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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

EDITORIAL 07.04.10

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Editorial

month april 07, edition 000475, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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THE PIONEER

  1. SWEAR TERRIBLE VENGEANCE
  2. SUBSERVIENCE WON'T DO
  3. NOTHING RISKED, NOTHING GAINED - GAUTAM MUKHERJEE
  4. CHINA'S GROWTH MAY GO AWRY - ASHWANI MAHAJAN
  5. THIS IS WAR

MAIL TODAY

  1. TRAIN AND EQUIP PERSONNEL FOR EFFECTIVE RESPONSE
  2. THE DOUBLE- CROSS
  3. STRATOSPHERIC IN MUMBAI
  4. TOUGH ACTION WILL LEAD TO REFORM - BY ANANDA MAJUMDAR
  5. PATIALA PEG - VIKAS KAHOL
  6. KRISHNA PLAYS DOWN CHINA- INDIA RIVALRY AP - BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI
  7. WITH INPUTS FROM PTI - BY AKASH VASHISHTHA IN GREATER NOIDA
  8. RAISINA TATTLE

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. RAISING THE STAKES
  2. UP'S WARPED PRIORITIES
  3. RISING ABOVE THE REGION - MINHAZ MERCHANT
  4. 'A NURSED ACTOR CAN DO WONDERS'
  5. HUNGRY, KYA? - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. OUR TAKE - GET READY, IT'S WAR
  2. THE PUNDIT - CRICKET'S BIG MOOSE
  3. WELL DONE MR BENEGAL -  KUMKUM DASGUPTA
  4. UNCHOOSE THIS MAN - ASHOK MALIK
  5. WHERE THERE IS A WILL... - MANOJ KUMAR

INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. REVIEW THE HUNT
  2. TAKING LEAVE
  3. TIM'S TINY PLANS - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  4. TACTICAL TOLL - VIVEK DESHPANDE
  5. CHINESE TAKEAWAY - C. RAJA MOHAN
  6. WARFARE WITH WORDS
  7. INTACH HAS EARNED ITS POSITION - SKMISRA
  8. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. NO TIME FOR DIALOGUE
  2. SOARING SENSEX
  3. ARE INDIANS READY TO OWN EQUITY SHARES? - MAHESH VYAS
  4. LOSING THE OUTSOURCING ADVANTAGE - DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
  5. THE RIGHT FREQUENCY - ASHISH SINHA

THE HINDU

  1. SEVERE SETBACK
  2. EXCHANGE RATES IN A GLOBALISED WORLD
  3. INDIA AND IRAN'S AFPAK POLICY - ATUL ANEJA
  4. PANEL SEES MALE DOMINANCE BEHIND BANKING CRISIS  - HASAN SUROOR
  5. AMONG THE ELDERLY, THE WIRED WORLD IS TERROR FOR SOME, DELIGHT FOR OTHERS - SAM ALLIS
  6. NUMBER OF CHINESE BILLIONAIRES 'SECOND ONLY TO U.S.' - MICHAEL BRISTOW
  7. ISRAELI RIGHTS GROUPS VIEW THEMSELVES AS UNDER SIEGE - ISABEL KERSHNER

DNA

  1. COALITION DHARMA
  2. CONNECTING INDIANS
  3. TIME TO DUMP HISTORY - MADHU BHALLA
  4. CHINKS IN THE CHINESE LEADERSHIP'S ARMOUR - NICHOLAS D KRISTOF

THE TRIBUNE

  1. ELUSIVE CONSENSUS
  2. ILL-COOKED FOOD BILL
  3. SQUABBLING SONS
  4. TYRANNY OF ARROGANT MEN - BY B.G. VERGHESE
  5. WINSOME SMILE - BY VIVEK ATRAY
  6. IN JAIL WITHOUT TRIAL - BY MAHI PAL SINGH
  7. DEVELOPMENT BEYOND RESERVATIONS - BY MANJIT SINGH
  8. DELHI DURBAR

MUMBAI MIRROR

  1. INVISIBLE GATES AT THE GYMKHANA

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. US OPPORTUNITY FOR PHARMA
  2. ARE INDUSTRIAL ZONES A GOOD IDEA? - M K PANDHE
  3. VICE-PRESIDENT, CITU*
  4. THREE TEARS FOR PSUS - M J ANTONY
  5. REFORMS WITH ENTITLEMENT - A K BHATTACHARYA
  6. SHOULD RBI HIKE RATES FURTHER? - ABHEEK BARUA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. TIGER'S TALE
  2. LESS SMOKE & MIRRORS
  3. MAOISTS WANT FRENZY
  4. PAKISTAN HOPES AGAIN, CONSTITUTIONALLY
  5. PROMOTING FAMILY BUSINESSES - SUMANT SINHA
  6. SAVE YOUR DREAMS FROM SETBACKS - VITHALC NADKARNI
  7. INDIA INC WON'T FIND NORMS CUMBERSOME - HELP SMES ADOPT NEW ACCOUNTING RULES
  8. SESHAGIRI RAO, JT MD & GROUP CFO JSW GROUP
  9. 'I'LL GIVE INDIA 2 MORE BRANDS THAT ARE BIGGER THAN RANBAXY' - KHOMBA SINGH
  10. 'WE ARE NOT AGAINST FOREIGN REINSURERS BEING ALLOWED BRANCHES' - SANTOSH NAIR
  11. GSK TO INVEST RS 270 CR IN 3 YEARS: MCPHERSON - RATNA BHUSHAN

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. UNIFIED COMMAND MUST FIGHT NAXALS
  2. INDIA'S PROBLEMS - BY P.C. ALEXANDER
  3. AFTER WINTER, SEASON OF RENEWAL HAS COME - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. THE HARSH TRUTH ABOUT HEALTHCARE - BY PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE
  5. AFTER ANNA NICOLE, IS IT BECKHAM'S TURN? - BY ALEXANDER CHANCELLOR
  6. WHEN GOD SAID 'GOOD!' - BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

THE STATESMAN

  1. UNEXPECTED SHOCKS
  2. B-SCHOOL FEE HIKE
  3. A TIGER, YONDER SEE!
  4. RAJAPAKSE'S CROWNING GLORY - BY SAM RAJAPPA
  5. ETHNICITY AND NATIONALISM
  6. A SCHOOL FOR MANNERS? - KK KHULLAR
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SWEET SURRENDER
  2. MIND THE GAFFE
  3. NEIGHBOURLY CAUTION - ASHOK GANGULY
  4. A FAR BETTER OPTION - SARMILA BOSE

DECCAN HERALD

  1. HEED THE MESSAGE
  2. LEAVE THEM ALONE
  3. LOSING RELEVANCE - BY ALOK RAY
  4. FAREWELL TO NASA'S DAYS OF GLORY - BY SASWATO R DAS
  5. MIND OVER MATTER - BY PREETHI NAGARAJ

HAARETZ

  1. BARRIERS AT BEN-GURION
  2. ISRAEL CANNOT DECIDE HOW MUCH OF AN ASSET IT IS TO U.S. - BY AMIR OREN
  3. EGYPT'S PERCEIVED SUPERIORITY - BY GIDI GRINSTEIN
  4. THE CASE WE'RE FORBIDDEN TO REPORT ON - BY ZE'EV SEGAL
  5. PRIMATES IN DISTRESS - BY ORNA RINAT

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MR. OBAMA'S NUCLEAR POLICY
  2. ANOTHER MINING TRAGEDY
  3. THE LABOR DEPARTMENT WAKES UP
  4. WE WON'T BET ON OTB
  5. WHO'S UP FOR BUILDING BRIDGES? - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  6. THE CHURCH'S JUDAS MOMENT - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  7. HOW TO SAVE AFGHANISTAN FROM KARZAI - BY BING WEST
  8. MOURNING IN THE MOUNTAINS - BY DENISE GIARDINA

I.THE NEWS

  1. NUCLEAR FUTURES
  2. WITH CLIPPED WINGS
  3. JUDICIAL CHAOS
  4. BEWARE OF JIYALAS BEARING GIFTS - AMEER BHUTTO
  5. PAK-US TIES LOOKING UP - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  6. JUSTICE – THEN AND NOW - DR A Q KHAN
  7. THE INTOLERANCE SYNDROME - RAOOF HASAN
  8. HAIL TO THE CHIEFS - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. THE ENERGY CRISIS - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. PRESIDENT'S ADDRESS TO JOINT SESSION
  2. TERROR IN PESHAWAR: US SHOULD DO MORE
  3. PM MAY LOOK INTO AJK'S JUDICIAL CRISIS
  4. IN DEFENCE OF THE BACKBENCHER! - KHALID SALEEM
  5. TERRORISM NOT ONLY CHALLENGE PAKISTANIS FACE - DR MANZOOR H KHATANA
  6. PAK CHALLENGING EVENTS: 2008 TO EARLY 2010 - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  7. TALIBAN'S FIGHTING PROWESS IS WANING - SAEED QURESHI
  8. US DEFENDS LEGALITY OF KILLING WITH DRONES - KEITH JOHNSON

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. POISON IN FOOD CHAIN
  2. THE SUNDERBANS
  3. HOW BUDDHADEB PASSED THE BUCK..!
  4. HOW TO GET RID OF LOAD SHEDDING? - ABDUL MATIN
  5. CONTROLLING GOLD BUSINESS - PROF M SADEQ
  6. THE MYTH OF DONOR AGENCIES IN BANGLADESH - TARIK HASAN SHAHRIAR
  7. AIDS IS A PREVENTABLE DISEASE - RIPAN KUMAR BISWAS
  8. THE NIXON SHOCK DOCTRINE REVISITED - HAROLD JAMES

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. BRITAIN: NOT BROKEN BUT BROKE
  2. BIG OR LITTLE? THE DEBATE IS ON
  3. A MAN WITH TOO MUCH ENERGY FOR POLITICAL LIFE

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. MALCOLM OUT OF THE MIDDLE
  2. RED HERRINGS AND ISLAND FEVER
  3. TURNBULL'S EXIT SHRINKS LIBERAL TALENT POOL
  4. PUTTING LAW AND ORDER TO ORDER

THE GUARDIAN

  1. POLITICS: END OF A WASHED-UP PARLIAMENT
  2. POOR POSTURE

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. ECONOMIC CLOUDS CLEARING
  2. INVEST IN YOUNG SCIENTISTS
  3. HOW GOOGLE GOT TOO HOT FOR CHINA'S KITCHEN - BY TOM PLATE
  4. GETTING ALONG WITH CHINA - BY SHINJI FUKUKAWA
  5. THE RISING STARS CAN WALK PROUDLY WITH GIANTS - BY PATRICK MESSERLIN

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. TAX BOYCOTT CAMPAIGN: BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE
  2. AKHMAD RIZAL SHIDIQ
  3. LAW OF THE LAND, LAND OF THE LAWLESS - JULIA SURYAKUSUMA
  4. NO PLACE FOR PASSIVE REGIONALISM IN ASEAN - S. PUSHPANATHAN

CHINA DAILY

  1. NEIGHBORLY GIANTS
  2. LOCAL FINANCIAL SCARS
  3. NEEDLING THE AUTHORITIES
  4. THE MIRACLE IN SHANXI
  5. NUCLEAR ARMS STILL LOCKED AND LOADED - BY HU YUMIN (CHINA DAILY)
  6. CHINA-BASHING BASED ON BAD ECONOMICS - BY STEPHEN S. ROACH (CHINA DAILY)
  7. GM FOODS NEED A SIEVE - BY WANG ZHILI (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. WHAT AILS AMPARA?
  2. IS SRI LANKA FAST LOSING ITS TRUE FRIENDS AT THE UN ?
  3. DETECTING CRIME THROUGH FINANCIAL INTELLIGENCE - BY DAPPULA DE LIVERA (LLM LONDON)
  4. RENEWABLE ENERGY AND THE GLOBAL ENERGY CRISIS - BY LAKNA PARANAMANNA  

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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

SWEAR TERRIBLE VENGEANCE

EXTERMINATE MAOISTS TILL THE LAST CADRE


While there is every reason to feel outraged and be incandescent with rage over the massacre of 76 jawans of the CRPF by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, the incident should not give rise to misgivings about the need to wage war against Red terror till the last Left extremist is exterminated and the evil ideology that sanctions murder, rape, loot and arson in the name of fighting for the toiling masses is stamped out from this country. Tuesday's shocking attack by the Maoists follows a series of assaults on security forces and their camps in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Bihar. Given the sheer ferocity of the attack and the viciousness with which the jawans were killed after the vehicle in which they were travelling was blown up with a landmine, we can come to only one conclusion: The Maoists have declared all-out war on the Indian state and the Government can't afford to be seen as limp-wristed in dealing with them. A bullet-for-bullet policy helped put down Khalistani terrorism in Punjab; given the geographic spread of the Maoist menace, the sophisticated arms at the disposal of the Left extremists and the network of Red terror that covers nearly a third of India's districts across several States, that policy is unlikely to work — it must be amended to two bullets for a bullet. Maoists are cold-blooded killers who are untouched by either remorse or shame for their horrendous misdeeds. They are enemies of the state; they are enemies of the people; they are no friends of the poor and the downtrodden but cynical practitioners of Mao's most famous dictum: Power flows from the barrel of the gun. Their goal is to overthrow the Indian state and supplant our democracy with a Maoist dictatorship no different from the Pol Pot regime. They are social malcontents who revel at the sight of human flesh and gore. They are criminals undeserving of mercy and unfit for rehabilitation in a law-abiding society. Hence, they deserve to be put down pitilessly.


The Prime Minister, who has often eloquently described the Maoist menace as the gravest threat to internal security, should stop wringing his hands — expressions of concern and shock are of no consequence and, frankly meaningless. Instead of bothering about what Left-liberal 'intellectuals' will say and how jholawallahs and fraudulent 'human rights' activists will react, he should allow the Ministry of Home Affairs a free hand in smashing the Maoist insurgency. Those State Governments which plead helplessness or are reluctant to crack down on Red terror, or worse, insist on adopting a soft line of appeasement, should be told to either join the war or stand aside and not be a hindrance. This is not the time for legal niceties and constitutional propriety: We are not dealing with a commonplace law and order problem but a war against the state. Yes, there will be collateral damage and casualties, but we must steel our resolve and not be persuaded by emotional bunkum. No war has been won without the loss of lives; the war on Maoists and Maoism is an asymmetrical war which will result in higher casualties. We should, as a nation, grieve for those of our brave security forces personnel who have lost their lives at the hands of the Maoists. The most fitting tribute to the jawans, policemen and civilians killed by Maoists would be to swear terrible vengeance and not rest till the killers get their just desserts.


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THE PIONEER

EDIT DESK

SUBSERVIENCE WON'T DO

US CAN'T DICTATE POLICY TO INDIA


When US President Barack Obama had come to power last year, he had held out the hope of change in the way America conducted itself in the global arena. He had promised a radical shift in US policies, including foreign policies, something that must have weighed heavily on the minds of the members of the Nobel Committee before they declared him the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize for Peace. Needless to say that all the talk about 'change' has proved to be nothing but bunkum. And with each passing day, the Obama Administration's façade of newness gets eroded inch by inch. For, it is now becoming quite clear that the well-known American policy of putting its interests before that of others and going to any lengths to ensure this is very much inherent in the Obama Administration's genome. Nothing exemplifies this better than Mr Obama's 'secret directive' to his top officials to put pressure on India to resolve all issues with Pakistan in order to secure US objectives in Afghanistan. This despite American assertion that India is trustworthy, equal partner. But that trust, it seems, is being exploited by Washington, DC to the hilt. It has now emerged that in internal policy discussions, the Pentagon has been strongly advocating that pressure be put on India to force it to significantly reduce its troop presence from the Line of Control with Pakistan. This, the Pentagon believes, is something that has to be achieved, given Islamabad's constant refrain that it is unable to commit troops to fight the Taliban till the time it is assured that New Delhi will not do a sneak attack while it is looking the other way. What it even more astounding is that Pentagon officials are open to the fact that the Pakistani claim is baseless, but are nonetheless willing to accept it on face value, given American compulsions in Afghanistan.


What makes the situation truly unfortunate is that the Government has been obediently following American directives at the cost of national interest. Congruent with Washington's desire to see a roll-back of Indian Army forces along the LoC, recent months have seen significant reduction in troop numbers at the border. The price for this subservience is there for all to see. The past few weeks have seen a huge increase in terrorist activities in Jammu & Kashmir, as well as a visible step-up in infiltration bids, not surprising given the gaping holes in the security barrier that have been left behind by the troop withdrawal. And as the winter recedes, we can expect a bloody summer ahead. Unless the Government stops being a proxy of Washington, DC, the country's interests stand to be severely compromised. Meanwhile, those in the Islamabad-Rawalpindi establishment have every reason to smile.


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            THE PIONEER

COLUMN

NOTHING RISKED, NOTHING GAINED

GAUTAM MUKHERJEE


The economic tide seems to have turned, inflation notwithstanding. This fiscal's GDP growth should easily be a good 7.2 per cent, the number's impact only moderated by the relatively lightweight size of our one-trillion-dollar official economy. Next year, the percentage is slated to grow to nine. And the year after that could see the beginning of double-digit growth for the first time in India.


The rupee is strengthening steadily, and foreign institutional investment in the stock market is streaming in. We have received over $ 4.5 billion worth of such investment in the first quarter of 2010. But we might have attracted much more if our economy had been larger, giving it the capacity to absorb larger inflows without overheating or creating bubbles.


Also, we can do better if our debt market is modernised to facilitate easy trading in debt instruments. Right now, it is largely illiquid in the absence of a sizeable secondary market. Consequently, even though the debt market is not particularly volatile, it only attracts foreign investment seeking a parking slot, and as a hedge to equity investments, albeit in the positive backdrop of a rising rupee.


In addition, there is the steady inflow of foreign direct investment that goes towards setting up new services and manufacturing facilities, as well as to increase capacity in existing establishments. India's growth, principally driven by domestic demand, is a more or less unique and compelling phenomenon.


Indian industry is borrowing well once again and getting on with bold organic growth, and mergers and acquisitions-based inorganic growth. These include foreign acquisitions; illustrated by the recent Bharti purchase of the UAE-based Zain Telecom's African assets. It is noteworthy that the billions of dollars involved were raised domestically by the telecom major in under a month!


Our export numbers, including those from the most important IT software segment, seem to be picking up nicely despite the persistent slowdown and weakness in Western economies. In addition, there is a renewed realisation that infrastructure development must keep pace if it is to avoid choking further growth. This emphasis on infrastructure development with big ticket investment in roads, highways, power, ports, airports, and so on in the civilian domain, plus military upgrades for our security needs, also feeds rather nicely into the GDP growth story.


The social sector moves, in continuation of the rich electoral dividend-paying initiatives taken by UPA 1.0, particularly in health and education lately, and the renewed emphasis on reaching the poorest of the poor at the most elemental level, are also, because of the expenditure (consumption) involved, good growth drivers. Millions of people at the bottom of the pyramid — variously estimated between 300 and 650 million — will gain from this along with the nation's GDP growth rate.


Meanwhile, even as we begin on a new Census and start recording the identities of our billion plus population via the Nandan Nilekani-led Unique Identification Scheme, the Indian GDP numbers are, fortunately, slated to rise four-fold from the 2006 figure of Rs 41 lakh crore to Rs 177 lakh crore in 2019-20. And therein lies a massive opportunity for the middle classes. But there is a barrier of incomprehension that needs to be overcome first. After all, it seems unfair that so many educated and intelligent people should toil on without the benefit of a respectable second income that their investments could afford them.

Nevertheless, "Investment", says the Oracle of Omaha, Mr Warren Buffet, hailed as the world's most successful and consistent value-investor, "must be rational. If you don't understand it, don't do it". It is apparent, since only a miniscule eight million Indians invest in shares and mutual funds. Most of the 300 million-plus who constitute the middle classes are clueless, afraid, or negatively influenced by stories of people ruined by their 'greed'.

While this is true enough, most victims of this type gamble their all on speculative and volatile day trades and futures and options positions taken on a highly leveraged basis, because it is possible to trade on margin monies amounting to just 10 or 20 per cent of the total. This kind of investment can be money for jam when the going is good but an unqualified disaster if things go wrong. But why should such rash fiscal behaviour put off the prudent investor? What benefit from savings languishing in bank deposits, postal savings accounts and the like, earning meagre returns eroded further by inflation?


Such people could aspire for double-digit returns year-on-year instead, at an average of about 15 per cent over the medium to long-term, with investment horizons of five years or more. This is underwritten by the fortunate historical circumstance of a rising GDP graph over the coming years. But this time will never come back once the economy matures. In Mr Warren Buffet's America, nearly 50 per cent of the population in a 15-trillion-dollar economy does invest in the financial market directly. And an even higher percentage does so indirectly via massive pension, hedge and mutual funds, some of which are active in India too.


While it is true that American investors have lost money in the recent melt-down, this has much to do with risky instruments such as badly conceived derivatives, unscrupulously foisted on the unsuspecting, combined with, once again, greedy or gullible people punching much above their weight. Mr Warren Buffet's investors, however, have done alright. Those who invested in his flagship Berkshire Hathaway and related funds have survived intact, protected from most of the financial turmoil due to his conservative investment style.


As it stands, most Indians have the wherewithal to buy jewellery, and if better heeled, property, but very few people buy stocks. This despite a near tax-free scenario without limit for those who care to take the plunge.

Stocks are also much more liquid than gold or property and can be complementary to such investments. The statistics are tantalising. Domestic savings, good even now at 14 per cent of GDP, will grow to 16 per cent of the much bigger economy in 10 years time. This will add a further Rs 29.28 lakh crore to our investible kitty. More of us should seriously consider investing a proportion of this money in well-chosen Indian equity through good mutual funds, if not directly.


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THE PIONEER

COLUMN

CHINA'S GROWTH MAY GO AWRY

ASHWANI MAHAJAN


Markets around the world today are flooded with Chinese goods. Electronic goods from laptops, television sets and cellphones to pen drives and toys all carry the 'Made in China' tag. Chinese companies are securing contracts around the globe on a large scale for construction of roads, bridges, telephone exchanges, electricity power plants, etc. In the last two decades, the Chinese economy has grown by leaps and bounds. Its growth rate was 10.7 per cent in the last three quarters of 2009 and this year this figure is expected to touch 12.5 per cent.

But this fast-track economic growth is turning out to be major problem for the Chinese. In the past, China's economy used to be centrally planned and was driven by public sector enterprises. However, in the last two decades, the economy has come to be driven by market forces. This is despite the fact that the Chinese Government still maintains effective control over the economy.


But in a market-based capitalist economy, to maintain a grip on the market and sustain demand, whether external or domestic, it is imperative to create additional capacity and supply new types of products. But if demand is disrupted due to any reason, the problem of excess capacity will crop up. China is grappling with a lack of overseas demand due to the global economic slowdown. This loss in overseas demand could be compensated by domestic demand, the latter having played an important role in China's growth story.


But we should not forget that a huge amount of credit creation by Chinese banks and the Chinese Government's direct support were behind this huge domestic demand and growth. Though production in China is still growing rapidly, domestic demand will not be able to absorb all of this. Thus, the Chinese have no other alternative but to dump their goods in foreign markets. If this happens, foreign Governments will retaliate and make all efforts to stop Chinese products from coming into their respective countries. In that event, the Chinese economy, which is already facing the problem of excess capacity, is likely to be gripped by recession. The Chinese stock market is already showing a downward trend, indicating an uncertain future.

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

THIS IS WAR

MAOISTS HAVE STRUCK AGAIN, THIS TIME IN DANTEWADA. AT LEAST 76 CRPF JAWANS HAVE DIED IN THE ATTACK, THE HIGHEST TOLL TILL NOW. WILL THE GOVERNMENT GIVE UP ITS FUMBLING APPROACH TO TACKLING RED TERROR AND USE ALL POSSIBLE MEANS TO DEAL WITH THE GRAVEST THREAT TO INTERNAL SECURITY? OR WILL IT PERSIST WITH ITS LINE OF LEAST RESISTANCE? AJAI SAHNI & AJIT KUMAR SINGH EXPLAIN WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE


The attack by Maoists on CRPF jawans in Dantewada on Tuesday, in which at least 76 jawans were killed, is no more than a culmination of a succession of such attacks across the regions of Maoist dominance. While this represents the highest fatalities in any Maoist operation till date, there has been a long chain of such attacks with fatalities in the 30s, 40s and 50s.


Unfortunately, India's strategic and security establishment has stubbornly refused to learn any lessons from the disasters they have invited upon hapless security force personnel and civilians, and have persisted with incoherent responses that yield no enduring gains and put more and more people at risk. There will be a certain furore over this attack for a few days and then we will revert to talking about talks and developmental solutions and negotiations with the Maoists.

The problem with talks — or even with talking about talks — is not just that they have no possibility of success within the circumstances that currently prevail in the Maoist insurgency in India, but that they create expectations that they do. Within the existing situation, all talk about talks projects an enveloping incoherence on the perspectives of the state and its agencies, undermines the determination and will to fight and, indeed, even to prepare for the fight that is inevitable.


Politicians have little understanding of the fragility of the fighting man's psyche. In their distant imagining, the jawan (trooper) is a trained and disciplined machine, 'designed' simply to obey and execute. But a man does not cease to be human just because you put him into a uniform; the intangibles that contribute to morale have to be understood by those who seek to guide warfare from the safety of distant command centres and state and national capitals.


Significantly, a flurry of statements about a ceasefire and talks between the Centre and the Maoists came in the wake of two major attacks executed by the Communist Party of India(Maoist). On February 15, at least 24 security force personnel, principally from the State's paramilitary Eastern Frontier Rifles, were killed, along with one civilian, at a camp at Sildha in West Midnapore district of West Bengal. Just two days later, at least 12 villagers, including three women and a child, were killed when nearly 150 heavily-armed CPI(Maoist) cadre attacked Phulwariya village in Jamui District of Bihar, on February 17.


Published excerpts from the diary of one of the EFR jawans killed in the Sildha raid are poignant testimony to the abject collapse of morale in the State's agencies in Maoist-afflicted areas in West Bengal. Suraj Bhan Thapa's diary recorded: "There is a threat to our lives at all times here. Anything can happen at any time"; and further, "The party politics of a few people has endangered the existence of the country. We are also suffering..."

Just before the attack at Sildha, Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium is reported to have told the Supreme Court, "Every officer in the area is marked for death". The same news report records the conditions of the Sildha camp: "No sentries, no watchtowers, a fence with one entire side missing, a crowded marketplace, a public toilet — personnel of the EFR camp over-run by the Maoists were little more than sitting ducks."

It is within this context that the farce of mutually rejected offers of 'talks' between Union Home Minister P Chidambaram and Maoist politburo member Koteswar Rao aka Kishenji occurred. Initially, on February 19, Mr Chidambaram had declared that the Centre would "find ways to facilitate talks" with the Maoists if the latter halted violence for 72 hours. On February 22, Koteswar Rao responded with a conditional offer of a 72-day ceasefire commencing February 25, if the Government suspended operations against the Maoists, released all "political prisoners" (read, Maoists in custody) and "concentrate on development of tribal areas". This was, in some measure, a dilution of Rao's earlier stance, where he had demanded the withdrawal of all security force deployments in Maoist-dominated areas before he would engage in any negotiations with the state. The February 22 offer was made through the media, and triggered a flurry of adolescent posturing on both sides. On February 23, Mr Chidambaram declared that he would accept no "ifs and buts" for talks, and demanded that the Maoists first "abjure violence".


The puerile twist came in the tail, when Mr Chidambaram gave the media his fax number (011-23093155) with the instruction that the Maoists could fax their truce offer to him directly, if they were ready. Not to be outdone, and again through the media, Rao gave his phone number with the declaring, "If he (Mr Chidambaram) wants to talk on our ceasefire proposal, let him speak to me on my phone number 09734695789. He is welcome to call me on February 25 but after 5pm." Unsurprisingly, there was no direct communication from either side.


The absurdity of this exchange is underlined by the fact that, less than a fortnight earlier, while addressing the Conference of Chief Ministers on Internal Security at New Delhi, on February 7, Mr Chidambaram had stated: "You will recall that at the last Conference of Chief Ministers, I had announced that we would encourage State Governments to talk to the Naxalites if they abjured violence. Our public offer was scoffed at and spurned by the CPI(Maoist). Hence, in consultation with the Chief Ministers of Naxal-affected States, we decided to boldly confront the challenge thrown by the CPI(Maoist)."


Again, on February 19, Mr Chidambaram argued, "There can be no half-way approach. Most people still think there could be a compromise or some kind of median approach. This is immature and foolish… This is expected because as long as we did not engage them, they were happy and expanding. They will continue to expand unless we challenge them."


Precisely month earlier on January 19, Mr Chidambaram said, "Left-wing extremists have to be confronted squarely and boldly. We have to deal with them firmly and decisively."


Within such a perspective, abruptly engaging in a high-profile media debate on talks no more than served the Maoist agenda of sowing confusion, particularly in the context of the apparent unwillingness on the part of at least two Chief Ministers among the worst-affected States, Mr Shibu Soren of Jharkhand and Mr Nitish Kumar of Bihar, to tow the Centre's line on anti-Maoist operations. Speaking in the immediate aftermath of the Sildha incident in West Bengal, Mr Nitish Kumar declared, on February 16, "Maoists cannot be countered by force. All-round development and launching of welfare measures can bring the ultras back to the mainstream." Earlier, on January 18, Mr Soren went a step further, denying the very existence of the Maoists in his State: "The question is whether they are Naxals or not? The media has created a hype by claiming that Naxals are active in the State." Mr Soren added, further, "If there is a need, then force can be used. But if the situation can be resolved without confrontation, why not solve it?"


Worse, it was abundantly clear that the Maoists had taken a decision to escalate and widen their 'people's war', and this decision had influenced the Centre's approach. Mr Chidambaram, at the February 7 Conference, noted, "In consultation with the Chief Ministers of Naxal-affected States, we decided to boldly confront the challenge thrown by the CPI(Maoist). Consequently, there was a rise in the number of deaths in 2009. As the security forces move forward to reclaim areas that are now dominated by the Naxalites, it is possible that this trend will continue in 2010 too."
On December 21, 2009, Koteswar Rao had, moreover, warned, "If 2009 was bad, 2010 would be 'bloodier' if the Government goes ahead with its planned offensive against the Maoist jungle. This so-called assault against us will backfire."


It must be obvious that fishing for talks in these circumstances could serve little purpose. Significantly, Mr Chidambaram had himself noted, on February 19, that intellectual support to the Maoists made the task of tackling them "very difficult", as it confused people. Far from injecting some clarity into the discourse, the futile talk about talks can only have further confounded issues.


This could not have happened at a worse time. The South Asia Terrorism Portal database indicates that fatalities in 2009 had seen a dramatic spurt to a total of 998, just below the high intensity conflict benchmark of 1,000 fatalities, as against 638 in 2008. In 2009, these included 392 civilians, 312 security force personnel and 292 Maoist cadre. The situation, however, is much worse. According the Ministry of Home Affairs data (Year-end Review, published December 24, 2009), Maoist-related fatalities in 2009, up till November, included 514 civilians and 304 security force personnel — numbers that will take the 2009 total well above the high intensity mark. (Open source data frequently underestimates fatalities). The beginnings of 2010 are far from auspicious, and by March 1, Maoist-related fatalities were already totalling 160, including 65 civilians, 37 security force personnel and 58 Maoists.


Critically, Mr Chidambaram has already noted that 223 districts across 20 States in the country are already infected by Maoist activities, up from just 55 in 2003 — though areas that "consistently witnessed" violence covered just 400 police stations in 90 districts in 13 States (there are 14,000 police stations in the country). The seven worst-affected States in 2009, in terms of fatalities, were Chhattisgarh (345 killed), Jharkhand (217), West Bengal (159), Maharashtra (87), Odisha (81), Bihar (78), and Andhra Pradesh (28) (SATP data).


It is now evident that the Maoist potential to penetrate other States, which had hitherto remained outside their grasp, has evolved enormously. On February 20, 2009, for instance, Kerala State intelligence sources indicated, against the backdrop of the launching of operations to flush out Left-wing extremists from Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, that the Maoists had penetrated into rural areas of Kerala in the guise of labourers. Similarly, after the arrest of five CPI(Maoist) cadre belonging to Narayanpur district of Chhattisgarh by a joint team of the Chhattisgarh Police and Gujarat Police from the Hazira industrial area of Surat in Gujarat on April 10, 2009, the Surat Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr Subhash Trivedi disclosed that the group had visited Chhattisgarh frequently. "They used to return to Surat, either after carrying out attacks, or when any member fell ill."


On October 12, 2009, the Balaghat Superintendent of Police, Mr HC Mishra, noted that more than 50 CPI(Maoist) cadre had sneaked into Madhya Pradesh's insurgency-affected Balaghat district, from Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, after the security forces targeted them in the two neighbouring States. It is evident that the Maoist geographical extension is continuing and, as in the past, may indeed be facilitated by the 'squeeze' that operations are exerting on them in certain areas.


Maoist consolidation and mobilisation has, indeed, continued despite the arrest of several Maoist leaders, prominently including Kobad Ghandy from an undisclosed place in Delhi, Chhatradhar Mahato from West Bengal, and Ravi Sarma and B Anuradha, who were arrested in Jharkhand. The Maoist organisational base clearly has the complexity and dynamism not only to survive such losses, but to continue to expand despite these.

Maoist networks of extortion are further testimony to this dynamism. Documents and hard disks seized from Misir Mishra, a central committee member of the CPI(Maoist) who was arrested in Jharkhand in March 2008, had revealed that the Maoists collected over Rs 1,000 crore in 2007 through their State committees, and had set a target of Rs 1,125 crore for 2008. Mr Vishwa Ranjan, Director-General of Police, Chhattisgarh, stated on November 29, 2009, that the Maoists annually extorted up to Rs 20 billion across India, mostly targeting iron and coal mining companies, infrastructure project contractors and tendu patta (leaves of Diospyros melonoxylon used for bidis, local cigarettes) businessmen. These 'levies' are augmented through abductions, extortion and looting, as well as coercive 'tax collection' in rural areas. The Home Minister notes, moreover, "There is no evidence of Naxalites getting money from abroad. They are able to raise money inside the country. But they also loot banks, kidnap and extort."


It must be evident — and this is something that MHA rhetoric has repeatedly confirmed — that an enemy as relentless and well-organised as the Maoist can only be countered through a coherent and well-thought-out strategy. If, however, even a basic consensual assessment of the threat is lacking — and is further undermined by the inconsistent public postures of the top Central and State leaderships — it is not clear how such a strategy is to be framed. Unsurprisingly, the operations that have been fitfully launched over the past year have little potential to secure any enduring gains. A 'major', concerted and centrally coordinated offensive against Naxalites is supposed to have started with police in Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh launching a joint operation on December 25, 2009, but with questionable gains, the Government has been forced to backtrack. The reality is, in the absence of a strategy that factors in available and required force capacities, any emphasis on operations is destined to fail. Each such failure will further undermine force morale and create rising and irrational pressure for 'negotiated', 'developmental' and 'political' solutions, even as Maoist consolidation progresses.


The false confidence that was generated by the deployment of 'massive' CPMF contingents into the Maoist-afflicted areas is a further case in point. In the wake of the furious rhetoric about a 'massive offensive' against the Maoists, CPMF deployments in Naxalite-affected States were raised from 37 battalions to 58 battalions. 21 additional battalions yield barely 8,400 personnel in the field, taking total deployment up to a bare 23,200 CPMF personnel for the six worst-affected States, with a total area of 1.86 million square kilometres and a total population of over 446 million. As has been repeatedly emphasised before, this is like trying to irrigate the desert with dewdrops.


A tremendous effort of capacity consolidation and building will have to precede any effective operational strategy to stall and then neutralise the Maoist rampage. The most significant component of this process will have to be distributed across the State's forces, and cannot be engineered through CPMF augmentations alone. In the absence of any consensus on the Maoist threat and counter-insurgent strategy, however, there has been increasing reliance on Central forces and agencies. Astonishingly, the Government has reduced allocation for the CPMFs from Rs 30,900 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 29,940 crore in the next fiscal, introducing a new element of incoherence in the state's responses. Assistance to the States for the modernisation of their forces, at Rs 19.75 billion, moreover, has seen no more than a modest increment of Rs 1.3 billion (6.6 per cent), making a mockery of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee's commitments, in his Budget speech on February 26, to make "adequate funds" available.


A societal consensus clearly does not exist with regard to the Maoist conundrum in India. A range of Maoist front organisations, as well as sympathetic and often simply confused 'intellectuals', systematically undermines the possibility of the crystallisation of such a consensus (it is unsurprising that, while making his conditional offer of a ceasefire, Koteswar Rao appealed to 'intellectuals and human rights activists to mediate' between the Maoists and the Government). This is to be expected, and can be countered, if the state and its agencies are able to project coherent assessments, policies, strategies and perspectives. When the state itself sows confusion, there can be no prizes for guessing who gains.

Ajai Sahni is the Executive Director of Institute for Conflict Management. Ajit Kumar Singh is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Conflict Management. www.satp.org

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

TRAIN AND EQUIP PERSONNEL FOR EFFECTIVE RESPONSE

 

THE Communist Party of India ( Maoist) attack that killed as many as 73 personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force in the Dantewada district of Chattisgarh should drive home to the country the seriousness of the Naxal challenge. It is also a message to the authorities that a great deal more remains to be done to counter the Maoists and that the challenge of tackling them militarily requires far more effective instrumentalities than fielded till now.

 

A force of eighty persons equipped with mortars, rocket launchers and heavier machine guns could have held off hundreds of Maoists till help arrived. However, the indications are that the CRPF personnel were neither equipped, nor trained to counter the attack and were easily overwhelmed.

 

It is not easy for the police to combat a highly militarised insurgency in a jungle. Indian Police Service officers who lead the force lack the training and tactical skills for the job. In Jammu & Kashmir the primary task of fighting militants in the towns and villages is carried out by the police, but the more arduous and dangerous work of flushing them out from the forested reaches of the Pir Panjal and the Rajwar are done by the army.

 

Despite the talk of dialogue, the Maoists have let their guns speak for themselves. For this reason it is important for the Indian state, too, to come up with an emphatic and effective response.

 

The battle against such insurgents requires great skill and dedication. The key requirement is the use of discriminate force, one that ensures that non- combatants and innocents are not needlessly affected. To counter the ideologically charged and militarily strong Maoists, training is the key, as is leadership at the strategic and tactical levels.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

THE DOUBLE- CROSS

 

THE most unfortunate aspect of Monday's failed all- party talks on the Women's Reservation Bill is the rank opportunism of Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati in continuing to oppose the Bill in its present form.

 

There is something unseemly about the sight of two self- made women leaders trying to scuttle a progressive legislation that will directly benefit their sex.

 

The Congress managers need to drill it into the opponents of the Bill that quotas in parliament and legislatures had been limited to the Scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes by our founding fathers, who ruled out any representation on the basis of religion that is being sought today. Even women being granted such quotas can be said to stretch constitutional provisions, if only since they comprise the neglected and exploited half of the Indian population.

 

For its part, the Congress party has not taken the most efficacious route in seeking support for the Bill. The U- turn by Ms Banerjee, a UPA constituent, shows the party in poor light. The BJP may be right in holding that a Bill should not be passed by using marshals in Lok Sabha. But, worse, perhaps, is the spectacle of the Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha not becoming law because of the obduracy of self- seeking politicians.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

STRATOSPHERIC IN MUMBAI

 

ONE of Mumbai's most expensive real estate deals ever was finalised at Rs 33 crore a few days ago when a flat in the posh Samudra Mahal building at Worli Seaface was sold to the Indian arm of the Dutch banking giant ABN Amro.

 

More than the sale itself, perhaps, the transaction points towards the market's confidence in India's back- to- the- boom- days economy. The most expensive flat in Mumbai may have been sold for Rs 34 crore in November 2007, but those were the heady days. A year later the global recession struck India and real estate ( as did other sectors of the economy) plummeted.

 

India is back to an almost eight per cent growth rate, and given Mumbai's paucity of high quality, prime properties, it is natural that the first impact of such high- energy growth may be on real estate. In that sense, the Rs 33 crore deal could only be the precursor to a much wider trend in property sales in Mumbai as well as Delhi.

 

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MAIL TODAY

TOUGH ACTION WILL LEAD TO REFORM

BY ANANDA MAJUMDAR

 

IT SHOULD surprise no one that on the day a Haryana sessions court awarded death sentences to five people in the Banawala khap case came reports of another supposed honour killing from Punjab's Ferozepur. If the ruling had created the confidence that a deterrent had been created across the country against such killings, this incident is a reminder of the long road ahead.

 

There is a story from over 15 years ago, that has haunted me because of its brutality, which highlights the nearly unchanging scenario in such cases. I will not take the names of those involved.

 

Two room- mates at a small town- Bihar college had the same surname — Rai. As caste names go, it is used by both Yadavs and Bhoomihars. In this case too, one of the boys was a Yadav and the other a Bhoomihar.

 

The Bhoomihar boy's uncle, who had a young daughter, visited them often. On one occasion he asked the Yadav boy about his caste. Aware of the sensibilities involved and the fact that he might put his friend in a difficult situation by telling the truth — Bhoomihars and Yadavs are traditionally at loggerheads — he said he was a Bhoomihar. That's when his troubles began.

 

BRUTALITY

He was asked to marry the girl. He protested, saying he had lied earlier and that he was actually a Yadav. There was no one to listen to him. Then, in the true fashion of pakadwa ( abduction) marriages, he was bundled into a car and taken to the uncle's village — screaming all through that there had been a mistake and he belonged to a different caste.

 

There was a forced marriage. When the Yadav boy continued to protest, the bride's father had some doubts. He sent someone to the boy's village and learnt the ' bitter' truth. In the interim, the boy escaped and informed the local police.

 

Help did not come at first. Later, a young IPS officer on his rounds of the district arrived. He accompanied the boy to the girl's village, only to find she had been murdered, her body cut to pieces and buried.

 

No one in the village spoke up. When the matter went to court the girl's kin received a jail sentence, for abetment to murder. For his part, the boy fought his battle alone. His father refused to support him. I don't know what he did in later life. But till the case was decided, he had not remarried.

 

Compare this with what has happened in the Banawala khap case. Is the brutality of this honour killing any different from what had happened years ago in Bihar? There is perhaps hope that the

 

societies in which such people live will encourage a different outlook over time once the relevant laws are amended or civil society acts against them. So far that hope has been belied. The silence of the Bihar villagers matches that of the Haryana case. No one speaks up.

