise the government, has acted gingerly on political issues so that it never becomes a party responsible in bringing down the PPP lead government: quite a lucky shot for the government even if it is taken on face value; still a deeper readings of the opposition's stance does not make it so malignant for politics.


Time and again Nawaz Sharief has said in unequivocal terms that PML (N) will fight against all forces that will destabilise the present political dispensation. But there have always been guarded observations along with such assurances from him hinting at the darker side of Pakistan politics: PPP's self-destructing behaviour.


The newest threat to the system is not from the opposition; it is from the coalition partner. The sudden flare up of accusations and counter accusations in Karachi and MQM's total no-confidence in the ability of the provincial government to maintain law and order in Karachi and MQM's calling upon the army and the rangers to take over Karachi is not something that should be taken lightly.


Blood has been spilling in Karachi since Ashura day. The focus of blood letting has shifted to Lyari and the vested interests are giving it political twist. Quite visible is the conspiracy to pit the MQM against the PPP to destabilise the economic hub of Pakistan. At the time of economic crisis that has no precedence in country's chequered economic history this is not unlike striking at the very heart of Pakistan. An act of violence tantamount to an act of sedition and requires matching response from state machinery. Is the response appropriate, timely and judicious?

 

Rehman Malik has faced severe criticism from his colleagues in the party such as Nawab Yousuf Talpur, Abdul Qadir Patel and Sher Mohammad Baloch. They have condemned the police and Rangers operation in Lyari. They also walked out of the house in protest against alleged police brutalities in Lyari and for not taking them into confidence over talks held by him with the MQM. Nawab Talpur is concerned that due to the operation the PPP might be losing grounds in Lyari which was once its stronghold. What relation does the PPP have with the gangsters of Lyari who according to Rehman Malik are responsible for the violence in the city? The leadership of the PPP at the highest level needs to take a principled stand that whoever breaks the law of the land, disrespects human life, damages public and private property, creates a law and order situation, indulges in corruption and similar other social evils, he/she much be brought to book impartially.


However, the person who is responsible for maintaining the law and order at provincial level in Sindh has questionable credentials as regards the solidarity, integrity and stability of the country. Seditious thoughts and claims are not political issues, they are national concerns.


President Zardari, sometimes, is done more disservice by his own friends and comrades than his enemies. Seditious and nonsensical speech of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza at Rattodero on the occasion of second death anniversary of Benazir Bhutto speaks volumes about the dearth of wisdom he has. What's intriguing is the amount of confidence Mr Zardari and the PPP still undeservedly repose in him. Dr. Mirza by speaking against the integrity of the country has lost the confidence of the nation. It is, therefore, required of the President to take cognizance of his unpardonable seditious act. In all circumstances, howsoever tragic they may be, Pakistan requires of its ministers to be more loyal to the country than to any political dynasty. We all are dispensable for Pakistan and our country remains indispensable to us.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AMERICA ON THE ROAD TO PERDITION

MOHAMMAD JAMIL


For quite some time, Americans have been earning less and spending more, producing less and consuming more, with the result that both America and Americans have become technically bankrupt. In view of recession coupled with fiscal crisis, the entire balance of global economic power could shift, since economic strength is basic to remain predominantly military power. It is perhaps in this backdrop that two prominent authors Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt wrote an article under the caption 'A fight against the odds' published in Asia Time Online.

The concluding sentence of the article reads: "The fact is: Al Qaeda is not an apocalyptic threat. Its partisans can cause damage, but only Americans can bring down this country". They have given details of America's military might - its troops, reserves and intelligence personnel, well trained special operations and its arsenal comprising tanks, planes, missiles, aircraft carriers and a stock of nukes. They reckon that Al Qaeda's 'shock troops' add up to perhaps 2100 fighters who have access to rocket-propelled grenades, small arms of various sorts, the materials for making deadly roadside bombs, car bombs, and of course 'underwear bombs'. The authors ridicule America's military might in these words: "After the better part of a decade of conflict, the US has spent trillions of taxpayer dollars on bullets and bombs, soldiers and drones. It has waged wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have yet to end; launched strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia; dispatched special ops troops to those nations and others, like the Philippines, and built or expanded hundreds of new bases all over the world. Yet Osama bin Laden remains at large and Al Qaeda continues to target and kill Americans". Al Qaeda was formed when the Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden's demand was that American forces should withdraw its forces from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East., and he was critical of America for giving unqualified support to Israel. Anyhow, he was the man who was eulogized by the US and the West, and through western media he was presented as a symbol who left his luxurious life for the same of jihad. In other words, he was America's find, and Pakistan should not be blamed for his actions.


It is an irrefragable fact that former President George W Bush had brought America on the verge of economic collapse by overstretching US army and invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. People had hoped that with the change of guard in America, there would be reversal of the US policies. During the course of his election campaign, Barack Obama had emphasized the need for a regional approach to resolve the Afghanistan problem and signaled his resolve to forge a closer American cooperation with Pakistan with a view to dealing with the problem of violent extremism and terrorism. He had observed that to be successful in war on terror, Kashmir issue needs to be resolved, which was reflective of Obama's pragmatism and realization that confrontation between India and Pakistan could make Afghanistan a lost cause. Anyhow, one should not expect a major shift in the US policy, and if at all there were one it will be of nuances. Obama is withdrawing forces from Iraq, but he is sending more troops to Afghanistan, with the result there will be no reduction in military expenditure.


America has indeed a great past; its traditions of freedom, democracy, human rights and human values date back to American founding fathers when they fought war of independence. It is, however, unfortunate that most successors negated the principles upheld by them. In the past, the US had resorted to unilateral use of force ostensibly to promote democracy in Haiti, Nicaragua and in Latin America. It had intervened forcibly to change regimes, restore order and preach democracy. However, on becoming President in 1933, Franklin D Roosevelt abandoned the policy pursued by his predecessor President Woodrow Wilson. He treated his neighbours with respect, acknowledged past American blunders, and saw that constitutions alone did not guarantee a democratic outcome. It is true that President has to look after the global interests of the super power but it was expected that he would not be as ruthless as his predecessor was. It has yet to be seen whether President Obama can steer the crisis by changing the course or he will also go down in the history as a war president.


It should be remembered that America is a super power, and despite Obama's pronouncements about dramatic change in the policy, one should not have expected a major or fundamental change in the US policy because of the influence the neocons and Jews have in the US Congress. But America is an imperialist power too. Former President Nixon had confessed in his book 'The Real War': "It is naïve to say that another world war may take place to defend the free world, when in fact the war is actually going on….If the US were to abandon its allies or strategic military areas around the world, or those areas which are rich in mineral resources or lose control over the flow of oil and sea-routes, then the free world not only have lost the war, but its very existence would be at stake". To achieve the US objectives, various US administrations had hatched conspiracies against popular leaders of other countries when they did not fall in line. The US was reportedly responsible for assassination of Lumumba and removal of President Soekarno.


The list of its interferences, subversions, controls and overthrowing of Third World governments was too long to be elaborated. Most American leaders have never hidden their motives that they want to dominate the world and control its resources. Equally important is their objective to strengthen Israel and to make it more powerful than all the Arab countries put together. President Barack Obama had also promised to resolve Israeli-Palestinian issue. Though Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to resolve the issue but she has caved in Jews and Israeli pressure, and now she says that Israel can keep some of the Jewish settlements. This means that President Obama has not been able to control Jewish lobby. He has to realize that one of the fundamental reasons that people throughout the world hate America is because of the US' unqualified support to Israel. Anyhow, Obama has to prove that he can bolster confidence of the shaken world, as on completion of his first year in presidency, his popularity has started waning. He should try to fulfill his promises vis-à-vis Kashmir and Palestine to bring lasting peace in the world. If he succeeds only then he could justify the Nobel Prize for peace prematurely awarded to him.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

INDIAN DECEPTION AGAINST CHINA

AFSHAIN AFZAL


In the mist of Indo-China tension over issue of Auranchal Pradesh, one finds conflicting statement from the Indian side. The tall claims by the Indian military, especially Indian Chief of Army Staff, General have vanished as water bubbles after Chinese show of force and leakage in Indian joint strategy against China. After the Indian recent maneuvers on Indo-China border, China did not waste time and exhibited its air defense capabilities by successful test firing a ground-based mid-range missile interception system on January 11, 2010. The Chinese move aims to realize New Delhi that any hostile move by firing US-Israeli missiles on Beijing would be neutralized and PLA would complete rest of the task.


It is pertinent to mention here that few weeks back, an Indian newspaper quoted Indian Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor that Indian Army was ready to face Pakistan and China at the same time. It said that the Indian Army was now revising its five-year-old doctrine to effectively meet the challenges of war with China and Pakistan, deal with asymmetric and fourth-generation warfare, enhance strategic reach and joint operations with IAF and Navy. The report added that under Lieutenant General AS Lamba, General Officer Commanding ib Chief Army Training Command, Simla, work on the new war doctrine - to reflect the reconfiguration of threat perceptions and security challenges - is already under way under the aegis Army Training Command. In fact the newspaper failed to mention about the Indian Army's activities going on in other commands including Andaman and Nicobar Command.