 

Apparently, little seems to matter where notions of honour come into play — of the family, community or village. It is inconsequential, in such cases, whether communities are exogamous or endogamous, whether for reasons of custom they allow marriages within the same gotra ( lineage) or not.

 

The mistake that we often make is in believing that this is a story about two Indias — one that condones notions of honour and the crude system of justice that comes with it, and the other that opposes it. The clash of modern and backward India is actually location- neutral and more widespread than we might like to think. There are areas where these two Indias meet and we therefore need to place matters in context.

 

Take the case of the women's reservation Bill. The opposition to it comes not merely from the Yadavs, who were open about it, but also elements within the two main political parties. So, the entire blame for keeping the legislation on hold for 14 years cannot be put on Mulayam Singh Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Sharad Yadav. If the principal political parties dilly- dallied over passing the Bill, it was perhaps because they had looked within.

 

It was only a fiat from Congress president Sonia Gandhi that ultimately led to its passage in the Rajya Sabha.

 

WOMEN

Inherent to this issue are inbuilt notions about the rightful place of women — because honour cases are also about them and marriage. The questions that were poorly camouflaged in the opposition to the legislation are: how much independence should be given to women? Will giving them a free hand be desirable? And, will this bring honour or dishonour to the family or community? Surely, these are the questions that the khap panchayats consider when a matter comes up before them. When representatives of progressive national parties express reservations about the women's Bill, which India do they represent? The two Indias merge in another way.

 

The mother of Manoj, the boy killed following the same gotra marriage in Haryana and for which five people have been sentenced to death is turning out to be the beacon for liberal- minded people for her fight against the khap panchayats.

 

She has stood up to them and spoken up for the right of her daughters to marry according to their choice. But, she comes from the same social milieu as the caste panchayat leaders.

 

We need to tackle the issue with clarity.

 

Where murders have taken place, izzat or honour should ideally not be cited as a compelling reason even though the way it works on the ground endorses the honour mindset. For instance, a village could get marked if its image has been sullied by a so- called ' same- gotra' marriage.

 

There are many who will want solutions, those that rule out violence, from within the social set- up but without involving the law enforcement agencies. On the face of it, this might seem alright but there are shortcomings.

 

Solution

 

There have been cases where the girl's family has been forced to perform her last rites ( shraadh ) and the boy's family asked to pay a hefty fine and organise a community feast — in return for the physical safety of the young couple. But, they will never be able to return to their homes. Surely, there cannot be any support for this.

 

Efforts to find a solution to something as complex as the curse of honour deaths cannot be like no- contact sport where you can get ahead without having to fight your way through. In this case, the opposite is exactly what needs to be done. The government's plan to bring changes in the Indian Penal Code and the Special Marriages Act is the right step. We need a fresh look at both the criminal and social issues.

 

But, to bring this about, politicians and bureaucrats will have a key role to play.

 

This is not something that can wait for another decade- and- a- half. The enemies here are people hobbled by primeval notions and sometimes poor morals, who show no sense of atonement when someone is killed.

 

They must be made to pay a very real price for their actions even if it comes at some political cost and cuts too close to the bone. Reform will follow from that and will be a sign of a forward- looking polity. It is possible that the undying courage of the murdered Haryana boy's mother will be the spark that brings defining change.

 

ananda.majumdar@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

PATIALA PEG

VIKAS KAHOL

 

THE lure of migration for Punjab's youth has led to the flourishing of illegal migration rackets in the state.

 

Activists and government agencies claim that smuggling human beings has become a multi- million rupee business in Punjab since poverty and unemployment make people willing victims.

 

There have even been instances of Punjabi youths being killed abroad — especially in eastern Europe and Africa — after being abandoned there by fake travel agents. But, such incidents don't deter Punjabis.

 

There are strong links between those into human trafficking in Punjab and those abroad — making the business of illegal migration an international racket. The traffickers use clandestine methods to fleece people.

 

A recent report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and

 

Crime ( UNODC) says that 20,000 Punjabi youths attempt illegal migration to European nations every year. A majority of these migrants head to the United Kingdom, the report said.

 

Punjab- based Lok Bhalai Party ( LBP) and its president, former union minister Balwant Singh Ramoowalia — who took the lead in highlighting migration frauds — recently pointed out that about 15,000 Punjabi youths were languishing in prisons abroad, after being arrested for staying there illegally. Punjab Congress legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira pointed out that a group of 37 youths from Punjab en route to Spain from India in 2004 had gone missing, and sought the Prime Minister's help through the Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur to trace them. These youths were promised a safe passage to Spain by unscrupulous travel agents who charged them Rs. 10 lakh each.

 

About 10 years ago, countries like the Czech Republic and Slovakia were the transit points for illegal migrants bound for Germany. The trend is still on though the destinations have seen some change. A few months ago, reports said over 60 Punjabi youths were stuck in Melilla — an autonomous Spanish city located on the Mediterranean, on the north coast of Africa — while attempting to reach Spain. They struggled for survival in Libya and Algeria while others struggled their way through Sahara, besides the river and sea routes. Their journey was cut short when they were caught while trying to reach Spain from Morocco.

 

The illegal migration poses a major problem in the destination countries too. Reports from Canada and the UK suggest that ghost immigration consultants pose a huge threat to the immigration process. In Canada for instance, these ghost agents facilitate the entry of a large number of youths from Punjab.

 

Interestingly, the Punjab government does not have any data to ascertain who the genuine immigration agents are.

 

The police register a case for cheating when people complain against agents. The Punjabis in Canada also help these agents thrive since they want to get their relatives from India by any means.

 

The UK also faces a similar problem. A sting operation on illegal migrants in Britain two years ago had exposed a welloiled network in human trafficking from Punjab. In an undercover investigation in Britain, the BBC had exposed a Londonbased criminal network that used fake passports, identity documents and human carriers to bring in illegal migrants, mostly from Punjab, into Britain.

These immigrants were settled in around 40 safe houses in Southall, home to a large number of immigrants from India.

 

The UNODC study stressed the need to regulate agents. A harsh legislation should be enacted since agents lure people into illegal migration. They also evade conviction since the police normally fail to gather proof against them on account of the victims approaching the cops late. These agents charge more than Rs 22 lakh for migration to the USA and Canada and from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 15 lakh for a destination in Europe.

 

Detailing the reasons for illegal migration, the report highlighted that the legal options for unskilled labour were limited. Illegal migration was no stigma for the families of the migrants if they reached their destination.They actually treat it as a status symbol.

 

HE COVERED NINE LAKH KM BY CYCLE

JATTU Ram Arora — a onetime newspaper vendor — has shot to fame in Punjab's small border town of Fazilka for using a bicycle throughout his life for local commuting though his family owns vehicles. He was felicitated with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Fazilka Heritage Festival organised by Graduates Welfare Association Fazilka ( GWAF).

 

Jattu Ram — now 77 — had come to Fazilka after Partition in 1947. He worked as a labourer for three years and also distributed newspapers to make a living. He cycled about 25 km daily for professional purposes, making for about about nine lakh km on cycle in all — probably a record in itself. He has saved at least 37,000 litres of fuel so far.

 

GWAF also held an exhibition of 16- 17th century coins discovered in Fazilka recently. The association also launched Nano — a lightweight rickshaw for the Eco- cab ( Dial- a- Rickshaw) project. The Nano rickshaw is designed by Kirti Dixit — a student of M. Tech at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. They are produced by Kirti along with Bhupinder Singh, a former professor of IIT, Roorkee.

 

WIDOW PLEDGES TO CONTINUE HER STRUGGLE

CHANDERPATI — a widow who fought valiantly to secure the conviction of the persons behind the murder of her son — has resolved to initiate a movement for the abolition of kangaroo courts managing a system of parallel justice in the state. The 50- year- old Chanderpati endured the murder of her son Manoj and daughter- in- law Babli two years ago following a khap ( caste panchayat) diktat.

 

The battle has not ended here, she says, adding that no action against the policemen who connived at the murder has been initiated so far. Manoj and Babli had police protection after they got married within the same gotra . But the cops disappeared on the night of the murder.

 

One of them even revealed the whereabouts of the couple to the accused — now sentenced to death. Chanderpati also seeks death penalty for Ganga Raj — the khap pradhan who got a life sentence.

 

IN RTE AGE, THIS TOO IS A WAY FORWARD

ABOUT 40 poor children in Chandigarh have lived up to the expectations of Zulfikar Khan — the founder of Theatre Age an NGO — who introduced them to formal education. These students have passed their school examinations — with four of them securing the top grade in their respective classes. Zukfikar finances their education and food expenses by collecting old newspapers from households.

 

Khan — who has been helping underprivileged and slum children for over a decade through theatre and

education to encourage them to join the mainstream — feels that education is the key catalyst for social reform.

 

The law enforcing the right to education cannot work fully till efforts of the sort being made by Theatre Age are

supported by the government. There is parental pressure on these children to take up jobs and supplement their family income. " The results have proved the dedication of the people associated with the project," Zulfikar says. " People donating old newspapers for their education are also happy that we are heading in the right direction," he adds.

 

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MAIL TODAY

KRISHNA PLAYS DOWN CHINA- INDIA RIVALRY AP

BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI

 

INDIA and China are not rivals, external affairs minister S. M. Krishna asserted while addressing a gathering in Beijing on Tuesday.

 

Krishna, who is on a fourday visit to China, downplayed the recent irritants in bilateral ties, including issuance of stapled visas to Kashmiris by the Chinese embassy in New Delhi, China's claim on Arunachal Pradesh and border incursions.

 

Instead, the minister said bilateral issues were under control and underlined that because the two countries were different, their divergences were exaggerated. " If truth be told, there are vested interests at work too," he said.

 

Seeking support for India's claim to a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council, Krishna urged China to review its policies on UN reforms and welcome its neighbour to the core group of the world body.

 

" Indeed, even on the complex issue of UN reforms, it is time for China to review previously held positions and welcome the presence in the Security Council of a nation with which it has much in External affairs minister S. M. Krishna in Beijing on Tuesday.

 

common," said Krishna, who is accompanied by foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.

 

Krishna said the two countries have made considerable progress on the boundary question, a resolution of which will be time- consuming.

 

He said both sides should adopt a patient approach and show maturity in dealing with outstanding issues.

 

He said the special representatives of the two countries have had 13 meetings so far since the mechanism was established in 2003.

 

" One has to be patient to deal with it. The special representatives are aware of their responsibilities and we hope a mutually acceptable solution can be arrived at," he said.

 

Krishna also said the Indian military was not competing with China in modernising its armed forces. " We do not believe in competition with any other country as far as our armed forces are concerned." The minister said the bilateral cooperation forged by the two countries, especially on climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, should be extended to other areas as well.

 

In a significant gesture prior to Krishna's visit, China decided to do away with its stapled visa for Kashmiris and instead issued a normal stamped visa to a Kashmiri professor, Mufeed Ahmed, recently.

 

Diplomatic sources indicated that it was a calculated strategy by Beijing ahead of Krishna's visit to create the right atmosphere for talks.

 

However, reports are now surfacing that China has been issuing stapled visas to residents of Kashmir intermittently for the past 30 years.

 

Sources claimed of a trend where a Kashmiri acquiring passport from Delhi was given a normal visa while a resident of the Valley getting visa from Srinagar was issued a stapled visa.

 

Stapled visas are useless for direct travel from India to China because Indian authorities in New Delhi do not allow people to leave the country without a stamped visa.

 

But Kashmiris with stapled visas have devised a smart way to travel to China by flying via Hong Kong or Macau.

 

WITH INPUTS FROM PTI

COUPLE COMMITS SUICIDE OVER MARRIAGE HURDLE

BY AKASH VASHISHTHA IN GREATER NOIDA

A YOUNG couple committed suicide on Tuesday in the Chak locality, under the Jehangirpur police station of Greater Noida. Jehangirpur SHO Sunil Dutt said Sanjeev Singh alias Titu ( 22) and Anjali ( 19) died after consuming insecticides. The two were found dead around 7.30 am.

 

The police said the two were in love and wanted to marry but the boy's family was opposed to the marriage.

 

Dutt said the duo went missing on Monday evening. They went to the farm owned by Sanjeev's family and consumed poison. Villagers saw the bodies on Tuesday morning and informed the police.

 

The police said both the boy and the girl belonged to the Jat community.

 

" Some villagers told us that Anjali was the maternal grand- daughter of a person named Bachan Singh. Sanjeev's father Om Veer Singh was the brotherin- law of Bachan. So the families had a relation, although a distant one. It is for this reason, perhaps, that the boy's family was opposed to the relationship," Dutt said, adding the bodies have been sent for post mortem.

 

Sources in Chak village, however, claimed that both the families belonged to the same gotra ( sub- caste) and this could be the reason for their reluctance in accepting the relationship between Sanjeev and Anjali. A few villagers also alleged that the couple was murdered.

 

RAISINA TATTLE

YOUTHFUL TIWARI

WHAT is the secret of N. D. Tiwari's youthfulness? Nobody knows and Tiwari won't care to know. Recently the 86- year- old Congressman was seen shaking a leg at functions in Dehradun.

 

Amused Congressmen say the " youthful" Tiwari can probably be the party's " youth" mascot. Well, he headed the Youth Congress as its first president after it was formed decades ago.

 

Others say Tiwari's " youthful" disposition helped him survive a double whammy — an alleged videotape of him in a compromising position which cost him the Raj Bhavan in Hyderabad a few months ago and a paternity suit that he is still fighting.

 

Despite all these, an unfazed Tiwari rubbished the allegations and returned to his home state, Uttarakhand.

 

And he is dancing these days!

 

Happiest Yadav

 

OF ALL the Yadavs who " celebrated" after an all- party meet on the women's reservation Bill came a cropper, Janata Dal ( United) president Sharad Yadav was the happiest.

 

As Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav thundered away at the meeting, he was feeling a little left out.

 

Actually, party colleague and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar got his tongue by extending support to the Bill.

 

But then, the Mamata Banerjee tempest at the all- party meeting gave the JD( U) chief the breather he was hankering after.

 

How long will Sharad's happiness last is another question. Hopefully, till the Bihar assembly polls

 

Pedal power

 

GOING by the rising mercury, the sun is going to be at its ruthless best in the coming days. Yet, four parliamentarians want to make a point. Come sun or shower, they want to bicycle down to Parliament when it reassembles on April 15 to promote the " green" cause.

 

Of them, Kirodilal Meena, an independent MP from Dausa in Rajasthan, has already been given the green

signal.

 

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar has accepted his request. Sandeep Dikshit, Bhartruhari Mahtab and Rajiv Pratap Rudy are the others to have made similar requests to the Speaker.

 

Plum posts

 

CAUGHT in the wrong job? Not exactly. The former private secretary to Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal will head the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan, the authority overseeing central schools in the country and abroad.

 

Avinash Dikshit, a 1986- batch Indian Defence Accounts Service ( IDAS) officer, has been appointed commissioner of the organisation. He was under Sibal's wings when the latter was science and technology minister between 2004 and 2006.

 

Well, is an IADS man qualified to head schools? That was the question people asked. It's like IPS officer Pragya Richa Srivastav being recommended for the post of CBSE chairman when Arjun Singh was heading HRD. Sibal, undoubtedly, rejected the IPS officer. Such instances are a dime a dozen. The Film and Television Institute of India in Pune is headed by Pankaj Rag, an IAS officer from the MP cadre. The director of the National Book Trust of India was an IPS officer, Nuzhat Hassan.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

RAISING THE STAKES

 

Something must have gone drastically wrong, Union home minister P Chidambaram said, reacting to news of the Maoist ambush in Dantewada in Chhattisgarh that has killed over 70 CRPF and district force personnel at last count. It was an understatement. With this attack - the worst ever in terms of casualties the Maoists have raised the stakes to an unprecedented level. Coming on the heels of previous attacks in Koratpur in Orissa and Silda in West Bengal, it establishes beyond doubt their increasing proficiency in guerrilla warfare as well as their intent to stage high-profile, high-impact strikes. The first priority must be to ensure that the lessons learnt from this are used to prevent a repeat.


By all accounts, the Maoists achieved complete tactical superiority in the ambush, attacking the security personnel returning after a four-day patrol in far greater numbers from superior positions. In such a situation, the outcome was tragically inevitable. But the circumstances preceding the attack must be studied for the lapses that the home minister implicitly referred to. When operating in difficult terrain that is effectively enemy territory, intelligence is of the utmost importance. Here, there seems to have been a gap. Reports say that the Maoists were aware of the patrol's presence through local intelligence while the security personnel had no such resources. This is much the same situation that we saw in Silda. The problem is not simply an operational one but tied to policy issues at a higher level. Before state forces are sent into operations it must be ensured that they have sufficient levels of intelligence, training and equipment to do the job.


Security, bureaucratic and administrative cooperation across state borders is another must. Constraining security forces with operational barriers is to invite disaster. Were Chhattisgarh authorities fully aware of the patrol and its area of operation? A number of Maoist operations are led by Andhra leaders; there is constant movement north from Andhra Pradesh into Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Do Andhra Pradesh authorities have sufficient intelligence on this? If so, is it communicated adequately to the northern neighbours? These are all issues that must be looked at, and heads roll if necessary.


The Maoists have made their intentions clear with this attack. Dialogue will have to be off the table for now, until the state clearly establishes its operational superiority. It must prepare itself for this, as we cannot afford any more Sildas or Dantewadas. The lives of its security personnel shouldn't be easy currency.

 

www.ishafoundation.org

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

COMMENT

UP'S WARPED PRIORITIES

 

Education is tricky turf because there are multiple stakeholders and their interests do not always converge. The scope of the historic Right to Education (RTE) Act can be realised in full only if state governments come on board. Not all state governments may share the urgency of the Centre in meeting the educational needs of our children. Less than a week after the Act became operational, UP chief minister Mayawati has written to the prime minister that her government is short of money to implement the RTE Act. State governments need to raise 45 per cent of the funds needed to implement the Act. States like Bihar also want the Centre to increase its share of RTE funds.


UP's case, however, is curious. The state's annual share in the cost of implementing the RTE Act comes to Rs 8,000 crore. Mayawati has argued that this is too steep a cost for the government. But lack of finances hasn't prevented the UP government from splurging public funds worth crores on memorials of Dalit icons. A special force to protect them is also being raised. Mayawati's defence for the monuments is that they empower Dalits. Sure, symbols do help empower socially disadvantaged communities. But such symbolic empowerment is limited in scope. True empowerment of a social group is when it has access to quality education. That's why statues of Babasaheb Ambedkar and Annadurai, icons of social justice movements, show them with books in hand. UP and Bihar are among states that lag behind in educational facilities. Dalits are among the most educationally disadvantaged people in these states. The RTE Act seeks redress for this situation. Mayawati must seize the opportunity to turn around the pathetic state of education in UP. Memorials can wait.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

TOP ARTICLE

RISING ABOVE THE REGION

MINHAZ MERCHANT

 

Away from the din and fury of parliamentary politics, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is writing a new strategic doctrine for India. That doctrine can be compressed into four words: rising above the region. The theory is simple: to realise its full geopolitical and economic potential, India must rise above local problems and deal with global issues.


The prime minister does not want a failed neighbouring state to distract attention from the three crucial issues India must confront this decade. These are, first, settling the border issue with China and striking up a pan-Asian economic partnership in an arc curving up from the Middle East to China through to East Asia and Japan. Second, deepening ties with the United States so that by 2020, when the US, China and India account for nearly 60 per cent of global GDP, New Delhi has strong partners in the West as well as the East.


Third, delivering economic and social justice to the 800 million Indians who today live outside the mainstream. If they can over the next decade be transformed through inclusive economic growth into an asset, great benefits will accrue. The lure of Maoism will decline as prosperity delivers peace, justice, education and healthcare to the poor. This will add significant numbers to India's productive and consumer population.


These are huge prizes to be won. The prime minister is prepared to take calculated risks to seize them. This includes continuing a dialogue with Pakistan despite rhetorical provocations from Islamabad and growing unease within the Congress. It also means tackling Maoists with a twin strategy of economic development and firm policing.


To achieve the outcomes the prime minister seeks, India will have to concurrently run three sub-strategies: one, use America and China as tactical partners in the mission to sterilise Pakistan. Both have an interest in a stable, peaceful South Asia. Two, integrate the Kashmir valley with India economically and culturally. The sense of alienation, palpable in Srinagar today, can only be removed if the Valley becomes a natural part of India's burgeoning growth story. Three, be unyielding on terrorism. Talking to Pakistan does not mean lowering our guard. It means raising it. When the prime minister meets his Pakistani counterpart at the SAARC summit in Bhutan later this month, he will deliver a crisp message: end state sponsorship of terror.


All of this carries a significant political risk. The Congress, under increasing pressure from its allies in the Lok Sabha, will watch carefully how the prime minister's doctrine plays out.


For his policy to succeed, the prime minister may speak softly but he must wield a heavy stick. Terrorists understand the language of force not peace. They must be spoken to and dealt with accordingly. Their paymasters in Pakistan must meanwhile be persuaded by all available means that Pakistan's best interests lie in closer regional economic integration with India. If they understand this, it will make the prime minister's long-term strategy for India quicker to implement. If they do not and Pakistan has a great capacity for self-delusion it will make the task harder. But Islamabad should be in no doubt about this: terrorism against India will have to end. That is non-negotiable. The prime minister is not the dove Pakistan imagines him to be. And circumstances may help him.


The recent capture of Marjah province in Afghanistan by US-led NATO forces and the planned neutralisation of Kandahar later this year will remove over 50 per cent of the narcotics money that sustains the Sirajuddin Haqqani faction in North Waziristan and the Quetta shura led by Mullah Omar in Balochistan. This will severely handicap both the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. Contrary to current conventional wisdom, India's infrastructural presence in Afghanistan will grow, not shrink. Concurrently, Pakistan's "strategic depth" theory of a re-Talibanised Afghanistan under veteran warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar could disintegrate if the US wisely decides to maintain a strong military presence in the region even after 2012.


Meanwhile, a pincer movement against terrorist groups custom-made to strike India, led by the notorious Hafiz Saeed using both covert operations and back-channel talks is crucial if all the bits and pieces of the prime minister's doctrine have to fall into place. Talks and terrorism were controversially delinked at Sharm el-Sheikh. Talks and counterterrorism therefore also stand delinked. While the prime minister negotiates with the Pakistani government with a velvet glove, the home minister will not feel constrained to use an iron fist to deal with terrorism directed against India.


Tackling Maoism requires a different kind of statesmanship. There are powerful vested political and commercial interests which benefit from the Maoist insurgency. The financial nexus between politicians, businessmen and Maoists thrives in a manufactured environment of lawlessness. It must be broken to give tribals economic and social justice.


By putting his faith in a highly nuanced foreign policy and security doctrine, the prime minister risks losing personal goodwill if it fails. Worse, for the Congress, failure could damage its future election prospects. The devil of any policy lies in its execution. That will determine how powerful a global role India, as it rises above its region, plays in this unfolding century.


The writer is chairman of a media group.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

'A NURSED ACTOR CAN DO WONDERS'

 

Boman Irani came into Bollywood at a relatively older age. But he was noticed immediately for his ability to blend into his characters. The two Munnabhai films and 3 Idiots have fetched him substantial commercial success. Boman speaks with Subhash K Jha:


In Well Done Abba you got a rare opportunity to play the lead. What took you so long to get there?

In my opinion it's not been a day too early or a day too late. There is a progression. One has to earn one's stripes. There have been inquiries in the past but I think I opted for this one for more than one reason. Shyam Benegal is a big, big reason.


Does your interest in photography help you understand the craft of cinema better?

I am sure it helps. The subconscious takes care of the lensing and lighting when acting. One does not have to concentrate on those aspects. I feel if you are aware of it technically you can visualise the frame. The wide-angle lens can be very deceptive and the tele can flatter to deceive.


Your career in films started relatively late. Is that a regret?

Regret? I couldn't have scripted it better. Had I planned it, it would have not been the same.


How do you slot yourself in Masala-land, and more importantly, how do you think Bollywood slots you?

The word slot has a stifling feel to it. Eventually cinema is cinema. As for the industry's idea of me...I hope they do not find the right words/slot.


Do you find it odd and awkward facing the camera with actors who are far less skilled than you?

No two actors can be the same. Yes, we do encounter actors who are not up to scratch. But we have to do a scene and patience and confidence can do wonders sometimes. Scaring people and exposing one's impatience can make things worse. Cinema can work its magic sometimes. Giving the other guy confidence can make a huge difference to a scene. A frightened actor is an actor who has surrendered his power. A nursed actor can do wonders. There may have been times I may not have been up to scratch for others. Who knows?


How do you see yourself vis-a-vis other thinking actors like Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapoor and Anupam Kher. Who are your favourite actors?

These are the gentlemen I look up to. I am happy to receive their messages, eager to take their feedback. These gentlemen have a unique quality about them. One always feels their best is yet to come. I feel like a kid in their company even though they treat me like a peer. Wish Balraj Sahni were around.


Do you think the kind of films being made in Hindi today offer an actor like you ample opportunities?

Yes and no. It's a start. There is hope and I ain't giving up. My most satisfying roles so far have been Khosla Ka Ghosla, 3 Idiots and Well Done Abba.

 

You are known to be a walking encyclopaedia on Hindi films. How did your interest in cinema start?

My mom was a huge inspiration. She saw the wisdom of films. There is an education about life in films, even in commercial films.

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

HUNGRY, KYA?

JUG SURAIYA

 

What's the fastest growing sector in today's India? IT? Mobile telephony? Infrastructure? Automobiles? IPL? Guess again: it's hunger. Sixty-plus years after independence, an India which boasts being the second fastest growing economy in the world has a large and growing population which by some estimates is much bigger than the total population of the US condemned to chronic starvation and malnutrition.

 

In a recent ruling the Supreme Court has said that each Indian family below the official poverty line (BPL) must be given 35 kg of subsidised foodgrain, at Rs 2 a kg. Meanwhile, the draft Food Security Act, championed by Sonia Gandhi and which is to come up for debate in Parliament, seeks to guarantee 25 kg of subsidised grain to households belonging to the BPL category.

 

But who exactly comprises that stratum and how many people are included in it? Statistics confuse, as statistics always do. There are 300 million Indian citizens our fellow citizens, who have the right to vote, if they are of age, but not the right to eat belonging to households subsisting on the World Bank poverty benchmark of less than one US dollar a day, or about Rs 45 at current exchange rates. A report prepared by the PMO's Economic Advisory Council puts the number of poor at 370 million. Basing their figures on household incomes, state governments claim that countrywide there are 420 million people existing below the poverty line. If you raise the poverty line to two US dollars a day per household, or a little over Rs 90, the poverty figure reaches 800 million, or some 80 per cent of our total population.

 

The central government has so far pledged Rs 1.18 lakh crore for 2010-11 to combat entrenched hunger. If Sonia Gandhi's determination to raise the subsidised grain to 35 kg is taken into account, an additional Rs 82,100 crore will be added to the bill.

 

More than even war or natural calamity, whose savagery at least has the mercy of being swift, deep-seated hunger, with no hope of relief, poses the biggest challenge not just to our social and economic structures but to our definition of humanity, of what it means to be human. Hunger has been known to force parents to sell their children for food. Does such an 'unnatural' act, which goes against the biological instinct to protect one's children, de-humanise such people, make them less than human? Should the term BPL be changed to BHL, below the human line?

 

That is hunger's final twist of the knife in an agonisingly empty belly: the knife of guilt. Unlike victims of war or a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or a tsunami, the victims of hunger are made to feel guilty for their condition, as if it is their own culpable lack of effort or enterprise or sheer survival skill that has brought them to this living death; the skeleton pushing through the skin, the eyes sunk into the blind sockets of the skull.

 

With whom ought to lie the guilt of their hunger? A hunger obscenely echoed by a fast-food slogan that's become part of urban India's idiom: Hungry, kya?

 

Hunger and voracity have always coexisted, in all societies. But seldom has the juxtaposing of the two been so stark as in today's India, where reports of children's starvation deaths feature next to advertisements for slimming clinics, liposuction procedures, boutique gyms that promise to turn flab into sinew chic.

 

Together with the world's largest percentage of starving people, India also has the highest percentage of diabetics, coronary patients and others suffering from diseases and ailments directly caused by over-consumption. A macabre revenge for the hunger that haunts the other India?

Food for thought. Or rather, the cruel lack of it for thought.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

OUR TAKE - GET READY, IT'S WAR

 INDIA SIMPLY CAN'T AFFORD TO SHELVE A MILITARY OPTION AGAINST THE MAOISTS INDEFINITELY

 

Two days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Lalgarh in West Bengal's West Midnapore district -- a town `liberated' from CPI(Maoist) clutches last year in June ated' from CPI(Maoist) clutches last year in June -- and after nine policemen were slain by Naxals in Orissa's Koraput district the same day, India suffered its largest single-day casualty at the hands of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Comments made by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh ("They are cow- ards") and earlier by his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik ("They are behaving in a savage manner") about the all-too- visible Maoists say less than the one made by Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar who bluntly blamed "intelli- gence failure" for the massacre. When 73 members of the Central Reserve Police Force are killed in a sudden attack by some 700 Maoists, India is facing a very serious problem, much more dire than just a `communication breakdown' among its various wings in its anti-Naxal operations indeed.
Let there be no confusion here: if the Indian State keeps losing these battles, it is in jeopardy of losing the war. Whether it has the stomach for it or not, it's certainly embroiled in one.

 

Mr Chidambaram's earlier observation made in Lalgarh about the absolute necessity for the Centre to be in sync with Naxal-affected states (and, to drive the point home, the other way round too) is telling. As the one-sided battle in Chhattisgarh has shown all too glaringly, a military solution in tandem with state forces cannot be shelved in the theoretical realm indefinitely. This is a war that has its origin in many causes -- a social, economic and political vacuum left by the Indian State in large swathes of India especially those populat- ed by tribals is one unpalatable reason. But the CPI(Maoist) ideology is not about getting development and justice up and running in these areas but to set up a parallel, vicious entity to rival the Indian State. At least till it's on the backfoot, don't hold your breath in the hope of the Maoists to give up their mines, bombs and guns.

 

In the process, people are being held hostage. To end this tyranny -- and some would, with reason, say living between a rock and a hard place -- the Indian State must mobilise its forces and restore some kind of symmetry to take on the more unified, working-in-tandem machinery of the Naxals. The time for rhetoric is over. Not working as a unit against a powerful force that certainly works as one will serve only one purpose: strengthen a growing force that is bent on undermining not only the nation but also the people it pur- portedly uses as an excuse to wage war against India.

 

Two days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Lalgarh in West Bengal's West Midnapore district -- a town `liberated' from CPI(Maoist) clutches last year in June ated' from CPI(Maoist) clutches last year in June -- and after nine policemen were slain by Naxals in Orissa's Koraput district the same day, India suffered its largest single-day casualty at the hands of the Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district. Comments made by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh ("They are cow- ards") and earlier by his Orissa counterpart Naveen Patnaik ("They are behaving in a savage manner") about the all-too- visible Maoists say less than the one made by Chhattisgarh Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar who bluntly blamed "intelli- gence failure" for the massacre. When 73 members of the Central Reserve Police Force are killed in a sudden attack by some 700 Maoists, India is facing a very serious problem, much more dire than just a `communication breakdown' among its various wings in its anti-Naxal operations indeed.
Let there be no confusion here: if the Indian State keeps losing these battles, it is in jeopardy of losing the war. Whether it has the stomach for it or not, it's certainly embroiled in one.

Mr Chidambaram's earlier observation made in Lalgarh about the absolute necessity for the Centre to be in sync with Naxal-affected states (and, to drive the point home, the other way round too) is telling. As the one-sided battle in Chhattisgarh has shown all too glaringly, a military solution in tandem with state forces cannot be shelved in the theoretical realm indefinitely. This is a war that has its origin in many causes -- a social, economic and political vacuum left by the Indian State in large swathes of India especially those populat- ed by tribals is one unpalatable reason. But the CPI(Maoist) ideology is not about getting development and justice up and running in these areas but to set up a parallel, vicious entity to rival the Indian State. At least till it's on the backfoot, don't hold your breath in the hope of the Maoists to give up their mines, bombs and guns.

In the process, people are being held hostage. To end this tyranny -- and some would, with reason, say living between a rock and a hard place -- the Indian State must mobilise its forces and restore some kind of symmetry to take on the more unified, working-in-tandem machinery of the Naxals. The time for rhetoric is over. Not working as a unit against a powerful force that certainly works as one will serve only one purpose: strengthen a growing force that is bent on undermining not only the nation but also the people it pur- portedly uses as an excuse to wage war against India.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE PUNDIT - CRICKET'S BIG MOOSE

 

thepundit Most of us have stopped watching serials and movies on the telly and have been following with voyeuristic fascination the Sania-Shoaib saga. It has all the ingredients of a B-grade potboiler complete with the wedding guest who's shouted "Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti!" The ebullient right-wing parties in the form of the Shiv Sena and BJP have jumped into the fray since this involves, horror of all horrors, a Pakistani national whom our darling girl should not marry. The women's groups have implored Sania to spurn the `scoundrel'.

 

But all this misses one crucial point. We are not against anything, but as edit writers we have to perforce be against a low intelligence quotient. And on this score, Shoaib Malik falls so woefully short, it is scary. Long ago and far away, our lad starts a postal romance with a lass who sends him a fetching photograph. The lovelorn swain proposes matrimony, arrives in Hyderabad to see his lady love and, behold finds a comely lass whom he mistakes for the sister of the beauty. His would-be is out, he is told. Not one to be deterred, he goes home. But he vis- its again, and again and again... And each time, he meets the portly one whom he still thinks is the sister, his beloved being out on errands, even as far as Saudi Arabia.

 

Does our man think that this is the case of the lady van- ishing? No, he goes home and signs a marriage document. The truth is revealed, the fat lady sings -- ha, ha, fooled you, I am your beloved. Exit Shoaib, followed by court cases. Now we ask you, could he not have been the lead in Dumb and Dumber? So Sania, we understand your passion. But how will you live with cricket's version of Big Moose for the rest of your life? Duh.

 

thepundit Most of us have stopped watching serials and movies on the telly and have been following with voyeuristic fascination the Sania-Shoaib saga. It has all the ingredients of a B-grade potboiler complete with the wedding guest who's shouted "Yeh shaadi nahi ho sakti!" The ebullient right-wing parties in the form of the Shiv Sena and BJP have jumped into the fray since this involves, horror of all horrors, a Pakistani national whom our darling girl should not marry. The women's groups have implored Sania to spurn the `scoundrel'.

But all this misses one crucial point. We are not against anything, but as edit writers we have to perforce be against a low intelligence quotient. And on this score, Shoaib Malik falls so woefully short, it is scary. Long ago and far away, our lad starts a postal romance with a lass who sends him a fetching photograph. The lovelorn swain proposes matrimony, arrives in Hyderabad to see his lady love and, behold finds a comely lass whom he mistakes for the sister of the beauty. His would-be is out, he is told. Not one to be deterred, he goes home. But he vis- its again, and again and again... And each time, he meets the portly one whom he still thinks is the sister, his beloved being out on errands, even as far as Saudi Arabia.

Does our man think that this is the case of the lady van- ishing? No, he goes home and signs a marriage document. The truth is revealed, the fat lady sings -- ha, ha, fooled you, I am your beloved. Exit Shoaib, followed by court cases. Now we ask you, could he not have been the lead in Dumb and Dumber? So Sania, we understand your passion. But how will you live with cricket's version of Big Moose for the rest of your life? Duh.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

WELL DONE MR BENEGAL

 KUMKUM DASGUPTA

 

Benegal's latest film Well Done Abba is a fascinating piece of work. The strength of the film lies in its simple yet multi-layered storyline -- one that is bold enough to show the issues as they exist on the ground. The film, based on Geelani Bano's Narsaiyaan Ki Bawdi, revolves around the story of a `stolen' bawdi (well) and a man's journey to get it back. In between, of course, he and his gutsy daughter get a lesson on how to negotiate the slothful and corrupt government machinery that thrives on linkages with the corrupt contractor lobby.

 

While handling corruption as a subject, many directors have fallen into a trap: of making it an `us' ver- sus `them' issue (citizen versus babus). But Benegal in Well Done Abba manages to avoid that slip- pery slope. Throughout the film, he stays focused on the strong narra- tive and lets the audiences figure the rest out. Many, however, think that the film is `preachy'. It's defi- nitely not. You can enjoy Well Done Abba as a simple story or get a can- did view of the governance prob- lems that plague this country. And, if you see the movie a little critical- ly, you'll understand why as a country we end up spending so much money, manpower and material in trying to put down so-called anti- State activities that are born out of deprivation.

 

In an web interview, Benegal pointed out that it's the rural- urban divide that's shaping reac- tions to the film. "I'm not trying to , be nostalgic, but films in earlier ' days saw the world in a much broader way. Keep your head in the clouds. But your feet must be planted on the earth firmly," he told a film website.

 

Films with some kind of public message (3 Idiots, Taare Zameen Par, Munnabhai and Slumdog Millionaire etc) had managed to get `tax free' tag from the gov- ernment. But till now, no such luck for Well Done Abba. This at a time when the administrators and politicians know that our pub- lic delivery mechanisms are in a crisis. Even senior politicians like Pranab Mukherjee have talked about how the best of policies made in New Delhi are failing to make any dent, thanks to the weak delivery pipelines.

 

But then which government would want to point the gun...sorry... camera towards itself?

 

kumkum.dasgupta@hindustantimes.com

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

UNCHOOSE THIS MAN

ASHOK MALIK

 

Public discourse in India tends to be over-the-top. But the debate around Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been extraordinarily excessive. To have had a Congress spokesperson liken Modi's questioning by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) with Dawood Ibrahim showing up for interrogation doesn't stick. Whether you like his politics or not, you just don't compare a democratically-elected CM with a terror and criminal mastermind. Such flippancy also trivialises the entire issue of providing justice and closure to the events in Gujarat in 2002.

To begin with, it is entirely welcome that the head of a government has been called and agreed to go before a judicially-mandated investigation team. Indeed, the Modi example should be the norm. There is reason for this. Each case of religious, caste or sectarian violence leading to large-scale deaths is, in its essence, a repudiation of the social contract between citizens and those they elect to office. If people have died on someone's watch — even indirect watch — he is honour-bound to answer questions.

What went wrong? What could have been done to prevent this? What are the lessons for the future? Were there failures on the part of the authorities? Were these failures of omission or commission? If failures of omission, were they inadvertent or deliberate? Why just Modi, every CM or home minister — or, in an extreme case, even a prime minister — should be invited to give evidence and clarify doubts. Step away from the polarising '1984 versus 2002' (anti-Sikh riots versus Gujarat violence) equation and consider a more neutral example: the Mandal Commission unrest of 1990.

The turbulence began when V.P. Singh, as PM, announced job quotas for OBCs without priming the public. It led to student protests, police action, suicide attempts and deaths. An SIT-type body could have asked Singh about the circumstances of his announcement, whether he was sufficiently aware of or prepared for its incendiary potential, whether he did enough to calm the waters, or if his subsequent actions and somewhat stilted television appearances only served to provoke.

No one is suggesting Singh killed people in 1990; no one is accusing him of 'mass murder'. Yet, if he had answered questions to an independent panel — as government leaders in mature democracies routinely do — it would have added to the lustre of public discourse. It would also have made Modi's appearance before the SIT, or the Justice

G.T. Nanavati Commission that is studying the Godhra massacre of 2002 and the retaliatory killings, expected rather than exceptional.

From the larger principle, move to the facts of the case. Why was Modi called in by the SIT? It is sobering to note that other than loose, unproven statements by political mavericks, there is no charge against him. There is only a claim by the family of Ehsan Jafri, a senior politician who was horrifically burnt to death during the riots, that Jafri phoned Modi several times while his house was besieged.

Were these calls made? If so, did Modi receive them or did someone else in his office? If Modi and Jafri spoke, did Modi promise and send help, which couldn't make it in time? If Modi and Jafri spoke, did Modi delay help and instead encourage Jafri's killers? Each of these has a profoundly different implication. Unfortunately, on television chat shows, they are likely to be bundled together.

This is exactly what Modi's opponents are doing. Sources suggest the Supreme Court and the SIT have no evidence that these calls were made or that Modi's rejection or perversion of any notional SOS calls led to Jafri's unfortunate and terrible murder. That's why Modi was only "requested to answer questions". That's why there is no First Information Report or chargesheet against him.

Should then all of Modi's congenital adversaries — from the 'Dawood-comparing' Congress spokesperson to the cabal of activists who have made Gujarat 2002 a cottage industry, complete with doctored victims' petitions and perjury — simply give up, pull their ears and surrender? Certainly not. They are welcome to fight him. Even so, they must not and cannot use (or seek to pervert) the judicial process and the criminal justice system for what is essentially a political battle.

Modi's triumph and validation — or, conversely, defeat and punishment — will not come in a courtroom but in the larger arena of public life and electoral politics. That is his true test, not some hyped-up hours before a court-monitored panel. That is where the legacy of 2002 will forever be with Modi. Consider Modi's career in the past eight years. He has gone from strength to strength in Gujarat, combining charisma and identity appeal with integrity and deft governance. He is near unassailable there. The Congress is decidedly defeatist, playing second fiddle to NGO warriors. The Dawood Ibrahim statement reflects the party's frustration.

Yet, in the India outside Gujarat, Modi continues to face a challenge. Despite his achievements as perhaps the most able CM of his generation, the fact is many BJP allies (or would-be allies) are wary of him. Forget the SIT; this is the lonesome valley he has to negotiate.

Ashok Malik is a political commentator

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

WHERE THERE IS A WILL...

MANOJ KUMAR

 

A nation where hungry children are forced to eat mud has no right to call itself a superpower or a civilised nation. What makes such reports frustrating for someone like me, who has been feeding poor children for the past one decade, is that reaching food to hungry children is not complicated or costly. It costs very little to give a child the required amount of calories and supplements she needs for survival and proper physical and mental growth. It seems to me that as a society we have lost compassion for those who have no power to make themselves heard or are not votebanks — our children.

I often visit the rural and tribal parts of Rajasthan and am hit by how the people there see starvation. Many feel that it is their fate to remain hungry and are oblivious of the various Acts that guarantee food to them.