In another development, reacting on article titled 'Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh and regional peace,' spokesperson for Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) Force reportedly said "Director General of ITBP has not discussed the old or new BOPs, or the movement of ITBP patrols with any member of the media." The facts remains, irrespective of the fact that who leaked the information regarding Indian strategic planning against China, the figures mentioned in the report are correct and rightly attributed to the Director General ITBP. There is no doubt that ITBP planned to undertake Short Range Patrols (SRP). In the same regard, ITBP Director-General Vikram Srivastava pointed out that India has around 140 BOPs on 3,500-km-long border with China and the new 50 BOPs would increase vigilance. It is very difficult for India at this critical juncture to deny its leaked strategy in the light of ground realities. In waves of instigating claims by Indian high officials before journalists and foreign advisors as well as on ground reality, ITBP Director-General Vikram Srivastava and other senior Indian Army officer openly discussed certain startling revelations about Indian war preparedness against China. Claiming exemplary collaboration between Indio-Israeli-US troika, Vikram Srivastava, at various occasions, disclosed details about Indian military build-up against China. Quite recently, there was restructuring of ITBP in which beside procurement of hi-tech modern weaponry, digital surveillance equipments and specialized vehicles from countries like US, Israel, Italy and UK, ITBP commandos' battalions were posted to vigil the border. Today most of the ITBP posts are in possession of digital satellite phone terminals and enemy's monitoring equipments. If one recall, a few days ahead of Indo-US joint exercise "Yudh Abhyas" in October 2009, Srivastava indicated about the Indian plans including new-raising of 20 additional ITBP battalions. After General Deepak Kapoor's over ambitious claims against China and Pakistan, these things become talk of the town among Indian senior officer and became an open secret.


There is no doubt that India faces a greater threat from China than Pakistan, it is not because New Delhi actually is blind about Beijing's combat capabilities but New Delhi is worried about Chinese future intensions. Although Chief of Indian Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major in an interview to Hindustan Times while addressing China as a "greater threat" said "We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is" but today India is not so blind about Chinese capabilities. In order to counter this threat, India is trying to maintain closer relations with the US and other western states, presuming that these countries would help India against China and Pakistan. After the joint Indo-US exercises in October 2009, codenamed 'Yudh Abhyas' in Indian city of Babina in Jhansi district of Uttar Pradesh in Southern Army Command and another exercise 'Cope India-09' which was carried out between Air Forces of US and India at Agra, New started flexing her muscles on the behest of US to impress upon China, Pakistan and other adversaries. India is forgetting that unless it has its own stamina to hold breath it can't rely on others for such a serious business like instigating threats, which may lead to open hostilities.


If we carefully examine the existing situation, we can reach to the conclusion that it is foreign interference and Indian Intelligence agencies are responsible for the pushing New Delhi to war like situation with its neighbours. For instance, Indian and foreign Intelligence agencies had been feeding Indian authorities that top United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) commander Paresh Baruah was hiding in Bangladesh but all of a sudden when India and Bangladesh concluded security treaties this week, intelligence agencies started claiming that Paresh Baruah moved to China about a month back. Interestingly, Intelligence agencies were also able to intercept Baruah's mobile phone as well as satellite phone which confirmed conversations were carried out from China. The Police authorities in Assam have also claimed that Paresh Baruah, commander of ULFA, might have shifted his location to Yunan province of China from Bangladesh. Police also blames Paresh Baruah for not only procuring arms from Chinese manufacturers for ULFA but is also selling them to National Democratic Front of Boroland, National Libertaion Front of Tripura, All Tripura Tiger Force and Maoists.


There is no doubt that, the additional new 50 BOPs all along the Chinese border will allow ITBP troops would undertake SRP that would reduce the inter-BOP distance but the new structuring on the Indian side might flame te already tense situation. The facts and figure pinpoints India's weaknesses like lack of mobility and reaction capability in Western Sector, Middle Sector and Sub Sector North. Despite the fact that India has made a lot of improvement by constructing infrastructures and deployments in Western, Middle, Sub Sector North and Southern sub Sector, which is still in progress, Chinese still have edge over the Indian in all these areas due to better communication, infrastructure and road/railways network. It is pertinent to mention here that few days back Commissioner Leh A.K. Sahu in an official meeting, also attended by senior Indian Army officers, disclosed "..it is clear and be accepted that we are withdrawing from LAC and our area has shrunk over a period of time… We have lost substantial amount of land in 20-25 years." Commissioner Sahu claimed that he was briefed about this revelation by officer serving under Headquarters 4 Corps, Leh. Ironically, Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony issued a statement on January 13, 2010 that "There is no change in the Line of Actual Control," and "There is only a difference in perception." India withdrawal from previous offensive statements has exposed New Delhi's castles in the air that Indian Army was ready to face Pakistan and China at the same time. Although it is embarrassing for New Delhi to bend at this time when it has full support of US, UK and Israel but it is a wise step and in the Indian interest to resolve issues through dialogue, otherwise escalations may lead to full fledge war.