Recently I was in Kalahandi, once a basketcase plagued by endemic hunger, malnutrition and starvation, to set up yet another kitchen for feeding children. I found to my surprise that poor people were ready to participate in our centralised kitchen-based feeding programmes.

To say that states don't have money to feed their poor children is a fallacy. It is just that no one seems to have the time or imagination to channelise the resources in the right direction. Large swathes of the country also get left out because they are inaccessible. But can it be that difficult to traverse 10 or 20 kilometres to reach food to a starving child?

Too often we think that we are doing charity by feeding hungry children. But, we are not doing them a favour. The State has provided for them, albeit inadequately. The freedom from hunger is their right and we are merely facilitators who ensure that this right reaches them.

Many states argue that certain areas are too dangerous for its officers because of the Maoist threat. Yet, our workers have never faced a problem. Instead we have only received cooperation and, for want of a better word, gratitude. If we can do it, surely the State with its vast resources can do it too.

In my long years in the field of providing mid-day meals for children or running anganwadis in tribal areas, I have found that the biggest impediment is not money, motivated workers or infrastructure. It is the penchant of politicians to play ducks and drakes with such schemes. Even the Food Security Bill has no separate mention of children's right to food security.

The million children that we feed a day may sound like a daunting task. It is. But with careful planning and a core of dedicated workers and minus interference from the administration, it is not half as difficult as it sounds. We have run into all sorts of glitches from our food vans being burnt to political arm-twisting but the trick is just to pick yourself and get moving again. There is no choice because a day's delay means that children somewhere will go hungry to bed that night. Would you be able to sleep in peace if that were your child? I would not.

My lament about this preventable disease called hunger is that it is not contagious. And so none of us is bothered about children dying of hunger. It would be beyond shameful if we forget the story of children eating mud as soon as it moves out of the news. The dying children with their swollen bellies full of poisoned mud will come to haunt our dreams holding us collectively guilty.

Manoj Kumar is CEO of Naandi and a member of the Citizens'Alliance to Fight Malnutrition

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REVIEW THE HUNT

 

When 76 paramilitary personnel are killed in a single ambush by Maoists, it is an understatement to say that something had "gone wrong". That this came a couple of days after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram warned in Lalgarh that Maoists are "constantly revising their strategy" and regrouping — cutting the state and civilians no slack to be complacent — should not be lost on either the Centre or any of the states involved in Operation Green Hunt. Moreover, Tuesday morning's ambush was no "low intensity" affair: almost an entire company of CRPF got wiped out in the attack between Chintalnar and Tademetla in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district, unlike the killing of 11 personnel of the SoG on Sunday in Orissa in a landmine blast. This is a large-scale, if protracted, war; Maoists are sworn to the destruction of the Indian state; Tuesday's massacre is not to be construed as a warning or another small episode in a war of attrition. It was the thing in itself.

 

 

Therefore, it is time to review Green Hunt: a tactical upgrade, even an overhaul. The CRPF personnel killed by Naxals did not expect engagement at that point, as they were reportedly on their way to Tademetla as back-up for another company they may have believed was already engaged in an encounter. Whether they ran into a Naxal camp or trap, they were sitting ducks, surrounded by what police suspect were about 1000 Maoists on a hilltop. For so long the Maoist menace has been underestimated — it may not harm us now to, even, overestimate it a bit. The ambush once more demonstrated its intention and resilience, and on a scale never observed earlier.

 

A major part of the problem is that there are seven states in Green Hunt along with the Centre. Central forces have to not only operate in territory they are unfamiliar with but also depend on state-provided intelligence, which on Tuesday was inadequate or inaccurate or absent. It is imperative to bolster the scope and effectiveness of operations by upgrading and increasing armaments, by increasing personnel strength and, more importantly, by providing them the right training and intelligence framework. In any case, pushing a large contingent straight into the jaws of death is a tactical disaster that puts strategy under a cloud. There must be revisions and reinforcements at all levels. But reinforcing the men on the ground must move beyond robbing Peter to pay Paul — shifting a contingent from Naxal-affected Location A to Naxal-affected Location B. The unnecessary death of even five personnel helps the war of attrition against the state; that of most of a company is unaffordable.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TAKING LEAVE

 

On April 3, the "collegium" of the five most senior judges of the Supreme Court asked Karnataka Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran to go on leave. The decision seems obvious, given that Justice Dinakaran — facing corruption allegations, his SC elevation on hold, and impeachment proceedings in Parliament — has not attended the Karnataka High Court ever since the controversy first erupted. But in institutions as opaque as our higher judiciary, little is obvious. To add to the confusion is another trifling matter: it is unclear whether Chief Justice Dinakaran is obliged to listen to the collegium and step down. Apart from impeachment, the only sword which the collegium seems to be able to dangle above high court judges is transfer, not leave.

 

Whether or not Justice Dinakaran agrees to the collegium's request, uncertainty on even this minor point highlights the need for transparent procedures to anoint and discipline judges. In fact, every twist and turn in the Dinakaran issue has exposed the lack of clear-cut rules. When allegations first surfaced against the judge, there was no obvious way for the collegium to go about it, to listen to the complainants, to investigate complaints, and to give Justice Dinakaran a hearing. The entire Dinakaran saga — from his proposed elevation to the Supreme Court, keeping that elevation on hold, the starting of impeachment proceedings, and now asking him to go on leave — speaks of an ad hoc, ill-thought-out way to appoint their lordships, and hold them accountable.

 

It is hoped that the Judges (Standards and Accountability) Bill provides some corrective, envisaging a gradation of responses to supplement the all-or-nothing impeachment procedure. That still leaves appointments, an issue so sensitive that it requires consensus between the higher judiciary and our political class. Law Minister Veerappa Moily's statement that the collegium has at times accepted his veto on certain appointments, speaks of a dual filter in vetting senior judges. But that filter must not be discretionary. Judicial appointments must be transparent and cross-institutional, while preserving the independence of the world's most powerful court. It is hoped that the continuing embarrassment over the Dinakaran issue spurs the collegium and Parliament to act in concert to end the impasse.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TIM'S TINY PLANS

DHIRAJ NAYYAR

 

America's top economic official, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, has spent the last two days in Delhi launching a new US-India Economic and Financial Partnership along with his Indian counterpart, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. At one level, it is surprising that the launch of such a formal partnership forum has taken so long. After all, US-India ties across all spheres of engagement (including the economy) have been on the upswing for nearly 20 years now.

 

But perhaps what stands out more than anything else even after the launch of the partnership is how minimal and unambitious the agenda is. And even in that limited agenda, political factors on both sides could potentially derail positive economic outcomes.

 

Interestingly, though the new forum is called an "Economic and Financial Partnership", it is in effect a narrow financial partnership, rather than a broader economic one. Because any wholesome economic partnership must surely include trade on the agenda. This one does not. One of the reasons for this partiality may be that governments (in both the US and India) operate in silos. This partnership is an initiative of the respective finance ministries; trade/ commerce departments have been left out. But surely, if the larger agenda is to better economic relations, the respective trade departments ought to have been involved closely as well.

 

The stakes in trade are, after all, high. Barack Obama has pledged to double US exports in five years. There is only one way he can do this: by obtaining more market access in the world's largest and fastest growing economies — China, India and Brazil. And while the US has little to complain about access for its industrial exports (except perhaps automobiles where the Indian government isn't likely to concede ground), it would like India to open up a market for US agricultural exports. India, too, would like the US to ease market access for Indian agricultural exports — mangoes being a notable point of contention. And of course there's the contentious issue of outsourcing.

 

However, let's be clear that the stakes in Indo-US trade are nowhere close to the stakes in US-China trade. That is clearly the bilateral relationship which is much harder to navigate. The US press in general played up the issue of the undervalued yuan (and the continuing massive imbalance of trade between China and US) even in the run-up to the treasury secretary's visit to India.

 

On the other hand, America's trade deficit with India, which was never that large in the first place, has actually shrunk over the last two-three years. The Indian economy's resilience compared with the US economy's sharp decline ensured that imports from the US did not decline as sharply as India's exports to the US did, once the crisis began.

 

So while the stakes are always high in trade (given the potential gains from more market access), and which is why it ought to be on the agenda of any economic partnership between the US and India, the two countries are nowhere near the kind of trade war that is looming between the US and China.

 

Without trade, the crux of the agenda is finance and macroeconomics. And Geithner's real agenda in India? Pressing for financial sector liberalisation. In particular, he would have impressed upon Pranab Mukherjee to relax FDI caps, and other regulations that discriminate against foreign financial institutions — across the financial sector, but especially in banking and insurance.

 

Now, it is the considered view of your columnist that financial sector liberalisation is in India's interest. Competition is always a good thing and it will ultimately benefit the consumers of financial services in India, who will get a better and cheaper range of products and services. So we should proceed with financial sector reform, no matter what Timothy Geithner said or didn't say.

 

However, bilateral negotiations are guided by mercantilist interests, and not simply good economics; and it is therefore reasonable to have two concerns. First, it is important to keep in mind that many US banks and financial institutions have, in the recent past, been recipients of a large amount of almost free-of-cost government funds. This was done to shore up banks and financial institutions in the worst period of the crisis. And even though a number of banks have now paid back some or all of that money, there is a looming question about subsidies. Did government money give US banks an unfair competitive advantage and will that affect the competitiveness of Indian banks which did not receive the same support?

 

In the case of goods which are subsidised, countries are eligible to take countervailing action under WTO rules. But for subsidised services, there is no such protocol yet.

 

Second, if India is going to open up financial services as part of a negotiation with the US, then what will it get in return? Outsourcing is our obvious services sector interest. But Democratic Party politics may not allow Geithner or any other US official from offering any significant concession on this. Of course, the UPA's political economy, and the RBI's stubbornness, does not leave India inclined to financial sector reform. So, politics on both sides could effectively hobble the most important and most immediate agenda items, on financial services and outsourcing.

 

The other significant item on the agenda of the partnership is macroeconomics. This must obviously be analysed in a broader multilateral, rather than bilateral perspective. The US may or may not choose to solicit Indian support to put pressure on China to revalue its currency. But it is in India's best interest to keep out of the US-China battle. While India would obviously gain from a revaluation of the Chinese currency, the gains will likely be smaller than bearing the brunt of a trade war. This is why no major player (including the EU) wants to step into the US-China battle. In any case, most of our concerns on trade with China happen to relate to non-tariff barriers which must be negotiated bilaterally.

 

There is also the G-20 agenda. Here too, the prospects for cooperation and progress depend on what unfolds in the US on financial regulation — America is notorious for staying out of any internationally binding regulations.

 

Of course, closer economic engagement with the US is in India's interest. But the launch of this economic and financial partnership is nowhere near as momentous as say the start of negotiations on the civil nuclear deal was.

 

The writer is a senior editor at 'The Financial Express'

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

TACTICAL TOLL

VIVEK DESHPANDE

 

The deadly attack on a CRPF party in Chhattisgarh early on Tuesday morning must have shaken those in charge of the security operation against Maoists in India's so-called Red Corridor. It follows one in Orissa that claimed the lives of 11 policemen. Some are already rushing to hasty conclusions: that the Maoists have upped the ante, Operation Green Hunt runs into rough weather, a setback to the anti-Maoist campaign, et al.

 

Before critically looking at all this, first and foremost, it has to be understood that both these incidents are, like most others in the past — including at least two in Gadchiroli last year — consequent to security personnel disregarding their standard operating procedures (SOPs), rather than due to any brilliantly crafted warfare by the Naxals. The Naxals are undoubtedly well-versed in their form of guerrilla warfare, but they love to cash in on police casualness.

 

As this newspaper reported in the case of the Lahiri attack last year in Gadchiroli, where 17 cops were ambushed, so it may have been in this latest incident: a "false alarm" could have lured the security forces into a trap. Early reports suggest the CRPF men were returning from an operation that didn't happen.

 

But is this horrific incident a long-term setback? In the short term, it is; but it is too early for a long-term assessment. Operation Green Hunt is just five months in; this is the first time that India's elite forces have penetrated deep into areas where regular policemen hardly ventured during the last 30 years of the Maoist insurgency. Thousands of paramilitary forces and state police are now swarming all over terrain about which there is little knowledge in government records. In fact, if Naxals were really in such great control of these areas, they should have by now been able to inflict much severer damage. They are either lying low or have strategically kept themselves away to regroup — and then check for the possibilities of well-calculated precision attacks like this one. The two latest incidents are possibly indicative of a new Maoist strategy: that, for now, they won't venture out freely to attack the police in their (police) areas as they did in pre-Operation Green Hunt days, and would strike only where they feel they still have a strategic advantage over the forces.

 

So, in the initial stages of the operation, such casualties on the police side in core Maoist strongholds should have been expected. The government has made it clear that the operation is going to be a long-drawn-out process that may go on for three years at a stretch.

 

Lists of tribals killed in the operation are out, some being pushed by Maoist sympathisers. While it is very difficult to establish who these people are, whether they have really been killed — or, as Naxals often do, if they have simply been taken away by the Naxals to create the impression that they are missing — there can be no missing the fact that many of the villagers are active militia members or party workers. How else can the presence of hundreds of Naxals in an ambush be accounted for? Where do these people come from if not from the villages?

 

We could very likely see, therefore, more of a crackdown by security forces on these innocent or not-so-innocent villagers in the days to come. Ironically and unfortunately for the security apparatus, such a crackdown would hardly bring them relief; not only because of the "prying eyes" of human rights activists, but also because it gives Naxals bigger ammunition to consolidate their so-called mass base.

 

Having said this, there is also no missing the fact that the Naxals haven't been scared out of their areas yet by the forces. They are still managing to steal a march over them whenever and wherever possible. The waylaying of a truck laden with a potentially explosive chemical from a Gadchiroli highway last month and the subsequent unloading of the chemical — using three tractors, for two days, in a forest dominated by thousands of Operation Green Hunt commandos! — showed that the Naxals have enormous determination. The Naxals clearly understand the chemical's utility; and it would be foolish to believe the chemical must have become useless by now. According to security experts, their sympathisers or pointmen from mines in the area could well serve as technical advisors in putting the chemical to use. Contrast this preparedness with the Gadchiroli police, officials of which don't even know the exact number of such trucks plying through the district.

 

Clearly, CRPF Special DGP Vijay Raman, who is commandeering Operation Green Hunt, may have to re-look into the assessment he had expressed, while talking to this newspaper a few days ago, that the Naxal power is grossly overstated.

 

vivek.deshpande@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

COLUMN

CHINESE TAKEAWAY

C. RAJA MOHAN POSTED ONLINE: WEDNESDAY, APR 07, 2010 AT 2258 HRS

KRISHNA'S QUEST

 

As India tries to seize the diplomatic opportunities with China that have opened amidst the post-Copenhagen bonhomie, Delhi's challenge is to find at least one area of strategic convergence that can elevate the Sino-Indian relationship to a higher level.

 

Thinking of the parallel with the United States, two important political factors transformed Delhi's ties with Washington during the last decade. These were Bush administration's decisions to deliberately shun any involvement in the Indo-Pak dispute on Jammu and Kashmir, and redefine the international non-proliferation rules to revive civilian nuclear energy cooperation with India.

 

Might there be a similar template that could unlock the vast potential for political cooperation between India and China? That would be the question that External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna will be exploring in Beijing this week amidst the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.

 

Unlike the United States, which is a distant superpower, rising China is right next door. When you share borders, that too disputed ones, with such a large country, bilateral problems multiply. Having a great power as a neighbour also makes it absolutely necessary to sustain engagement at all time and pursue cooperation wherever possible.

 

One expectation of India's China diplomacy during the last decade was that an early resolution of the boundary dispute would liberate the bilateral relationship to pursue ambitious political goals. Many rounds of negotiations later, that hope has been tempered for now.

 

India also bets that growing commercial ties would lead to economic interdependence with China and that in turn will impart a new momentum to the political relationship. That too appears a long-term prospect.

 

In the short term, there are many disputes on the economic front — from Beijing's massive trade surpluses to Indian restrictions on Chinese investments, and from the value of Chinese currency to Delhi's restrictive visa policy — that need to be addressed. That brings us back to a possible list of subjects for political cooperation.

 

Asian solidarity

One possibility is to return to those old slogans on Asian solidarity. Delhi and Beijing have often thrown anti-imperialist rhetoric at the cracks in the bilateral relationship.

 

Anti-Western ideology has rarely been a strong enough glue to bind India and China together. Both India and China know the value of good relations with the United States and consequences of picking up a fight with the United States.

 

One way out for Delhi and Beijing is to put greater emphasis on building a new Asian order. Sino-Indian cooperation in constructing pan-Asian institutions has, however, been elusive.

 

The reasons are not easy to discern. The focus of current regionalism in the great continent is East Asia, where China's geopolitical primacy is unquestionable and India's role remains secondary at best.

 

Talking Pakistan

Another approach to trust-building between Beijing and Delhi is to focus on the main disputes in the shared periphery in the subcontinent. What subject could be more important than Pakistan, which has been at the very heart of Indian political grievances against China?

 

If China has consistently used Pakistan to keep India off balance and went to the extent of providing it with nuclear weapons technology, why would Beijing want to change that policy now? Does not a rising India make Pakistan all the more important for Chinese strategy for the subcontinent?

 

Perhaps. Perhaps not. The task of Indian diplomacy is to find out. A number of factors could potentially change the Chinese calculus on Pakistan. The only instrument that Pakistan now has in its effort to trip up India is terrorism and religious extremism. Beijing should have no problem with this but for the fact that some of these forces don't necessarily remain India-centred; some of them turn their wrath on others, including China. The recent turbulence in Xinjiang, China's far-western Muslim majority province, is certainly getting Beijing to pay more attention to the sources of international terrorism in Pakistan.

 

At a time when China's relations with the United States are uncertain, Beijing is surely concerned about the Pakistan army's deepening political, economic and military dependence on Washington. Whether they express them to Indians or not, the Chinese surely have concerns about the Pakistan army's capacity to defend territorial sovereignty against either the Islamic militants or the American military.

 

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan and its long-term consequences for regional stability demand a serious conversation between Delhi and Beijing. Whether China is ready to talk Pakistan or not, Delhi loses nothing by proposing greater cooperation with

 

Beijing in stabilising the shared periphery between the two nations. This is probably what Krishna was pointing to in his speech in Beijing on Tuesday when he said Sino-Indian engagement with Pakistan need not be a zero sum game.

 

raja.mohan@expressindia.com

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

WARFARE WITH WORDS

 

Words can be weapons, too. So after nearly every new report of political violence, whether merely plotted or actually carried out, there is a vocabulary debate: Should it be labelled "terrorism"?

 

When early reports of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan's shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, in November 2009 failed to apply the T-word, activists on the right cried foul: He's a radical Muslim terrorist, they said, and only political correctness run amok could argue otherwise. When A. Joseph Stack III flew his Piper Dakota into an Internal Revenue Service office building in Austin, Texas, in February, killing himself and an IRS manager, it was the left that blew the linguistic whistle: If such a public, politically motivated act of lethal violence is not terrorism, they asked, just what is?

 

Last week, the arrests of nine members of the Hutaree Christian sect in Michigan on charges that they plotted to kill police officers and then bomb their funerals stirred up the question again. Were they terrorists? Were they Christians? Were they just weirdos? Had they been Muslims, some commentators complained, there would have been not a moment's hesitation at applying both names: Islamic terrorism. "None dare call it terrorism," wrote David Dayen at the liberal Firedoglake blog, noting that most of the major media outlets had not used the word "terrorism" in reporting the Hutaree arrests for plotting exactly that. "These are Christians, so they cannot be terrorists. Or something," he added, with sarcasm.

 

But more is at stake here than semantics or petty point-scoring in the blogosphere. Political violence has two elements: the act, and the meaning attached to it. Long after the smoke of an explosion has cleared, the battle over language goes on, as contending sides seek to aggrandise the act or dismiss it, portray it as noble or denounce it as vile.

 

"The use of the term terrorism delegitimises the opponent," said Martha Crenshaw, a scholar at Stanford who wrote her first essay wrestling with the definition of terrorism in 1972. "It's not just the tactics that are discredited, it's the cause, as well."

 

In fact, accused terrorists often throw the label back at their accusers. In a recording played in court last week, David B. Stone Sr., leader of the Hutaree group, described the government as a "terrorist organisation." And Doku Umarov, the Chechen guerrilla leader who claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings in the Moscow subway, took the same line in a videotaped message, suggesting that the real terrorist was his nemesis, Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian prime minister.

 

"Any politician or journalist or any person who will condemn me for those operations, or who will accuse me of terrorism, I am laughing at those people," he said, "because I haven't heard that Putin was accused of terrorism for the murder of civilians."

 

The word originated in the context of large-scale violence by the state: the Jacobin Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, when 16,000 to 40,000 people were killed in 13 months. The Latin root "terrere" means "to cause to tremble," and one essential notion in most definitions of terrorism is that it seeks to frighten the enemy, as well as to inspire allies.

 

Over time, terrorism has come to be applied more commonly to the violent tactics of nonstate groups, often in a campaign of repeated attacks. The targets are often chosen for symbolic reasons (the World Trade Center, the Pentagon), and the victims usually include civilians. The acts of terror seek to influence an audience, ostensibly in service of a political goal.

 

The anarchist movement before and after the turn of the 20th century spoke of the "Propaganda of the Deed," a phrase that captures both the violence and its purported political purpose. "They called themselves terrorists and they were proud of it," said David C. Rapoport, a historian of terrorism and editor of the journal Terrorism and Political Violence. With time, however, the term terrorism took on connotations of cowardice, unfairness and special brutality, whatever the larger cause it claims to serve. Today even the most brazen of terrorists generally shun the label. In a recent audio message, Osama bin Laden described Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as a "holy warrior and hero."

 

Major Hasan, by the standard definition, would qualify as a terrorist. Whatever his emotional troubles, he appears to have viewed his killings as part of the larger global campaign of Muslims fighting what they view as American aggression. Likewise, though Joe Stack certainly had his personal gripes against the IRS, the six-page manifesto he left behind suggested that he was dying for the cause of freedom. True, both men seem to have been eccentrics and sociopaths. But so are many who all agree are terrorists — remember Mohammed Atta, with his creepy list of instructions for how his body should be handled after death? By choosing not just solo suicide but an attack against others, and by attaching their violence to a political point of view, they earned the label.

 

From the debate over word choice came the adage that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," a cliché already by the 1980s. "That's a catchy phrase, but also misleading," Ronald Reagan said in a 1986 radio address. "Freedom fighters do not need to terrorise a population into submission. Freedom fighters target the military forces and the organised instruments of repression keeping dictatorial regimes in power. Freedom fighters struggle to liberate their citizens from oppression and to establish a form of government that reflects the will of the people."

 

Thinking of ends and not means, Reagan praised the Nicaraguan contra rebels, who had a bloody record fighting the Communist Sandinistas, as "the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers." In the cold war contest with the Soviet Union, he armed and embraced the Afghan "freedom fighters" and their Arab allies, some of whom evolved into the terrorists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. That long-ago radio address sounds naïve in retrospect in another respect, too. "History is likely to record that 1986 was the year when the world, at long last, came to grips with the plague of terrorism," President Reagan declared. President Obama is unlikely to venture a similar prediction anytime soon.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

INTACH HAS EARNED ITS POSITION

SKMISRA

 

Having been fortunate enough to have served INTACH (the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) for the last 10 years (initially as vice-chairman and, from 2004 until last week, as chairman) I feel some response to The Indian Express editorial ('INTACH, broken?'April 6, 2010) is called for.

 

It is true that there has been a strongly contested election this month, and I have not commented on that, as I feel it is an internal matter for the organisation. What I must comment on, however, is the impression that INTACH has become a "quasi-governmental agency," that we have secured some sort of monopoly on conservation through being "comfortably embedded in the Delhi power-culture circuit," and that we are in any way "broken."

 

A quick look at the INTACH website or at our most recent annual report will show the scope of our activities. We function through a network of over 150 chapters, and several thousand dedicated members. We are headed by a chairman, who receives no salary or other remuneration. Our other division heads are all respected professionals and specialists in their fields, and our professional staff, working under the division heads, is extraordinarily talented and committed. Although our headquarters office is indeed in Delhi, we work throughout India, from the smallest villages to the largest cities.

 

Linking INTACH to Delhi's "power culture," is thus both irresponsible and incorrect, as is the mention of supposed ties to the Congress Party. The government has, indeed, come to respect and listen to us, but that has not affected our independence in any way whatsoever.

 

Although Rajiv Gandhi was our first chairman, this did not prevent us from going to court against the plans to rename Connaught Place as Rajiv Chowk. Similarly, although the Delhi chief minister has been one of our strongest and most loyal supporters, we went to court to stop the construction of the Commonwealth Games Village on the Yamuna riverbed. In neither case was there even the slightest attempt to influence us. And in spite of our frequent actions against government, it is a measure of the respect that we have earned that a number of state governments (under several different political parties) have entered into partnership agreements with us. We were also recently commended by the Parliamentary Committee on Transport and Culture, headed by a CPM leader Sitaram Yechury, and the Finance Commission, in its latest report, recommended that ASI partner with INTACH for the restoration of dilapidated court buildings.

 

As I write this, a message has just come advising me that the Jammu & Kashmir Legislature has approved landmark legislation for protection of tangible and intangible heritage, the first time in India that such a comprehensive law has been passed for an entire state. This has involved many months of work on our part, and meetings with both the chief minister and the governor. INTACH has always been a truly independent organisation, willing to fight government whenever necessary, but also mature enough to realise that cooperation can, in cases like this, be far more effective than confrontation.

 

Regarding funding, we would indeed be very happy if it were true that "hundreds of crores" were flowing through INTACH. In actuality, we have a very small operating budget. Funds for every single project are raised individually. We believe strongly in partnership, and piece together funding for each project from numerous agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, in India and abroad. Some major sources of funds, among others, have been the Helen Hamlyn Trust (GBP 400,000 for the Reis Magos Fort project in Goa), American Express (more than $1 million through the World Monuments Fund for Jaisalmer projects), WMF for projects in INTACH's Delhi Chapter, the UK-based Jaisalmer in Jeopardy, Prince Charles' Charities, the UK-INTACH Trust, and INTACH Chapters in the US, Belgium and the UK.

 

Government funding to INTACH is purely project-based, in response to proposals submitted to us, in cases where it is felt we have the capability to execute them. We have in this manner taken on projects in Gwalior/Shivpuri/Chanderi, Raghurajpur Village in Orissa, Kapurthala, and Srinagar, among others. All of these projects have been successfully completed, to the satisfaction of all involved. What INTACH provides is responsible oversight, professional credibility, and strict financial accountability. There has not, ever, been a single allegation of misuse of even a rupee from funds that have been entrusted to us.

 

INTACH has undoubtedly become the leading heritage NGO in the country. As such, we have gained tremendous influence and respect both internationally and nationally. In 2007, we hosted the first ever meeting of worldwide heritage trusts, with participants from 55 countries. We received no support for this event from the Government of India, except for one dinner hosted by the ministry of culture. Rather, we raised funds for the conference and for the participation of delegates from developing countries primarily from outside sources, such as the Getty Foundation, Trust for Mutual Understanding, Ford Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Soros Foundation, and Japan Foundation, as well as from corporate sources in India and the Delhi government.

 

As a result of this event, the International National Trusts Organisation was officially established, INTACH (along with the UK and US national trusts) became one of the three permanent members, and I was elected as vice-chairman. Our voice is now global, and we are routinely included in most international activities involving heritage issues, helping to formulate the very policies that will affect us.

 

This in no way, however, means that we have become a "monopoly." There are many independent conservation architects and other professionals in India, as well as other organisations and trusts, who often take on major heritage projects. The ASI, for instance, has entrusted major projects such as the Red Fort and Ajanta to non-INTACH professionals, and the Aga Khan Foundation is supporting an independent team in the massive Humayun's Tomb projects. We are all very much aware of each other's work, interact freely and frequently, and consider ourselves to be part of a large fraternity, with common concerns.

 

It is INTACH's growing stature that has led state and national governments, as well as many funding organisations, to trust our competence. Far from being "broken," we have indeed achieved a leadership role that links many people and organisations concerned with preserving and nurturing our irreplaceable heritage, and have thus achieved the respect and the influence to give voice to the heritage concerns of all Indians.

 

The writer is a founder-member of INTACH and its current chairman

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

OPED

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

HONOUR THE LAW

At a time when the Centre is planning to amend the Indian Penal Code to deal with cases of self-styled khap panchayats taking the law into their hands, the CPM is prodding the government to enact a separate law against honour killings.

 

The party believes that khap panchayats have flourished with the "active connivance" of the police, the administration and the elected representatives, and that political parties like the Congress and the INLD have refused to take a stand against these panchayats as they do not want to antagonise the dominant caste and their support base. "All democratic forces should demand that a separate law be adopted against honour killings and to illegalise those activities of the khap panchayats which go against the Constitution. Firm and deterrent action must be taken against the offenders whenever such incidents occur," the lead editorial in CPM organ People's Democracy says.

 

BURDEN OF HIS SONG

It is not that the CPM has a liking for Kabir Suman. But when it can poke fun at Mamata Banerjee at his expense, why would the party miss a chance? So, People's Democracy gladly takes note of Suman's SMS resignation and his diatribe against the Trinamool Congress. It recalls that the singer-turned-politician once "wanted to be happy each morning only if he saw five CPM heads rolling by" and called for "death to all CPM workers". The article talks about Suman's charges that Trinamool is filled with people of the light-fingered brigade, not allowing him to provide direct employment to his "personal brigade of goons" and the insults he had to face from Didi's men.

 

FIGHTING THE FOREIGN

With the government planning to introduce the Foreign Education Providers Bill in Parliament soon, the Left parties have begun the ideological campaign to counter it. Articles opposing the legislation have started appearing in their mouthpieces preparing the ground for the real opposition. An article in People's Democracy tries to counter the government's arguments in support of the bill. It rejects the government's argument that the education sector would expand with the entry of foreign institutes and bring quality education providers to India. "Such an argument is infantile for the simple reason that today private institutes account for one thirds of the higher education sector of our country, and yet there seems to be not much increase in enrolment and not much improvement in quality," it says.

 

Regarding quality, it argues that most of the foreign education providers seeking entry into India are substandard institutions in their own countries and will only cater to professional or vocational courses. In short, it concludes that higher education is going to be further entrapped in the web of money-minting institutions with the backing of indulgent governments.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NO TIME FOR DIALOGUE


The Maoists, in what is perhaps their largest individual attack so far, have killed more than 70 CRPF personnel. The attack took place on Tuesday morning in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. Last Sunday, 10 troopers were killed in a Maoist land mine attack in Orissa. All this is happening against the backdrop of ceasefire offers in recent times. The Union home minister was sceptical about the sincerity of such offers and it appears that his cynicism was well-merited. While they may claim otherwise in their intermittent statements, the Maoists are clearly not ready to commit to peaceful, mainstream negotiations. If they were, yesterday's vicious bloodbath would never have come to pass. And as their violence continues unabated, the only recourse left to the national polity is repressing such violence by all possible means. When Indian mines, railways, security forces and—necessarily—innocents are brutally targeted, debate has to take a backseat. The West Bengal CM still doesn't seem to appreciate this. He has been pulling up P Chidambaram for using slang while discussing the Maoist problem. But choice of language should be the least of Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's concerns at the present moment. Not that language lessons don't have a place in politics, but this must necessarily be secondary when law and order is simply falling apart.

 

Not only has this year's Budget set aside unprecedented monies to battle separatists, the home minister has been pitching an increasingly forceful tone against them. He recently asked, "If they have courage, they should face elections and take part in the democratic process. Who is stopping them from holding public meetings and winning polls?" During his visit to Lalgarh, P Chidambaram also pointed out that the Maoists are "constantly revising their strategy." That they have managed to wipe out an entire company of the CRPF indicates the scale of their regrouping abilities. The Maoists are waging a serious, intense and protracted war against the Indian state. And there is no question that the Maoist-affected areas will not see their way towards development until the Maoist menace is wiped out. India can no longer afford to underestimate the problem or indulge in wishful thinking that it will go away as soon as a pleasant dialogue is worked out. There is no reason at all to see dialogue offers as sincere. Now, if the battle against Maoists is to become more effective, we must begin with a tactical upgrade of Operation Green Hunt—increasing armaments, intelligence, personnel strength and all other required resources.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SOARING SENSEX

 

On expectations of strong corporate earnings for the quarter ended March this year and strong inflows of foreign portfolio capital, the BSE 30-share Sensex is at striking distance from 18,000 points. It is an important psychological level to reach. The current growth momentum is moving from the government-driven consumption stimulus to capital-driven private consumption and investment, and this is a positive sign for the markets. Advance tax figures for the last quarter have been encouraging and global credit rating agency Standard & Poor's revised outlook on India, from negative to stable, on account of improved government finances has added to the positive sentiment. Markets are not just positive on domestic cues. The US home sales index posted a surprise jump in February, rising 8.2% to 97.6 from a revised 90.2 in January. Moreover, the latest data from US Institute of Supply Management's services sector index rose to 55.4 in March from 50 in February, indicating growth in the sector has started picking up. All these global factors are playing well on the Indian markets. In fact, by the end of the fourth quarter of the current financial year, the Sensex became the third-best performing index amongst major global indices, registering annual returns of 80.5%, behind only Russia and Indonesia and much better than 67.8% in Brazil and only 31.6% in China.

 

Much of the growth in the last one year came from domestic consumption-driven sectors like automobile, cement and steel. Bank credit growth also picked up in the last quarter of the financial year and industry analysts say that most banks have either met or even surpassed the central bank's target of 16% for the current financial year. Industrial production is showing meaningful acceleration, and capacity utilisations are almost reaching the pre-global economic crisis level. Going ahead, given the pace of recovery in the private sector credit demand, lending rates are likely to go up. But to sustain the growth momentum, any increase in interest rates must be gradual and should modulate liquidity in line with the evolving demand scenario. Rising food inflation and spiralling oil and commodity prices would be a dampener but the markets have already factored in such downside risks. Investors, both domestic and global, will take cues from the forthcoming financial results of companies, especially in sectors like software, metals, oil & gas and auto and will give further directions to movement of Indian equities in the near to medium term.

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

ARE INDIANS READY TO OWN EQUITY SHARES?

MAHESH VYAS


The focus of the UPA government on the aam aadmi is a significant break from the NDA's 'India Shining' story. It has happened without rubbishing alternate policy options. This has provided the government with a wider policy choice that allows it on the one hand to promote the NREG that offers jobs for the aam aadmi while on the other hand to push through disinvestments that could create resentments, if not take away jobs from the same constituency.

 

But the government seems to be making a mistake in its posturing when it comes to disinvestment and ownership of the public sector enterprises by the common man. The department of disinvestment Web site quotes the President's address to the joint session of Parliament in June 2009 and then the finance minister's Budget speech in July 2009, where both talk of people's participation in the disinvestment programme. Apparently, there is nothing amiss there. But we need to be sure whether the people really do want to own equity of listed companies.

 

The problem we address first is the discounts that the government offered to retail investors after the NTPC offer failed to elicit sufficient responses. Politically, this move pays no dividends. And it is bad economics.

 

Dealing with the economics part is easy. Since the government does not intend to give away management control of the PSUs, the disinvestment is essentially to raise capital and possibly bring in some accountability to the markets. This is best done by maximising the returns from disinvestments and selling essentially to large institutions. Offering discounts to retail investors does not achieve any of these.

 

To understand the political dividends of the discounts offered to retail investors, we turn to Consumer Pyramids, CMIE's latest database on the financial well being of Indian households. Consumer Pyramids is based on a survey of a panel of 1,40,000 households. Among many indicators, it estimates household incomes, expenses, savings and investments. What is relevant for our discussion here is that it also provides estimates by the size of income and level of education of the household.

 

We find that as of March 2009, 58% of Indian households were investor households. These households have outstanding investments in savings instruments such as fixed deposits, post office savings, National Savings Certificates, Kisan Vikas Patras, provident funds, mutual funds, listed shares and even physical assets such as gold. Only 7.7% of the households, as of March 2009, had investments outstanding in the equity shares of listed companies. This is a small constituency to appease by giving a discount to the retail investor. More importantly, these retail investors are not even the quintessential aam aadmi. The retail investor is mostly rich and not even middle class. Typically, he is more likely to belong to the richest half per cent of the Indian households. And of this miniscule half per cent, only 17.7% have investments in the equity markets. Only 5.8% of the higher middle-income and middle-income brackets of households hold investments in listed equity markets.

 

The higher middle-income households and the middle-income households are far more numerous than the rich households. Collectively, they account for a substantive 36%. Their financial well-being is more linked to interest rates (higher the better) because they have a greater investment in fixed deposits. Nearly 62% of the higher middle-income households and 38% of the middle-income households invest in fixed deposits. Compare these ratios with the meagre ratios of investments in listed equity shares and you have an answer to why doling out sops to this class will not yield any political dividend and will not meet any desire to achieve socialism either. Offering discounts to retail investors is closer to cronyism than socialism. The truth is that the Sensex & Nifty are not relevant to a large proportion of households in the country.

 

It has been two decades since the famous 'Reliance Khazana' public issue by the late Dhirubhai Ambani that ushered the equity cult. The cult has gained a frenzied following but only in a small elite crowd. Households, at large, still prefer to keep monies safely in fixed deposits, preferably in public sector banks. Is this preference a reflection of lack of education? Consumer Pyramids suggests that this is more likely a case of choice and not the lack of education. 9% of households that have at least one graduate invest in equity shares. And 8% of households that do not have any graduate but at least one matriculate invest in equity shares. But what is surprising is that only a little less than 8% of the households that have no literates invest in equity shares. The difference in proportion of households that invest in equity shares across different levels of education is too small to blame lack of education as the reason for poor penetration of the equity investment cult. Households have a clear preference for investing in relatively safe instruments. We need to understand this preference of the households better, rather than lure them into buying equity shares of listed companies. It may not be a very good idea to even 'educate' the public on investing in the equity markets. The government would do better to focus on selling to whoever wishes to buy, rather than dragging the aam aadmi where he apparently does not wish to go.

 

The author heads the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy

 

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FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LOSING THE OUTSOURCING ADVANTAGE

DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR

 

India's pre-eminent position as a BPO destination of choice is under threat, because companies are not investing enough in training their employees. A few years ago graduates of a certain quality made it to the BPOs, but with the industry's charm wearing off, the quality of personnel has gone down. Soon India could stare down the barrel in this sector if urgent steps are not taken to rectify the situation.

 

This is a sad commentary, considering the fact that the BPO industry was once a beacon of hope for many youngsters who were not fortunate enough to be armed with high educational qualifications. It was a sure-shot way to a better quality of life for a middle-class youngster—even though it meant having to do graveyard shifts.

 

Insiders in the industry say that the situation has come about because BPOs were shy of investing in the training of these youngsters. About 8-10% of the revenues used to be spent on them during the heydays of the industry. But, of late, that contribution has been sliding and the results are available for everyone to see. There have been widespread complaints about the poor quality of service dished out by Indian call centres.

 

Accent neutrality was something that the Indian BPOs took great pride in, but that seems to be a thing of the past. Customers have raised issues with the Indian accent and now seem to prefer BPOs in Latin America that are culturally better attuned to serve the American and European markets.

 

With the rentals shooting up in big cities in India, BPOs are now spreading their wings to tier-II and tier-III towns. While it is providing plenty of job opportunities to people, BPOs need to invest more in training their staff, without which quality is being compromised.

 

While India is still reasonably well equipped to capitalise on the available BPO opportunities, these opportunities are not lost to other offshore destinations. Countries like the Philippines, Poland, Brazil and China have made rapid progress and pose a serious threat. Job opportunities in these countries are few and the outsourcing sector offers them the best chance for survival and prosperity.

 

According to Gartner, the BPO market in India is estimated to grow 19% through 2013. The domestic Indian BPO services market grew by 7.3% year-on-year in 2009 primarily due to the global economic uncertainty, which led to some price and volume pressures. Gartner estimates that the Indian domestic BPO market will grow into a $1.2 billion market by 2011 and then to $1.8 billion by 2013. But that will no longer worry the rival nations as they, too, are confident of a high growth rate.

 

These rival locations also offer a low-cost advantage, provide sizeable talent pools and continue to reshape their fiscal and regulatory incentive structures to attract buyers as well as providers of BPO services.

 

Historically, providers have been able to tap into relative wage differentials across geographies to build a strong value proposition for offshoring. While cost-arbitrage continues to be a significant driver of global sourcing for most buyers, the associated benefits will diminish over time, according to a Nasscom-Everest study.

 

Adverse currency movements and wage inflation in India are also putting pressure on operating margins of Indian providers. Relying on a cost savings-based proposition alone will not be in the best interests of the BPO industry. India's opportunity now lies in innovating to build a higher value proposition for buyers. With increasing maturity, buyers are looking for impact beyond costs and efficiency, and clients are adopting optimisation- and transformation-focused objectives.

 

With the Indian BPO industry now lagging behind in the voice race, it is important that the sector shows steel in going up the value chain and becoming business partners of their clients. This would mean the industry might have to lure back the good talent it once possessed, by offering them the right opportunities to grow in their careers.

 

Many of the brighter BPO employees left the industry once they found that they were not getting ahead in their jobs. They found the routine monotonous and unrewarding. There have also been safety issues, particularly for women employees.

 

The onus is now on the BPO firms to get the right talent on board and train them with vigour. And this could alter the course of the sector that many fear is rapidly losing its sheen. This post-recessionary period is a good time to start.

 

dj.hector@expressindia.com

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 FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT FREQUENCY

ASHISH SINHA

 

The private FM radio industry, comprising 40-odd radio firms, has raised a red flag against the third phase of FM radio expansion envisaged by the government, threatening the FM-III rollout. The FM-III policy envisages around 800 new FM stations across 220 towns over and above the 250 stations that are already operational. However, radio operators say the business has become non-viable due to high costs of running FM stations and heavy outgo to the music industry, coupled with the 4% annual revenue sharing arrangement with the government. The radio sector has been waving its profit-loss statements (mostly losses) to drive home the point. It is also threatening to stay away from the bidding stage in FM-III.

 

But it seems the government is not fully convinced and it has its own reasons for FM-III. From less than Rs 200 crore of annual earnings in the first half of the decade spread between half-a-dozen radio firms, the sector is now four times the size (in value) spread between 40-odd radio companies. The recently released Ficci-KPMG report says radio is poised to grow at a CAGR of 16% over the next four years to reach a size of Rs 1,640 crore.