Whatever the case may be, India has apparently stopped issuing instigating statements against China. It would have been even better if additional deployments of Indian troops, committed in erecting structures, are withdrawn from Chinese border. Although Major General K.S. Sethi General Officer Commanding 101 Area, Shillong has denied that there is any fresh deployment but how can Indian Army justify mass movement of troops noticed since October 2009. One wonders that Indian airmaintenace load has also doubled during last few months despite the fact that winter vacation of the posts should have been occurred. On the other hand, massive construction of roads and bridges in Western Sector, Middle Sector and Sub Sector North have actually taken place. Lieutenant General PC Bhardwaj, the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of Northern Command has denied either additional deployment or Indian concern over Chinese activities across LAC. If we recall, India and China held the first joint counter-terrorism exercise, named 'Hand-in-Hand,' in December 2007 in Kunming province of China. This was followed by the second joint exercise at the Belgaum Commando School in Karnataka in December 2008. Both the countries have so far not confirmed about their third joint exercise. However, due to recent Chinese incursions and claim over Arnuchal Pradesh, the exercise in year 2010 seems to be in doldrums. India needs to take a wise step in confidence building measures with China and announce timetable for the Indo-China joint exercise, in order to diffuse the tension. The catch words are that New Delhi needs to be watchful of western conspiracies to engage India and China in open hostilities for own vested interests in the region.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

TO HEAL HAITI, LOOK TO HISTORY, NOT NATURE

MARK DANNER


Haiti is everybody's cherished tragedy. Long before the great earthquake struck the country like a vengeful god, the outside world, and Americans especially, described, defined, marked Haiti most of all by its suffering. Epithets of misery clatter after its name like a ball and chain: Poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. One of the poorest on earth. For decades Haiti's formidable immiseration has made it among outsiders an object of fascination, wonder and awe. Sometimes the pity that is attached to the land — and we see this increasingly in the news coverage this past week — attains a tone almost sacred, as if Haiti has taken its place as a kind of sacrificial victim among nations, nailed in its bloody suffering to the cross of unending destitution.


And yet there is nothing mystical in Haiti's pain, no inescapable curse that haunts the land. From independence and before, Haiti's harms have been caused by men, not demons. Act of nature that it was, the earthquake last week was able to kill so many because of the corruption and weakness of the Haitian state, a state built for predation and plunder. Recovery can come only with vital, even heroic, outside help; but such help, no matter how inspiring the generosity it embodies, will do little to restore Haiti unless it addresses, as countless prior interventions built on transports of sympathy have not, the man-made causes that lie beneath the Haitian malady.

In 1804 the free Republic of Haiti was declared in almost unimaginable triumph: hard to exaggerate the glory of that birth. Hundreds of thousands of enslaved Africans had labored to make Saint-Domingue, as Haiti was then known, the richest colony on earth, a vastly productive slave-powered factory producing tons upon tons of sugar cane, the 18th-century's great cash crop. For pre-Revolutionary France, Haiti was an inexhaustible cash cow, floating much of its economy. Generation after generation, the second sons of the great French families took ship for Saint-Domingue to preside over the sugar plantations, enjoy the favors of enslaved African women and make their fortunes.Even by the standards of the day, conditions in Saint-Domingue's cane fields were grisly and brutal; slaves died young, and in droves; they had few children. As exports of sugar and coffee boomed, imports of fresh Africans boomed with them. So by the time the slaves launched their great revolt in 1791, most of those half-million blacks had been born in Africa, spoke African languages, worshipped African gods. In an immensely complex decade-long conflict, these African slave-soldiers, commanded by legendary leaders like Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines, defeated three Western armies, including the unstoppable superpower of the day, Napoleonic France. In an increasingly savage war — "Burn houses! Cut off heads!" was the slogan of Dessalines — the slaves murdered their white masters, or drove them from the land.