Therefore, the government wants FM-III policy to come out soon and hopes for greater participation by the players. In principle, even large radio operators support the policy for some key takeaways like provisions for a 26% FDI cap for the sector, as opposed to 20% currently. Also, there could be a nod for multiple ownership of radio licences within a city, something not allowed so far. But the radio sector wants more. It wants a five-year extension of the radio licences of existing players so that they get higher valuations for their business from investors, as the losses get spread out over 15 years instead of 10 currently that ends in the next four years. Radio firms also want a low standardised rate for music royalty, which is currently as high as 40-45% of their annual revenue. But the information and broadcasting ministry says both these issues are almost beyond its limits.

 

Still, in order to ensure wider participation in FM-III, the government can dangle some carrots to the radio industry. It can insert certain riders in the FM-III policy like waiving the 4% annual revenue-sharing for next five years for those firms that bid and win a certain minimum number of stations. It could solve the standoff of radio firms with the music industry by forging an alliance of the vast music library of All India Radio with private FM operators under a small revenue-sharing formula. FM-III can become a success story if the government can catch the bull by the horn and make it dance to its tune.

 

ashish.sinha@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SEVERE SETBACK

 

The euphoria over the passage of the historic Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha has rapidly dimmed, with the second hurdle proving too much for its champions. It is now highly unlikely that the Lok Sabha will adopt this progressive piece of legislation in the second half of the Budget session. Not unexpectedly, a bitterly divided all-party meeting saw traditional antagonists such as the Samajwadi Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, and the Janata Dal (United) holding firm to their stand that a separate quota for backward class women must be worked into the Bill. And with the Trinamool Congress demanding subquotas for Muslim women and the Bahujan Samaj Party seeking the same for Dalits, the group ranged against the Bill in its present form has grown much larger. Added to this is the Bharatiya Janata Party's growing ambivalence on the measure, which many of its MPs are known to be against. While it is perfectly all right to ask for a full debate on a game-changing legislative measure, the party's opposition to the use of marshalls to evict obscurantist MPs would effectively make it impossible to get the Bill past the Lok Sabha. It must not be forgotten that the 14-year-old parliamentary journey of the Bill has been marked by scuffles, the snatching of papers, verbal abuse, and worse.

 

The fact is that intense passions have been generated over a reform that everyone supports 'in principle,' where the devil is supposed to be in the detail. Large numbers of male MPs and MLAs cutting across parties are not reconciled to women winning 33 per cent of seats, by rotation, in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. While the United Progressive Alliance chairperson and Congress President Sonia Gandhi must be commended for her initiative, in the face of opposition within her own party and alliance, in getting the Bill past the Rajya Sabha, the party's course is shaped by the immediate imperatives of the UPA government — to get the Finance Bill approved and then try and negotiate the passage of the deeply flawed civil nuclear liability Bill. With the RJD and the SP withdrawing support over the Women's Reservation Bill, the Congress-led government would be averse to risk straining the relationship with its ally, the Trinamool Congress, or its supporter, the BSP, over this issue. The fate of the Bill now seems threatened by two powerful factors — the exigencies of government survival and entrenched opposition from male legislators who constitute over 90 per cent of the Lok Sabha. Whether the Congress leadership is prepared to risk early introduction of the Bill in the Lok Sabha under the present circumstances will be closely watched.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

EXCHANGE RATES IN A GLOBALISED WORLD

 

The global financial crisis might have abated but certain factors that were responsible for it remain just as potent and need to be tackled. In a recent policy brief, the UNCTAD has said that global imbalances — the phenomenon of current account surpluses from a few, mostly Asian countries, bridging the large deficits of the United States and other rich countries — continue to be a major cause for worry. One facet of the problem is reflected in the controversy surrounding the exchange rate policy of China, the country with the largest surplus. Its critics say that, by deliberately keeping the renminbi undervalued in relation to the dollar, China has boosted its exports, augmenting its reserves to record levels. According to this view, the Chinese currency must be allowed to float so that the play of market forces will cause its exports to shrink and stimulate domestic consumption, the two critical steps to restoring the balance with debtor countries. The UNCTAD finds both the diagnosis and the prescription too simplistic. It is unreasonable to put the onus of rebalancing the global economy on a single country and its currency. The real problem has to do with systemic failures, which require comprehensive and inclusive multilateral action.

 

Recent experiences suggest that neither a fully fixed exchange rate system nor a freely floating one can be the optimal solution to the volatility and uncertainty caused by the global imbalance. Multilateralism of the type seen during the height of the crisis in 2008 should guide a new, coherent approach to restoring the balance between trade and non-speculative financial flows. Like the World Trade Organisation that has contributed remarkably to an orderly trade, a new global regulatory body for the monetary system can help substantially in minimising exchange rate misalignments and preventing external shocks, the two major factors associated with global imbalance. Individual countries should have the policy space to deal with surging capital flows when the collateral damage becomes unbearable. The UNCTAD has proposed a "constant real exchange rate" rule that will guide exchange rate policies of countries. Basically, the objective is to ensure that the nominal exchange rates followed the interest rate differentials between two currencies. However, neither the monitoring of the constant exchange rate nor indeed the creation of a WTO-type body for the monetary system is going to be easy. However, the UNCTAD's suggestions are worth pursuing over the medium term.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES


INDIA AND IRAN'S AFPAK POLICY

HOW DOES INDIA PROPOSE TO GET BACK INTO THE GAME OF REALIGNMENTS BEGINNING TO UNFOLD IN AND AROUND AFGHANISTAN?

ATUL ANEJA

 

Iran's recent hyper-activism in neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan has caused consternation in large parts of the globe. In media circles, think tanks and world chanceries, highbrowed mandarins and their well-heeled affiliates are trying to make sense of the latest, seemingly inscrutable piece of the Persian puzzle.

 

Yet Iran's deft moves in an area the Persians have known well for thousands of years originate from deeply deliberated and well-grounded fundamentals. Ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran has been ceaselessly battling the threat of a direct American attack or invasion by a third country backed by the United States. The Iraq war of 2003 brought the American forces eyeball to eyeball with Iranians along their western borders, while the entry of the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan became a potential cross-border threat to Iran from the east.

 

Since 2003, the Iranians have been seeking the exit of American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of their hopes have a good chance of realisation, as the bulk of the forces is slated to leave Iraq next year. The U.S. exit from Afghanistan could begin in July 2011.

 

While the exit of the foreign forces would mark a substantial advance, the Iranians have been looking further ahead to a post-exit scenario, in anticipation of a political vacuum that is likely to emerge once the American troops depart. Viscerally opposed to any repositioning by extra-regional players, Iran is working vigorously to establish a de facto alliance of regional countries that will dominate the geopolitical arena, from Turkey in the west to China in the east.

 

It is in this larger context of regionalising the geopolitical space that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad set foot on Afghan soil on March 10. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai — who fought running battles with the Americans who were more inclined to favour his rival Abdullah Abdullah during the recent elections — received the Iranian leader warmly. Like the Iranians, Mr. Karzai has concluded that the Americans are tiring in Afghanistan and the time has come to explore deeper alignments in an alternative camp which will include Iran, and have China, Pakistan, Central Asian republics and Russia as potential allies.

 

While engaging the Afghans on a new footing, the Iranians have also begun to cultivate Pakistan. A major shift in the contours of their relationship can be traced to October 2009, when the Pakistan-based Jundallah group, led by Abdolmalek Rigi, killed Nour-Ali Shoushtari and other senior commanders of the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC). Incensed at these high-profile assassinations in the Pishin area of the Sistan-Balochistan province, the Iranians sent a few days later their Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar to Islamabad, with the demand for handing over Rigi. Subsequently, he was nabbed dramatically when the Iranians forced a Kyrgyzstan airline plane, in which he was travelling from Dubai to Bishkek, to land in their port city of Bandar Abbas. Influential voices in Pakistan say it was Islamabad that gave the vital tip-off that led to the arrest. The Iranians, however, credit themselves with meticulous intelligence work, without any foreign involvement whatsoever in the arrest.

 

Since the 2009-10 winter war in Gaza, during which Turkey openly distanced itself from Israel, the relationship between Tehran and Ankara has been warming up. Political goodwill is being translated into significant energy cooperation and both sides, despite resistance from several influential quarters, are looking at participating in the Nabucco pipeline, which will carry huge quantities of gas to Europe.

 

As the geopolitical alignments ahead of the U.S. pullout begin to emerge, India's absence is glaring. Piqued by New Delhi's high profile in Kabul, Pakistan's military establishment has been looking for openings that would allow it to achieve its maximalist objective of seeking India's hasty, and preferably unseemly, exit from Afghanistan.

 

However, Pakistan faced two major hurdles. First, the rapid improvement in Indo-U.S. ties during the Bush presidency firmly deterred it from taking India head-on in Afghanistan. Second, the Afghan presidency, closely tied to New Delhi since 2001, was hostile to Islamabad.

 

However, the scenario changed dramatically with the exit of the Bush administration and the emergence of Barack Obama. Focussed on a strategy of exiting from Afghanistan, the Americans deepened their security dependence on the Pakistanis in the hope of rapid success. As a result, the Indian fortress in Afghanistan which looked impregnable during the Bush era was breached. Pakistan utilised this opportunity to the hilt.

 

A staunch ally of India for several years, President Karzai, after his re-election last year, began to show unusual warmth towards Pakistan. His description of India as a friend and Pakistan as a conjoined twin, during his visit to Islamabad, was widely seen as a demonstration of his waning affection for New Delhi.

 

There has been a significant deterioration in India-Iran ties since New Delhi voted against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the Iranian nuclear programme. In fact, the day India voted against Iran, it seriously jeopardised its project in Afghanistan. In the absence of a geographically contiguous border, India can extend its reach into Afghanistan only through the Iranian corridor.

 

With its back to the wall, how does India propose to get back into the great game of realignments beginning to unfold in and around Afghanistan? It can draw some inspiration from its diplomatic conduct in the past — when it worked successfully with the Iranians, Russians and Central Asians, especially the Tajiks to unroll the Northern Alliance against the Taliban in 2001. With the recent visit of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to New Delhi, where discussions on Afghanistan took place, India has taken its first major step in the right direction.

 

Mending fences with Iran has to be its next major undertaking. However, in trying to rework its relations, India is left with only one ace which it can play to good effect provided it begins to view its national interests independently and not through the tinted glasses of the U.S. With its huge requirements of energy, India needs to get back to the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) gas pipeline project. But in doing so, it has to substantially modify the arrangement and turn it around to suit its core long-term interests.

 

Iran would enthusiastically welcome India's participation in this project, as is evident from the provisions included in the gas deal signed by Iran and Pakistan in Istanbul in March. Therein lies the opportunity for India to claw back into the arrangement and take it forward from there.

 

Instead of waiting for Pakistan to seize the initiative, India can benefit by boldly and formally initiating the introduction of two significant players — Russia and China — into this tie-up. The Russian gas giant Gazprom has already expressed its keen interest to participate in the IPI project. Gazprom's representative in Tehran, Abubakir Shomuzov, has called for extension of the pipeline to China, in an arrangement that would tie Russia, China, India, Pakistan and Iran together in a giant project.

 

Russia's participation would be crucial to India. With Russia firmly on its side, India can, with greater ease and confidence, engage with China in this cooperative enterprise. In the debate on the extension to China, the route this pipeline can take is of vital importance. For India to take advantage of this extension, it will have to insist that the pipeline, passing through Iran and Pakistan, go through an Indian transit corridor and no other alternative route before entering China.

 

Such an arrangement would greatly help in making the IPI-plus arrangement stabler and more workable. With China, Pakistan's all-weather friend as the final beneficiary, Islamabad would find it impossible to block supplies to India. In other words, the routing of the pipeline to China via India and the interdependence it generates among the various stakeholders would become New Delhi's insurance policy for obtaining assured gas supplies from Iran via Pakistan.

 

There is a final diplomatic dimension which needs to be added for the IPI-plus to succeed. Critics rightly point to the security problems that this project, in the current circumstances, will encounter during the passage of the pipeline through the turbulent province of Balochistan. A comprehensive dialogue may therefore be the way forward to resolve this problem. India, which in recent years has gone into a diplomatic shell, can take the high ground and propose a comprehensive six-party process. Besides itself, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, China and Iran can become the core participants of this arrangement. Such a forum, carefully constructed, adequately resourced and energetically led can take head-on not only the question of Baluchistan but all other issues that stand in the way of a lasting trans-national energy partnership

 

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THE HINDU

PANEL SEES MALE DOMINANCE BEHIND BANKING CRISIS

MACHO CULTURE HAS BEEN BLAMED FOR THE BANKING COLLAPSE, LEADING TO THE ARGUMENT THAT BOARDS NEED MORE WOMEN TO PREVENT RECKLESS DECISION-MAKING.

HASAN SUROOR

 

There is a view that the banking crisis that sent Western economies tumbling two years ago may not have happened at all, or would have been less severe, if there had been more women at the top in the banking sector — the argument being that women are more cautious and risk averse and, therefore, more likely than men to challenge the sort of practices that caused the crisis.

 

Until now, this theory had been pushed mostly by women campaigners while men tended to snigger. But now even men seem to agree. A male-dominated parliamentary committee (13 men and one woman — an ironic comment on Westminster's own attitude to gender diversity) has blamed a macho culture and "potentially dangerous group think" for the collapse of several leading British banks arguing that boards need more women to prevent reckless decision-making.

 

In a report, highlighting the acute dearth of women at the top in Britain's financial sector, the Treasury Select Committee says that the prevailing male-driven high-risk mindset is not conducive to good "corporate governance".

 

"Diversity at the top is one way to challenge potentially dangerous 'group think'," it says citing some eye-popping statistics to underline deep-seated sexism in the City, London's famous global financial hub.

 

The committee found that gender-based wage disparity was the worst in the financial sector with full-time women workers earning 55 per cent less than their full-time male colleagues. The pay gap for bonuses and performance related pay was even higher at 80 per cent.

 

The MPs were scathing about the huge under-representation of women at the board level, especially in the FTSE-listed companies, with women executive directors accounting for only between one to two per cent in the 300-odd top firms. They noted that the number of women on FTSE-100 bank boards actually declined from 13 per cent in 2004 to nine per cent in 2009.

 

Testifying before the committee, Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman accused financial institutions of operating on the basis of an "old boy's network".

 

"Too many British boardrooms are still no-go areas for women," she said prompting the panel to warn City bosses that if they failed to act voluntarily to make boardrooms more diverse and inclusive the government might be forced to step in.

 

"We believe the lack of diversity on the boards of many, if not most, of our major financial institutions may have made effective challenge and scrutiny of executive decisions less effective," it said implicitly acknowledging the view that if there had been more women in positions that offered them a chance to "challenge" and "scrutinise" decisions taken by their male colleagues the crisis may have been averted.

 

However, its chairman John McFall, a senior Labour MP, sought to soften the blow saying: "We are not saying that had women been in charge, the crisis wouldn't have happened, but we are highlighting the fact that women are poorly represented in the financial sector, particularly at senior level."

 

Women's groups such as Women for Boards and the City Women's Network believe that positive discrimination, including women's quotas, are the only way to break the male monopoly of boardrooms.

 

"The City is a bastion of power, traditional male power, and they want to keep women out," Sasha Roskoff of the women's rights group Object told one newspaper.

 

Sexist City

 

The City has always been notoriously sexist and it is reflected in the high number of sex-discrimination cases brought by women against their employers. Most top banks and financial institutions are said to be reluctant to hire women except as tokenism; and those who manage to sneak in anyway face humiliation on daily basis, according to anecdotal evidence. A former investment banker, who left her job in disgust, says that obscene comments, pornographic screen-savers and lewd gestures are common and when women complain they are advised to "learn to manage".

 

"Over and over again I wasn't taken seriously," she said in a newspaper interview claiming that her male colleagues refused to work with her and she was repeatedly overlooked for promotion. During a recruitment drive at one bank, a senior executive was reportedly heard saying that he wanted a "slim blonde".

 

And it is not just the City where sexism is rife. Here is what Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, has to say about British Parliament: "We supposedly have 'The Mother of all Parliaments', and yet we're 69th in the world for the percentage of women we have as part of that Parliament. Pakistan, Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates have more women in their parliaments. If we keep accruing women to Parliament at the same rate we are doing now, it would take 200 years to have equal representation. That's the same amount of time it would take a snail to walk the Great Wall of China."

 

And, as we head for the press, the BBC is embroiled in another of those seasonal controversies about "sexism" at the Beebs after the editor of its flagship Today programme, Ceri Thomas, said that he did not have many women presenters on his staff because it was an "incredibly difficult place to work" for which they were not suited.

 

"The skill set that you need to work on the Today programme and the hide that you need, the thickness of it, is something else," he said sparking a furious reaction from his female colleagues and listeners who pointed out that his remarks confirmed that the BBC was still largely male and middle-class — not to mention, of course, white and an Old Boys' network.

 

Oof!

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THE HINDU

AMONG THE ELDERLY, THE WIRED WORLD IS TERROR FOR SOME, DELIGHT FOR OTHERS

THOSE WHO HAVE RESISTED CHANGE FEEL VULNERABLE, OBLIVIOUS TO HOW CRITICAL THE COMPUTER WILL BE TO HELP THEM AS THEY BECOME MORE HOUSEBOUND.

SAM ALLIS

 

They grew up in a time when technology meant a wall telephone, a TV set with three channels, and a radio. Today they are in the midst of a monumental transition. While some senior citizens are handling the rapid rise of the Internet age well — e-mailing, posting family photos on Facebook, paying bills online — for many it has prompted sheer terror.

 

People have always faced changes as they age — cable TV, voice mail, call waiting — but no generation has been thrown so much change, so fast, as today's seniors. Those who have adjusted feel confident. Those who have resisted feel vulnerable, oblivious to how critical the computer will be to help them stay in touch with friends, order food, or buy prescription drugs as they become more housebound.

 

If there is a silver lining, it is this: The next generation of seniors — the baby boomers — will not have to go through this wrenching change. They know how to reboot, IM, and tweet.

 

"The over-70 now will not look like the over-70 10 years from now," said Lisa Berkman, a Harvard School of Public Health professor who is an expert on aging. "The baby boomers have grown up in this environment."

 

But for now, there are a lot of people like Dorothy Larsen, an 86-year-old widow who lives in Framingham. "The future scares me," she said. "I like the old days. I'm scared of computers."

 

So is West Roxbury resident Jane Kennedy, somewhere past 70. "I'm not on the Internet," Ms. Kennedy said. "I don't know that much about it. It seems to get more and more advanced. I don't even know what they're talking about: BlackBerries, blueberries."

 

What's different for seniors today is the pace of change, said Ellen Langer, a Harvard psychology professor who studies aging.

 

"The reason for the difference is that the speed of communication has increased enormously, and the information is information that has personal relevance," Ms. Langer said.

 

What is more, the speed with which seniors process information declines as they get older, noted Anne Fabiny, chief of geriatrics at the Cambridge Health Alliance.

 

"Even if you do have the resources, it takes a lot longer to learn it," she said.

 

Children and grandchildren of seniors often play large roles in helping out. Harold Segal (91), has been on a computer since 1993, when his son Peter got him a refurbished Mac and a printer. Mr. Segal has been writing letters on it ever since. More important, he enjoys writing stories about his life.

 

"Older people are caught in a very big transition," said Ms. Berkman. "There is an enormous disparity and comfort in the technical area. It's like the digital divide. Education and socioeconomic status play a role. Some haven't learned the new skills. They have 70 years of a different life experience."

 

Personality matters here. One indicator of how seniors do is how they regard the future. If they are positive, they are more apt to make the transition. Those frightened of the future are more apt to be stuck in the La Brea Tar Pits of the past.

 

Education and money play a role. If you have them, the odds are you will do better making the change to this brave new world. Ann Kneisel, a pistol of an 84-year-old, has seized the day all her life. She is educated, financially secure, and active. She travels to New York and Europe for opera.

 

Ms. Kneisel is no online artiste, but she has had a computer for 14 years and has adapted to change comfortably. She has no interest in Facebook or Twitter, but she sprays e-mails to family and friends and orders movies through Netflix. She shops online, buying books, and opera DVDs on Amazon.com. ("There is no place you can rent a movie in this city," she said.)

 

If the computer does not behave, she calls a son who lives nearby or a woman in Gloucester who is paid to fix trouble over the phone. All but one of the women in her book group are on computers.

 

But without a computer, you cannot use Netflix and you cannot communicate with friends, which is why Roberta Kwiatkowski (77) took her third computer class last week at the Callahan Senior Center in Framingham.

 

"The main reason is that my best buddy from high school who lives in California is ill," she said. "She wished I had a computer. I'm not intimidated anymore. I'm glad to be moving forward. But there are a lot of people who just don't want to know."

 

This illuminates why senior centres and public libraries are so important. There is staff in both places to teach computer skills. To close branch libraries in Boston — a proposal that is under consideration — robs seniors of a place to learn, specialists said.

 

Ms. Berkman said the answer to the senior technology problem is continuous learning. "You find lifelong education in aging societies all over the world," she said. "We're heading down that road. The idea that you're done with your education at 24 is ridiculous."

 

Even Dorothy Larsen is thinking about taking the plunge. "Everybody seems to be e-mailing," she said. "Maybe I should, too." — New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

NUMBER OF CHINESE BILLIONAIRES 'SECOND ONLY TO U.S.'

MICHAEL BRISTOW

 

China now has more billionaires than any other country besides the United States, according to Forbes magazine.

 

There are a total of 64 people in that bracket in mainland China, the magazine says in its annual list of the world's richest people. The figure is perhaps not surprising considering that China's economy has seen rapid growth over recent years. China is set to overtake Japan as the world's second-biggest economy sometime this year.

 

According to Forbes, the world now has 1,011 billionaires.

 

The country with the biggest concentration is the U.S., with 403. But China comes second with 64 living in the mainland.

 

That figure jumps to 89 if Hong Kong is included. The former British colony was returned to China in 1997, but largely governs its own affairs.

 

On Forbes' list of billionaires there are a total of 97 new additions — and 27 of those are from mainland China.

 

They include people such as Li Shufu, who is chairman of Geely, a car-maker that is currently poised to buy Sweden's Volvo.

 

The richest man in China, Zong Qinghou, runs a multi-billion-dollar firm, the Wahaha Group, that makes soft drinks.

 

In an interview with Forbes, he hinted at why his firm has become so successful.

 

"We're not afraid of competition. To meet competition, however, you have to continuously innovate," he said.

 

China's increasing prominence on this rich list reflects its growing economic muscle, confirmed on Wednesday with a report that exports rose in February by nearly 50 per cent compared to a year earlier.

 

But the news that there are now more billionaires in China might not be welcomed by everyone in the country.

 

Many people, including some officials, say that the gap between rich and poor is already too large.

 

Just a few days ago in a speech at the start of China's ongoing parliamentary session, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the government must reverse the widening income gap.

 

"We will not only make the 'pie' of social wealth bigger by developing the economy, but also distribute it well," he said.

 

Mr Wen added: "[We will] make our society fairer and more harmonious." — © BBC News/Distributed by the New York Times Syndicate

 

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THE HINDU

ISRAELI RIGHTS GROUPS VIEW THEMSELVES AS UNDER SIEGE

FOR THE RIGHT-LEANING GOVERNMENT, HUMAN RIGHTS CRITICISM HAS TURNED INTO AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT, SAY ACTIVISTS.

ISABEL KERSHNER

 

Leaders of some of Israel's most prominent human rights organisations say they are working in an increasingly hostile environment and coming under attack for actions that their critics say endanger the country.

 

The pressure on these groups has tightened as the country's leaders have battled to defend Israel against accusations of war crimes, the rights advocates say, raising questions about the limits of free speech and dissent in Israel's much vaunted democracy.

 

"Over the years, in a variety of international arenas," says Hagai El-Ad, executive director of the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, "it was key for Israeli officials to say, 'Yes, there are many problems, perhaps even abuses; however, we have a strong, vibrant civil society with a plethora of voices and we are very proud of that.' It is inconsistent to make those statements and at the same time create a situation that colours us as traitors in the public eye."

 

Governments and the watchdog organisations that monitor them have rarely seen eye to eye. But rights advocates say that to many conservatives and leaders of Israel's right-leaning government, the allegations of war crimes against the Israeli military that followed the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09 have turned human rights criticism into an existential threat that is chipping away at the country's legitimacy. And officials have been blunt in their counterattacks.

 

The chief catalyst was the United Nations report last fall on the war in Gaza, by a fact-finding mission led by the South African jurist Richard Goldstone. The report accused Israel and Hamas of possible war crimes.

 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has since identified what he calls the "Goldstone effect," meaning the delegitimisation of Israel abroad, as a major strategic threat.

 

Last summer, he attacked a leftist organisation, Breaking the Silence, that published allegations by unnamed Israeli soldiers about human rights violations during the war, as selectively anti-Israel.

 

Some international rights groups that have been critical of Israel, like Human Rights Watch, have said Israel's government was "waging a propaganda war" to discredit them. A senior Netanyahu aide affirmed in an interview last year that Israel was "going to dedicate time and manpower to combating these groups".

 

Israeli rights advocates say that such comments by officials have fostered an atmosphere of harassment. While they do not accuse the government of orchestrating a campaign against them, they point to a number of seemingly unconnected dots that they say add up to a growing climate of repression.

 

In Sheikh Jarrah, the East Jerusalem neighbourhood where several Palestinian families have been evicted from their homes and replaced by Jewish settlers, the police have arrested dozens of Israelis attending peaceful protests in recent months. Mr. El-Ad was detained for 36 hours in January, along with 16 other activists, after he explained to the police that their decision to break up a rally had no legal grounds. One organiser of the protests was arrested at his parents' Jerusalem home on a night in late March, and released three days later.

 

Sari Bashi, the director of Gisha, an advocacy group that focuses on freedom of movement for Palestinians, said her organisation was harassed last year by the Israeli tax authorities. She said they questioned why Gisha should be tax exempt when that status was meant for organisations that promoted the public good. Eventually, she said, the authorities backed down.

 

Then an ultra-Zionist nongovernmental organisation called Im Tirtzu attacked a major organisation, the New Israel Fund, which channelled about $29 million to Israeli groups in 2009, including some Arab-run, non-Zionist groups.

 

Im Tirtzu published a report in January asserting that 92 per cent of the quotes from unofficial Israeli bodies supporting claims against Israel in the Goldstone report were provided by 16 nongovernmental organisations financed by the New Israel Fund.

 

The New Israel Fund dismissed Im Tirtzu's findings as a fabrication, saying most of the references it cited had nothing to do with Gaza during the Israeli offensive.

 

Perhaps the most alarming sign to rights advocates was a preliminary vote in Parliament supporting a bill that called for groups that received support from foreign governments to register with Israel's political parties' registrar, which could change their tax status and hamper their ability to raise money abroad. It swept a preliminary vote in the 120-seat Knesset in February with 58 in favour and 11 against.

 

Proponents say the bill is needed to improve transparency. "Up until now they have enjoyed a halo effect as highly regarded human rights watchdogs," said Gerald Steinberg, an Israeli political scientist and president of NGO Monitor, a conservative watchdog group financed by American Jewish philanthropists. "They were not seen as political organisations with biases and prone to false claims. Now, they are coming under some kind of scrutiny."

 

But rights organisations say that they are already required to list publicly the sources of their funding, and that the bill is actually intended to stifle dissent.

 

For now, the bill has effectively been blocked until its proponents reach agreement with the Labour Ministers in the governing coalition, who are trying to water it down. — New York Times News Service

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

COALITION DHARMA

 

The Congress, which heads the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre, appears to forget now and then that it is part of a coalition. Despite its large contingent of MPs, the party still needs to take its partners, allies and friends along when it introduces ground-breaking schemes and plans. The current impasse over the Women's Reservation Bill, where some parties want quotas within quotas for the castes that they represent, shows how important it is to take the opinions of allies seriously.

 

Guerilla tactics and surprise moves may help you win the day's battle —which is how the women's bill got passed in the Rajya Sabha last month — but wars cannot be won by stealth alone. In the battlefield is politics, true winners look for sensible compromises and consensus. UPA-2 now has some ministers on fast track to speed up both economic and systemic reforms.

 

However, it has to persuade its partners and the Opposition that its plans are beneficial and hence worthy of support. The reformist zeal of those in government notwithstanding, there may be forces and interests which may be opposed to those changes, but they also have a say in the running of this country. The UPA perhaps then needs to look for consensus first and then plunge ahead with its grand ideas.

 

Regardless of whether you agree with the Yadavs on their idea of quotas within quotas, the fact is they are an integral part of our polity. The women's bill has been a contentious issue for over a decade and both Congress and UPA-2 should have known that its passage was not going to be easy.

 

The objections are not only from the Opposition — the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is the main opposition party, for instance is in full agreement with the Women's Reservation Bill in its current form and is opposed to any additional quotas. Within the Congress, the reform faction has to contend with Sonia Gandhi and her concerns for the aam aadmi. The food security bill is stuck with the party leader asking the government to widen its definition of 'below poverty line' families.

 

It seems a trifle odd that a party with so much experience should come unstuck at the notion of that age-old policy in politics — compromise. Until it wins a full majority, there may be no other way.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

CONNECTING INDIANS

 

The social and geographic profile of Internet users in the country seems to be changing. According to a survey by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), 36% of Internet users are to be found in places like Kolhapur, Thrissur and Panipat, the tier-2 and tier-3 towns of India. People are also spending more time on the Internet, up from 9.3 hours a week to 15.7 hours. While the number of those who claim to have used the Internet has gone up from 57 million in 2008 to 71 million in 2009, the number of active users of the Internet has gone up from 42 million in September, 2008, to 52 million in September, 2009. Another interesting number is that two million people access the net on their mobile phones.

 

The numbers in absolute numbers reflect a relatively fast changing scenario which is heartening, but they are still very low compared to the proportion of the total population. There is no room then for complacency. India will have to grow faster if it is to benefit from the information technology (IT) revolution. The buzzword at the beginning of the millennium was knowledge-based economy (KBE), and it held out the promise that whole economies could almost be run with greater reliance on the service sector, and this in turn would be through IT-enabled services. There is slightly less optimism on this count with the realisation dawning that agriculture and manufacturing will still absorb the labour of the majority of people.

 

This does not in any way relegate the importance of IT. Its role in the economy may not be as large as it was envisaged earlier, but its ability to redefine how people get information, how they connect with the rest of society and social mores still has revolutionary potential. The physical aspect of societies is not going to be transformed into a virtual world overnight, but there is no doubt that the Internet will be creating new groups of far-flung individuals and associations. It is the social aspect of networking that will hurtle people and societies into a futurist huddle.

 

If India is to be part of this adventure, then there are many things to be done: increase literacy — not necessarily in English; increase the density of personal computers or its radical variant, like the mobile phone handset, and increase radically broadband connectivity. Infrastructure attains a new connotation altogether in the IT context.

 

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DNA

TIME TO DUMP HISTORY

MADHU BHALLA

 

The 60th anniversary in a person's life is a time to start life anew, with a chance to do things differently. Sixty years ago, India and China shared a brief moment of euphoria. They were both new Asian nations with post-colonial dreams. The moment was ready for a partnership which unfortunately sputtered on different political and strategic visions for Asia. After 1962 and a long period of alienation, Rajiv Gandhi and Deng Xiaoping displayed some brilliant leadership to rescue the idea with a handshake.

 

However, by then the world had changed. As the Cold War ended, China was fast becoming an economic powerhouse. India, too, began to shake off its slow rate of change. Today, the India-China relationship is no longer only a bilateral issue, related to our border conflict. It is a regional and a global issue. But the habits of the last 60 years of troubled engagement still have currency at the popular and policy-making levels. To realise this, we need to only look at the harsh and provocative position of China on Arunachal and the Dalai Lama in the recent past, and Beijing's strident diplomacy on the Indo-US nuclear deal and the Indian response to it.

 

To discard old agendas, we need to do a few things. First, we must review our political geography and clear the decks of the debris of the 1962 war. At issue for India is the settlement of claims on the border, for China its hold on Tibet.Beijing's policy on the settlement of its claims on the border areas, especially in Arunachal and over Tawang, determines its political legitimacy in Tibet. As long as Tibet remains a perpetually disturbed province within China, Beijing's fears and stance on the border will not change.

 

Yet, it is also time for Beijing to accept that India does not bear responsibility for stability in Tibet. Only Beijing does. India has accepted, time and again, Tibet as an integral part of China. For Beijing to keep India and Tibetan exiles under scrutiny for its own failure of governance in Tibet is egregious and only keeps alive an issue whose settlement would have served peace and stability in South Asia. South Asia should not have to bear the consequences of Lhasa's alienation from Beijing.

 

Fear over India's role in influencing Tibet's allegiance to Beijing was also the original lynchpin of China-Pakistan relations. These have burgeoned since 1963 into one of the strongest asymmetrical relationships in the region. Pakistan's lease of disputed territories in Kashmir to China to build up strategic assets and its role in Kashmiri militancy served China's strategic interests, but it also meant that China turned a blind eye to one of the world's major emerging security threats, the threat from militant Islamic groups.

 

Second, given the potential for competition and cooperation inherent in India-China relations, there is an urgent need to build the institutions and dialogue for a thicker political interaction. One myth we need to dispel is this: as ancient civilisations and neighbours we have had a long and peaceful history of interaction. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, our critical interactions have always been mediated by third parties, whether it was Central Asia during the period of the transmission of Buddhism from India to China, or the East India Company, during the period of the opium trade. On the two occasions when India did confront the Chinese state directly, during the period of Kanishka's rule in Kashmir and again in the 20th century, war ensued. There just were no diplomatic and political instruments at hand to manage conflict and mediate competing visions of power. We need to change this.

 

Third, India and China must discard 20th century notions of the region. This century's economic and strategic concerns span regions, and both state and non-state actors must build coalitions beyond their region. For far too long India has staked a claim to South Asia and China to the regions on its periphery — East, South-east and Central Asia. Yet, both have a stake in global and regional trade, investment and capital flows and in cross-border security threats from terrorism, illegal trafficking and piracy. The ground for reconceptualising the region has already been established by giving non-regional states observer status within regional bodies — as in Saarc and SCO. There is a strong case to be made for open regionalism and inter-regionalism in Asia, and India and China, as large and emerging Asian powers must participate fully in this process.

 

As India and China move further into this century they will confront new challenges over resource sharing, competing claims for influence in the world and regional bodies and differences over norms and values. When they seek solutions to these problems they must think anew and guard against taking recourse to history. For the history of India-China relations has little to teach them about managing their relations.

 

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DNA

CHINKS IN THE CHINESE LEADERSHIP'S ARMOUR

NICHOLAS D KRISTOF

 

Some 2,400 years ago, a Chinese king invited a legendary military strategist named Sun Tzu to give a demonstration in military training — using women from the palace. Sun Tzu agreed, organising 180 of the king's beautiful young women into two companies. He made the king's two favourite concubines officers in charge, and explained the principles of marching. An ancient account explains that when Sun Tzu beat the drum to signal "right turn!" "the girls only burst out laughing." So Sun Tzu patiently repeated the instructions and beat the drum to signal "left turn!" Again, the women simply burst into laughter. So Sun Tzu seized the two favourite concubines, accused them of failing to maintain discipline — and beheaded them. Now the other terrified women followed orders.


That's the kind of historical tale that members of China's politburo absorbed while growing up. In battles over Google and the currency exchange rate, they model the hardheaded Sun Tzu, accepting that making omelette will require breaking eggs.


One of the most important diplomatic relationships in the world is between China and the US, and it is deteriorating sharply. What's more, many experts believe it will get considerably worse over the coming year — and one reason may be that China's leaders seem to feel as if they have their backs to the wall.
We tend to think of China as an invincible force rising up to challenge the West, but today's disputes — and a corresponding domestic crackdown — seem to reflect the leadership's sense of vulnerability. The Chinese leaders appear to worry about a fragile society and the risk that a rise in unemployment could lead to vast social upheaval.


I'd bet that it is the government's sense of insecurity — not strength — that has the leadership fulminating about Google. When the Chinese government jostled with Google, young Chinese didn't leave flowers at Zhongnanhai to show support. Rather, they left flowers and supportive notes at Google's headquarters in Beijing.


"Patriotic education" and carefully nurtured nationalism mean that in many disputes between China and the West, the Chinese people and the Chinese government stand together. We in the West see human rights in Tibet as a moral imperative and a rising renminbi as an economic imperative; Chinese citizens and leaders alike see these issues as part of a 200-year-long string of Western imperialist efforts to bully or dismember a fragile China.


But the Internet is different. The politburo doesn't want a free Internet, and the people do.
Mostly, I think we exaggerate the disaffection of Chinese toward their government. Most Chinese citizens aren't very political and aren't deeply upset by the lack of a ballot — as long as living standards continue to improve. And many Chinese prefer a local search engine, Baidu, to Google. Still, ordinary Chinese are profoundly irritated by corruption, nepotism, lies, official arrogance and hassles when they try to use the Internet.
The US government has been reluctant to support financing for the proxy servers that enable Chinese or Iranians to leap firewalls. That's because the most effective software to evade censorship was devised by Falun Gong, a religious group that is despised by the Chinese government. The fear is that China would be outraged. But we shouldn't let that dissuade us, for we have a powerful interest in chipping away at firewalls that protect dictatorships.


The Communist Party's greatest success is the extraordinary economic changes it has ushered in over the last three decades with visionary policies and impressive governance. Its greatest failing is its refusal to adjust politically to accommodate the middle class that it created. And its greatest vulnerability is the way it increasingly neither inspires people nor terrifies them, but rather simply annoys them. —NYT

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ELUSIVE CONSENSUS

WOMEN'S QUOTA BILL HITS NEW ROADBLOCK

 

The failure of Tuesday's all-party meeting convened by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to evolve consensus on the Women's Reservation Bill was not entirely unexpected. Though the Centre has hinted at more such meetings to arrive at a consensus, the Bill may get derailed in the remaining part of the Budget session when Parliament reconvenes after the recess on April 15. An early passage of the Bill in the Lok Sabha seems unlikely because apart from the Yadav troika — Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Mr Sharad Yadav of the Janata Dal (United) — Railway Minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee has also demanded sub-quota for minorities with an eye on the ensuing elections in West Bengal. Her party had earlier abstained during the passage of the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on March 9. Evidently, the Centre had failed to persuade her to support the Bill in its present form.

 

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Ms Mayawati wants separate quota for SC/ST women over and above the proposed 33 per cent quota for women. She also says that reservation should be in proportion to the population. As for the Left, Ms Brinda Karat says that it could consider quota within quota if the government came up with a "firm proposal" but at no cost would it accept further delay.

 

Significantly, the BJP has informed the government that it will support the Bill "in any form". Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has suggested a second look at an Election Commission proposal that envisages political parties earmarking 33 per cent tickets for women if a consensus on the Bill is elusive. Critics say, this would allow parties to dump women in "unwinnable seats" defeating the very purpose of the gender empowerment legislation. Also the parties may not endorse the proposal for empowering the Election Commission to derecognise those flouting the one-third reservation norm. A cut in the quantum of quota (from 33 to 20 per cent) is also doing the rounds. Clearly, the Centre needs to use all its skills to hammer out an all-party consensus on the Bill.

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ILL-COOKED FOOD BILL

IN HASTE, GOVT BURNS ITS FINGERS

 

Since the hurriedly drafted food security Bill had left many loose ends untied, Congress president Sonia Gandhi has stepped in to ensure a rethink on her pet subject, which had figured in the party manifesto also. The government's aim in presenting a truncated Bill was, perhaps, to ease the food subsidy burden. The party has its political compulsions. The Bill reduced the food entitlement of a poor family from 35 kg to 25 kg of rice or wheat at Rs 3 a kg. This is also contrary to what a Supreme Court panel has recommended. The party, therefore, has prevailed over the government, which has passed on to the Planning Commission the responsibility to sort out the contentious issues in three weeks.

 

Sonia Gandhi wants the government to include pulses and oilseed apart from wheat and rice in the subsidised basket as the food has to be wholesome. Experts differ over what constitutes a nutritious diet. Besides, the number of the poor households is disputed. The government puts the figure at 6.53 crore, the Planning Commission at 8.1 crore and the states at 10 crore. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee wants the states to estimate the number of below-poverty-line households. Since it is the Centre that has to arrange foodgrains or funds in the absence of food, the states could inflate the number of BPL households. Small wonder, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia dubbed Pranab's proposal an invitation to "an economic disaster".

 

How the food items routed through the leaky public distribution system find their way in the open market is well known. There is no estimate of the burgeoning demand-supply gap. In case there is a crop failure and global food prices escalate, would the government be prepared to cope with the situation? Providing food security to the starving poor in this billion-plus country is a gargantuan task, no doubt. The government should consider all aspects instead of rushing with the food security legislation.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SQUABBLING SONS

AZHAGIRI FIRES SALVO AT BROTHER STALIN

 

Dynastic politics in Tamil Nadu has more than its fair share of twists and turns. Patriarch Karunanidhi had got his elder son M.K. Azhagiri accommodated as a Central minister in the hope of clearing the way for the anointment of his younger son M.K. Stalin as his chief ministerial successor. For a time this seemed to be working. Azhagiri, who is temperamental and consequently unpredictable, did not challenge brother Stalin's elevation as Deputy Chief Minister a day after Azhagiri's induction into the Central Cabinet last year. Last week, however, Azhagiri disturbed a hornet's nest when he declared that he would not accept anyone other than his father as his leader. In an interview with a Tamil magazine, he said barring the 86-year-old Karunanidhi, no other DMK functionary had the capacity to lead the Dravidian party. This re-igniting of the succession war has predictably not gone down well with Karunanidhi who had announced in December last that he would lay down office after the World Tamil Congress in June this year.

 

The DMK has been ruled like a family fiefdom with no quarter given to anyone outside the Karunanidhi family to even entertain ambitions of leading the party. A few years ago, Vaiko had dared to aspire but he was jettisoned from the DMK and had to form his own small party. While Stalin is credited with having built up the youth wing of the party and of handling the Mayorship of Chennai and then the Local Self Government portfolio in Karunanidhi's Cabinet with aplomb, Azhagiri is believed to have been instrumental in broadening the DMK's base in south Tamil Nadu. But how adept they would prove when octogenarian Karunanidhi's shadow would no longer be with them is anybody's guess.

 

The moot question is: will the party be able to remain united to face the electoral onslaught of AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa after Karunanidhi bows out. It was Karunanidhi's apprehension that the two brothers would quarrel that led him to send Azhagiri to the Centre. Now, with the elder son having fired a fresh salvo, the indulgent father has reason to be concerned.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

TYRANNY OF ARROGANT MEN

THE REGIMES THAT FEAR THEIR OWN PEOPLE

BY B.G. VERGHESE

 

The recently resumed trial of hapless Bahai's in Iran, a small, peaceful community, is symptomatic of the tyranny of unstable regimes that fear their own people.

 

As brazen is the feverish anxiety on the part of the Mynmarese military junta to block every single avenue for anything like a remotely fair and free election, the first in 20 years, in that unhappy country. No firm dates have been announced but the charade is planned for sometime towards the end of the year. Aung San Suu Kyi, leader of the National League for Democracy, who won the last poll by an overwhelming margin, has been barred under a newly announced electoral law that does everything to ensure the poll is rigged in favour of the junta, which has reserved 25 per cent of all elective seats for itself. The Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA) and the National Unity Party (NUP) are also being desperately propped up to win the remaining "popular vote" as nothing can be left to chance.

 

On March 8, the junta announced five laws with regard to the election commission, political party registration and related matters under a new constitution that was crudely imposed on the people some months ago in a fraudulent "referendum". A military caretaker government is soon to take over the reins of administration and the new government may not be formed until several months after the poll so that everything is carefully arranged. The media is on a tight leash so that nothing untoward is said. Meanwhile, plans are reportedly afoot for a military makeover with the older guard retiring to make way for a younger lot, while some cadres are enrolled in the legislatures.

 

The ethnic minorities pose a problem. The separate ceasefire agreements signed with 17 ethnic groups in effect entailed a tacit live and let live policy for many without any compulsion to lay down arms. For the past several months the junta has been trying to persuade some of these groups to convert their armed cadres into a Border Guard Force, presumably as a step towards bringing them under the discipline of the Burmese Army. There was recently trouble in the trans-Salween Kokang region on this issue with the Wa State Army coming to the aid of its ethnic allies. The Generals are desperate and earlier surmises about the junta's nuclear ambitions that North Korea is assisting, though lacking confirmation, merit a close watch as rouge states are known to strive for immunity through nuclear blackmail.

 

The debate on whether or not the NLD should contest the elections, howsoever loaded the dice, has finally been settled in favour of a boycott. This will further strain the credibility of the exercise.

 

China too continues to exhibit fears of freedom. Google has pulled out of the mainland to Hong Kong because of censorship and official hacking into and spying on dissidents' ID accounts. Now Go Daddy, the American domain name register group, is thinking of following suit. Beijing is also coming under pressure to revalue the yuan upwards so as to stop subsidising its exports.

 

Tibet constitutes a continuing worry as Buddhism remains a "second sun" in the sky challenging (Chinese) communism. Hence the intimidatory and insidious efforts to undermine the authority of the Dalai Lama by heaping abuse on him as a "splittist" and renegade secretly working for independence. However, His Holiness only seeks economic and cultural autonomy for Tibet under the terms of the 17-Point Agreement of 1951 on which Beijing has reneged. The Chinese-chosen Panchen Lama is again being built up and many suspect Beijing will select a docile reincarnation in his place after the present Dalai Lama, now 75, passes on. These tactics will not work.

 

Even as the political drama unfolds, Tibet is caught in the throes of a climate change-induced environmental crisis with the melting of its permafrost and glaciers, the first being in some ways even more important than the second. India and the south Himalayan region in general is already beginning to feel the effects of debris and glacial dams, aberrant river flows with erratic westerly snowfall and attendant sediment surges. The northern Tibetan alpine pasture lands together with the Himalaya/Karakoram constitute a major global weather maker which the world needs to monitor more closely and better understand.

 

The natural ecology, which is both shaped by and shapes Tibetan weather, is however being degraded by uninformed and unwise Chinese policies. A series of Tibetan papers, circulated at the recent Copenhagen climate change summit, outlined a set of looming dangers. Faulty pastoral practices have been imposed on Tibetan nomads who herd sheep, goats, yaks and horses. Initial insistence on enlarging herds to maximise production for a growing (immigrant) population proved unsustainable. This has now apparently yielded to another mistaken policy to restrict the nomads to confined pastures. The new policy of "closing pastures to restore grasslands" has reduced many nomads to "ecological migrants". This human wrong, compounded by intensive grazing within "enclosures", instead of the traditionally sound practice of extensive but light grazing, is degrading the rangelands. The delicate balance between pasture lands, permafrost melting, the heat balance, rain and snowfall and their timing and other physical and atmospheric parameters has been adversely affected. The consequence has been greater dust and erosion, dying wetlands, desertification and a lowering capacity for carbon sequestration.

 

This is a complex process that calls for collaborative international research and careful corrective action. India and the world have stakes in this process, as does China. Tibet's future is at stake in more than one respect.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

WINSOME SMILE

BY VIVEK ATRAY

 

The golgappa man doesn't have much going for him. He's poor, he's old, and he doesn't have a shop, or the semblance of one. The odds are stacked against him.

 

As he stands there by the road under the big blue sky, with his table, his packet of golgappas and a largish jar that evidently contains some tangy liquid, he doesn't look as if he stands much of a chance in life.

 

But a careful look at his countenance establishes the fact that he is always smiling. He looks shabby, weak, aged and tired, but he's all smiles.

 

I am intrigued and I stare at him everyday as I cross him on the way home from work to see if his expression has changed. It never does.

 

Customers come and go. They obviously pay him a pittance. Surely then, there's more to his smile than meets the eye.

 

One day, I decide to investigate, stop, and go up to him.

 

"How much are these for?" I ask.

 

"Four rupees per plate" is the business-like, but smiling, response.

 

He hands me a paper plate and does the needful. The golgappas are delicious and I tell him so. His grin becomes wider.

 

"I've seen you cross me many a time, but you stopped only today. Why?" our man asks of me.

 

Looking around to see if anyone else is within earshot, I come out with my confession.

 

"Actually, I've never had golgappas on the street-side like this, for fear of falling sick. It's only because I always found you smiling and cheerful that I felt compelled to ask you the reason."

 

The man's face brightens up further.

 

"Don't worry. You wont die of these golgappas! I'll tell you why I'm never glum."

 

I nod my head at once, eager to learn the secret.

 

"It's because I've never worried about my fate. My father was really poor, but he taught me to smile. He told me that life is pure, it's special."

 

"I have a son, who works as a peon and he looks after my wife and me well. We plan to marry him off soon. I have lived my life with joy and I shall go to heaven and meet God with a smiling face one day. Would you have another plate?"

 

The trance that I am in is broken by the poser. I stretch out a hand abruptly and accept the offering eagerly. This time the golgappas taste even better. He winks at me and displays his broadest smile yet.

 

I take out a 20-rupee note and ask him to keep the change but he refuses, and returns the balance due.

 

As I get into my car and wave at him, I realise that I have just learnt the most important lesson of life and have met its real winner.

 

I also notice that I'm smiling too. From ear to ear.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

IN JAIL WITHOUT TRIAL

UNDER-TRIALS SUFFER DUE TO PROSECUTION'S FAILURE

BY MAHI PAL SINGH

 

Some time ago, Om Prakash was released on the intervention of the court from Mainpuri jail in UP after 37 years of imprisonment without trial. He was arrested on the charge of murder. Om Prakash was less than 20 at the time of his arrest. His father owned the crime to save his son. Both were arrested and the father died in jail a few years later. Had the trial taken place and Om Prakash was convicted and awarded life imprisonment, he would have come out of jail a quarter of a century ago.

 

In the last 37 years the trial could not even begin because the police failed to trace the papers of the case. And for this serious lapse on the part of the police, no action was taken against any police officer.

 

Because of his long confinement Om Prakash became insane. When he did finally come out of jail, he did not know who he was. He could not recognise his 80 years old mother, who was still happy to receive back her son in whatever condition he was at the time — a victim of gross state negligence.  

 

Raja Ram, aged 70, spent 35 years in Faizabad jail and Varanasi mental hospital without being proved guilty. In yet another case 70-year-old Jagjivan Ram languished in prison for 36 years because his records were missing.     

 

These few instances indicate that if there were a thorough investigation across the country in different jails, there would be many more under-trial prisoners languishing in jails without being convicted.

 

In a different case pertaining to foreigners, 17 Pakistanis, who were found guilty of various crimes by courts, including that of entering the country without valid documents, were sentenced to imprisonment for various terms. They were in jail during the trial period because they could not be granted bail for obvious reasons.

 

So far so good. But after the completion of their jail terms they should have been deported to Pakistan within a reasonable time. However, there were some who were awarded only six months of imprisonment by the court, and yet they were kept in the Foreigners' Detention Camp, Lampur, Delhi, for periods ranging from one year to more than four years after they had undergone the awarded jail term, without the sanction of the law and in gross violation of their human rights.

 

The plea of the Central Government in such cases that "these prisoners could be released only in return for an equal number of Indian prisoners languishing in Pakistani jails" was rejected by a bench of the Supreme Court of India, consisting of Justices Markandey Katju and R.M. Lodha on March 9, 2010, and they were ordered to be deported within two months.

 

Fourteen of the 17 Pakistanis detained in the camp were deported to Pakistan on March 25, 2010. Nobody was punished for their illegal confinement. Of course, there is no provision for compensation in such cases.

 

 The appeal in the high court only a ploy to further harass the accused persons for the prosecution's failure to get them convicted. It is because of the filing of such special leave petitions (SLPs) in the higher courts that the Supreme Court recently observed that it should not be burdened with unnecessary SPLs causing a rush of cases and avoidable delay in justice administration.

 

 It is nobody's case that the police should abdicate its duty to catch and prosecute law-breakers and criminals. It has, however, been seen that even in cases of abduction and extra-judicial killings the guilty police officers go scot-free while even the most innocent victims suffer for their acts of omission and commission.

 

There should be a proper, accurate and scientific investigation and gathering of real evidence, not concocted one, to sustain a case before the trial court. However, what is essential to make the justice administration system transparent and corruption-free is to devise a system of accountability wherein the prosecuting officers are held responsible for causing unnecessary and illegal detention of the accused.

 

The detainees should be quite adequately compensated for the physical, emotional and social loss caused to them and their families, including the cost of litigation, which is exorbitant. Mere cosmetic police and judicial reforms cannot cure our decayed justice administration system.

 

The writer is the National Secretary of the People's Union for Civil Liberties

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DEVELOPMENT BEYOND RESERVATIONS

BY MANJIT SINGH

 

The accommodation of the minorities, dalits and other backward classes in the Constitution was part of an affirmative action to achieve the basic principles of equity and justice. The idea was that once the communities are empowered through reservations, they would be integrated in the process of development.

 

The reservation had two basic assumptions: first that communities are relatively homogeneous from within and thus every member of a community deserves an equal chance, and second, that over a period of time the boundaries between communities would dissolve, leading to the emergence of a civil society composed of rational actors.

 

Over a period of 60 years both the assumptions have fallen flat and now we have an India that is much more fragmented — both horizontally and vertically. In the process each community has thrown up its own elite leadership that is well integrated at the top across boundaries, i.e. the material interests of the respective leadership have forged unity across different communities at the top at the cost of the purpose with which they got elevated to power.

 

The real issue of empowerment of those sections of society that have been historically discriminated against has been bypassed. At the same time ordinary people find themselves in a big quandary. They repose greater trust in their "own" leadership to address their ever-sinking condition than the formal democratic system which they reject as an alien structure.

 

Reservation, therefore, has turned out to be a scaffolding to reach up to the "sacred cow" that feeds on communitarian ideologies and allows milking only those who have acquired the skill of fanning communitarian exclusiveness.

 

Our Constitution has provisions to constitute commissions equipped with "community scanners" that would prescribe reservations to all the "deserving" sections left out of its purview by then. Heaps of data would be generated in order to prove the marginality/discrimination of the given sections before the prescriptions for reservation are made.

 

The idea is not to empower the disadvantaged but to woo the leadership of the respective community into the folds who did them favour by constituting the commission. After every report, such as that of the Mandal Commission or the Ranganath Mishra Commission the real debate always revolves around for and against reservation whereas the voice of the ordinary people is lost in the din.

 

Nowhere in the world the art of hypocrisy among the ruling elites is as perfected as in India. Every leader starts his public discourse empathising with the people at the margin and would make every promise to do anything on earth to ameliorate their deplorable condition.

 

In reality they would often wish the perpetuation of rampant poverty and illiteracy so that the price to buy the consent of the people before every election does not escalate disproportionately.

 

Indian democracy is a living example to show how a democratic structure can be appropriated by feudal, or even pre-feudal, ideologies and social relations to strengthen the latter at the cost of the former.

 

The introduction of the women reservation Bill in the Upper House is the latest example of the feudal use of Parliament whereby marshals were used to muffle the voices of dissent. The gender power exuded such a cementing force that even the "stark enemies" hugged each other with open arms only to display their perfection in the art of deceiving masses.

 

A wide spectrum of welcome to the women reservation Bill by the left-right-centre political parties shows that the ideologies are only the mask whereas there is a wide consensus underneath on peacefully sharing political power, of course in the name of helping the poor.

 

Even those who are opposing the Bill are not against it in principle; they are rather asking for furthering the reservation to the sub-constituencies from where they are drawing their power and legitimacy.

 

The arguments above should not be construed as opposition to any form of reservation in the institutional and cultural spaces of empowerment under the Indian democracy. Reservations in the present form have a limited success in fulfilling the desired constitutional goals of equity and justice.

 

Is it not the time to take a pause and think of better ways and means to empower the people left outside the process of development? Compulsory universal quality education, improved health and medical facilities and better employment opportunities are some of the important sources of empowerment yet to be addressed seriously. Are our political elites ready to throw away their masks and show courage to face the people squarely?

 

The writer is a Professor of Sociology, Panjab University, Chandigarh

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DELHI DURBAR

AT RECEIVING END

 

Of late the CBI is increasingly finding itself at the receiving end of the judiciary as well as the media whether it is at fault or not in handling sensitive cases, forcing the premier investigating agency to do a lot of explaining.

 

On its part, the CBI has clarified that it is conducting a thorough and fair probe in all cases without bothering about the personalities involved.

 

The agency has faced criticism in a number of cases, including those against Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, RJD chief Lalu Prasad and SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi wanted in the Bofors payoff case.

 

And to make matters worse for the CBI, it is not even in a position to defend itself against media criticism in matters which are sub-judice such as the delivery of a cash-stacked suitcase at the doorstep of a judge.

 

QUITE A TEAM

 

Union Secretary, school education and literacy Anshu Vaish and her husband Avani Vaish, currently the Chief Secretary in Madhya Pradesh, make quite a team.

 

While Anshu is part of a core group in the Human Resource Development Ministry which put together the historic Right to Education Bill and pushed it, Avani Vaish set the ball rolling for implementation of the Act in MP, which emerged as the most proactive state at the start of the law's rollout on April 1.

 

So while the HRD Ministry was busy in the capital, familiarising the stakeholders with the nuances of the Act, Madhya Pradesh was already on the move, organising "shiksha chaupals", and going door-to-door with the RTE campaign.

 

The Chief Secretary got the MLAs to know the Act enough to talk about it. A unique orientation programme was organised in the state for members of the legislative assembly, who are now ready to go to the field and disseminate information on what the Act means and whose collaboration it seeks in educating children. The orientation programme was organised despite the Vidhan Sabha in session.

 

SARAN STILL IN GOVT?

Shyam Saran, the former Foreign Secretary who was the Prime Minister's special envoy for the Indo-US nuclear deal and climate change, quit his high-profile job last month. Though, he did not specify any reason, it is believed that he was finding it difficult to work on the climate change issue with Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh.

 

And when Shiv Shankar Menon, Saran's successor, was appointed the National Security Adviser (NSA), Saran felt it was time to say goodbye to the PMO.

 

 But many in diplomatic and media circles wonder whether Saran has actually given up his job. He recently represented the country at a conference on India-Japan cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy. His speech in Tokyo was posted by the MEA on its website and reporters on the MEA beat were duly informed about it through SMS.

 

Contributed by R Sedhuraman, Aditi Tandon and Ashok Tuteja

 

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MUMBAI MIRROR

EDITORIAL

INVISIBLE GATES AT THE GYMKHANA

THE RECENT RUCKUS AT BOMBAY GYMKHANA, WHERE THE MANAGEMENT ASKED TRANSGENDER ACTIVIST LAXMI TRIPATHI TO LEAVE A PRIVATE PARTY IS A REFLECTION OF THE COLONIAL ELITISM THAT STILL EXISTS IN OUR SOCIETY

 

While it was not surprising to witness the Bombay Gymkhana authorities behaving disgracefully on the night of the TEDx Mumbai get-together - when they shut down the evening because of transgender intellectual-activist Laxmi Tripathi's presence – it felt horrible. Being there along with co-Founder of URBZ Matias Echanove, we saw first hand a drama that must have played and re-played itself through the corridors of this century-old elite club since the days of its establishment. In its colonial avatar, it never allowed Indians to walk through its sacred corridors. It shamelessly took the donation from a Parsee philanthropist even though he himself could never be a member. It did not take a stand when it saw Hindu upper caste cricket players make its star bowler sit outside their dining hall to have dinner in clay utensils while all of them enjoyed eating in their glistening crockery. It did not flinch in its resistance to women voters on its committees until it was virtually forced to do so hardly a decade ago.


In the late 19th century, when it came into being, many of the Gymkhana's members must have worked at the (then) Bombay Municipal Corporation. It must have suited the British officers perfectly well to have a swanking sports club within walking distance from their offices. They made several allowances to all such establishments – including absurdly low land leases.


In a city where good quality sports facilities are scarce, the club, in free India, may justify its exclusive institutional existence (and occupation of prime land), by providing some decent infrastructure to its members and acting as a trustee to sports property in a city eaten by real estate sharks.


And yet that is not the way some of its arrogant members see this equation. They have inherited the same superficial, insecure, and fragile sense of self-esteem that their ancestors had. It would have done them and the club no harm when Laxmi Tripathi, representative of the country at UN meetings around the world, passed through its corridors and got lost in a private party hosted by one of its (surely many) enlightened members. But of course that was not to be.


While she was sure of who she was – the club members seemed to be confused (Euro-Indians? Indian Europeans? Narrow-minded elites? Liberal subalterns? Who knows? Some kind of trans-cultural group for sure with no hint of self-reflection at all).


Eventually they threatened to forcefully shut down the party if she did not leave. In a great moment of solidarity everybody chose to leave with her.


These are the moments when you want to examine the history of such establishments more carefully. We know how several such clubs have grossly violated their land lease contracts by making money through illegal constructions on what is virtually public land. Many gymkhanas – Bombay included – found their 99-yearold leases expired in the 2000s. And miraculously they arose again – subsidised heavily by the city and its public – whom they choose to treat in this atrocious way.


This brazen land use happens in the face of so many demolitions of simple constructions made by workers and residents in the city – especially in the so-called slum neighbourhoods. Just last week BMC authorities demolished a tiny building recently erected by a resident in Dharavi for local children to play in. How will those children feel as they walk along Azad maidan one day and see the grand facilities of the gymkhana and their lush lawns?


Mumbai has always prided itself on being a city with relatively fewer gates than that of divided and gate-enmeshed Johannesburg. That's such a false sense of feeling good. Our gates are invisible and equally powerful – all in the mind and implemented through ideology. Far worse.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

US OPPORTUNITY FOR PHARMA

THE BUSINESS STILL REMAINS A VOLUME PLAY

The future looks somewhat bright for the Indian pharmaceutical industry which is wholly into generics. It expects to get a push from the new US legislation bringing into the health-care fold 32 million or 10 per cent of the country's population which is currently uninsured. As the US administration has also projected a reduction in the fiscal deficit of $143 billion by cutting the cost of public health-care delivery over a 10-year period, there is a strong business opportunity for the suppliers of cheap medicines, that is, generics. The best placed to exploit this opportunity are the Indian and Chinese pharmaceutical industries and between them it is the Indians who have the lead with their substantial, in-place capacity to produce quality drugs at 175 plants (the largest outside the US) approved by the US regulator. The Indian domestic scenario is also bright with growing incomes giving a boost to private health-care expenditure as also a rising public health-care bill. In 2009, the domestic market grew 17 per cent.

 Thus, the volume scenario is bright but margin prospects are another matter. Generics (drugs off patent) are a commoditised business marked by high volumes, low costs and low margins. And things on the margins front are likely to, if anything, get tougher. On the export front, as far as the regulated markets are concerned, the drug majors that have so far relied on their patented blockbusters are rapidly changing their business model in several ways. They are acquiring capacities and forging partnerships with some of the best Indian names to get a foothold in the generics space. By riding on their marketing and distribution networks, Indian suppliers will be able to clear larger volumes. But their margins in this segment will be lower than what they would have been if they were on their own. The drug majors are also thinking up new and ingenious ways to extend the life of patents and thus hang on to their blockbusters for as long as they can. This prevents the generics space form growing to its full potential. The domestic market has always been very highly competitive, not allowing high margins. The only bright spot is the unregulated market like Russia, Africa and Southeast Asia where the reputation of leading Indian brands give them an edge.

In this scenario, there are two ways to improve margins. One, keep pecking away at the long-term goal of discovering new molecules that will command a premium under patent protection. Two, in the medium term, those with well-developed R&D facilities, should go in more for custom development of new entities on behalf of drug majors. By doing this kind of high-value work, Indian pharma companies will be doing exactly what the product development and engineering services firms are doing in software. There is also the lucrative allied business of conducting clinical research to test new drugs belonging to others. The hope is that in this way, by developing and testing others' blockbusters, Indian firms will develop enough expertise to one day produce blockbusters of their own.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

 

TIME FOR STOCKTAKING

CENTRE AND STATES MUST JOINTLY BATTLE MAOISTS

The horrific attack on security forces by armed Maoist extremists in Chhattisgarh is yet another reminder that the government, both at the Centre and in the states, needs a more effective strategy to deal with what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has long dubbed India's biggest national security threat. India's major political parties must stop the blame game, must stop passing the buck and sit together and work out a joint strategy. A senior and experienced police officer like Mr K P S Gill has raised serious questions about the manner in which the state government was dealing with the situation on the ground. The questions he has raised must be addressed. It is clear, at one level, that the intensity of the battle has been heightened by increased desperation on the part of the Maoist groups precisely because the security forces have been on the offensive. But attacks like the one carried out this week can only demoralise an ill-equipped security force and inspire Maoist groups.

 There is no doubt that Maoist extremism feeds predominantly on the disaffection and alienation of landless poor and tribal communities. It is concentrated in tribal homelands, which coincide with forests, water bodies and mineral wealth. That underground mineral wealth has not brought any prosperity or development to inhabitants above. Nor has forestry been beneficial for livelihood. Minerals and forests are state monopoly property, and the blame for this continued backwardness certainly lies with the state. Naxals thrive on such state failure. That said, the answer to the problems of a disaffected people cannot be the unleashing of violence against the security forces and government functionaries. No modern nation can condone such violence. Clearly, the government needs a political as well as an institutional response to meet this challenge. India needs better equipped and better organised security forces in dealing with both jihadi and Maoist extremism. The states with a better track record in dealing with such threats point to the direction in which the laggards must walk.

In the coming years, economic growth will come from stepped-up investment and infrastructure across the country. This will require exponential growth in steel, power, cement and metals, which in turn means an increase in coal, limestone, bauxite and iron ore mining. Most of this will be within or in proximity of Maoist activity. Many industrial groups are also planning pipelines or cable cars for the transport of ore, gas and such like. The security of these investments cannot be left to private armies. Nor can such mining and pipe-laying be done with old ways of complete abandon and disregard of tribal rights and welfare. An enlightened policy combining rehabilitation of the displaced, livelihood generation, increased and imposed corporate responsibility are all going to be part of the successful campaign against the Maoist violence. Governments must address the concerns of a disaffected people and ensure that they do not fall prey to the ideology and appeal of highly organised extremist and terrorist groups. The ideologies of such groups must be delegitimised if India has to survive as a liberal democracy.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ARE INDUSTRIAL ZONES A GOOD IDEA?

While industry will welcome flexible labour laws and procedural simplifications, it is likely this will create an unlevel playing field for units that are not located in these SEZ-style industrial zones.

NMIZs will reduce the constraints imposed by inadequate infrastructure, rigid labour laws and procedural bottlenecks

The discussion paper on a National Manufacturing and Investment Zone (NMIZ) policy released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion could not have been timed better. There is little doubt that India has caught the imagination of the world like never before — first by growing at 9 per cent for five years preceding the recent economic crisis and then by demonstrating its resilience in the downturn. Savings and investment rates of over 35 per cent that were achieved during the boom are the highest ever and indicate a structural transformation. But India's manufacturing sector has not joined the race — instead of being an engine of growth, it has, at best, kept pace with the overall expansion in gross domestic product (GDP). When the Indian economy began opening up in the early nineties, the share of manufacturing output in GDP was around 15 per cent. Two decades later, in 2009-10, the manufacturing sector's share in GDP stands at 15.8 per cent. It is true that there are star performers within India's manufacturing sector like the auto industry and in some of these manufacturing sub-sectors, India is emerging as a key outsourcing hub. These stray success stories notwithstanding, the sector's overall performance leaves much to be desired.

India is a young country with about 650 million people (61 per cent of its population) in the working age group of 15-59 years, and the population in this age group is set to expand in the next couple of decades. India has the opportunity to capitalise on its demographic dividend by becoming a huge production and consumption base. But if it does not create sufficient employment opportunities, its large population could simply turn into a huge burden. One of the major ways to create employment is by scaling up labour-intensive processes in the manufacturing sector. Infrastructural bottlenecks, cumbersome procedures and inflexibility of labour laws are often cited as the key factors that hold back India's manufacturing sector.

Without adequate infrastructure which includes power, water, roads etc, India cannot sustain its competitiveness in the manufacturing sector. Moreover, cumbersome procedures and difficulty in procuring clearances further hold back infrastructure and industrial development. In addition, India's archaic labour laws discourage companies from expanding their manufacturing capacities beyond the scale that attracts these laws.

According to a recent World Bank study, India is amongst countries with the highest degree of rigidity in hiring and firing regulations. The industry circumvents these constraints by outsourcing its activities, which leads to informalisation of labour force. The labour laws, therefore, limit the scope of expansion of formal manufacturing activity. The inflexibility to hire/fire also makes the industry more reliant on capital-intensive means of production. This is clearly an undesirable outcome in a labour-surplus economy. The inability of firms to cut their workforce accentuates their financial stress during a downturn and reduces their ability to come out of it. If these patterns continue and employment opportunities do not pick up, the perceived demographic dividend can morph into a demographic nightmare.

What is the way out? A simple answer to this rather difficult question is to improve infrastructure, amend labour laws and simplify procedures. Achieving this at a pan-India level, though desirable, appears to be an insurmountable task in the near term. That brings us to the issue of setting up of NMIZs, which the DIPP discussion paper proposes. NMIZ will, in a way, create islands of excellence, which will promote manufacturing activity, by reducing the constraints imposed by inadequate infrastructure, rigid labour laws and procedural bottlenecks. The Contract Labour Act, which prohibits companies from hiring temporary workers will be relaxed in these zones. The discussion paper proposes to take the share of manufacturing in GDP to 25 per cent and double the employment in this sector by 2022. Without proactive steps like NMIZs, India's manufacturing sector will not become a dominant driver of GDP, as is ideally desired.

While it is necessary to amend labour laws, it is equally important to have a social security system to protect the interest of the workers. The discussion paper rightly proposes a safety net to protect the workers in these zones. Therefore, steps should also be taken to expedite the judicial process for these zones to allow workers to seek timely redressal from unfair treatment, if any. 

Views expressed are personal
* Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited

M K PANDHE

VICE-PRESIDENT, CITU*

Laws relating to contract and other labour are already flouted — the NMIZ proposal will ensure a new form of slavery for the working class

The discussion paper on a National Manufacturing and Investment Zone (NMIZ) policy prepared by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion is set to create a new island of lawlessness with bountiful concession offered to manufacturers — and this is after the creation of over 500 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) all over India which offer large tax concessions! Though it aims at increasing the share of manufacturing sector from the existing 15 per cent to 25 per cent of GDP by 2022, the new initiative has offered unjustified concessions to the manufacturing sector.

On the plea of appropriate investment incentive and business-friendly mechanism, the proposal offers a 10-year moratorium on municipal and local taxes and a 4 per cent interest subvention. Liberal infrastructural support is also being assured by the government through the public private partnership route. Under these circumstances, the concessions offered by the government are likely to be misused — they will enhance the profitability of the manufacturing units instead of leading to an increase in the production.

The CEO of the special purpose vehicle to be constituted, who will have wide powers to issue approvals, may misuse the power, resulting in corruption. The proposal to share the 50 per cent of the cost of filing international patents is highly unreasonable since the benefits of the patents would be fully enjoyed by the patent holder but the cost of application will be shared by the government — those who can afford to apply for patents are not so poor. The corporate houses mint money by using patents to their advantage. Yet the government is considering to even provide them with subsidies in applying for patents.

The SEZs were essentially meant for export-oriented industries. However, the present proposal is even applicable to indigenous marketed products. There will be discrimination against industries that will not operate within the NMIZs. Instead of really contributing to enhance the manufacturing sector, it will only create a set of specially privileged manufacturers who would take undue advantage of the concessions offered by the government.

Moving to the condition of the working class, the proposals gives "relaxation under labour laws". Labour laws are already not implemented in the country and all the central trade unions have included this as one of the points in their nationwide campaign. Under these circumstances, further flexibility would mean non-implementation of the labour laws.

The contractorisation and casualisation of labour has converted large number of jobs from a regular to an informal status. The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act is being violated openly and the Centre is behaving like a silent spectator. If the concept of the discussion paper is put in practice, a new form of slavery will be imposed on the working class and the gains of the trade unions after independence will be completely wiped out.

The proposed policy framework talks of "a progressive exit policy". As a matter of fact, several thousand industrial units have been closed down despite legal restrictions but the government has never taken any action against such illegal closures. This phenomenon became more prominent after the recent economic crisis engulfed the country. Now, in the name of a "progressive" exit policy, closures would be given a green signal by the government, leaving the workers unprotected.

The present law protects the workers by providing that in case of closures, workers' dues would have to paid in full before stripping assets of the company. Under the proposed policy, there need not be a wait for payment of all dues of the workers before stripping assets of the closed unit. This will hit the workers very hard. Already, lakhs of workers have not received their statutory benefits after closures of  industrial units.

The last year's Economic Survey mentioned increasing the weekly hours of work from 48 to 60 which would mean the workers will have to work two hours extra every day without any any additional remuneration. This will worsen the workers' condition and violate the concept of India as a welfare state.

Hence the proposed policy changes will be strongly opposed by the trade union movement in India and if the government tries to enforce its action, it would only result in deterioration of industrial relation climate. This, in turn, will adversely affect the share of manufacturing sector in GDP.

Centre of Indian Trade Unions

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THREE TEARS FOR PSUS

THE SC LAMENTS THAT THEY SPEND MOST OF THEIR TIME IN COVERING THEIR BACK RATHER THAN IN ACHIEVING THEIR GOALS

M J ANTONY

Public sector undertakings (PSUs) are often portrayed as sluggish mammoths hogging undeserved patronage of the state. When many of them are being dismantled or downsized, there are very few words spoken in sympathy with their plight. Therefore, when some kind words come from unexpected quarters, one is bound to listen carefully.

It was the Supreme Court itself that wrote a few pages on this subject in its recent judgment in the BSNL vs Telephone Cables Ltd case. The case related to one of the disputes over the tender process adopted by PSU Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). These days, if a government company floats a tender, litigation cannot be far behind. They travel from the regulatory authority, its appellate authority, the high court and then the Supreme Court. Whether it is electricity, oil, spectrum, mining lease or any of the resources held in trust by the state, it is fiercely fought over at every stage.

The Supreme Court made its remarks in a case involving the tender procedure for inviting bids for polythene-insulated cables. The dispute travelled three times to the Supreme Court in nine years and there was one attempt at arbitration. The Delhi High Court found that the procedure was not followed. It asked BSNL to redo the ratings for the competing bidders. It even allowed the private company to sue for compensation. This led to another round of litigation. When the company found the going was not smooth, it called for arbitration. The Supreme Court cut the long story short by denying arbitration.

It is the BSNL's predicament during this long period which aroused the sympathy of the court. It pointed out the "vulnerable position" most PSUs find themselves in such situations. It said: "More and more, they are subjected to vexatious litigation and other travails which other competitors in the private sector do not normally face. When public undertakings used to have monopoly and discharged public duties, control by the government and legislature and judicial review by the judiciary were an absolute necessity to safeguard public interest and ensure transparency and accountability. But when public undertakings are required to compete with private sector, in commercial areas, controls by the executive and the legislature (sometimes referred to as political bondage) and judicial review of their action became a handicap which impedes their progress."

PSUs' agony flows from their position in the Constitution. They are taken to be "state" with all its obligations. According to the court's interpretation, the state or its arms should be free from arbitrariness and discrimination and ensure fairness in all its deals. Private companies are not legally bound to be so immaculate.

The judgment explained this aspect thus: "A public undertaking is required to ensure fairness, non-discrimination and non-arbitrariness in their dealings and decision-making process. Their action is open to judicial review and scrutiny under the Right to Information Act. They are required to take out advertisements and undergo elaborate and time-consuming selection processes, whether it is purchase of materials or engaging of contractors or making appointments. Just to ensure that everyone is given a fair and equal opportunity, public undertakings are required to spend huge amounts and enormous time in elaborate tender processes."

Giving an example, the court pointed out that a proposal for the purchase of the value of Rs 10 lakh may involve a "material procurement expenditure" of Rs 2 lakh in advertisements and tender evaluation cost, and a total tender process period ranging from three to six months. A competing private undertaking can go straight into the market and negotiate directly and get the same material for Rs 5 lakh without any expenditure in a week.

"Public undertakings, to avoid being accused of mala fides, bias or arbitrariness, spend most of their time and energy in covering their back rather than in achieving development and progress," the judgment commented, and pointed out that "when courts grant stay, the entire projects or business ventures stand still or get delayed. Even if ultimately the stay is vacated and the complaint is rejected as false, the damage is done as there is enormous loss to the public sector undertakings in terms of time and increase in costs. The private sector is not open to such scrutiny by courts. When the public sector is tied own by litigation and controls, the private sector quietly steals a march, many a time at the cost of the public sector."

The court clarified that it was not advocating less of judicial review. "We are only pointing out that if the public sector has to survive and thrive, they should be provided a level playing field. How and when and by whom is the question for which answers have to be found."

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

REFORMS WITH ENTITLEMENT

A K BHATTACHARYA

 

Popular anguish over the slow pace of economic reforms has grown more intense in the last few weeks even as Congress President Sonia Gandhi takes charge as the head of the National Advisory Council and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's grip on the policy-making apparatus of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government appears to get weaker. The developments are inter-connected and you are likely to miss the larger point if you see them in isolation.

With the UPA government virtually hobbled by its inability to get legislative changes passed by both houses of Parliament (it does not have enough numbers to get a Bill passed if the BJP and the Left combine to oppose it!), Manmohan Singh's dream of getting the nuclear liability Bill cleared is shattered. Even several other reform Bills can be cleared only if the Left and the BJP agree to support them. In the current political milieu, that seems unlikely and the UPA government is preparing for a period of legislative holiday at least until the next Budget session of Parliament begins.

Make no mistake that the slow pace of economic reforms and the numerous hurdles in the way of clearing several crucial legislative Bills will be harmful for the Indian economy. If India has to exploit its latent potential and attain the targeted growth rate of 9-10 per cent annually in the coming decade, reforms of economic policies and administrative systems are critical imperatives. Without these changes, India's demographic dividend may well turn out to be a demographic disaster.

Significantly, however, those who regret the slow pace of reforms are also worrying about the emergence of the politics of entitlement under different Central government schemes. In her first stint as the chairperson of the National Advisory Council, Sonia Gandhi made sure that the UPA government introduced the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. That was essentially a cash transfer scheme to increase the entitlement of the rural poor.

As Ms Gandhi takes charge of the Council once again, the pressure is set to rise on the Manmohan Singh government to provide more funds for similar entitlements for the poor under different schemes. The right to food and the right to education are only the first two such new pieces of legislation that are now being talked about. Many more such schemes are likely to be added to this list in the months to come. The government needs resources to finance such schemes. If economic growth does not pick up, the government's revenue inflow too will suffer. One way to expedite growth is to speed up economic reforms. If reforms have hit a roadblock, from where will the government get the funds to finance these cash-transfer or entitlement schemes?

It is important to diagnose this problem and place it in the right context. Reforms in this country have so far taken place only in relatively easy areas. Opening up external trade, industrial policy relaxations and limited financial sector reforms were all initiatives that directly benefitted trade and industry. The assumption was that such reforms would lead to growth and its benefits would trickle down to the common man. However, there is no denying that such trickle-down benefits of growth do take a long time to reach the common man or the aam aadmi which is UPA's primary constituency.

In a democracy, the long wait for reforms to benefit the aam aadmi can often result in the mobilisation of powerful forces against the logic of reforms per se. India is not China. Reforms in this country can continue unhampered only if their potential beneficiaries and stakeholders grow in number. It is, therefore, important for the UPA government to introduce reforms in a manner in which its aam aadmi constituency also benefits. While that can be a long-term goal and it will take several years before the benefits of reforms can reach the common man, introducing entitlement schemes for the underprivileged people in the short term can prevent any substantial build-up against the very process of reforms. In a way, entitlement schemes or cash-transfer programmes can become an important ally for a government that is serious about implementing reforms across different sectors.

So, while the anguish over slowing down reforms is justifiable, there is no need to complain about the emergence of entitlement schemes. Indeed, the time has come for all reformers in the government to embrace these entitlement schemes and introduce checks by which only the truly underprivileged people get such benefits. The introduction of a unique identity scheme for all residents and enforcement of economic criteria for entitlement to cash-transfer schemes should be the right steps in this direction.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SHOULD RBI HIKE RATES FURTHER?

A CUMULATIVE INCREASE OF 75 BASIS POINTS AND NOT MORE SHOULD DO THE TRICK

ABHEEK BARUA

Like the rest of the market, I was somewhat surprised by the Reserve Bank of India's (RBI's) rate hike on March 19. The element of surprise related entirely to the timing of the move. Senior officials of the central bank earlier seemed to suggest that rate changes would be kept for the quarterly monetary policies and not sprung on the market between policy meetings. Thus while there was compelling logic behind a rate hike at this stage, most of us had expected it in the April policy.

Why RBI was in such a hurry will remain a bit of a mystery. Perhaps it was the realisation that its failure to respond to headline inflation with a forceful signal had dented its credibility as inflation fighter. Indeed murmurs that RBI was listening too closely to the fiscal managers in Delhi in accommodating growth and the large borrowings of the Central government and ignoring inflation in the process were getting more audible. Unflattering comparisons were being made (somewhat unfairly in my opinion given the change in circumstances) between former RBI Governor Dr Reddy's no-nonsense approach to maintaining the price level and the current regime's play-it-by-ear strategy. The rate decision should put some of these concerns to rest.

Issues of credibility aside, there were a couple of developments after the January policy that might have helped RBI take this first step towards reversing the rate cycle. For one, there was more data on inflation available that clearly pointed to a rapid increase in "core" or non-food inflation. (Core inflation is perceived as largely demand-driven and is thus responsive to monetary intervention).When RBI took its policy decision in January, it had inflation data only up to December 2009. In December, core inflation had turned positive but was relatively low at 0.7 per cent. When RBI took its decision last month, it had the January and February data to go by. In January, core inflation had perked up to 2.8 per cent and in February it clocked 4.5 per cent

Second, after a somewhat rocky February, global financial markets began to stabilise by the middle of March. There were actually two critical developments on this front. For one, a process that I would describe as the "localisation" of the European sovereign default risk had set in by the second week of March. Thus the risk of a European government defaulting on its debt obligations was getting priced into European financial markets alone and not spilling over to other asset markets. One just needs to see the diminished correlation between the euro-dollar and the rupee-dollar exchange rates to appreciate this phenomenon. Thus, India and other emerging markets seemed to have to have decoupled from Europe's woes.

Second, in their public statements in February and March, US Fed officials made it abundantly clear that they were not likely to squeeze dollar liquidity in the near future. Thus while it was not likely to add more liquidity (the Fed's quantitative easing programme ended in March), it would not try to suck out liquidity through open-market operations. Policy rate hikes in the US are unlikely this year.

Thus, if RBI had increased rates in January, it ran a major risk. If the increase in reverse repo and repo rates had coincided with a sharp decline in capital inflows, local rates could have spiralled. By March 2, there seemed to be enough assurance that the external environment had turned benign. Domestic markets seem likely to get adequate support from external liquidity flows. Thus it had become easier for RBI to send a signal without risking an immediate spike in rates.

How much more should RBI hike? Opinion is sharply divided on this. Investment bank "forecasts" are often more prescriptive rather than predictive and if one were go through a list of "calls" made by the heavyweight international banks, a rate increase of at least a percentage point and a half is warranted. There are extreme views, of course, with the venerable Goldman Sachs apparently (I haven't read the report) predicting an effective increase in policy rates of three percentage points. This, of course, does not mean that each of the policy rates should rise by that quantum. What Goldman seems to suggest is that the central bank will also tighten liquidity to a point at which banks are forced to borrow from RBI at the repo window. Given the difference of a percentage point and a half between the reverse repo and repo rates, this entails a jump in the short-term policy rate by that quantum. Add a percentage and half point increase to the repo rate and you get a policy rate increase of three big figures

Policy boffins in Delhi quite predictably take the opposite view and advise caution, and for once I am on their side. I am aware that inflation will remain high at least until October and won't just be driven by supply factors. RBI does need to keep signalling to the markets that it is tough on inflation. But equally importantly, there is a Rs 2,87,000-crore government borrowing to manage in the first half (and Rs 1,70,000 crore in the second) and the need to ensure that the incipient investment recovery doesn't fizzle out. Global risks may have dissipated but who knows what's around the corner. Those who obsessively use phrases like "staying ahead of the curve" when it comes to the central bank's monetary policy perhaps need to do a reality check.