On Jan. 1, 1804, when Dessalines created the Haitian flag by tearing the white middle from the French tricolor, he achieved what even Spartacus could not: he had led to triumph the only successful slave revolt in history. Haiti became the world's first independent black republic and the second independent nation in the Western Hemisphere. Alas, the first such republic, the United States, despite its revolutionary creed that "all men are created equal," looked upon these self-freed men with shock, contempt and fear. Indeed, to all the great Western trading powers of the day — much of whose wealth was built on the labor of enslaved Africans — Haiti stood as a frightful example of freedom carried too far. American slaveholders desperately feared that Haiti's fires of revolt would overleap those few hundred miles of sea and inflame their own human chattel.


For this reason, the United States refused for nearly six decades even to recognize Haiti. (Abraham Lincoln finally did so in 1862.) Along with the great colonial powers, America instead rewarded Haiti's triumphant slaves with a suffocating trade embargo — and a demand that in exchange for peace the fledgling country pay enormous reparations to its former colonial overseer. Having won their freedom by force of arms, Haiti's former slaves would be made to purchase it with treasure.—The New York Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

BISWA IJTEMA

 

The three-day Bishwa Ijtema (world congregation of Muslims) which began on Friday is expected to be a huge assembly of four million devotees. Held around this time each year on the bank of the River Turag in Tongi, this second largest religious congregation of the Muslims is predominantly a Tablig Jamaat affair although all members of the Muslim Ummah are equally welcome to listen to the religious discussions and participate in the prayers. This goes well with the outlook of the Tablig as it is more inclusive rather than exclusive in its religious concept and philosophy. Such a fame has this Ijtema earned that devotees from around the world in their thousands assemble here each year to participate in the congregation. This year is no exception and reportedly 2,500 foreign delegates from as many as 99 countries are attending it.


As a host Bangladesh has every reason to take pride in such an event. Here is a country that is known for religious tolerance and co-existence. People by nature are soft in heart and share a type of inherent and common spiritualism. It is this sense of piety which draws tens and thousands of devotees to attend the congregation and listen to the religious scholars of different countries explaining the basics of the Qur'an and Sunnah. This they perceive with profound attention and later go out in groups to preach to their brethren across the continents.
It is good that the intolerable cold wave has relented right at the time the devotees have started arriving at the congregation site. The insufferable element will not cause them as much trouble as it would have done a few days ago. Beefed up security complemented by Nature's unexpected grace will help facilitate the atmosphere of the august assembly of the devotees to seek divine blessing of Allah Almighty. May the universal brotherhood, peace and welfare of mankind for which the devotees pray during the last rite of Akheri Munajat be the order of the world which is divided on too many lines. 

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

GAS RATIONING

 

So far the Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company's performance in the supply and distribution of gas is not satisfactory, due mainly to resource constraints. But as gas is one of the most essential services, the problem of resource limitations suggests there will be a serious gas crisis from 2011. Even at current demand, if the country is to achieve a GDP growth rate of more than 7 per cent, the country needs fresh supply of 16 trillion cubic feet (tcf) gas till 2025.


Now Bangladesh Oil Gas and Mineral Corporation (Petrobangla) has found an answer to the problem of gas shortage - a rationing system for industrial areas under Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company. The gas rationing system will come into effect from January 27 and, for this purpose Dhaka city, Narayanganj, Savar, Gazipur, Manikganj, Tangail and Mymensingh have been divided into seven zones for the rationing of gas. This means the supply of gas to industries in each of these areas will remain suspended one day a week, which, according to the Petrobangla chairman, means a saving of 30 to 40 million cubic feet (mmcf) gas every day. This will, moreover, help reduce the gas crisis for domestic and industrial use.


BGMEA president Abdus Salam Murshedi told journalists the business bodies would hail the move if the gas rationing system goes on well. He said they had called on Petrobangla to ensure uninterrupted gas supply for the garments sector on a priority basis and added if two or three fertiliser factories remained closed, around 200 mmcf gas could be saved every day which would help resolve the existing gas crisis. But if fertiliser factories were shut down, they would need three days to start up again and also warrant its import at a much higher cost.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

BOB'S BANTER

VALENTINE'S DAY COMIN' UP..!

 

"Sir!" said a junior member of a goonda political party to his leader, "In three weeks time, Valentine's Day coming up!"


"So what do you want me to do? Give you a free holiday in Mauritius with your girl friend? Get you a girl if ou don't have one? Or allow you to abduct some girl you have been following from the railway station? What do you want?"


"Sir!" said the junior member of the goonda political party, "Valentine's Day is fast approaching!"


"Thank you for reminding me!" roared the leader of the political party, "Have you been sent by my missus to tell me to take her out? For a two nights three days cruise? To buy some new diamond ring she has taken a fancy for? What do you want?"


"Sir!" said the junior member of the political party his body trembling with anticipation, "Valentine's Day is fast approaching!"
"You want a girl?"