If we look around us, we can hardly find central banks that are aggressively tightening their monetary policy. There is no need for Dr Subbarao to stand out from the crowd and play Paul Volcker. A cumulative increase in policy rates of about three quarters of a percentage point (75 basis points for the initiated) over this financial year should do the trick. No more, not less.

The author is chief economist, HDFC Bank Views expressed are personal

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TIGER'S TALE

 

Tiger Woods' mea culpa ahead of his return to highstakes golf should be a lesson for the mixed-up doubles pair that Sania and Shoaib are turning out to be.


The golfing prodigy has not taken long to realise that saying goodbye to mistresses is a small price to pay for getting back to bagging those Masters again. When what Shoaib thought was a dolly turned out to be a doosra, and Sania's expected love game became a deuced nuisance for them both, they should have taken time out to rethink their gameplan.


After all, tennis ace or star batsman, as sportspersons they should have known the consequences of taking their eyes off the ball. Instead, they blindly lashed out at the media's googlies and heavily topspun serves, with the expected result.


Tiger, on the other hand, managed to avoid all the sand-traps and roughs in his first media interaction , teeing off expertly before a select(ed) audience. His relaxed stance, wide-open eye contact and a disarmingly charming way of saying a lot without saying anything at all, unerringly hit the sweet spot of the assemblage.


Talk about a high power transfer ratio — there was nary a fat shot or break to stymie Tiger's progress down the back nine to superstardom again. Contrast that with the confused comments, uneasy body language and occasional badly-timed shots from our cross-border couple. So far, it's been a dismal partnership of defensive blocks and footfaults, depending on the sport alluded to, with both retiring hurt from every match without scoring much.


That is all the more reason for the duo to watch re-runs of Tiger's carefully calibrated return from the woods, for it was a masterly exercise in media management. To misquote Erich Segal's immortal words, 'Love means having to say you're sorry' — and then getting back to doing what you are best at. Howzzat!

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LESS SMOKE & MIRRORS

 

The amendments to the listing agreement announced by capital market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) on Monday will go a longway in streamlining disclosure of financial results and enhancing transparency and corporate governance.


The more significant of these changes are reducing the time for submission of quarterly and audited annual financial results from 60 to 45 days from the end of the quarter/financial year; publication of an asset-liability statement every half-year; balance sheet certification by auditors who have been subjected to the peer review mechanism introduced by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and mandatory clearance of the appointment of the chief financial officer by the audit committee prior to his appointment by the company.

Further, in the case of mergers and acquisitions, companies will henceforth be required to submit an auditor's certificate confirming the accounting treatment adopted for various items complies with proper accounting standards.

The amendments seek to provide shareholders and analysts with swifter and surer information on companies seeking listing (and wanting to stay listed). The reduction in time for submitting financial statements (the timeframe for annual statements has been reduced by a third) and the greater detail provided in them will empower investors with quicker and better information that they can then use to decide whether they wish to stay invested or sell out.


Likewise, the requirement of peer review of auditors and the additional safeguard regarding the appointment of the chief financial officer will strengthen investor confidence, shaken by a series of corporate frauds, both abroad and, to a lesser extent, in India. The audit profession has a major role to play.


Hopefully, the new emphasis on the appointment of the chief financial officer and peer review of auditors will help the profession redeem its tarnished reputation. Of course, they need reform of political funding, to give substance to corporate governance.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

MAOISTS WANT FRENZY

 

Fury and anguish would be natural reactions to the latest, and biggest, act of Maoist depredation, in which several hundred of them ambushed a contingent of 100 policemen and killed most of them, in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh, on Tuesday. But you do not win the war against Maoists relying on emotion. In fact, a frenzied state response is clearly what the Maoists want.


Operation Green Hunt has not produced enough violence against ordinary tribal people so far, but still has got the Maoists on the run. This does not suit the Maoists. They claim that Green Hunt is nothing short of the Indian state's war against its own people. The only way to prove that is to get the state to launch a massive assault that does not distinguish between Maoists and tribal people.


The cold-blooded massacre of 80-odd policemen is transparently an attempt to provoke brutal reprisal. The blood they spill of ordinary policemen as talisman of their revolutionary earnestness, and the blood they hope would inundate the jungles of central India as the state mows down entire villages in retaliation, as proof of the need for such revolution — thus runs Maoist logic.


This logic must be defeated, firmly and resolutely, to win the war against Maoism. For that, restraint and logic must temper and guide the force that is used to respond to the latest outrage. War, lest we forget, is continuation of politics by other means. Politics must remain in command, and resist shrill calls to now let loose the army against the Maoists. We need more intelligently aggressive policing, using tactics, tools and procedures that show respect for the lives of the policemen sent out to battle the Maoists.


Chanakya famously taught young Chandragupta Maurya that it was not enough to cut off an offending plant — you must destroy its roots. The roots of Maoism lie in the deficit of democracy and development in large parts of rural, particularly tribal, India.


Instead of addressing this, the political class drags its feet on forging a sensible policy to make stakeholders out of land-losers, and on implementing the pathbreaking laws on forest rights, employment guarantee and the right to information, all powerful tools in the war against Maoism. The ruling coalition and the Opposition both abdicate responsibility, when they fail to mobilise the people to fulfil the promise of democracy enshrined in the Constitution. To the Maoists' glee.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN HOPES AGAIN, CONSTITUTIONALLY

 

At first glance, instability resembling incipient anarchy still seems to prevail in Pakistan. Consider the players involved in the tussle. First, within the regime, there is the reported juggling of power between President Zardari and PM Gilani. Then we have Chief Justice Chaudhry's penchant for pursuing the corruption cases against Zardari, and the wider grappling between the judiciary and the establishment.


Meanwhile, PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif remains busy with trying to ensure, even as an air of a consensus is sought to be maintained, that he can get another shot at power. Add to that a political situation where the provinces are pushing hard for greater autonomy from the Punjab-dominated system of things. Not to forget army chief Kayani's increasing profile even with the Americans.


Then again, it would seem there is finally some method in the anarchy. And if statements of intent are any indication, the amendments recommended in the constitutional reforms package comprise a radical intent to take corrective measures in Pakistan's flawed democratic system. It would seem a rare instance of the entire political class actually having come together to work towards strengthening democracy and its institutions.


And it is the 18th amendment that chiefly seeks to rectify one of the main causes of the enduring flaw: the gradual concentration of power in the president's hands that came about due to tinkering with the 1973 Constitution by successive military rulers, notably Generals Zia and Musharraf. Still, the irony is that it is President Zardari, with all his reputation for unsavouriness , who is talking of walking into the annals of history for presiding over a change that takes away, among other things, his right to dismiss Parliament and role in judicial and service chiefs' appointments .


Then again, nothing is quite as it seems. As is inevitably the case with Pakistan, even seemingly momentous developments are clouded by suspicions that it may all come to naught. The amendment ostensibly gives back the powers to the figure military regimes took it from: the prime minister. But it is moot whether that is actually going to happen. The PPP's central executive committee has again reiterated that the cochairperson of the party, who happens to be Zardari, will be central in making decisions relating to running the government.


Speculations are thus rife and wild. Ranging from concerns that given the traditional absence of constitutional norms, all this may be a facade while old-style deals are struck between the various power centres to whether the noose is gradually tightening around Zardari's neck.


The ideal situation would be that the constitutional reforms package enables Pakistan's bickering institutions to learn to settle down together. But given the fundamentally feudal nature of the polity, the apparent drive for change could well be a jockeying for power in the personality-based politics that feudal structure engenders.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

PROMOTING FAMILY BUSINESSES

SUMANT SINHA

 

India has an almost unique system of promoters who own and manage much of the corporate sector. There are the eponymous promoter groups that have been around for decades such as the Tatas, Birlas, Mahindras, Bajajs, Goenkas and Godrejs. Then there are the relative newcomers such as the Ambanis of Reliance , the Mittals of Bharti, the Agarwals of Vedanta, the Biyanis of the Future Group, the Singhs of erstwhile Ranbaxy, etc.


There are also the single-company promoters such as Hamied of Cipla, Saldhana of Glenmark, the Puris of Moser Baer, Premji of Wipro, etc. In some cases, there are multiple promoters as in the case of Infosys, or professional promoters as in HDFC. In short, there are promoters of all types. What makes India such a fertile ground for the concept of promoters? And how come other countries don't have such a wealth of promoters? Is it beneficial for India to have such a corporate landscape?


If we look at the US market, almost all entrepreneur-promoted companies move on to being run by non-promoter , professional management. Take the case of the Rockefellers and the Waltons. Even in relatively new companies such as Microsoft, eBay, Yahoo and Google, the founders have given way to others with a background in scale and complexity to manage the business. Typically, this happens once the company gets listed and other stakeholders enter the picture. In the US, the institutional investor base is organised and powerful, and pushes its interests that much harder.


There are many reasons that make the concept of promoters so sustainable in India . First, the fact that most Indian promoters own pretty sizeable chunks in their companies means that they are able to exercise significant shareholder rights that, in turn, helps them stay in control. Most promoters would today typically own more than 35-40 % of their companies. Older conglomerate groups such as the Tatas and Birlas have been busy shoring up their ownership levels. The days when the Tatas controlled Tata Steel with a lower shareholding than the Birlas' 8% are long gone.


The second reason is the lack of a countervailing strong institutional investor base. Indian insurance companies and asset management companies do not have the maturity and ability where they can forcefully push adifferent point of view. It also does not help that most institutional investors such as insurance companies and asset management companies are controlled by the same promoter groups. In such a scenario, their incentive to rock the boat is minimal and this is revealed by a cursory look at the leading insurance companies: Tata AIG, Birla Sun Life, Bajaj Allianz, Bharti Axa, Reliance, etc.


The case of asset management companies is similar. The only large financial investors that could be considered non-promoter-driven are LIC, ICICI Prudential and HDFC. But they are also unlikely to take a more activist role given their deep ties with industry. Of course, there are genuinely independent institutional investors too and we should hope that they become more significant. One class of independent investors that hasn't yet shown activist tendencies is foreign institutional investors and, to some extent, private equity funds investing in the public markets.

 


While public markets accept the existence of promoter groups, the banking system requires promoter backing of companies. Banks typically require minimum shareholding by promoters and sometimes promoter guarantees . Obviously, the banking system finds comfort in dealing with promoters.

Remarkably, the list of non-promoter companies is quite short. Among the larger companies, one might argue that ITC, L&T , ICICI and perhaps the HDFC group, including IDFC, would qualify. The fact is that most Indian companies have an entrepreneur/ promoter actively driving them, being the face of the company.


IS THIS likely to change? Should it change? Do promoters perhaps take the longerterm view about growing businesses and provide a more investing mindset with less regard to short-term quarterly performance ? Is this better for India given the current stage of development? Do promoter-led groupsperformbetterfromashareholderreturn standpoint? And is it better from the point of view of the broader stakeholder community including employees, consumers , the government and society at large?


It is certainly true that promoters in India take the longer view and, in this respect, provide a more solid foundation for the development of industry. It is also true that some promoters take a more 'nation-building' and societal approach, while others focus on value creation. One cannot say with certainty whether promoter-led companies or groups provide better shareholder returns than others — no specific studies exist in this respect.

How will this phenomenon evolve over time? It is likely that India will follow a path different from the west. Unlike in those countries, second and third generation Indian families also typically enter the family business. This has something to do with the Indian society that encourages dynastic tendencies: from politics to business to Bollywood to agriculture and so on. The model of following one's individual urges and doing something different is not common. As a result , separation of family ownership from active management is not normal in India.

The other interesting impact is in philanthropy . Since everything stays in the family and the companies along with their ownership are passed on, the concept of monetising ownership and doing great philanthropic activities like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet — who between them are donating more than $60billion—isinitsinfancyinIndia .Itwould be great if some more promoters decided to monetise their assets and directly invested in building the country's social and physical infrastructure . This way, India would be able to take advantage of their energies and their wealth creation for the good of all people.


That is not to say that all promoters should immediately divorce ownership from management and rush to doing philanthropic or other activities. Clearly, at this point in India's economic evolution, promoters provide that much-needed entrepreneurial spark and management bandwidth that is still essential for the growth of the corporate sector.

However, it will be interesting to see whether second and third generation promoters want to stay in the business, whether they make the best managers, and whether the external stakeholder community is able to separate good from the bad, and has the ability to encourage only the better promotermanagers to stay. This may take a few decades but, once again, India will have evolved its own model for development — one where promoters and professionals work together to create value for all stakeholders.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SAVE YOUR DREAMS FROM SETBACKS

VITHALC NADKARNI

 

Harold Varmus, who won the Nobel Prize for medicine for his work on oncogenes, marvels at the role chance and dogged persistence have played in his career. His father was a general physician and wanted the son to follow his example. Varmus obliged by taking premed courses as an undergraduate. But academic life challenged "presumptions about my future as a physician", and he drifted from science to philosophy and finally to English literature. He was also active in politics and journalism.


Varmus went on to join graduate studies in literature at Harvard University. But within the year, he again felt the lure of medicine. He was rebuffed when he tried to switch fields and went back to literature "uninspired by thoughts of a career in that field".


After a year, he applied once again to Harvard medical school. But this time around he was rejected more sternly: The dean who chastised him in an interview for being "inconstant and immature" advised him to go and join the military instead! Varmus ended up with a Master's degree in English with a focus on Anglo-Saxon and metaphysical poetry.


However, the freshly minted scholar found that friends, who had chosen medicine seemed more fulfilled and excited about studying matters with immediate relevance to basic human needs. He also felt increasingly haunted by the thought that as a professor of literature his students would likely feel relief if he failed to show up for a lecture, whereas as a physician, his patients would be distraught if he cancelled an appointment.


So Varmus burnt his bridges once again and decided to try his luck at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. Officials here were obviously impressed with his competence in the two cultures of science and literature. He found himself welcomed enthusiastically. Varmus dove headfirst into medical school only to shift after graduation from practice to research, after a three-month stint as an intern in a mission hospital in Bareilly.


He soon found himself at the forefront of cancer research at the University of California, San Francisco, on his way to a Nobel Prize, to become a "global scientist-statesman who bridges science and society to solve the weightiest challenges". The moral of the story is to never let rejection daunt your dreams. If the school you love rebuffs you, immerse yourself in the one that welcomes you.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA INC WON'T FIND NORMS CUMBERSOME

 

The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is finalising accounting standards in convergence with International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and they are expected to be ready by June this year. Taxation issues are being addressed and amendments to various legislation are also being carried out.


The expectation is that companies required to follow the IFRSconverged Indian Accounting Standards from April 1, 2011, would be able to do so. This is based on the fact that many of them, covered in phase I, are also preparing their financial statements based on IFRS or US GAAP. So, their transition to IFRS-converged Indian accounting standards would not be too cumbersome.

Also, these entities will not have to present comparatives for 2010-11 as per the IFRS-converged accounting standards. They will still have some more time to prepare themselves for these standards.


The roadmap prepared by the ministry of corporate affairs mandates banks and nonbanking financial companies to follow the converged accounting standards from April 1, 2013. This would prepare them to change their accounting and other systems in accordance with the new accounting standard on financial instruments, IFRS 9. This standard is expected to be finalised by the International Accounting Standards Board by end-March 2011. So is the case of insurance companies that would be required to converge to IFRS from April 1, 2012.


The preparedness of industry also depends on the readiness of professionals in carrying out tasks related to preparation and audit of financial statements in accordance with the IFRS-converged accounting standards. The ICAI has started training its members in industry and in practice. Last year, it launched a certificate course in IFRS. So far, about 1,600 members have undergone this training. Besides, the ICAI has conducted seminars and conferences on IFRS to discuss the aspects relating to convergence. From mid-April, the ICAI plans to start training programmes for industry at several centres in collaboration with the ministry of corporate affairs.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HELP SMES ADOPT NEW ACCOUNTING RULES

SESHAGIRI RAO, JT MD & GROUP CFO JSW GROUP


Over 150 countries have implemented or announced plans to migrate to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). India proposes to adopt IFRS from the accounting period starting April 2011 or later. The uniformity in accounting and disclosure standards will enable all stakeholders to understand the performance of entities and make comparisons across sectors and countries. However, the challenges cannot be underestimated as some countries that adopted IFRS took over two years for complete convergence.


In spite of efforts by the core group set up by the ministry of corporate affairs to bring convergence of Indian Accounting Standards with IFRS, a lot of ground is yet to be covered to align and harmonise legislative changes with various enactments. The conflict between legislation and accounting standards results in multiple interpretations for a transaction. While the pace of regulatory changes is yet to gain momentum, the challenge for industry comes from differences in the underlying conceptual framework and lack of trained people. Differences between Indian GAAP and IFRS that can impact businesses include the focus on economic substance over legal form, use of the fair value concept over historical cost accounting and consolidated financial statements as primary financial statements. The list also includes detailed guidelines on business combinations and revenue recognition as well as valuation and disclosure of financial instruments like redeemable preference shares.


Some of these changes can impact debt covenants, ratings, design of financial products and key financial performance metrics. Training the finance department alone is not enough — it also requires an understanding of the modification in processes including IT architecture. Companies should devote time and resources in educating and training employees and other stakeholders. Considering the cost and resources required to migrate to IFRS, very few companies are geared to move to IFRS. More efforts are required to bring awareness on the conceptual framework and timeline to prepare companies, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), to switch to IFRS seamlessly.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'I'LL GIVE INDIA 2 MORE BRANDS THAT ARE BIGGER THAN RANBAXY'

KHOMBA SINGH

 

Malvinder and Shivinder Singh have been in an overdrive for the past six months. The brothers have acquired 10 hospitals from Wockhardt, majority holding in the US-based venture capital and private equity firm Northgate Capital, besides a large stake in Singapore's Parkway. On Tuesday, they took everyone by surprise by stepping down from the board of Religare Enterprises. Malvinder Singh spoke to ET about the decision to quit and the future road map for the group, which includes two brands he says will be bigger than Ranbaxy.


Why have you stepped down from the board of Religare?

I don't go by conventions and my decisions are driven by what is best for the company and shareholders. Our father Parvinder Singh always had a global vision and emphasised the importance of empowering people. This is a philosophy me and Shivinder had inherited and continue to live and enact in our daily life. If you are convinced what you are doing is right, you just go ahead. I am not limited by history or precedent.


Healthcare and financial services are two global plays for us. I will focus on global expansion of our healthcare business through Parkway. My first priority is to create an international healthcare delivery model. Shivinder will drive our domestic healthcare business and Sunil Godhwani will lead the financial services business.


But you and Shivinder were not holding executive positions in Religare. You could have focussed on healthcare business while continuing on the board...


Yes, I could have continued as non-executive chairman. But for me, it's about priority and focus. Role, responsibility and location are a function of what the business demands at that time.


When two brothers are involved in the same business, there is a tendency of the older sibling overshadowing the younger. How do you ensure this doesn't happen between you and Shivinder?


Shivinder and me are together and share the same vision. At the top level, Shivinder, Sunil and me are a team. Each one of us has clear roles. Shivinder and me have to cross-leverage our strengths and strategies between Parkway and Fortis.


You seem to be giving a big vote of confidence to Sunil Godhwani by making him the chairman of Religare and leaving the board altogether...


I have the luxury of having someone like Sunil. Everybody does not have that option.


What are going to be contours of the group's strategy in healthcare and financial services?


In the past nine months, we have outlined three broad areas. One, we want to be at the forefront globally in whichever business we are in. Second, create centres of excellence... And third, you should be able to create value and make a difference in what you do. All these years our business has been largely domestic, but in the past 2-3 years we have stepped out internationally.


Why are you relocating to Singapore?


The acquisition of Parkway puts us in a different position for healthcare business. We have 62 hospitals with 10,000-11,000 beds across eight countries and the fourth-largest healthcare provider in the world in terms of our bed and service capability. In a way, we are the most internationalised company in the sector.


The challenge is how do I create a global healthcare company, something that has never happened before... I need to work along with them (Parkway) to leverage their strength and take it to the next level internationally. We have to create a new model for global healthcare delivery and Parkway is our global vehicle. We have both scale and reach.


Will you further increase your stake in Parkway Holdings?


We have increased our shareholding to 25%. The management of the company is aligned with us on how we need to build the business.


Are you looking at new diversifications?


Healthcare and financial services are our strategic businesses. If we get into other business depending on the opportunity and if it does not fit into our three parameters, we would look at it just as an investment.

Does banking fit into the model?


I would say everything within financial services and health care does.


We understand that you are close to buying an international investment bank.


We are looking at a bunch of things — PE, fund of funds, asset management. We want to broaden the basket.


When you began Religare, did you see it as a third business opportunity and did you think it would grow so big?


I have always had an interest in the financial sector. I knew India is going to do well and continue to integrate with global economy... There were MNC firms, but no significant Indian family business in financial services. We were a late entrant, but never copied any model.


You began as an inheritor, but now have the opportunity to create your own businesses...


It was my decision to move on. We see huge opportunity in healthcare and financial space and are creating two global institutions. I will give India two more brands that are far bigger than Ranbaxy.


Any chance of you re-entering the pharma space?


In business as a principle, you never say no. You may not do it, that's a different thing. If something comes at a throwaway price, I will have a look at it as a businessman.


But now, we have lot of opportunities in financial and healthcare sector for the next few years to fulfil our dream.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

'WE ARE NOT AGAINST FOREIGN REINSURERS BEING ALLOWED BRANCHES'

SANTOSH NAIR

 

Yogesh Lohiya Chairman, GIC in an interview with ET talks about GIC and the insurance industry.


The non-life industry has been going through a bruising price war for more than two years. Yet, the capacity of insurers has not been hit. Why?


There was no capacity crunch because of availability of capital and everybody who has employed capital wants to do business. The other reason is that the industry has not seen a catastrophic loss and there is a feeling that even the existing large losses like the fire at IndianOil depot in Jaipur and the Haldia Petrochemical fire may not recur every year. Looking at these aspects, reinsurers are willing to participate and bear the cost.


What has GIC been doing to ensure pricing is risk based?


We have rationalised reinsurance programmes by asking general insurance companies to retain more risk on their books. This will also allow them to retain more premium. We have also introduced a differential pricing concept based on claims experience. We have brought in a concept of risk corridor where we tell the companies to bear the loss beyond a certain point. These measures have brought discipline into the market.

How is the terrorism pool doing?


The terrorism pool is working well. We have made part-payments whenever required and set an example to the rest of the world. The world over, reinsurers have backed out from providing terror cover after 9/11. It is the regulator, government and insurance companies who have taken the initiative to set up the terror pool. GIC's role is that of a pool manager. Although we expect claims of around Rs 500 crore from 26/11, the pool is in surplus and we have the capacity to provide terror cover for up to Rs 750 cr per location.

Last year, GIC's foray into aviation insurance globally resulted in large claims. Are you having a rethink?


We are the fifth-largest reinsurer in the world and are involved one way or the other in any major loss. But reinsurance losses do not happen every year. The other thing about aviation insurance is that prices are better tuned in and premiums go up resulting in a speedier return. So, it does not mean that we should run away because we had one bad year. We may fine-tune pricing or our terms and conditions portfolio will not see any reduction.

What are the issues involved in setting up a nuclear pool to cover liability of a plant operator?


Pools are created when cover is simply not available. Every policy excludes radiation losses. There are 27 nuclear pools working elsewhere in the world, but they are new for India and we have been working on it for the past year-and-a-half. The issue with nuclear liability is that there may not be any immediate impact and this may be felt anywhere between five and 30 years later. This is why such pools usually cover claims even after 30 years for body injury. All these will be defined by legislation. That is why our concept revolves around legislation.

What is your stand on foreign reinsurers being allowed branches?

We are not against it. The government has to amend the provisions in the law. Once that has been done, the regulator has to come out with the guidelines. The GIC has made a presentation to Irda recently where we told them what the rules and regulations are elsewhere. Unlike in India, where there are no restrictions on doing business with foreign reinsurers, other countries have restrictions. In China, every payment requires regulator's nod. In some countries, we have to provide a letter of credit or guarantee.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

GSK TO INVEST RS 270 CR IN 3 YEARS: MCPHERSON

RATNA BHUSHAN

 

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, makers of Horlicks, Boost and Crocin brands, will invest more than Rs 270 crore ($61 million) in its Indian operations over the next three years. This money will go into capacity expansion and infrastructure development of GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare India, Ian C McPherson, president (international) of the $7.6-billion Philadelphia-based company, told ET's Ratna Bhushan on Tuesday. India is the fastest growing market for GSKCH's international division (excluding the US and Europe), said Mr McPherson who is on a three-day visit to the country. He said the Rs 2,100-crore GSK India is aggressively pursuing merger and acquisition opportunities and may complete more than one acquisition in the next two years.

The GSKCH veteran, who has spent more than three decades at the company's offices in the UK, Australia, Hong Kong, Canada, Germany and now the US, also said Aquafresh, one of the world's largest oral care brands, could make its Indian entry next year. Excerpts from an interview:


How do you plan to maintain and out-perform the 20%-plus growth momentum GSK India is posting, considering the increasingly competitive environment?

GSK will be a significant investor in India for the foreseeable future. We will invest in excess of Rs 270 crore in India over the next three years on capacity expansion at our three company-owned plants (in Sonepat, Nabha and Rajamundhry) and infrastructure development. Investments are being made in R&D, GMS (global manufacturing and supply) and M&As. Also in advertising and promotions, employees and in capabilities. We are also building a new head office for consumer operations here in Gurgaon.


India is one of our biggest markets and this market really took off five-six years back. In the last four years, we've doubled the India business. We would be disappointed if it doesn't double again over the next four years. So we are looking at what is the next level we could take the company to — getting a concrete vision.


How did the slowdown impact international emerging and developed markets within GSK Consumer?

Worldwide, we grew 7% in sales last year. Within that, the international division (which is everywhere outside North America and Europe) grew 12%, with fast emerging marketing such as China and India growing closer to 20%. Despite the recession, 2009 was a strong year for us and our international business grew at least twice the market rate of growth. We invested for growth by increasing advertising and promotion spends and innovation and driving business performance. Our top three markets are the US, UK and Germany and our top three in international are India, China and Japan. India is our biggest growth contributor.


The Indian arm has been talking about inorganic growth. Have you allocated any funds/timelines for acquisitions?
M&As will be very important for the business moving forward. We don't have any issues with funds and timelines are very much driven by the availability of quality assets. We are aggressively pursuing a number of projects and it would be our expectation to have more than one deal completed in India within the next 24 months. GSK is very active in the M&A environment but we have clear direction from our corporate executive team that we will only pay what is considered economic value for assets and at the same time we are looking to structure M&A deals in more creative ways than we have done in the past.


We do not see many global brands from GSK Consumer's portfolio in India. Why is that so?

We have five very powerful brands here. Four of these are category leaders where they exist and we believe we are the leading OTC (over-the-counter) company in India. We will continue to promote Horlicks as a mega brand and our intention is to launch the majority of our global brands in India. In the last few months, we have launched Sensodyne, Breathe Right and we are at the start of launching Lucozade Sport across India. Crocin, which is Panadol in other parts of the world, is already a global brand concept. We are very keen to do more in the smoking cessation and weight control space.


Longer-term we see a big opportunity in these categories. Globally, we have a very big denture care business. The market for these products is at a very early stage in India. So in the future you should expect to see a lot more of GSK global brands here.


Then there's Aquafresh, where we had a bit of a false start in India, but we are definitely looking to bring it here next year. Aquafresh is hugely successful in many markets and we have a desire to globalise that asset. The toothpaste market in India is famous for its price wars and deeply entrenched players like Colgate and Hindustan Unilever's Pepsodent and Close-Up.


There seems to be an over-dependence on brand Horlicks. Do you see that as a risk?

This could be a risk if we failed to innovate Horlicks to bring new value to consumers. However, Horlicks is no longer one product. We have successfully diversified the brand into different product forms so now it exists in biscuits, snack bars, ready-to-drink formats and segments (for mothers, children, and so on). The brand is capable of carrying a number of different product propositions and is diversified. It, of course, remains a dominant part of our company. While we don't see this as a risk, further diversification of our business is a key strategy for the future.


Any areas of changes you would want to implement at GSK India? Any opportunities you feel the company has missed?

Not today. The company is led by an accomplished management team and is very focused on growth. For a period in the 90's, there was a time when the company was more concerned with margin improvement rather than growth. We've learned that focusing on revenue growth is a more success formula for India.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

UNIFIED COMMAND MUST FIGHT NAXALS

Visiting the Naxal zone of Lalgarh in West Bengal on Sunday, the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram, told journalists that while the performance of the governments of West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand did not match the requirement in combating armed Maoists who had set themselves the task of taking on the forces of the state, the situation in Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra was better. The stunning attack in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district on the security forces on Tuesday — the deadliest ever — shows how wrong the home minister was. As he goes about assessing just what went wrong in the Mukram forests where 74 CRPF personnel and a head constable of the Chhatisgarh police were butchered by the Maoists, Mr Chidambaram might do well to evaluate the overall national strategy against the ultra-left extremists. This should include a study of the numbers of security personnel of all description pressed into anti-Maoist operations, the quality of their training for the specific task of anti-guerrilla warfare in forested terrain, the equipment available to them, and the quality of intelligence at their disposal. The time may have come to design a special force to counter the Maoist armed insurgency on the lines of the Rashtriya Rifles that was set up to deal with terrorist violence in Kashmir. The government has designated the Naxal insurgency as the country's most serious internal security problem. Anyone can see that armed Maoists coordinate their actions across state boundaries and respond to a single command authority. This justifies the creation of a single national command and communication structure to deal with this menace. Naxalism ought not to be seen as a law and order problem alone. It is supra-state and has to be dealt with as such. With appropriate discussion with all affected parties, the Union government is called upon to bring suitable legislation so that the creation of a new force does not get mired in state-versus-Centre bickering. The Prime Minister, to begin with, called an emergency meeting of the National Security Council on Tuesday with the three service chiefs in attendance. But it is time an overall political view was taken. Those who emphasise the root cause thesis in dealing with Naxalism need to understand that at this stage there is no getting away from subduing these elements militarily even as the State goes about the business of delivering development essentials to the needy in the country's poorest areas. It is not a question of one or the other. The government has done well to reject the idea of the use of air power in the anti-Naxalite operations. Such a course would be fraught with risks of collateral damage (civilian deaths) as Nato's indiscriminate use of firepower from the sky has demonstrated so graphically in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. A guerrilla war against insurgents who take shelter behind deemed ideology cannot succeed in the absence of help from the residents of a given area. Among the deficiencies on the government side that resulted in the Dantewada tragedy is the failure of intelligence. A Naxal force almost a thousand strong was involved in trapping a company of the CRPF. That is a very large number of men and the government's intelligence apparatus appears to have had not a clue.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S PROBLEMS

BY P.C. ALEXANDER

Anne O. Krueger in her book Economic Policy Reforms and Indian Economy narrates an interesting anecdote about a meeting at which discussions were centered on development strategies. When a speaker referred to India with the words "In a country like India", well-known economist Harry Johnson interrupted the speaker by a counter question, "What other country is like India?" Through a simple question Harry Johnson was trying to convey that India's problems cannot be compared with those of other developing countries, large or small, and that they have to be tackled in the background that's specific to India. Let me begin with some of these special problems.

The most serious among India's handicaps is its limited land area. India with a population of over a billion people, accounting for 16.6 per cent of the world population, has only 2.2 per cent of world's land area while the US, which has only one-third of India's population, has three times India's area. Another limitation is that out of the 6.23 lakh villages in India, 2.86 lakh have less than 500 people each and 1.45 lakh other villages have less than 1,000 people each, making it difficult to provide basic infrastructure like schools, healthcare centres etc. In the social sector, particularly healthcare and education, India is still in the company of some of the least-developed countries of the world.

The proverbial poverty of the rural masses of India is the legacy of two centuries of British rule. India's wealth along with China's accounted for half of the world's wealth for about 18 centuries but after two centuries of colonial exploitation India had been reduced to one of the poor countries of the world.

The vast disparities in growth between states also show how the benefits of the growth already achieved are not uniformly distributed. States with large populations like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh are cynically referred to as "BIMARU" states, as if these states are condemned to the sickness of under-development with limited chances of full recovery.

Against a dismal picture of under-development and poverty, India's position today is that it is one of the three largest economies of Asia, in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, the other two being China and Japan. Some Indian entrepreneurs have already entered the select group of the top-dozen billionaires of the world and this is taken as testimony to Indian's ability to compete on equal terms with the most successful producers of wealth in the world, given the opportunities.

Thus, India presents to the world today the picture of a country with great contradictions, where abject poverty and backwardness exist side by side with high levels of affluence and technological advancement. However it will not be fair to jump to the conclusion that India's strategies for development have failed to deliver or that they have been inadequate to tackle the problems of under-development special to our country. Six decades of development efforts have thrown up several lessons which have not engaged the serious attention of India's planners and rulers whose concern has been mainly centered on the rate of gross domestic product growth. High growth rate is considered synonymous with development for the nation as a whole, irrespective of other problems which afflict it. A few of these "other problems" which do not receive the attention they deserve are briefly mentioned below.

The first is that we as a new nation have failed to assimilate the most important lesson, which the Father of the Nation had tried to instil in us, namely, good governance is not merely efficient governance but has to also be morally good. Gandhiji strived for improving the standard of living of all sections of the population but he also wanted this objective to be achieved along with improvement in the standard of living of the people. But an unfortunate development in the post-Gandhi decades was that politics in several parts of the country came to be dominated by people who cared only for power to satisfy their greed for wealth.

If an impartial study is made on the statement of assets by the candidates themselves when they file their nomination papers and compare them with the information relating to the previous elections, we will be wondering how some of these leaders could meet with such enormous success in a very short time.

Unfortunately, the common people in our country have become tolerant of corruption and are no longer shocked by such revelations.

Another serious challenge to the development of a "good" democratic structure in our country is the manner in which the nomination culture practised by most political parties in India is stifling the rise of leadership at the local level. In the past several good ideas of development emerged from certain state leaders who had ground-level experience of initiating them. Those familiar with the initiation of some of the important government programmes like mid-day-meal for poor school children in Tamil Nadu and the employment guarantee scheme in Maharashtra, will recall how much the Central government had benefited from the experience of these states in implementing these programmes on a nation-wide scale.

The practice of strict conformity to directions from the party leadership has of late been evident even when senior members of Parliament (MP) discuss important national policies in Parliament. We may recall the freedom which party leaders had given to their MPs to express their views freely when important national issues like Britain's entry into the European Union and the use of a common currency for all member countries were being debated in the UK, both in Parliament and outside. In India freedom of expression is always restricted by the fear of displeasing party bosses and, therefore, all party MPs try to toe the party line indicated to them though no formal whip has been issued. It has become rare during the last several years for an MP to express his/her views boldly on an issue on which s/he may have honest differences of opinions with the party bosses. Freedom of speech for an MP in our democracy has, thus, become a myth of the past, which in turn has diluted the principle of "good governance" in the full sense of the term.

 P.C. Alexander is a former governor ofTamil Nadu and Maharashtra

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AFTER WINTER, SEASON OF RENEWAL HAS COME

BY ROGER COHEN

NEW YORK, United States

In Two Lives, his memoir of his great uncle and aunt, Vikram Seth reproduces extracts from the 1893 Jewish Prayer Book of a Berlin synagogue, at the end of which is a brief appendix on fundamentals of Jewish morality.

This says that "Judaism teaches: the Unity of Mankind. It commands us therefore to love our neighbour, to protect our neighbour and his rights, to be aware of his honour, to honour his beliefs, and to assuage his sorrow. Judaism calls upon us through work, through the love of truth, through modesty, through amicability, through moral rectitude, and through obedience to authority, to further the well-being of our neighbours, to seek the good of our fatherland, and to bring about the loving fellowship of all mankind".

Given what would happen in that German fatherland within a half-century, the reference to "obedience to authority" makes painful reading. Assimilated Berlin Jews of this period were patriotic to a fault. A happier phrasing would have been, "through questioning of authority". Truth and questioning are inseparable, as the terrible price of German obedience showed.

But taken as a whole, these reflections on the contribution of Jewish ethics to the "loving fellowship of mankind" make uplifting reading at a time of renewal. Amicability, for one, is a neglected virtue.

Renewal, I said. It has been a bone-chilling winter of the kind that redoubles the miracle of spring. The magnolia bursting forth and sudden delicate blossom remind us that beneath the frost the sap still stirred.

As Christians through Easter festivities celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus, and Jews through Passover mark deliverance from slavery in Egypt, I prefer to dwell on unity rather than division. Journalism has an inbuilt inclination toward strife that it is as well to resist from time to time.

Oh, the temptation was certainly there — given the Vatican's amateurish rebuttals of the gravity of sexual abuse among priests, its lashing out at "the gossip of the moment" and the grotesque analogy (later regretted) drawn by one priest between criticism of the church and anti-Semitism — to devote a column-length excoriation to tone-deaf performances unworthy of high religious holidays.

Pope Benedict XVI of Germany had a very tough act to follow. The least that can be said is that the challenge often appears beyond him.

But popes come and go, as do off-key spin doctors. Easter is about something more riveting: an empty tomb a couple of millennia ago and what that meant. As Jon Meacham has written, "Christianity's foundational belief is that Jesus was the Son of God, who died and rose again as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of a fallen world".

This fallen world, in its mystery, confronts us daily. Every faith quests through narrative and systems of belief to provide meaning, purpose and consolation. For, as Ecclesiastes has it, "Under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favour to those with knowledge, but time and chance happen to them all".

Yes, time and chance happen to everyone, like death and the taxes. So it helps at moments of renewal to step back enough to feel the thread that binds the "unity of mankind" and connects us to our forbears. God as revealed truth eludes me — frightens me even, for the fanatical lurks in revelation. But if God is the quest for truth, the touchstone of the soul, then I am not entirely an agnostic.

At our Passover Seder, we read a "humanist modern version Haggadah." It suggested that "we celebrate the struggle of all people to be free", called for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and noted that "throughout the centuries, the story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt has inspired Jews and non-Jews in times of persecution".

Passover is of course about the perennial rebirth of the Jewish people, but beyond that it is indeed a universal liberation tale. The Israeli Declaration of Independence of 1948 incorporated something of this spirit into the new state, declaring that "It will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex".

These words are cut from the same cloth as that 1893 Prayer Book and they stand close to the very essence of Jewish belief, faith and tradition, whose truest expression embraces "the fellowship of mankind".

No fellow freedom quest is as intense today as the Iranian. I've been reading Roxana Saberi's first-rate Between Two Worlds about her captivity in Iran, in Evin prison, from January 31 to May 11, 2009.

The most compelling passages are about a form of religious experience — the struggle of this young American-Iranian as she moves from false "confessions" calculated to secure freedom to fierce truth-telling that grants her an inner liberation so powerful that even death is no longer frightening.

"Roxana", her father says, "just remember: they can never hurt your soul". Truth, in other words, is impregnable.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE HARSH TRUTH ABOUT HEALTHCARE

BY PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

Today, (April 7) on the occasion of the World Health Day 2010, when the spotlight turns to urbanisation and health, we will be reminded yet again that statistically speaking, urban Indians are not in good health. Stressful and unhealthy lifestyles are exposing an increasing number of upwardly, and downwardly mobile city-dwellers to a host of diseases like tuberculosis, diabetes and cancer. But by the yardstick of pageantry, we are doing splendidly.

In my neighbourhood, there is a speciality hospital which aspires to give every woman who can afford it the Liz Hurley moment while delivering her baby. Apart from state-of-the-art operating theatres, medical equipment, highly qualified doctors, a neo-natal emergency transport service, an all in one labour-delivery-recovery room (called a birthing suite), and a 24-hour pharmacy, it also boasts of retail outlets within its premises where one can shop for maternity clothing, baby care accessories and assorted baby thingummies like personalised name tiles mounted on a wooden base, which you can put in your baby's room. Other attractions include a coffee shop with a multi-cuisine menu and customised artisan chocolates to celebrate the "Baby Shower".

If this sounds like the big, fat, Indian birthing fantasy, the effect is entirely intentional.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the urban poor who may be better off than the rural poor but who live in ill-ventilated homes in congested localities, who often cannot afford to pay for private tankers to supply water and for whom basic amenities of clean water and toilets remain elusive. These are the people who routinely succumb to tuberculosis, typhoid and gastroenteritis.

A telling comment on the health status of this population who make up the majority in our cities and towns comes from the government's own data. Take Maharashtra, one of India's wealthier states. The NFHS-3, (the latest National Family Health Survey) reveals 42 per cent of children in urban Maharashtra are chronically undernourished. The survey also found 11 per cent of children in Maharashtra's cities and towns are wasted (too thin for their height) indicating inadequate food intake or a recent illness.

Somewhere between these two extremes is a third group of urban Indians — regular, middle class people — who may not consider a giant plasma television screen as an integral part of the motherhood experience but who don't live in shanties either.

Most people I know fall in this third category. How are they coping at a time when private hospitals are taking the lead in introducing the latest technological wonders and Western patients — often on package deals that include flights, transfers, hotels, treatment, and a post-operative holiday — are coming to such hospitals in India in droves?

The harsh truth is that the private sector, till date, has not been able to take cutting-edge technology to the common man, although it has raised the standard of healthcare for those who have the money. Costs are going up sharply as technology and treatment options increase.

Today, though the health insurance business is growing rapidly, and is being driven by group insurance schemes, the penetration of health insurance is barely 12 per cent in the top 20 Indian cities.

Even those who are covered by some sort of health insurance are often under-insured and many a time, the list of treatments covered are not clearly spelt out in the original insurance plan. A colleague's 78-year-old mother fell and broke a leg at home. She was taken to a private hospital in south Delhi. Doctors there said she would not only need to get the fracture reset, she needed bone reconstructive surgery in the hip area, since she was suffering from osteoporosis. The same insurance company said reconstructive surgery was not covered by the scheme, and refused to pay for it. The colleague had to pay over Rs 1 lakh out of his pocket.

Further, while hospitalisation for immediate family members are taken care of, doctor's fees, medicines and diagnostic tests that do not require a hospital stay often have to be paid for out-of-pocket. The other key issue is that most group medical insurance packages do not cover the healthcare bills of parents above 70.

Most new healthcare entrepreneurs in India are creaming the market. Very few are seeking to tap the bottom of the pyramid. One of the best-known among those who see the enormous potential in providing affordable healthcare in a country like India is Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, heart surgeon, public health activist and businessman. Dr Shetty is best known for his Bengaluru-based Narayana Hrudayalaya hospital which performs more heart operations a day than Singapore and Malaysia together. More than half of these operations are either free or heavily subsidised. He believes in the micro-health insurance model, pioneered by his hospital. This insurance policy is premised on the poor patients' willingness to pay, as long as they can do it in small instalments. Nearly three million people have signed up to the scheme. Dr Shetty's target is to create 30,000 beds across India in the next five years.

- Patralekha Chatterjee writes on development issues in India and emerging economies and can be reached at patralekha.chatterjee@gmail.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

AFTER ANNA NICOLE, IS IT BECKHAM'S TURN?

BY ALEXANDER CHANCELLOR

So Anna Nicole Smith — the poor, talentless Texan girl who by virtue of the most enormous bosom became a stripper in a Houston clip joint and married one of its regular customers, a wheelchair-bound oil billionaire 63 years her senior — is to be the subject of a new opera that will receive its first performance at the Royal Opera House next year. The opera is an all-British effort, with music by Mark-Anthony Turnage and libretto by Richard Thomas, one of the creators of Jerry Springer: The Opera. Springer, widely attacked as blasphemous, was a sprightly satire on American trash culture, which ended with God and the Devil battling over the soul of the famous talk show host. But Anna Nicole, as the new opera is called, looks set to be more of a traditional operatic tragedy, ending with its heroine's early death at the age of 39. Details of the plot have not been revealed; but its librettist has been quoted as saying: "Anna Nicole Smith's tragic life is a classic American tale about celebrity, and the price you pay for trying to escape your roots".

This seems a little unfair on Anna Nicole, whose roots were of a kind that anyone would want to escape. Born in Houston into a poor working-class family, with parents who were divorced when she was two, and a mother who subsequently married four more times, she dropped out of school in her teens to get a job as a fast-food waitress in Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken restaurant in the obscure Texas town of Mexia. There, aged 17, she married a 16-year-old cook, Billy Smith: and next year they had a son, Daniel, only to separate shortly afterwards. It was an unpromising start for a woman who had always dreamt of becoming famous and, as a girl, had kept a picture of Marilyn Monroe on her bedroom wall.

But things looked up when she moved back to Houston and got a job in a strip club called Gigi's, which was regularly attended at lunchtime by the old and decrepit J. Howard Marshall II. (It was Anna Nicole's good fortune that she had been demoted from the evening shift to be there at lunch.) Marshall became besotted with her, lavished gifts upon her and, once her divorce from Billy Smith had come through, married her in 1994. She was then 26, and he 89. Marshall died the following year; and although Anna Nicole apparently paid him little attention during their brief marriage and had several reported affairs, a Los Angeles judge awarded her $449,754,134 out of his $1.6 billion estate. This was challenged by Marshall's children from a previous marriage and provoked litigation that continued unresolved until her death in 2007, fat, broke and generally falling to pieces.

There was an awful lot of tragedy involved in the Anna Nicole story. Her son Daniel died mysteriously, aged 20, while visiting her in hospital where she had just had another baby — a girl called Danielynn — five months before her own death of a drug overdose. Howard Marshall's eldest son also died during the litigation. And just this month an appeals court ruled that none of Marshall's money should go to three-year-old Danielynn, of whom three unscrupulous men had claimed paternity because of her prospective wealth. All very sad. But for an opera to work, it must contain at least one character with whom it is possible to empathise; and this could be a problem with Anna Nicole. J. Howard Marshall is a possible candidate for sympathy; for despite Anna Nicole's insistence that she had married him for love and been "turned on by his liver spots", her tenacity in fighting for his money cast doubt on this. But while she certainly made Marshall look a fool, he wasn't actually taken for a ride; for he didn't leave her anything in his will. And one can feel only limited compassion for a man whose only interest in a woman is for the size of her surgically enhanced breasts.

As for the Anna Nicole herself, she had some endearing aspects. One was her simple view that the only purpose of woman was to be attractive to men. "Are you a feminist?" an interviewer once asked her. "I don't understand the question", she replied. "Do you fight for women's rights?" "Whoever started that, I could kick them in the head". She denied having silicone implants, but was at least frank about having had breast surgery: "My nipples kind of pointed downwards, so I had them moved from here to there". And she had religious beliefs suited to a suspected gold-digger. Asked what she thought about heaven, she replied: "I think heaven's a beautiful place. Gold. You walk on gold floors". But for all that, or because of it, Anna Nicole remains impossible to take seriously. It is difficult even to regard her as real, so alien seems the culture to which she belongs. However good the opera turns out to be, it is hard to imagine being much moved by the story.

Still, if opera as an art form is to broaden its appeal, it's a good idea that new operas should draw inspiration from contemporary events. But while Richard Thomas regards the Anna Nicole story as "intrinsically operatic", I think the same could be said more plausibly of situations involving British celebrities with whom we can more easily identify — David Beckham, for example, or Tony Blair. Surely the currently dismal state of British politics should be capable of yielding a tragic morality tale, involving such heroes as Stephen Byers and Geoff Hoon.

In contrast, there could be an excellent comic opera dealing with the mysterious proletarianisation of Samantha Cameron, whose accent when describing "Dave" on television as a "fantastic dad" was so estuarine as to make one wonder if she really could be the daughter of that plummy old throwback, Sir Reginald Sheffield. It could be a sort of My Fair Lady in reverse in which the well-born, well-spoken heroine is forced to talk cockney and go on singing The roin in Spoin falls moinly on the ploin until she gets it right. The moral here, as with Anna Nicole, could be "the price you pay for trying to escape your roots", and the price in this case could be a political one for the party of which Dave is the leader. For nice person though Samantha clearly is, her accent, however genuine, sounds phoney; and the British public has an instinct for phoneyness and an aversion to it in any form.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WHEN GOD SAID 'GOOD!'

BY FRANCIS GONSALVES

Genesis, the Bible's first book, tells us that God created the world through words. Striking in the first chapter of Genesis are the words "God said…", used in 10 out of 31 verses. God calls into being light, sky, land, seas, vegetation, sun, moon, fish, birds, animals and human beings.

The phrase "God saw it was good" is also prominent in that chapter. In sum, the creation story narrates that God calls into being, delights in creation and exclaims: "Good!" Creation is good precisely because its creator, God, is good. Much as dancer is in the dance and singer in the song, so does Godness glow in nature's goodness.

Atheists might pooh-pooh the Genesis story and ask: How come light appears on day one and sun-moon only on day four? Does God require six days to create? Which lingo does God use? Hebrew or Sanskrit — perhaps desi Hindi or Tamil? Evolutionists could also rubbish this story by calling it primitive, ahistorical and unscientific. Sure, this story is primal, ahistorical and unscientific — depicting God quite literally as a "creative talker" — simply because it wasn't meant to be otherwise. What the Genesis writer did intend, however, was to use a myth to tell us who we are, who we came from. And, for what.

Far from being untrue, scriptural myths use symbolic language to reveal profound truths about the world and life, providing frameworks to grasp realities outside ordinary human experience. Therefore, the Genesis myth reveals two root-truths: First, God created the cosmos with godly power; second, creation, like God, is good.

According to the Bible, God's "word" is powerful. The Hebrew text of the Bible uses the word dabhar to express God's speaking. Translating dabhar as "word" is risky since we're tired of words today. However, dabhar, more aptly, is creative energy and divine wisdom. Dabhar is active, imaginative, playful. Like a superb artist painting one artwork after another with astounding ease evoking everyone's "Wow!", so does God's creative energy (dabhar) produce breathtaking forms of life evoking God's "Good! Good! Good!" ad infinitum.

The Vedas also speak of the divine word — the Sanskrit vaak or vaac — as communicating between the eternal and humans and among humans themselves. Creation is a descent of vaak that is eternally beyond form, into progressively more articulate forms, becoming eventually human and even animal language.

Creation is God's blessing. The word "benediction" — from the Latin bene + dicere literally meaning "to say good" — is synonymous with blessing. God says "good" not because the cosmos is perfect but because it is beautiful; yet, in the process of becoming more beautiful still.

Look and listen! God's dabhar, eternal vaak reverberates in the ragas of raging rivers, cats' musical mews and forest breezes. Writes Jesuit poet G.M. Hopkins: "Beauty is God's handwriting". While all creatures unconsciously mirror goodness and Godness, human beings alone are conscious and free to reflect and respond, or reject the Beyond.

God's word is often silenced in our wordy world of computers, SMSes and iPods. Worse, words become weapons that wound.

Said Seneca the philosopher, "What is required is not a lot of words, but effectual ones". Beyond words, strive for silence and listen to God speak. Should that silence beget speech, may it but be a blessing, a bene-diction: "Good!"

 Francis Gonsalves is the principal of theVidyajyoti College of Theology, Delhi. He is involved in interfaith dialogue and peoples' initiatives for fostering justice, harmony and peace. He can be contacted at fragons@gmail.com [1].

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

UNEXPECTED SHOCKS

CHIDAMBARAM DOES THE TALKING IN BENGAL


THE Union home minister must have been convinced that it was no longer necessary to engage in more "fact-finding'' exercises on the law and order scenario in West Bengal when the ground reality ~ despite all that Biman Bose has to say ~ is unmistakably clear. It was for him to speak rather than listen to excuses as to why the police have failed to deal with inter-party clashes. On the last two occasions, he had drawn a blank. A central team was virtually confined to briefings at Writers' Buildings. Then Mr Chidambaram himself had discovered that a joint meeting of chief ministers was a non-starter. This time he seemed to have come with the clear objective to convey, not collect, impressions on what he and the UPA thought of the mess that West Bengal had made of political strife in large areas of Hooghly, Midnapore and Burdwan and civil discontent in tribal areas plagued both by Maoist excesses and lack of basic needs. If Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was expected to swallow the warning that "the buck stops at the chief minister's table'', he could not have missed the innuendoes and gestures that confirmed Mr Chidambaram had come to do business and to look for results cutting through the claims of political rivals ~ and that the ball was in the state's court.
The Home Minister had made it a point to demonstrate that pressures would not work. A murmur from Mamata Banerjee that Mr Chidambaram was more restrained than he should have been could not conceal the discomfort of the Left. The last time he had declared he didn't believe that any party (read Trinamul) had a nexus with the Maoists.


If that was disconcerting enough for the Marxists who had proposed to make that an election issue, this time he talked of "a difference in perception'' in general. As if this wasn't a damaging enough comment on the administration's failure to discharge its basic obligation, he broke protocol in Lalgarh to do what no one in the Left had done so far. The chief minister must have watched with dismay as Mr Chidambaram mingled with villagers to convince them of the futility of relying on Maoists and to reassure them that apathy and neglect would be addressed. In other words, he has seen through the Left's PR exercises with the Congress and has identified the root of the poison. He may not have had any illusions that results are round the corner. What he did, instead, was to deliver a shock that the Left may not have expected. 

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

B-SCHOOL FEE HIKE

IIMC PROCEEDS FROM CONCLUSION TO PREMISE


OH, how ironical! A week that heralded the universalisation of education also reaffirmed that the centres of excellence can be beyond the reach of most. Conclusion justifies premise in the decision of the Indian Institute of Management, Calcutta to effect a 50 per cent increase in the fees ~ from Rs 9 lakh to Rs 13.5 lakh with effect from the next session. The official justification is "excellent placements".  Yet the authorities have clearly backtracked from the earlier announcement  that there would be no hike this year. The hike is the steepest, one that makes IIMC more expensive than similar institutes in Ahmedabad and Bangalore. There can be no quarrel with the move to bring about a dramatic expansion of infrastructure. Ergo, a more compelling reason, one that was not readily acknowledged at Saturday's meeting of the Board of Governors, is that the IIMs ~ as anticipated ~ are feeling the impact of the former HRD minister, Mr Arjun Singh's embroidery of OBC reservations. With no matching increase in government grants, the IIMs have little or no option but to generate their own resources.


   If the seats have to be increased substantially, so must the infrastructure to take care of the reserved vacancies. IIMC alone will have to effect a considerable expansion of the floor area to accommodate more students. The formula devised by Mr Singh, who had pursued his intra-party agenda in the name of reservations, can be said to have come a cropper in Joka. IIMC had proposed to admit 464 students this year to take care of the OBC candidates. In the event, the intake has had to be restricted to 375 because of inadequate infrastructure. Which would indicate that close to 100 seats will remain vacant in the next session.
The increased resources are for "world class infrastructure" and to facilitate extensive research. For all that, a B-school is essentially a career-oriented institution. Unlike conventional universities, the IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, research has never been one of the top priorities in IIMs. The MBA degree is a passport to the super affluent bracket, often offshore and sometimes onshore.  It is fervently to be hoped that the hiked fees and better facilities will enable the IIMs to conduct the next admission test with computers that function. This is elementary.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

A TIGER, YONDER SEE!

BUXA BOASTS THE STRIPES


THE development has been as fortuitous as it is momentous. The sighting of a Royal Bengal tiger in Buxa and its capture on camera by a beat officer is decidedly a momentous event for this reserve forest in North Bengal. In equal measure does it occasion surprise that a tiger had never been spotted in Buxa, not since 1983 when it was included within the ambit of  Project Tiger, the country's flagship conservation programme.  For close to thirty years has it been a "tiger reserve" with no tiger in sight. To a remarkable degree, that contradiction has now been corrected. The spotting itself must rank as a remarkable development; still more remarkable must be the beat officer, Manindra Sarkar's click on the camera.


   Only the pugmarks, the scat and the distant growls have formed the basis of the tiger census. These parameters may be regarded as scientific methods for a census; but to be able to see a tiger is an encouraging achievement by itself. Not that Buxa is bereft of the species; if indeed there are 12 tigers, they have studiously avoided making themselves visible. Sightings have become still more rare as they regally stride into the extension of the forest to Bhutan. Indeed, it is this "rarity" that had become a matter of concern to the authorities of a tiger reserve. 


The development ought to spur the Buxa Tiger Reserve authorities to conduct a more extensive census of the regal species.  Equally is it imperative to guard against poaching, a jungle crime that is rampant from North Bengal to the Sundarbans in the south. Unlike the southern jungles of the state, where the tigers stray into human habitat, it is the poachers who trespass into the picturesque forest areas of north Bengal. A headway has been made with the sighting.  Conservation will now have to be stepped up with a crackdown on the poachers.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

RAJAPAKSE'S CROWNING GLORY

AN ELECTION TO END ALL ELECTIONS IN SRI LANKA

BY SAM RAJAPPA


THE 8 April election to Sri Lanka Parliament is poised to be historic. After his stunning victory by a margin of 17 percentage points in the 26 January presidential election, Mahinda Rajapakse has set a target of securing a two-thirds majority for his United People's Freedom Alliance in the parliamentary election, not an unrealistic target. The Opposition parties that have sponsored Sarath Fonseka, former army commander, as their common candidate against Rajapakse in the presidential election, have abandoned him with the solitary exception of the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna, and decided to go their separate ways, even as the government has launched a second court martial against him. 


Keeping the war hero in illegal military custody, Fonseka is fighting for his life. It would be a miracle if he emerges from this ordeal in one piece. Opposition leader Ranil Wickremasinghe of the United National Party, who still upholds democratic values and decencies in public life, has been talking about devolution of powers to the ethnic minorities, restoration of human rights and freedom of expression, and demilitarisation of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces, historic habitat of the Tamils, at the hustings, and earned the displeasure of the Sinhala, Buddhist majority community. Triumphant Rajapakse, who has already secured an extended seven-year second term in office through some constitutional legerdemain, has launched a sweeping crackdown on dissenters and tightened his control over all branches of government. With the decimation of the LTTE behind him and the Tamil community divided between the quislings, renegades and the tamed, he has no opposition worth its name.


DIVINE RIGHT TO RULE

THE splinter Tamil National Alliance, an umbrella organisation of the Eelam Tamils, which won 22 seats in the 2004 parliamentary election, has all but abandoned its demand for separate Eelam. The Tamil National Peoples' Front is yet to fathom the electoral waters of Sri Lanka.


In this milieu, the lumpen Sinhala elements look upon Rajapakse as a latter day Dutu Gemunu who defeated the Tamils in their habitat and restored the 'sovereignty' of Sri Lanka as a Sinhala Buddhist nation. They consider him above the law and is endowed with the divine right to rule. The propaganda machinery of the Sri Lankan Freedom Party, parent organisation of Rajapakse, wedded to Sinhala Buddhist ethnocentric aspirations, meanwhile is clamouring for raising Rajapakse from being a de facto monarch to a de jure monarch. JR Jayewardene of the UNP, after winning the 1977 parliamentary election by four-fifths majority, introduced the present form of presidential government and got the 1978 Constitution adopted without any public debate. Giving him absolute powers (he used to boast that he had every power except to change a man into a woman and vice versa), he replaced the first-past-the-post system of election to the proportional representation system so as to deny his successors a chance to tinker with the unitary state government. If Rajapakse manages a two-thirds majority, it would only strengthen his sycophants' belief that he indeed has been conferred divine power to rule and their clamour to crown him king would get louder.


The defeat of the LTTE and its elimination of potential Tamil leaders who did not accept its totalitarian methods has left the community rudderless and leaderless. The 2.5 million Tamils in the island nation have 2.5 million different solutions to cope with the emerging situation. The 27-year-long armed struggle of the Tamil militants for equal rights and power-sharing has only succeeded in taking the community backwards with about 100,000 dead, 160,000 houses destroyed and 300,000 homeless. The TNA, the only credible political formation of the Tamils, has gone back to the Tamils' pre-1976 position when the Federal Party, the community's premier political outfit, passed its famous Vadukkodai resolution demanding a separate Tamil Eelam and converted the party into the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF), as it failed to wrest any of its demands from successive Sinhala governments. The LTTE was an offshoot of the TULF's youth wing. The TNA has abandoned its demand for separate Eelam and reverted to federalism. Its election manifesto makes four major demands: merger of the Northern and the Eastern Provinces brought about by Rajiv Gandhi following the 1987 Indo-Sri Lanka agreement and undone by the Rajapakse government; devolution of power over land, finances, law and order and socio-economic development; power to attract and deploy foreign funds without interference from Colombo; and a federal political solution with the right to self-determination which should be acceptable to the Tamil-speaking Muslims as well. Rajapakse, in a recent interview with The Straits Times of Singapore, had rejected outright all the four demands. The TNPF manifesto, keeping in mind the limitations of the 6th amendment to the Constitution which bars Tamils or anyone else from democratically expressing their aspirations for self-determination, advocates "confederation of nations" based on joint sovereignty of Tamil and Sinhala nations. Other important features of the manifesto include repeal of the 6th amendment which had disqualified TULF MPs en masse at one stage in the 1980s, inclusion of the Eelam Tamil diaspora in the political process and the involvement of the international community in providing security and support to the political struggle of Tamils. The TNPF accused the TNA of pushing Tamils into "the track of defeatism." At least one important constituent of the TNA, the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress led by Gajendrakumar Ponnambalam, left the alliance and crossed over to the TNPF.  That leaves the Tamils with a motley bunch of parties like the EPDP, PLOTE, TMVP(P) and TMVP(K) led by quislings and renegades who are content with gathering the crumbs from under the table of Rajapakse. The TNA, bornagain Federal Party of yore, alone has the capability of unifying the traumatised Tamils at this juncture. The Tamil majority which tourn out disastrous. Northern and Eastern Provinces account for 31 seats in the 225-member Parliament. Together with the other Opposition parties, the TNA could avert the UPFA securing a two-thirds majority. Past experience shows the governments with a two-thirds majority have been the most authoritarian and oppressive regimes.


DEMOGRAPHIC CHANGE

THE demographic profile of the Eastern Province had already undergone a sea change in the last six decades since independence. Rajapakse is determined to repeat that in the Northern Province also in the remaining seven years of his presidency. The army camps in the Wanni region of the Northern Province are being made permanent and its towns are being turned into cantonments. More than 40,000 troops are stationed in Wanni. Family quarters for them are under construction at breakneck speed. Once the families join the troops, infrastructural facilities like schools, shopping malls, recreation and entertainment centres would follow. Buddhist temples are mushrooming in the province whose population hitherto had been either Hindu, Muslim or Christian. Sinhalese shops have sprung up in the Tamils-only Jaffna town. It will not be long before the shopkeepers bring their families to this northern town. The government says if Tamils can live in the south amidst the Sinhalese, what is wrong in the Sinhalese moving into the Tamil areas? When Rajapakse was addressing an UPFA election rally in Tamil at the Duraiappa stadium in Jaffna, which had been a cent per cent Tamil town, on 1 April, he was shouted down by the Sinhalese in the audience, showing the growing shift in demography. Rajapakse shot back: "Yes, we are Sinhala. The country is also Sinhala." According to Major-General Prasad Samarasinghe, the army was there only to protect the Tamils from the non-existing LTTE. Rajapakse had said in an interview that there were "sleeping cadres" of the LTTE who could be activated any time. Unless the Sri Lanka government addresses the issues that gave rise to the ethnic conflict like equal rights for all communities under law, particularly with regard to basic freedoms and human rights, and take steps necessary for reconciliation between the different ethnic and religious groups, peace and harmony would continue to elude Sri Lanka. The ethnic and political cleavage between the Sinhala and the Tamil communities is bound to set in motion events that will continue to destabilise the nation and retard its progress unless Rajapakse turns a new leaf and tackle the problem to the satisfaction of all communities.
The writer, a veteran journalist, is Director, Statesman Print Journalism School

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ETHNICITY AND NATIONALISM

 

While the process of nation-building has often been associated with ethnic conflict, the hallowed symbols of nationalism are often deliberately played up to whip up nationalistic solidarity, says Robi Chakravorti
The process of nation-building has always been associated with violent ethnic conflict. The term ethnicity covers various non-class divisions based on race, religion, caste, language and lifestyle. The anthropological concept of "boundary-maintaining markers'' can be a good description of ethnic distinction. The criterion of markers, may, however, vary from one period to another. It may be race at one time, religion in another. It may be language difference in one region, caste or lifestyle difference in another.


One example is the creation and split-up of Pakistan. It was created on political claims of religious separation. The name of the state meant "holy state". But it was split up when the language difference influenced people in what was called East Pakistan. After strong and violent separatist movements, it was named Bangladesh
Along with the concept of ethnicity, one must also seek definitions of three terms frequently used in analysing conflicts related to state-formation - nation, nation-state and nationalism. Historian EH Carr in his book, "Nationalism And After" wrote that the meanings of these terms are "notoriously full of pitfalls". A witty comment on the "terminological jungle" these terms can create was presented in the title of an article on the subject by Walter Connor - ''A nation is a nation, is a state, is an ethnic group, is a…"


These three terms are defined in this article as follows: nation-state is an administrative category with a territorial dimension, the nation is a social psychological concept, nationalism an ideology. The history of changes in these three aspects of nation-state formation in the past may shock a novice. The administrative form of nation-states in Europe, for example, changed from absolute monarchy to popular monarchy to democracy. The territorial shape of nation-states has changed from one period to another. Europe had 21 states in 1971 but 30 in 1914. When the Yale University political handbook was written in 1964, the world had 133 states. There are now 191 member states in he UN.


The essential traits of modern nationalism, according to Hans Kohn, author of "Nationalism and its Meaning and History", originated with the Hebrews: the idea of the chosen people, the emphasis on a common stock of memory of the past and hopes of the future. The feeling of belonging to a nation which is the social-psychological element of nationalism is bolstered through media and symbolism, according to Eric Hobsbwam ("The Invention of Tradition"). He also pointed out that the hallowed symbols of nationalism are often deliberately played up to  whip up nationalistic solidarity.


According to a book (Julien Benda: "The Treason of the Intellectuals"), political passions were centered on material incentives for a group like the state, the country or class and they were divinised into ideologies. "The State, Country, Class are now frankly God. We may even say that for many people (and some are proud of it) they alone are God". With the collapse of the Soviet Russia and the decline of the Maoist doctrine in China, we are now passing through a phase when the divinization process of class has weakened, but the pulls of the state and the country are still powerful.


Nationalism as ideology had, earlier, undergone changes which approved attitudes to human rights. In the first phase of the development of nationalism, it favoured aristocracy symbolized in a person. The nation was identifed with the person of the sovereign - Louis XIV in France, for example. In the second phase, the idea jumped, so to speak, from the palace to the populace. The jump was not only from something concrete such as King to the masses, but also, something mystical and chimerical like "the General Will of the People''. This idea was developed by Rousseau. According to an interesting book ("The General Will Before Rousseau" by Patrick Riley), the idea of " General Will of the People" was a secular conversion of the Christian idea of the mystical "General Will of God".


The ideas of adult suffrage, equality and individual rights emerged, often at odds with one another while different forces in the society championed one at the cost of the other. EH Carr in his "Nationalism and After" presents a dramatic historic account of the French Revolution as an illustration. 


The third stage of the evolution of nationalism was described by Carr as "socialization". "The democratisation of the nation in the second period", Carr wrote, "meant the assertion of the political claims of the dominant middle class. The socialization of the nation for the first time brought the economic claims of the masses into the forefront. The result was the emergence of the ideas of a democratic social welfare state and the rise of common people's consciousness of their rights."


The ideology of nationalism with its different and proliferating emphases was filtered through the intellectuals in the Third World who criticized and fought against Western colonialism. The main difference between the early arrivals of nationhood in the West and the new states in the Third World is that the western states had slowly passed though three phases of nationalism and tackled the issue of social cultural democracy. The leaders of the new states in the Third World are confronting the herculean task of solving the task of solving all three aspects of nationalism simultaneously. Another point to note is that the progress in Europe and America was accompanied by a long and convoluted process of coercion and violence when democratisation and socialization processes had not been articulated or accepted by people at large. With simultaneous demands for a free Press, adult suffrage, mass participation and modern cries of equality, for groups as much as for individuals, force and coercion when used, need a strong moral and popular base of support. In the early stages of nation-state formation these considerations were not that important.


To give a dramatic illustration of this difference, the founding fathers of the USA, the first openly democratic new nation, owned slave plantations. This contradiction in their behaviour did not affect their practice of democracy which had a limited constituency in the beginning . Likewise, wars against native Indians and Mexico could be carried out without raising issues of legality and human rights as today.


The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences published a special issue of their journal, "The Annals" in 1970 devoted to " Collective Violence". The issue included an article, "The Paradox of American Violence : A Historical Appraisal" which presented dramatic episodes of violence involved in its independence movement. But it failed to include violence against the native population and slaves. According to an account, about 10,000,000 Negroes died or committed suicide during the forced voyages of the slaves ("To Serve The Devil" by Paul Jacobs and Saul Landau). About half a million native Indians died when immigrants waged war against them to grab their land. The proportion of the dead and suffering people becomes higher if we add the Civil War which took about 600,000 lives. Out of a population of 33,000,000 about 2,300,000 young men went to fight and one out of four of them died. If applied to the current population, it would be around three and a half million deaths ("The Politics of History'' by Howard Zinn). According to this historian , the pluralism and consensus that developed later was the product of a series of steps "each accompanied by violence which either destroyed, expelled or incorporated a dissident group".


Charles Tilly who edited a collection of essays under the title "The Formation of National States in Western Europe'' lists acts of coercion and violence as costs of building states in Western Europe. Tilly wrote that while the state's power increased in the early stages of state-building, there was resistance from the populace and it was "often concerted, determined, violent and threatening to the holders of power''.


We must also add what Tilly described as "exogenous factors" not prominent during state formation in Europe. "The connections of the new states to the rest of the world have changed too much. The statesmen of the contemporary world find themselves faced with alternative models of state-building, not to mention eager promoters of these models". The international environment today is different from the early stages of state-building and sophisticated modes of intervention in other country.

 

The writer is Professor Emeritus, Sociology, California State University, Sacramento, California

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

A SCHOOL FOR MANNERS?

KK KHULLAR


When a degree course in humour was started in the University of Singapore a few years ago fears were expressed that the real humour would be killed in the "course" or at least in due course. Similar doubts were expressed when an American University started a degree course in conversation. Some European universities have resorted to the use of blackboard, chalk and duster to promote poetry while another university has started an MA in Chess without ever doing BA in Chess. Now when Kapil Sibal wants to start 800 more universities in addition to 400 already in existence, I am sure he will consider the starting another university called the University of Manners particularly to impress foreigners coming to see the Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
Delhi is an open-air urinal after sunset. Before sunrise it is an open-air latrine. Spitting and blowing of nose or throat has never been an offence in Delhi. A corrupt politician can get a clean chit from the investigating agency but a clean city perhaps does not exist. When I asked my friend, a satirist, about this, he replied: "One of two things must happen: either manners would flow through arteries like fresh blood or we will lose even the remaining manners". Those who have read Sheridan's "School for Scandal" will recall that his campaign collapsed. GB Shaw ignored British manners and concentrated on morals. He also failed. Gandhi succeeded because he cleaned his own latrine. When he visited a school in Porbander, the headmaster was there with his staff to greet him with garlands, he said: "My first priority on the agenda is to see the school latrine". What he saw there was horrible. Tons of human excreta had accumulated there over the months. Gandhi refused to go to the refreshment table but said: "Get me a bucket of water and broom".


About 35 years ago the ministry of external affairs brought out a manual of manners for foreign service personnel. It said: "Long hair, dirty nails, foul breath should be completely eschwed. Cleaning one's ears, putting fingers into one's nose for cleaning, scratching one's body, spitting should be avoided. If one blows one's nose it should be done as unobstrusively as possible and always in a handkerchief. Sneezing and coughing are not always avoidable. If so, preferably a handkerchief or at least should be put in front of one's nose or mouth. Yawning is a sign of boredom. In company it should be stifled and if that is impossible it should be done as discreetly as possible". Is there any plan for a revised edition of the manual?

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

NEWS ITEMS

SERIOUS STABBING AFFRAY


Kealous Lovers Fall Out

As the result of a serious stabbing affray which occurred on Thursday last in Burtollah Street, a man named Bhimraj is lying in a moribund condition at the Mayo Hospital, and his assailant (Dhaina Doba) is occupying a cell in the jail.


Dhaina, who lived in Manicktollah Street, was in the habit of visiting a woman. One night Bhimraj happened to be there, and had an unpleasant altercation with Dhaina whom he met in the house rather unexpectedly, which ended in Bhimraj being forcibly ejected from the place. Since then, it is said, there existed ill-feeling between the two which culminated on Thursday night ina serious assault on Bhimraj, while he was passing along Burtollah Street. It is alleged Dhaina met him and stabbed him on the back inflicting four severe wounds. As the assailant was making off, he was arrested by a beat constable of the Jorabagan thana. The dying declaration of Bhimraj was subsequently recorded at the Mayo Hospital whee his present condition is said to be precarious. The accused is awaiting trial.


OPIUM PROSECUTION

A FINE OF RS 3,000


On the 30th ultimo Mr Swinhoe, Officiating Chief Presidency Magistrate, concluded the hearing of the case in which Sofi, a Chinaman, was tried on charges of possessing without a license three maunds of opium, and abetting in its tranaport under circumstances already reported.


The Magistrate, in consideration of the weak health of the accused ordered him to pay a fine of Rs 3,000, or, in default to undergo nine months' rigorous imprisonment.

 

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******************************************************************************************THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

SWEET SURRENDER

 

Pakistan is all set to cross another milestone in its steep climb to the summit of democracy. The 18th amendment to its constitution has been tabled in parliament, and seems ready to be passed with an overwhelming majority. A major part of this success story, however, has been scripted outside parliament — in the bitter, raucous world of Pakistani politics — and that is probably what makes for its stunning effect. No one had expected sworn political rivals to bury the hatchet, or a president, unnervingly forgetful about electoral promises, to remember an inconvenient commitment. Yet, Pakistan's politicians seem to have beaten the law of averages by arriving at a surprising consensus to correct a constitutional imbalance, that too at a time the world had been wondering if Pakistan was retracing its steps towards military dictatorship. The proposed amendment caps the discretionary powers of the president and makes the prime minister the fount of executive authority in accordance with the 1973 constitution. The president would no longer have the power to dissolve parliament or to appoint the three service chiefs and governors (without the consultation of the prime minister) — powers that had been used by no less than two of the country's army chiefs who went on to assume executive authority. The army now has been given limited entry into the plot, unless, of course, its commander suspends the constitution itself. But this act has been labelled as high treason in order to dissuade the ambitious. The mighty judiciary, too, has been somewhat tamed by the inclusion of an executive hand in judicial appointments. This may go as long a way to ensure judicial transparency as acrimony in judicial-executive relations. The other laudable aspect of the amendment is the abolition of the concurrent list that, if taken to its logical limits, would address the grievances of provinces like Baluchistan. But perhaps more effort is needed to restructure the federation's financial relations with provinces.

 

The amendment, undoubtedly, tries to bolster the position of the prime minister. The need for this is unquestionable in a democracy, but Pakistan needs to guard against a prime minister who may overreach his authority or become too close to the military command for his own good and that of the country.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

MIND THE GAFFE

 

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once said that he was considered wise because he knew what he did not know. Most people, he said, were ignorant about their own ignorance. The maxim inherent in Socrates's self-description could also apply to politicians: they should know what they do not know and steer away from the latter. English as she is spoke has never been Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's strong suit. It need not be so since he is the chief minister of a state whose most common spoken language is Bengali. Yet, Mr Bhattacharjee has rushed headlong into a needless controversy over the use of English with the Union home minister, P. Chidambaram. Mr Bhattacharjee believes that the sentence, "the buck stops at his table", used by the home minister is slang. Mr Bhattacharjee stands appalled that a politician could use slang. It needs to be pointed to the chief minister of West Bengal, who studied Bengali as an undergraduate, that he could not be more wrong. The words used by Mr Chidambaram are very common in spoken English. The saying, 'the buck stops here', has been around since the 19th century and is certainly not slang. In an attempted and unnecessary thrust at the home minister, Mr Bhattacharjee has made a spectacle of his own ignorance of English and its usage. He would have lost nothing if he had kept his mouth shut.

 

There is, however, a more important issue embedded in Mr Bhattacharjee's attempted riposte to Mr Chidambaram. The very fact that the chief minister can hold forth on the home minister's language suggests that Mr Bhattacharjee has enormous time on his hands. This should not be the case if he were devoting adequate attention to his ministerial responsibilities. On many important matters — from health to law and order to economic development — the state government, in the last few months, has taken no major initiatives. The general impression is that Mr Bhattacharjee's government is merely biding its time till the assembly elections next year. The chief minister's excursions into the finer points of English usage would tend to confirm the impression that at the moment more frivolous subjects attract him than affairs of state. It is a sad comment on the chief minister's credibility that he has to reiterate in public that "I have to do my work". He added, as if in reassurance, that he knew his responsibilities and that he would discharge them. The people of West Bengal can only hope that he does.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEIGHBOURLY CAUTION

PAKISTAN WILL REMAIN A DANGER TO ITSELF, TO INDIA AND TO THE WORLD

ASHOK GANGULY

 

Before 1980, no one could have anticipated the disintegration of the mighty Soviet Union. And then our generation watched the break-up of a once mighty world power which had played a leading role in world peace in the second half of the 20th century. Parts of the jigsaw of what were then the constituents of the former Soviet Union are still in the process of playing out their identity as independent states. The adage that one can expect the vagaries of a nation's history but a nation's geography is more static has been turned on its head frequently enough since the dawn of civilization.

 

In 1947, Pakistan was created as a new nation state by the British by breaking up parts of India at a time when the liabilities of a colonial asset had begun to outstrip its value to the colonial occupiers. There was a subdued sense of relief that Muhammad Ali Jinnah and his cohorts of the Muslim League had been seen off once and for all and that both countries could, hopefully, live as civilized neighbours once the flames of Partition had died down.

 

Although West and East Pakistan were geographically separated, the belief was that the bonds of Islam would be the raison d'être of unity and cohesion. The overwhelming victory of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Awami League in the Pakistan general election of 1970 brought to the surface the inherent contradiction that religion could be an overarching bond ignoring the realities of language, culture and ethnicity. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

 

Following the independence of Bangladesh, the shame of defeat and disintegration remained temporarily subdued in what remained of Pakistan.

 

Following the end of the civilian rule of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the takeover of the government by the Pakistan army under Zia-ul-Haq, the full force of the humiliation of the loss of East Pakistan exploded in the psyche of the Pakistani population. This sense of the humiliation of defeat and loss has been passed on from generation to generation and, in many ways, explains the behaviour and actions of Pakistan to this day. The only way that Pakistan feels that it can redeem itself and justify its creation in the eyes of its own people and the rest of the world is by recouping its territorial loss in one way or another.

 

This is the genesis of the evolution of the various power centres in Pakistan. These are, from time to time, the civilian elected government, the army, the Inter-Services Intelligence and what have been euphemistically called 'non-State actors', such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Taliban, the Hizbul Mujahideen and al Qaida. The strategy of the Pakistan army was to keep the Kashmir pot boiling, to eventually have an overwhelming control over Afghanistan and to regain the ground which it had lost in 1970. In this new big game, Pakistan's civil as well as military governments have skilfully used the United States of America to fund its economy and armaments: firstly, to drive out the Russians from Afghanistan with the active assistance of the Central Intelligence Agency and foreign mercenaries, and eventually to suck the US into the quagmire that was left behind by the Russians. In the process of advancing this devious ploy, Pakistan's ISI, which is a surrogate of the Pakistan army, is playing a central role. It has become its own master and is now a strong force in its own right. Civilians have no authority or control over the ISI. The army's writ is also becoming limited as it provides water, rations and personnel to the ISI but, in turn, has limited control over it. The 'non-State actors', an original Pakistan innovation, is the brainchild of the ISI, to keep the civilian government, the army and the Americans on tenterhooks. That the army and the ISI are the main actors and the civilian government a façade has become clear now, at the time the US-Pakistan dialogue has commenced, the theme of which is: "We have done enough to fight terrorism and have become a basket case in the process; so what is the US going to do to revive the economy and pride of Pakistan and restore parity with India?"

 

These unholy institutions created by Pakistan, instead of advancing its grand designs to create a greater Pakistan, are gradually pushing the country towards becoming a failed state.

 

As its neighbour, India faces the greatest threat from these multinational non-State actors' groups and the ISI, since they are distancing themselves from their creators and handlers and have become a rabid cancer spreading across the heart of that nation.

 

It is in this scenario that the US, desperate to get out of Afghanistan, finds itself blackmailed by Pakistan (read the army and the ISI) trying to create the mythical fifth force, the 'good Taliban'.

 

As India has witnessed during the past few years in Kashmir, Mumbai, Pune and other places, while a civil society becomes more helpless in Pakistan, the 'non-State actors' are slowly but surely gaining an upper hand in the bazars and cantonments of that country, spreading death and destruction across the nation almost on a daily basis.

 

The world was surprised by the revelation that Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of the Islamic bomb, was also the global peddler of the Islamic bomb. The complicity of the Pakistan army and the ISI in the A.Q. Khan episode remains a secret for the time being. In their desperation to seek a civil nuclear agreement with the US, Pakistan has recently levelled charges against A.Q. Khan, a full 10 years after the exposure.

 

A State which began by fraying at its edges is now under siege by forces of its own creation. That India, being its neighbour, experiences the brunt of the fallout has become a stark reality. It is also worth noting that Pakistan is not only a threat to India but has become a threat to the rest of the world. There are innumerable 'what ifs' in the rapidly deteriorating situation in Pakistan. India will have to continue to protect itself from misadventures of the various forces in Pakistan which have got out of the control of the civilian and military establishments.

 

One cannot, as a civilized people, but feel a sense of sadness at the complete disarray in its neighbourhood. India will have to continue to remain engaged with Pakistan, because dangers and disagreements need to be continuously and publicly aired in order for them to remain visible and in the public domain around the capitals of the world. The latest episode, concerning the case of David Coleman Headley, who was the key player in the Mumbai and Pune attacks, fully exposes the international ramifications of Pakistan as a terrorist nation, for which the US now faces a large issue of accountability.

 

Pakistan and its different power centres will remain a large and viable danger in the foreseeable future to itself, to India and, eventually, to the rest of the world. How the scenario unfolds remains the biggest unknown and threat of our times.

 

In our efforts to reach out to the saner elements in Pakistan, we are confronted with a national insanity there, arising out of its erosion of nationhood, a purpose without which no nation can survive in sanity and good order.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

A FAR BETTER OPTION

SARMILA BOSE

 

The women's reservation bill should be abandoned because it is against the interests of both women and men, and damaging to India's democratic system. It ghettoizes women, forcing women to contest only against other women. It excludes suitable male candidates from reserved constituencies. The reservation of constituencies for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes led to candidates of these groups being excluded from general constituencies, and the same is likely to happen to women. The provision for rotating reserved constituencies over three terms wrecks India's electoral democracy, as it destroys the link between candidates and constituencies.

 

Far better alternatives are available. The fairest alternative was already introduced in Parliament as private member's bill No. 62 in 2000 by a woman member of parliament, Krishna Bose. Bose contested four parliamentary elections in India, and won three terms in the Lok Sabha, beating both men and women opponents. Like other women MPs, she agreed that a quota to force gender parity was required, but was troubled by the flaws of the women's reservation bill. Her alternative bill proposes just two lines of amendments to the Representation of the People Act, imposing a quota not on constituencies but on political parties. Crucially, it is gender-neutral, proposing that the proportion of neither male nor female candidates from each party should fall below 40 per cent. Its instrument for enforcement is simple — parties that do not have at least 40 per cent female (or male) candidates would be disqualified from contesting the elections.

 

These amendments to the Representation of the People Act can be passed with a simple majority in Parliament, not the two-thirds majority needed for constitutional amendments, reducing the need to placate diehard opponents of women's rights. Bose's proposals were publicly supported at the time by the then chief election commissioner of India, M.S. Gill.

 

Perfect combination

Similar criticisms of the women's reservation bill were also voiced by Madhu Kishwar, Yogendra Yadav, Jayaprakash Narayan and Dhirubhai Sheth, who proposed a slightly different alternative, also amending the Representation of the People Act to apply the quota to political parties, but retaining the lower quota of one-third for women only, and adding constitutional amendments to extend quotas for women in the Rajya Sabha and in legislative councils.

 

There are two problems with this alternative. First, while Krishna Bose's proposal is gender-neutral and set at 40 per cent, the alternative proposed by Kishwar and others retains the women's only quota, and at the lower level of 33 per cent. Second, the extensive nature of this alternative involving constitutional amendments risks providing opponents of women's rights further excuses for objections and delay.