"No sir!"


"My missus want diamond?"


"No sir!"


"Your missus want gold?"


"No sir!"


"You want to buy card?"


"No sir!"


"Then what do you want?"


"Sir," said the junior member of the goonda political party, "Valentine's Day is fast approaching, and…"


"And what?"


"We are not ready!"


"Ready with what? Diamond ring? Gold necklace? Sea cruise? Mauritius holiday?"


"No sir!"


"Then what do you want dammit! What do you want?"

"To prepare sir!"


"Prepare what? Gifts? Girls? Holiday?"


"Prepare to fist! Thrash! Stone! Attack! Riot! Burn!"


"Arrey wah! That day you are talking about?"


"Yes sir!"


"Why didn't you say so?"


"I am telling you sir! But you want to give diamond to your wife, you want to give me girl friend, you want holiday with missus!"


"Prepare for Valentine Day!" shouted the chief of the goonda party to his men, "Fist those who walk with hand on wife!


Any boy with girlfriend, use the knife,Burn the cards and stone the shops!


Don't worry I will bribe the cops!


Prepare to celebrate Valentine's Day,
Like every year, in our goonda way..!"


bobsbanter@gmail.com   

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THE INDEPENDENT

WORLD POLITICS 2010

CRYSTAL BALL 1

FORREST COOKSON

 

Politics will be rather boring compared to economics for the year 2010. The year 2010 will not bring to the surface the major fault lines that run through the world political systems. To give some order to this we will take a rapid tour of the ten countries with the largest populations excluding Bangladesh, although except for Japan and the USA these are poor countries which have tremendous problems arising from their population size. It will be a year of comparative political calm. While there is plenty of tension building up, it does not appear that any of the world's many crisis points will explode in 2010. However, much will depend on the world economy. In the second of these Crystal Ball articles looking into the future of world economy a very optimistic view is taken; the return of expanding economies will reduce political tensions and introduce a much more optimistic vision of the future. Modern communications are such that the mood swings are intense and frequent, but reality changes slowly. For each of the ten countries the population is given and the per capita GDP corrected for price difference (PPP). The notes are very brief and attempt to pick out main developments.
China: [1,340 million; $6,000 per capita] China will continue to increase its economic and political influence in the contemporary world appropriate for the nation with the world's largest population. This will become more difficult as dealing with the United States will become more contentious in the area of economic policy. Growing tensions over the trade and exchange rates are discussed in the second Crystal Ball on the world economy. These factors will influence the tone of the relationship, but unless there is a change in heart of the Obama administration these trade disagreements will not rise to the level of serious conflict. However as discussed in the second Crystal Ball we are building towards a major conflict over the trade between the two countries.


On the political level China has no interest in reducing the tensions over Iran and Burma and is determined to keep considerable pressure on India. The Maoist movements in India will grow in size and intensity; the rebellions in North-east India and Kashmir will continue. The game of nations is being played and China will pursue how it perceives its own interests. China has no intention of acting to assist the United States dreams such as reducing Iran's nuclear programme or bringing democracy to Burma. China will protect these regimes the best it is able. One area of interest is Sudan where China has important objectives of obtaining access to crude oil on a long-term basis. With a high probability that the truce between North and South Sudan will fall apart, returning that poor nation to low grade civil war, the Chinese willingness to arm the north will gain them continuing access to oil resources. On the other hand, there is strong support for southern Sudan in the United States [comprising black, Christian people] and great anger at the Government of the north for the abuses at Dafur. This is likely to lead to a lot of words spoken and the north is likely to try to use military force to keep the two parts of the nation together. However, China has no interest in increasing the level of violence and is content to encourage third parties to act in ways that are supportive of Chinese objectives. So, there will be inconclusive dancing about issues where the Chinese Government provides support to governments in Africa and Asia with whom the US Government has serious disputes. This is all bound up with pride and exaggerated importance by both China and the USA.


On the other hand, internal problems in China are likely to become more difficult. While great progress has been made in the economy and hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, the structure of the Chinese economy cannot be sustained. The contradictions continue to grow and the forces of change build, but do not expect any explosion in China in 2010. The treatment of minorities will continue to be abusive and increase internal dissent. The Chinese cannot culturally understand the coexistence of Tibetans and Uighers; it is obvious that you are better off becoming a Han Chinese so anyone with the opportunity who refuses must be deluded. Projects to cultivate and encourage democracy will continue to be put forth by Chinese intellectuals but will go nowhere. There is no chance whatsoever that the Chinese communist party is going to surrender their control over the society. The United States and NGOs will continue to demand that the Chinese Government respect human rights. The Chinese Government will pay no attention whatsoever, but it will annoy and worry them. While the Chinese government will do all that it can to frustrate some of the USA's ideas about Iran, Sudan, N. Korea etc. the USA will do all that it can to stir up discontent over the restrictions on freedom and denial of human rights that characterise China. Hence 2010 for China politically will be more of the same. Occasional small uprising or political incidents will pepper the months but nothing of sufficient importance to threaten the regime.


India: [1,180 million; $2,800 per capita] India's frantic search for self-confidence and recognition will continue. The position of the Congress party is clearly getting stronger and should continue its dominance of politics. The unusual combination in the Prime Minister of high intelligence, deep experience of managing the economy, toughness, and a practical morality are giving India remarkable and unusual national leadership. There is no other head of government on this planet that combines these attributes. The first priority is keeping up the economic growth rate; second is the build-up of the Indian military establishment; the third is trying to shift the income distribution to provide a minimum level of economic welfare. He will do well with the first two but not so well with the third. China and India will continue to snarl at each other. Verbal confrontations will continue indirectly through think tanks and university professors. China of course has no intention of going to war with India.


India's internal problems arise from the growing fear of Islam and the rising Maoist movement. The clamour over Muslims is always a good political subject and the extremists will exploit such ideas. But the Congress leadership is expansive and inclusive and will prevail over the wilder views that are being put about. Hindu nationalism will be on the backseat this year. The Maoists will grow in numbers and ability to carry out small attacks in rural areas; this will make poverty reduction more difficult in exactly those areas where it is most important. The growing wealth, education achievements, and successful democracy are finally building real self-confidence among the Indian middle class. The rapid mutual binding between the United States and India will continue. 


USA: [309 million; $47,400 per capita] The USA will be busy with terrorism, medical care and the improving economic situation. We will see President Obama's approval rating increase; the mean-spirited attacks by Republicans have done their worst. The low point will be in February 2010, but thereafter the economic improvements will become more evident and Obama will get credit for the changes. We can expect that there will be some kind of Health Care legislation that finally passes the Congress. The rapid recovery from the recession will renew American self confidence. The Congress will also pass legislation establishing limits on carbon emissions. I am very optimistic about the willingness of the Congress to take such a step as the US Supreme Court has taken the position that the Environmental Protection Agency has the legal authority to regulate the greenhouse gases within existing laws; this changes everything, giving the President the power to limit emissions without a law being passed. Consequently the United States will be able to act on emissions even if the Congress refuses to pass legislation or enter into an international treaty. It is most likely that a "cap and trade" system will be started leading to the prospect over the next few years of integration of the different markets for carbon permits. These two actions will stand as major achievement for Obama and both will contribute to real improvements in the lives of American citizens. The implications of these two major legislative outcomes are enormous but remain mysterious. Only time will tell what change will be brought about in American society. 


With the ending of the recession we will see rapid growth of political support for the President and the Democrats will win the election in November 2010 maintaining control of the Congress. This will pave the way for far reaching changes in American life in education, taxation, gun control, and infrastructure.  Of course if my economic forecast is wrong then things would be quite different. 

President Obama will confront truly serious difficulties in the Middle East. These problems cannot be solved. The Palestine-Israeli confrontation will make no progress. The Israeli government will continue to expand the settlements and increase its control over the West Bank; Obama has simply stopped fighting on this. The siege of Gaza will continue. The treatment of the Palestinians will continue to enrage Muslims everywhere. The Iraq Government will manage to have elections that will be acceptable. However, conflict with the Kurds will grow. The United States army will hang out in the desert of Iraq, minding its own business and slowly decreasing in size. Civil war may be coming in Iraq, but not yet. There will be more difficulty with the Kurds who face mortal enemies in the Turks, the Iranians and the Arab Iraqis. This is lining up for a major confrontation; 2010 will feature arms build up, building fortifications and preparing for the battles to come.


Obama will face serious difficulties in his public posture towards Iran. Here I think we will see something interesting. The pressure on Iran over nuclear weapons will continue as words only, without teeth. There will be no US military actions against Iran. Of course Iran will go right ahead preparing to construct nuclear weapons. The movements against the Iranian government will gain strength and receive limited support from the USA. There will be changes in the Iranian Government but not in its political structure; by the end of the year the talk may be calmer even if the actions are unchanged. One feels a certain pity for the President of the United States having to deal with this mess.  No resolution is possible. It is a thankless task to have to spend time on this foolishness. I am always surprised that the USA does not just walk away from the confusion. It is much better to let everyone in the Middle East conduct their petty quarrels, pray that there is some progress in building successful societies, but otherwise cultivate our own garden.