 

The following combination of the proposals by Bose and Kishwar et al seems the perfect choice for India's women. As a first step, amend the Representation of the People Act as per the Bose proposal, making it compulsory for political parties to have at least 40 per cent women candidates for election to the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The women candidates can be put up in any constituency and the proportion of male candidates cannot fall under 40 per cent either, making it fair to all, while leaving room for the exact number of women or men candidates to be slightly higher or lower from one election to another. As a second step, amend the Constitution as proposed by Kishwar et al, extending gender quotas to the Rajya Sabha and the legislative councils.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

HEED THE MESSAGE

''HOME MINIS-TER'S NAME-CALLING SERVES NO PURPOSE.''

 

If the aim of 'Operation Green Hunt' is to undermine the Maoists and their capacity for violence, then the operations are an abysmal failure so far. An ambush of CRPF personnel by Maoists in Dantewada on Tuesday — the biggest attack to date — left over 75 of them dead. Two days earlier, a landmine blast in Koraput killed 11 jawans of the anti-Maoist special operations group. Barbaric as these incidents are, the attacks have sent out a clear message.


Far from weakening the Maoists or deterring them, the massive military operations being carried out in central and eastern India seem to be provoking them to carry out more frequent and ferocious attacks. Experience in India and elsewhere has shown that choosing the military option to address an insurgency only serves to militarise the problem and escalates the level of violence. Home minister P Chidambaram has responded to the attacks in Koraput and Dantewada by describing the Maoists as cowards and savages. His name-calling serves no purpose. His bluster is unimpressive.


Instead the government would do well to heed the message from the attacks, rethink strategy and change course. Persisting with military operations against the Maoists is not quelling the violence. It is exacting a huge human toll. Proponents of the military option will claim that the operations will take time to yield results. How long must one wait for results? How many lives will have to be sacrificed before these results are achieved? And what are the results that the government is seeking to achieve?


If it is to eliminate Maoists so that it can address tribal grievances it is going about it the wrong way. Only genuine talks can provide a solution to the problem. Chidambaram has mocked the Maoists for hiding in the forests, when the government has offered them talks. If the government is serious about talks why did it not take forward the Maoists recent ceasefire offer? Why did it lay down conditions for talks?


Clearly, the lack of development and the grabbing of tribal lands for so-called industrialisation are some of the pressing issues and the government needs to find a humane and equitable solution. Expecting rebels, especially those who have not been defeated, to lay down arms and surrender their cards before they come to the negotiating table is an absurd expectation. Surely, the home minister is aware of this simple logic.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LEAVE THEM ALONE

''MARRIAGE IS A PERSONAL AFFAIR AND BEST LEFT TO SANIA.''

 

Marriages between celebrities evoke a lot of interest and the one proposed between India's tennis star Sania Mirza and former Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik has set rivers of newsprint and meadows of TV screens on fire on both sides of the international border.


India and Pakistan are not Capulets and Montagues, the rival families in Romeo and Juliet, but the uneasy political relations between the two countries have added a special flavour to the romance. Sweet for some, sour for some others, depending on predilections and prejudices. Cupid has a greater global reach now. Cross-border marriages are not uncommon and there is no reason to consider the proposed marriage between Sania and Malik as different from the rising number of marriages between Indians and other foreigners. If anything, it should be welcomed as a testimony to the strong social bond between the people of the two countries.


But the simple story line of the girl meeting the boy and deciding to live together has been complicated by the entry of 'the other girl,' as if life is imitating popular Bollywood art. All the staple filmy elements of deceit, impersonation, separation, treachery and legal tangles have already entered the theme and the soap is being lapped up by the media.


The characters who dominated sports pages have been shifted to Page 3. Views are being aired and even the bookies have jumped into the fray. There are even suggestions that the boy's reputation makes him unworthy of the girl. But marriage is a personal affair and it is best to leave it to Sania to decide who she should marry.


The girl and the boy, and their families, should sort out any issues, personal, legal or of any other kind, that have a bearing on their decision. If the other girl or her family have a grievance or a case, there are legal remedies to be sought in the appropriate forum. The spectacle that is being serialised now through statements, interviews, and gossip is not of good taste.


The media and the inquisitive society should withdraw from the scene and let the persons involved in the matter handle their personal lives. Why should we make people who live real lives characters of soaps and films? Shoaib and Sania have fixed their own match and the spectators have no right to seek a change of game.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

LOSING RELEVANCE

MOST ECONOMISTS FIND NOTHING WRONG IN 'DUMPING.' IN FACT, NOTHING CAN BE BETTER IF FOREIGNERS WANT TO GIVE THE GOODS CHEAP.

BY ALOK RAY

 

A recent report in a financial daily says that anti-dumping duty imposed by the United States on shrimp exports from India has been raised by 300 per cent which is putting seafood exporters in troubled waters.


This brings us to examine the case for anti-dumping duties (ADDs) in today's world. It is a fact that in recent times ADDs are being imposed by both developed and developing countries alike on a wide variety of products. India at one time earned the dubious distinction of imposing the highest number of ADDs. So, the blame, if any, for such duties should not be confined to developed countries like the USA alone.


Dumping refers to the case where a producer sells a product in the foreign market at a price lower than that charged in the home market (called 'fair' or 'normal' value). In economic theory, this practice of price discrimination makes perfect sense if a producer wants to maximise profits when it faces different degrees of competition (measured by what economists call 'the price elasticity of demand') in different markets.

For the same reason, some surgeons charge a lower fee to a poor patient and some airlines or cinema halls charge a lower price to senior citizens. No laws regard such domestic practices as wrong or objectionable.

Typically firms find it more difficult to compete abroad than at home where a domestic firm often enjoys some in-built advantages in the local market. Hence, a firm — in order to maximise profits — would in many cases like to charge a lower price in the foreign market. So, dumping in the foreign market is usually in the interest of the exporting firm.


Naturally, the domestic firms who now have to compete with  products 'dumped' by the foreign supplier get hurt and lobby for an anti-dumping duty (ADD) to offset the 'dumping margin' (the difference between the foreign and the domestic price charged by the exporting firm).


Curiously, international trade rules as permitted by WTO find 'dumping' (which is nothing but an extension of price-discrimination logic to international sphere) to be objectionable and permits ADDs under certain conditions like proving that the domestic industry has been  'sufficiently hurt' as a result of the 'dumping,' Using this provision the importing country government often obliges the domestic producer lobby by imposing an appropriate ADD to discourage cheaper imports.


Most economists find nothing objectionable in 'dumping.' As a matter of fact, nothing can be better if foreigners want to give us goods cheap or even free. The only objection could be when the foreign producer sells cheap to drive out competitors from the market, create a monopoly and then raises the price in a monopoly situation.

Impractical
Though theoretically it is a possibility, it is highly unlikely to happen in today's globalised economies. It is virtually impossible to kill all competitors by charging a low price. Even if it may be possible for a large MNC with deep pocket to run at a loss for a long period which small domestic players cannot afford to do and hence may be forced to go out of business, the competition from other big foreign players will always be there, so long as  their products or investment are freely allowed into the country.

For instance, a Chinese producer of ball bearing has to compete with not only Indian producers but also producers from countries like South Korea, Vietnam, the European Union and Mexico in today's Indian market. So, other foreign competitors will be able to compete down the price as soon as the 'dumping' firm tries to raise the price. Consequently, in today's world, the case for imposing anti-dumping duties is very weak, indeed.


The reason why ADDs have been proliferating is mainly because this is a protectionist device still allowed by WTO rules. True, this provides only a temporary protection against cheaper imports. ADD is allowed for a fixed period like 3 or 5 years at the maximum. But, then, it can be renewed under a new petition filed by the affected domestic producers after the initial fixed period is over.


Even more troublesome is the provision that if, say, the US government imposes an ADD on imports from small producers (like shrimp exporters) from a poor developing country, the producers will have to fight the case challenging the ADD in American courts.


The cost and hassles could be too much for the small exporters to handle. In such cases, even if they would have eventually won the case against ADD after a protracted court battle, the prohibitive legal cost would force them not to fight. Either they would be condemned to pay the ADD (however unjustified) or stop exporting the product to the country slapping the ADD. In either case, the small exporters would suffer while the competing producers of the importing country would derive an undue advantage.


So, all things considered, most economists would call for dumping the anti-dumping duties in the interest of fair play and a trade regime free of protectionism through the back door.


(The author is a former professor of economics at IIM, Kolkata)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

FAREWELL TO NASA'S DAYS OF GLORY

THE UNFETTERED FUNDING THE SPACE AGENCY ENJOYED EARLIER HAS LONG SINCE DRIED UP.

BY SASWATO R DAS


Outsourcing will soon hit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) hard, if president Obama has his way. The new Nasa budget unveiled last month calls for the US space agency to outsource rocket development for manned space flights to commercial companies. If US Congress approves it, Nasa astronauts will be stuck riding in commercial space taxis.


While some of the changes in the new budget, like the cancellation of the Bush administration's Constellation programme, were not unexpected, the abandonment of rocket development for manned space flight in favour of privatisation came as a shock.


Nasa's rocket programme for putting humans into orbit evolved out of the Redstone programme in Huntsville, Alabama, under the rocket pioneer Wernher von Braun. In its lifetime, it had many firsts, none more spectacular than the Apollo Moon landing, which made Nasa a US icon around the world.


The space agency was created in July 1958 by president Eisenhower after the Soviets launched the first satellite, Sputnik 1, into orbit a few months earlier. Nasa's early years were characterised by Cold-War competition and posturing between America and the Soviet Union as the two superpowers vied for supremacy in space exploration.

First step

Under the Kennedy administration the agency took on the challenge to be first to set foot on the Moon. The Soviets were equally determined to be first. The race became a symbol not only of technological prowess, but of the battle for the hearts and minds of the world. Money flowed into Nasa; at its peak, the agency's budget was almost one per cent of America's gross domestic product.


On July 20, 1969, America won the race. Televisions around the world broadcast images of the Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin taking man's first steps on the moon. An estimated 500 million people watched.


Forty years later, it is still amazing that Nasa pulled it off. The Apollo missions were a triumph of American engineering and teamwork, employing some 4,00,000 people.  Nasa sent astronauts to the moon five more times. No other space agency has managed to achieve that feat.


Its efforts led to a continuous flow of scientific discoveries of great benefit to people on earth. From air-cushioned sneakers to safer runways, from blankets for accident victims to better sunglasses, from satellite television to solar panels, all these innovations owe something to Nasa.


Now in its sixth decade, the space agency is very different from what it was in its youth. The unfettered funding it enjoyed during the Cold War has long since dried up. For years, Congress has kept its spending in check. Its budget today stands at $18.7 billion, less than one per cent of US government spending.


As a consequence, Nasa's missions have grown modest. Its astronauts have not returned to the moon in more than 30 years. It has suffered disasters with the space shuttle and other missions. It is no longer the destination of choice for America's best and brightest scientists. The fiery pioneering spirit seems to have given way to a more day-to-day ethos of survival: It has become another government agency.

In recent years, about a third of Nasa's budget has been spent on scientific missions, while the rest was consumed by manned efforts. Most scientists think that the most valuable knowledge comes from the scientific missions. Yet the manned missions are very much part of Nasa's history, and the US public has always been supportive of them.


All that will change if the Obama administration prevails. Nasa will hand over rocket development to commercial companies like Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, a startup company which has yet to launch its first space-faring rocket capable of sending humans into orbit; the United Launch Alliance, a collaboration between Lockheed Martin and Boeing; and other emerging companies.


The Obama administration's decision will get Nasa out of rocket development for manned space flight altogether. Nasa has amassed a singular competence in the field, which will be hard to replicate by private companies. What will happen if they can't deliver?


One of the most important attributes of a manned space programme is its ability to inspire young people to pursue careers in science. As someone who came to power on a platform of inspiration, President Obama knows about the importance of rekindling hope. Killing Nasa's storied manned space programme and doing away with a timeline for space travel will snuff out much of inspiration and awe that has come to be associated with Nasa's endeavours.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

MIND OVER MATTER

AT HIGH SCHOOL, IT WAS A HUSH-HUSH AFFAIR TO DISCUSS THE DIFFERENT BRANDS OF LINGERIE.

BY PREETHI NAGARAJ

 

What could be the most difficult decisions in life? Joining a college, finding a job, choosing a life partner, owning a house...?  In reality, there are times when we spend hours just to arrive at a decision about things that appear so simple. Or, are they as simple as they seem?


I remember choosing my first lip-stick. I was worried about the price, the maker and of course the shade. Months after I had bought it, I attended events without applying the lip-stick as I wasn't sure if the event was actually 'worth' sporting it. And when I did, I kept my lips pouted for so long out of fear that it might lose its sheen if I spoke, that a friend asked me if I had had an oral maxillo-facial surgery done!


At high school, it was a hush-hush affair to discuss the different brands of lingerie. After all, wearing a lingerie was the first visible sign of having turned a woman. Break time was reserved for such conversations about girls who had started wearing 'it' and the best brand available. That was easy since we didn't know too many brands then.

But, as years passed, we all grew into young ladies, into women, and eventually into mothers; it was time to opt for some 'support' systems. Traction belts and support bras had to be carefully chosen after several enquiries, thanks to taking the easy option of going in for caesarean section when the baby arrived.


With the arrival of a tiny bundle of joy (!), crucial questions cropped up. What should be the name of the baby? Every name in the list was dismissed. How could we decide on something so important that will stay for life, in a hurry? It wasn't difficult eventually as there was always a choice of changing the name later. But, nothing was as tough as storing contact numbers in the cellphone. Did he/she really deserve to be on my phone?


Going shopping after initial years of motherhood was a challenge. In my mind, I was size M (medium). But, my body seemed to be independent of my mind. Sales girls would gently dismiss my choice, sporting a sweet smile, and get dresses from XL to XXL instead.


Was it a tough decision for her to tell me I was wrong? I finally made peace with it recently when I went to buy a pair of jeans. As I reached out to my 'size', I was stopped by a young salesman, who told me it would probably not fit me. "But, I have always worn this," I protested. Without mincing words, he said none of the women's jeans would do for me and got me a pair of jeans from the men's section. Making decisions don't bother me any more.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

BARRIERS AT BEN-GURION

 

Three Jewish Israelis were deported from New York's JFK Airport last weekend after telling border control agents they were considering visiting a friend seeking political asylum in the United States. Despite the Israelis' protestations and the attempts by attorneys to post bail for their release, the three travelers were unceremoniously boarded on the first plane back to Tel Aviv.


Anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia? No, just a fictional inversion of an incident revealed by Amira Hass in yesterday's Haaretz. The actual event, which took place last Thursday, involved three American tourists (Christian pilgrims), all born in Ethiopia or Eritrea. All three were held for hours at Ben-Gurion International Airport after one of them told an Israeli official that they planned to visit an African refugee seeking asylum in Israel. Rather than review the case, the Interior Ministry's Population and Immigration Authority summarily deported all three.


It seems immigration officials have had a busy Passover holiday, having expelled three Swedish citizens of Palestinian origin several days earlier who had arrived as part of an educational group. The group also included four Jewish Swedes who were allowed to remain. Such incidents are only becoming more commonplace.

 

The explanations offered by immigration officials for the incident are unconvincing. A more compelling reason is required to prevent someone bearing the appropriate documents from exercising his right to enter Israel, just as every Israeli expects other countries to grant him entry. Any security concerns that could prevent the entry of dangerous passengers are supposed to be aired before the traveler boards his plane for Israel, not after he lands; this was not the case with the three Americans. If Israeli immigration authorities had even the slightest suspicion that the tourists were planning to join their friend in requesting refugee status, they should have proved as much with substantive evidence. Instead, they acted merely on assumptions, offering no justification for their decision to order a deportation - one based on information willingly and innocently proffered, not gleaned from a criminal or intelligence file.


The authorities' conduct was both unjust and injurious to Israel's good name. David Ben-Gurion, who lent his name to the gateway by which most visitors enter the country, hoped to see Israel become "a light unto the nations," not a red light with a towering barrier closed arbitrarily.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL CANNOT DECIDE HOW MUCH OF AN ASSET IT IS TO U.S.

BY AMIR OREN

 

Last week, 50 retired U.S. generals and admirals signed a statement of support for Israel. As defense professionals, and after many visits with officials from the Israel Defense Forces, they say they "came away with the unswerving belief that the security of the State of Israel is a matter of great importance to the United States and its policy in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. A strong, secure Israel is an asset upon which American military planners and political leaders can rely. Israel is a democracy - a rare and precious commodity in the region and Israel shares our commitment to freedom, personal liberty and rule of law."

The retired senior officers mention "shared values and shared threats" such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, but stay away from the essence of the dispute between Washington and Jerusalem. The organization that initiated and published the statement, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, is well aware of the precedent: its letter of October 2000, also signed by 50 retired generals and admirals. The gist a decade ago was defending the IDF's efforts to suppress Palestinian terror attacks.

The signatories this time are not supporters of the policies of the Netanyahu government, they're only reporting that they were impressed by their Israeli interlocutors' "determination to protect their country and to pursue a fair and workable peace with their neighbors." Their main issue is to prevent the impression that Israel is a burden and not an asset; this is also the case after the recent statements attributed to Gen. David Petraeus (which have been denied).

 

It's good that an organization like JINSA exists to decrease the alienation between retired and current officers on the one hand, and the American Jewish community on the other. JINSA would also help improve relations between the Pentagon and Israel. It's also good that the retired officers, who visit Israel on JINSA tours with their wives and are taken on informative trips and given briefings, express a positive opinion to their friends and sometimes also the press, as military commentators. It's even better to understand what they don't say in the letter, which leaves out each of the following words: Palestinians, territories, Jerusalem, construction.

In the mid-1970s, Israel was shocked to find out that the admiration of some American officers for the IDF did not balance out the hostility of other officers because of Israel's urgent need for military equipment during and after the Yom Kippur War. The lack of materiel led to a political decision, contrary to the opinion of U.S. commanders, to thin out U.S. military stores in Europe and send equipment to Israel.


The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time, Gen. George Brown, said that from a military standpoint, Israel was a burden and not an asset. That was a narrow and simplistic way to view the main task: protecting Europe from a Soviet invasion. Military people tend to focus on their responsibility and clearly defined area and leave broader considerations to their leaders.


Since the end of the Cold War, Israel's position has become even more delicate. The Middle East has become a major arena with complex interrelationships between regions and issues. Various and conflicting strata can exist simultaneously: Israel can both contribute on the operational level and be a strategic hindrance.


It is best to stop presenting Israel as a landlubbing aircraft carrier: When an aircraft carrier becomes obsolete and worn out, and maintaining it becomes too expensive, it's junked or turned into a floating museum. The IDF also does this; for example, with its Phantom jets, the pride of the Israel Air Force in their day. When they got old, they were no longer suitable for combat and training pilots and navigators. Another example is the South Lebanese Army. What was useful under certain circumstances is unnecessary and even harmful under others. The weight of the armor that protects the foot soldier could drown a swimmer.

 

Nostalgia and heritage are not enough. Israel cannot act like Uncle Sam's reckless niece and expect to be indulged; her uncle would have to send her to rehab, limit her allowance and eventually appoint her a guardian.

Israel is in charge of its own security, but it cannot determine how much of an asset it is to the United States. The hint in the JINSA letter is clear: Israel must prove it is a partner in values, not only in threats and military responses, because the discussion about peace, liberty and human rights is on a different level than security. The policy of the Netanyahu government, which insists on sabotaging the chance for an agreement and to ease the conflict, is eroding Israel's strength.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

EGYPT'S PERCEIVED SUPERIORITY

BY GIDI GRINSTEIN

The end of March marked the 31st anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, one of the high points of a 12-year process during which Egypt, despite its military inferiority, reshaped the Middle East. Our western neighbor was able to effect a deep change in Israeli values pertaining to the settlements.

For the first 20 years of its existence, Israel enjoyed superiority over the Arabs - a product of a security policy shaped under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, starting in 1947. This perceived superiority existed because Israel's array of strategic ideas was more effective and relevant than that of its adversaries and made up for its quantitative and qualitative inferiority.


However, precisely when Israel was at its strongest, and after a decisive victory in the Six-Day War, new ideas began bubbling up in Egypt that enabled Cairo to seize the perceived advantage.

 

The process began in Gamal Abdel Nasser's time, but it reached a peak and was realized under Anwar Sadat. The Egyptian leadership limited its political goals, adapted its strategy to fit the country's capabilities, and translated its ideas into an operational concept that was absorbed at all levels of the military and administration.

The supreme goals were getting the Sinai back, opening the Suez Canal and placing Egypt under American protection. A military and diplomatic campaign was launched in pursuit of these goals.


In 1971, Egypt expressed a readiness in principle for a comprehensive peace with Israel in exchange for a full withdrawal from Sinai, and in 1972 it proposed an interim agreement based on a separation of forces and the reopening of the canal.


After Israel ignored its initiatives or rejected them, Egypt went to war with limited military objectives and with the aim of renewing the political process. Indeed, in 1974, separation-of-forces agreements similar to those proposed by Egypt two years before were signed.


In 1977, Sadat stunned the world by coming to Jerusalem, and in 1978 and 1979 the Camp David Accords and the peace treaty were signed, containing understandings that linked American aid to Egypt with aid to Israel.


Thus, in 1982, with the completion of the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, Egypt had achieved all the strategic goals it had set itself 12 years before.


Egypt's effectiveness during that period came from many places, including its readiness to pay a heavy ideological, diplomatic, military and economic price.


Beyond the enormous loss of life and assets in the Yom Kippur War, by recognizing Israel, Cairo was giving up its predominant place in the Arab world and distancing itself from the Palestinian struggle that it had supported since 1948. It was also cutting itself off from the Soviet Union.


It was, of course, these concessions that condemned Sadat to death at the hands of assassins.


And of course, Menachem Begin's leadership was important for Egypt's success. However, it's doubtful that he had any choice, in view of Egypt's perceived superiority, which set immense historical and diplomatic forces in motion.

This was because Sadat grasped that a stable diplomatic settlement required meeting Israel's fundamental interests and a willingness to grant it something. This is why he offered peace and normalization and agreed to the demilitarization of Sinai. Ironically, it was in Cairo that the ideas were shaped that ensured Israel three decades - and counting - of security on its southwestern border.


The writer is the founder and director of the Reut Institute for policy research.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE CASE WE'RE FORBIDDEN TO REPORT ON

BY ZE'EV SEGAL

 

The president of the Israel Press Council, retired Supreme Court justice Dalia Dorner, has said in a radio interview that it is "regrettable" that a court gag order on a certain security case remains in force, even though the foreign news media has reported on it in detail. Along with the regret over the government's stupidity in not quickly asking for the gag order to be lifted, the silence that the court has imposed on the Israeli media is ludicrous. It infringes on the right of the Israeli public to know, a right acknowledged in the Freedom of Information Law. It feeds the rumors that are floating around under judicial auspices, and it makes a mockery of Israeli democracy.


It has been made clear that this is a judicial ruling, handed down at the request of the State Prosecutor's Office. Thus it counters criticism of the military censorship in the media of democratic countries, which have gleefully blamed the censor for this latest classified-unclassified tale.


Israel's military censorship is subject to principles that restrict it, as laid down in a 1989 Supreme Court ruling. These limitations made the military censor a liberal institution that respects the freedom of publication and the public's right to know.

 

These restrictions were recently endorsed by another Supreme Court ruling concerning the negotiations on a deal for the release of captured soldier Gilad Shalit. That ruling rejected a petition for declassifying the details of a prisoner-exchange deal after the court was persuaded that there were "clear security considerations" that justified the prevention of publication. In principle, Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch ruled that free discourse, even on the most sensitive security subjects, can be restricted only "if there is immediate certainty of actual damage to security."


During the hearing, the Attorney General's Office made it clear, with the agreement of the chief military censor, that censorship would not be imposed on items originating in foreign publications (the High Court of Justice's decision 9446/09 of December 1, 2009). This should be taken into account.


This balancing formulation that honors the freedom of information even when security interests are at play should obligate all courts hearing gag-order applications for similar reasons. But astoundingly, many magistrate's and district court judges, who are authorized to issue such orders, have for years ignored the basic principles set in the Supreme Court ruling. This is true in security cases - which particularly impress magistrate's court judges - as well as gag orders in other areas.


The principle many of these judges hold to is not usually appealed to the Supreme Court. They believe it's possible to bar the publication of the very fact of an investigation (not only the identity of those being investigated), and that it's possible to ban the publication of the fact that a certain matter has been barred from publication.

The court orders are lifted after a time, generally too long a time, and the Supreme Court does not get the chance to express its opinion on many matters related to gag orders. Even though it has interpreted in principle that only in exceptional cases may the publication of the names of suspects be barred because of a fear that they will suffer "grave damage," the lower courts carry on, with an itchy finger on the gag-order trigger.


For a number of years the Press Council has put together various proposals meant to ensure the media's standing regarding gag orders. Recently, Dorner announced that there is a possibility that only senior judges will be empowered to issue gag orders, and only after hearing the position of the media, which the Supreme Court has defined as "the public's emissary on the matter of information."


In the current case, it's doubtful that the media should wait for the judge who issued the gag order to cancel it, in view of the many reports in the foreign media and possible new circumstances. In exceptional cases, Israeli law permits petitions to the Supreme Court against decisions by lower courts.


The fact that the affair has been published abroad has created exceptional circumstances that justify publication of the details. It has also justified a decision in principle that would take into account the realities of the Internet age and the international media. This decision would obligate all courts.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

PRIMATES IN DISTRESS

BY ORNA RINAT

 

The Web site of Behind Closed Doors (invitro.org.il) bears a photograph of a monkey with her infant at a primate breeding farm. The baby clings to its mother, his panicked eyes peering out from her embrace.

The viewer's sadness comes from the quiet, vigilant gaze of the mother, who realizes she cannot protect her infant but nevertheless continues to hold him, because that is the only thing she can give him.


After the baby is taken away, the mother will slam herself against the bars of her cage, over and over. The infant, in his new cage, will search for her ceaselessly. If he is lucky, he will die quickly.

 

Another picture shows a young female monkey, sitting in a small cage, her neck in a rigid brace. She has enormous eyes in a tiny, smiling face. She looks like a baby. She will be trained extensively to prepare her for the brain research experiments she was born to do.


She must learn to press a lever when a square appears next to a mark on a computer screen. If she does, she will receive a few drops of juice from a tube in her mouth. If she fails, she will stay thirsty. This is her only source of liquid until she learns. Some of the experiments involve electric shocks.


After about two years, she will undergo surgery to remove part of her scalp and to have a cast, or cap, of dental cement attached to her exposed skull. Three years later, she will be operated on again. This time, two holes will be drilled through her skull. Each will be covered with a silicone chamber, reinforced by a steel ring. For the next 12 months, she will be restrained in a chair for eight hours at a stretch, a few times each week.

 

The silicone chambers will be cleaned several times a week, without painkillers. A picture on the Web site shows a young monkey, her skull exposed and red, her mouth open in a scream.


Behind Closed Doors, an animal-rights organization headed by Anat Refua, recently formally asked Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to stop issuing trade permits to the primate breeding farm on Moshav Mazor, a private enterprise that breeds macaque monkeys for experimentation.


Two of Erdan's predecessors in the post, Yossi Sarid and Tzachi Hanegbi, strongly denounced the very existence of the farm, and Hanegbi spoke about the issue for a recent Channel 10 television segment. The farm's owners responded that they are in compliance with all relevant laws, including ones relating to the separation of infants intended for experimental purposes from their mothers, and are under supervision.


There is no consensus over the contribution of animal experimentation to the advancement of science. It is clear that powerful economic interests are responsible for many scientifically superfluous experiments. Certain primate experiments have been banned in several countries.


But we must also ask whether human beings have any moral right (as opposed to an interest, economic or otherwise), to cause such suffering to creatures so similar to them, solely because they belong to a different species, even operating on the assumption that it could contribute to science.


It is obvious that the researchers do not enjoy torturing monkeys. They believe the experiments will help humankind. But they themselves assume, for the purposes of the experiments, that primates have an inner life that resembles our own. And that is what makes these experiments chilling.


It resides firstly in our decision to ignore all those characteristics that are ostensibly familiar to us, and secondly in the exploitation of these very characteristics against the primates themselves.


The monkey mother who dashes her body repeatedly against the bars of her cage does so not out of a physiological reason, but rather because of something that is totally abstract - the memory of loss and longing.

Her behavior, however pointless or purposeless, is the behavior of someone in mourning. The supplication it indicates - for what has been taken from her to be returned - has no target. The monkey thus shouts into empty space. The goal is the expression of emotional anguish. Only a developed emotional psyche could engender such behavior.


The person who took her baby does not recognize this distress, the existence of a developed consciousness, as the foundation for considering the interest of the adult monkey. Just the opposite: The experimental system exploits, in a cold, calculated way, the monkey's mental abilities, its ability to remember past suffering to try to avoid it in the future - an ability that is an expression of self-consciousness (which in humans is considered the basis for moral recognition of their autonomy).


The experiments punish the monkey again and again until it learns that the only way to earn a respite from the pain is through total devotion to the interest on whose behalf it will continue to suffer, until it dies.

 

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

EDITORIAL

MR. OBAMA'S NUCLEAR POLICY

 

President Obama has spoken eloquently about his vision of a world without nuclear weapons. It is a lofty goal that will not be achieved during his presidency — or for years after that. But in a very dangerous time, he is taking important steps to make the world safer and bolster this country's credibility as it tries to constrain the nuclear ambitions of Iran, North Korea and others.

 

Two decades after the end of the cold war, the United States and Russia still have a combined total of more than 20,000 nuclear weapons. Mr. Obama has revived arms control negotiations, and later this week, he and President Dmitri Medvedev of Russia will sign a new agreement (the first since 2002) that will reduce the number of strategic warheads each side has deployed from 2,200 to 1,550.

 

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama released his Nuclear Posture Review. It does not go as far as it should, but it is an important down payment on a saner nuclear policy.

 

The document substantially narrows the conditions under which the United States would use nuclear weapons. The last review — done in 2002 by the George W. Bush administration — gave nuclear weapons a "critical role" in defending the country and its allies and suggested that they could be used against foes wielding chemical, biological or even conventional forces.

 

The new review says the "fundamental role" of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, and it rules out the use of nuclear weapons against nonnuclear countries, even if they attack the United States with unconventional weapons.

 

There is an important caveat. That assurance only goes to countries that are in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which leaves out North Korea and Iran. It would have been better if Mr. Obama made the "sole" purpose of nuclear weapons deterring a nuclear attack. No one in their right mind can imagine the United States ever using a nuclear weapon again. America's vast conventional military superiority is more than enough to defend against most threats.

 

This formulation seems mainly intended to deter hard-line critics on Capitol Hill. But any loophole undercuts Washington's arguments that nonnuclear states have no strategic reason to develop their own arms.

 

Mr. Obama has wisely made the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation a central strategic priority. And the administration has rightly decided to lead by example. We were especially encouraged to see the review's statement that the country "will not develop new nuclear warheads." There is still some wiggle room, which we hope is not exercised. New nuclear warheads are not needed.

 

The review commits to pursuing further arms reductions with Russia. And it says that future talks must also focus on cutting back the 15,000 warheads, in total, that the United States and Russia keep as backup — the so-called hedge — and short-range nuclear weapons.

 

The United States has 500 tactical nuclear weapons, which are considered secure, but Russia has 3,000 or more that are far too vulnerable to theft. Any agreement will take years to complete, and Mr. Obama and Mr. Medvedev should start talking now. The review also commits to talking to China about its arsenal.

Mr. Obama has committed to maintaining the safety and security of America's nuclear stockpile. He has already backed that up with an extra $624 million in next year's budget for the nuclear labs and promised — far too generously, in our view — an additional $5 billion over the next five years to build up their aging infrastructure. Mr. Obama has also promised support for more advanced conventional arms.

 

None of those measures are likely to quiet his critics, who already are charging that Mr. Obama is weakening America's defenses. They will likely get even louder when it comes time to ratify the New Start treaty with Russia and the long-deferred Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

 

The stakes for this country's security are high. And most Americans aren't paying attention. Mr. Obama has a strong argument. He will need to push back hard.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

ANOTHER MINING TRAGEDY

 

Representative Nick Rahall II, a Democrat from the district in West Virginia where disaster struck deep in the Upper Big Branch mine, summed up the mixture of sorrow and suspicion that followed the worst American mining catastrophe in a quarter-century.

 

"This is the second major disaster at a Massey site in recent years, and something needs to be done," Mr. Rahall said on Monday. The rescue efforts and the state and federal inquiries that are sure to follow will tell more about how at least 25 coal miners died, and why. But anger is building against the mine's owner, the Massey Energy Company, which has long been accused by its critics of putting profits before the welfare of its workers.

 

In January 2006, a conveyor belt caught fire at another Massey mine, claiming two lives. That accident, plus a devastating explosion the same month killing 12 workers at the Sago mine, owned by another company, led to an overhaul of federal mine safety rules.

 

The new regulations tightened procedures for monitoring air quality to detect dangerous methane buildups, and increased the penalties for noncompliance. Deaths in mining accidents — 35 in 2009 — dropped to their lowest in a century. But regulations only go so far.

 

Massey insists its safety record is better than the industry average, but it has repeatedly been cited for violations. The Upper Big Branch mine, judging by federal records, appears to have been a case study in sloppiness. It was cited for 458 violations in 2009, many involving poor ventilation of dust and methane, failure to maintain proper escape routes and the accumulation of combustible materials.

 

Massey's chief executive, Don Blankenship, has long invited criticism. He spent an extraordinary $3 million to engineer the election of a state judge, who then voted to throw out a major damage award against the company. He also is the author of an internal memo instructing mine superintendents to put coal production ahead of all other considerations.

 

Much remains to be done to improve mine safety. A federal audit has exposed serious weaknesses in the Mine Safety and Health Administration's training program for safety inspectors. But as a first step, Congress needs to bring Mr. Blankenship — and other industry executives — to Washington to question them about their dismal performance. And they need to demand better performance by mine regulators.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE LABOR DEPARTMENT WAKES UP

 

The Department of Labor has begun a long-overdue campaign to protect workers' rights, a core part of its job that was sorely neglected in the fiercely antiregulatory Bush era. The campaign, "We Can Help," uses public-service announcements, a Web site and a phone hot line to encourage workers — particularly those in construction, janitorial fields, hotels, food services and home health care — to report employer abuses. It also adds 250 investigators, a one-third increase, to the department's wage and hour division.

 

We hope this opens a concerted effort by Hilda Solis, the labor secretary, to energize her department's somnolent bureaucracy. Workers need the protection.

 

Last fall, a comprehensive investigation uncovered rampant abuses of low-wage workers in factories, stores, construction sites, offices, warehouses and private homes. The study, released by the Center for Urban Economic Development, the National Employment Law Project and the U.C.L.A. Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, surveyed more than 4,000 workers in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

 

The workers — many undocumented immigrants — told of employers who ignored the minimum wage, denied overtime, illegally docked their pay for the cost of tools or transportation, or forced them to work without pay before or after their shifts. More than a quarter had been paid less than the minimum wage, often by more than $1 an hour. Violations typically robbed workers of $51 a week, from an average paycheck of $339.

 

The new campaign rightly points out that all workers, including the undocumented, deserve to be paid for their

labor. These are truths too often forgotten. If you work in this country, you are protected by its laws. And if unscrupulous employers can exploit the most vulnerable employees, no workers are safe. The best way to improve jobs and lives for all workers in America is to give those who are silent and exploited the courage and means to speak up.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

WE WON'T BET ON OTB

 

After years of mismanagement, a work force padded with patronage employees and a dwindling public interest in wagering on the horses, the corporation that runs New York City's off-track betting parlors filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. Unless something is done, the betting parlors could start closing next week. Some lawmakers in Albany are calling for a taxpayer bailout. That is a bad idea. The New York City Off-Track Betting Corporation must find a way to pay its operating costs or the state will have to pay to close it down.

 

The city's betting parlors, which are run by the state, take in about $1 billion a year. Around $800 million goes back to the bettors, and $100 million goes to the state or the racing industry. Somehow, OTB in the city has not been able to manage on the $100 million that's left for it.

 

Gov. David Paterson picked the businessman Meyer Frucher to be the chairman of the OTB last year. Mr. Frucher was asked to create a plan to fix the city's betting operations. He argues that with more creative management — and fewer employees — it can make enough to justify staying in business.

 

He has proposed shutting all but about a third of the city's 68 betting outlets and cutting the number of workers from 1,300 to less than 700. He points out that even if these facilities were closed completely, the city and state would still be liable for about $700 million in pension and other obligations. Mr. Frucher, who has said it would be "wrong" to ask for direct support, wants the state to guarantee tax-free bonds to finance a less labor-intensive operation, with betting terminals placed in sports bars and other "appropriate" places. Eventually, he wants to turn OTB over to a private corporation.

 

We are no fans of gambling, a seedy business that often entraps the most vulnerable. But Mr. Frucher's plan has some appeal. It does not draw on state funds immediately, and it could keep the business alive long enough to pay out the promised retirement and buyout packages. It might also help resuscitate the horse racing industry that is so vital to New York's upstate residents. Those are all big ifs. But, so far, it's the best we've heard.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

WHO'S UP FOR BUILDING BRIDGES?

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

I'm no expert on American politics, but I do know something about holes. And watching the way the Republican Party is reacting to the passage of health care, it seems to me the G.O.P. is violating the first rule of holes: "When you're in one, stop digging."

 

Yes, I know, the polls show that the G.O.P. is not being hurt by its "just-say-no" strategy. But there is no groundswell moving its way either. Republicans will have to come up with more than "just-say-no-to-everything-except-lower-taxes-and-more-drilling" to field a credible 2012 presidential candidate. Here's why:

 

If you step back far enough, you could argue that George W. Bush brought the Reagan Revolution — with its emphasis on tax cuts, deregulation and government-as-the-problem-not-the-solution — to its logical conclusion and then some. But with a soaring deficit and a banking crisis caused by an excess of deregulation, Reaganism has met its limit. Meanwhile, President Obama's passage of health care reform has brought the New Deal-Franklin Roosevelt Revolution to its logical conclusion. There will be no more major entitlements for Americans. The bond market will make sure of that.

 

In other words, both major parties have now completed their primary 20th- century missions, first laid down by their iconic standard-bearers. The real question is which party is going to build America's bridge to the 21st century — one that will strengthen our ability to compete in the global economy, while practicing much more fiscal discipline.

 

Obama is at least trying to push an agenda for pursuing the American dream in these new circumstances. I don't agree with every policy — I'd like to see a lot more emphasis on innovation and small business start-ups — but he's clearly trying. I do not get that impression from the Republicans, and especially those being led around by the Tea Partiers.

 

Obama-ism posits that we are now in a hypercompetitive global economy, where the country that thrives will be

the one that brings together the most educated, creative and diverse work force with the best infrastructure — bandwidth, ports, airports, high-speed rail and good governance. And we're in a world with a warming climate that is growing from 6.8 billion people to 9.2 billion by 2050, so demand for clean energy is going to go through the roof. Therefore, E.T. — energy technology — is going to be the next great global industry.

 

So, government matters. It needs to be incentivizing businesses to build their next factory in this country — at a time when every other nation is throwing incentives their way; it needs to be recruiting highly skilled immigrants; it needs to be setting the highest national education standards and funding basic research; it needs to be laying down the right energy regulations that will stimulate more clean-tech companies.

 

And — something neither Democrats nor Republicans have stepped up to yet — we will need to pay for all this by simultaneously raising some taxes, cutting others and by taking away some services to pay for needed new investments in infrastructure and education. We can't get away anymore with a G.O.P. that wants to cut taxes but never specifies which services it plans to give up, or a Democratic party that wants to add services by taxing only the rich.

 

"Health care was the final act of the New Deal," argues Edward Goldberg, who teaches global business at Baruch College and is writing a book on globalization and U.S. politics. "The 21st-century will require a mix of cutting, investing and innovation and entrepreneurialism beyond anything we have dreamed of." To simply say that government is not the answer, he adds, "when we are essentially fighting four wars — Iraq, Afghanistan, the Great Recession and the retooling of the American economy" — is ludicrous. Smart government needs to be the leader or silent partner in all of these projects.

 

One reason the G.O.P. has failed to spawn an agenda for the 21st century is that globalization has fragmented the party. Its Wall Street/multinational corporate wing understands we need immigration, free trade, clean-tech and government support for better infrastructure and the scientific research that is the wellspring of innovation. The Tea Party wing opposes virtually all those things. All that unites the two wings is their common desire for lower taxes — period.

 

Globalization has also weakened the Democrats' blue-collar/union base, but the Democrats have absorbed a

new constituency created by globalization — what Goldberg calls the " 'Newocracy' — which combines the multinational corporate manager, the technology entrepreneur and engineer, and the aspirational members of the meritocracy."

 

These "Newocrats" previously would have leaned Republican, but now many lean toward Obama. They don't agree with everything he's proposing, but they sense that he is working on that bridge to the 21st century, while today's G.O.P./Tea Party is just not in the game. Today, we have no real opposition party with its own pathway to the 21st century. We just have opposition.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE CHURCH'S JUDAS MOMENT

BY MAUREEN DOWD

WASHINGTON

 

I'm a Catholic woman who makes a living being adversarial. We have a pope who has instructed Catholic women not to be adversarial.

 

It's a conundrum.

 

I've been wondering, given the vitriolic reaction of the New York archbishop to my column defending nuns and the dismissive reaction of the Vatican to my column denouncing the church's response to the pedophilia scandal, if they are able to take a woman's voice seriously. Some, like Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, seem to think women are trying to undermine the church because of abortion and women's ordination.

 

I thought they might respond better to a male Dowd.

My brother Kevin is conservative and devout — his hobby is collecting crèches — and has raised three good Catholic sons. When I asked him to share his thoughts on the scandal, I learned, shockingly, that we agreed on some things. He wrote the following:

 

"In pedophilia, the church has unleashed upon itself a plague that threatens its very future, and yet it remains in a curious state of denial. The church I grew up in was black and white, no grays. That's why my father, an Irish immigrant, liked it so much. The chaplain of the Police and Fire departments told me once 'Your father was a fierce Catholic, very fierce.' "

 

My brothers and I were sleepily at his side for the monthly 8 a.m. Holy Name Mass and the guarding of the Eucharist in the middle of the night during the 40-hour ritual at Easter. Once during a record snowstorm in 1958, we were marched single-file to church for Mass only to find out the priests next door