Obama will make no real progress in Afghanistan. Lots of people will die. We will sing the praise of the development efforts, and declare improvements in the narcotics situation. Nevertheless the Taliban will grow in strength. Pakistan's security situation will deteriorate sharply along the borders with Afghanistan.  Most important Osama bin Laden will die of kidney failure; his organization will fall apart and the charismatic figure at the centre of the jihadist movement will be no more. It will start the slow decline of terrorism. Hopefully Obama will take the occasion to get the US military out of Afghanistan. I think he will. That will end the Afghanistan adventure. In my opinion Obama is a lucky man and this is how he will escape from all of the confusion and difficulty that he faces.


Indonesia: [237 million; $4,000 per capita] With the fourth largest population Indonesia is a country quietly making great progress in building a democratic society. The Government should continue to do well politically in 2010 and will succeed with successful operations against the terrorist organisations. Most important for Indonesia is the build-up of ASEAN as an economic organisation. Great progress has been made both political and economic, consequently this is having a strong influence on development. These ASEAN developments will continue to have a strong impact on the business world which finds itself drawn more and more into international business relationships with other times whose home is within ASEAN. A quiet successful year will be the reward.


Brazil: [192 million; $10,500 per capita] The giant of South America and a rapidly growing economy rich in natural resources benefited from excellent political leadership. In 2010 the change in political leadership raises a lot of uncertainties. Lula has shown that it is possible to have leftist leadership and maintain a sound economy. Most of Brazil's development took place under military regimes so this is a most welcome change; can it continue?


Pakistan: [168 million; $2,600 per capita] Only a few words about Pakistan. With one seventh of the population of India and almost the same per capita income Pakistan is at a clear disadvantage with its giant rival. But it does not seem to want peace. This country will continue to go nowhere with weak economic growth and the elite whose main concern now is getting their houses in London or Los Angeles ready. India's more rapid growth is widening the gap. Unless Pakistan shifts its position the state is in a countdown to dissolution. The only chance to hold the society together is for the military to take over, make peace with India, and concentrate on the economy; that however, is impossible given the present agreements with the United States. If the military were to take over then Obama would grab the Pakistani nuclear weapons, blow up their facilities and go away. Where is Pakistan then? Of course Pakistan knows full well the marriage with the USA cannot end well, so the military will stay in the barracks while every thing goes down hill. It is hard to see any outcome except some kind of federalism. A rough year for Pakistan.


Nigeria: [154 million; $2,200 per capita] The giant of Africa a very large, poor population, struggling to right their economy after a disastrous twenty years. Their economy will improve this year with the rise of oil prices and this will provide some room in the political i.e. sharing that might reduce tensions.


Russia: [142 million; $15,900 per capita] Another large country with a larger output per capita second only to Japan in this group; the Russian government is focused on trying to recover their importance in the world before the break up of the Soviet Union. This is a hopeless task, but it mesmerises the Russian Government to the detriment of their political and economic development. Higher oil prices will empower Russia further in 2010 and lead them to take a more robust stand against the United States. Unfortunately the underlying trend of a shrinking population, growing increasingly unhealthy from alcohol consumption and poor nutrition are not being addressed in a serious way. There is no reason to expect any change this year.


Japan: [128 million; $34,100 per capita] Japan is in the process of learning to live with a non Liberal Democratic government. The economic situation will continue to dominate the political situation. Underneath the economic questions is the puzzle never solved for Japan. Should Japan have its own independent military force or should it shelter under the wing of the Untied States? The Japanese can never resolve this question and the puzzle will become more public in 2010. This is a hard question since if you do not want a major military establishment you need to be protected by the USA; if you want to be independent of the USA you need a large military establishment. Most Japanese want to be out from under the wing of the USA but they do not want a large military establishment. The issues become even more acute as China develops. In 2010 the new Government will confront this issue but there will be no resolution.


Mexico: [108 million; $14,500 per capita] A nation growing economically with expanding trade with the USA. Mexico continues to fight an internal battle over the control of drugs entering the United States. The underlying problems of the society seem never to get addressed despite the rapid growth of the economy.  Drug wars will continue unabated while Mexico will try to play middleman between the free market views of the United States and rising leftist movement through Latin America. Torn between its own identify and the power of its neighbour to the north, Mexico will have a violent year with no clear direction to the urgent need to deal with pervasive poverty.


These ten large countries have more than 50% of the world's population. All except the United States and Japan are poor and face major internal stress. Of course nothing gets resolved but few of these large countries seem to be on a path to a prosperous, democratic system.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT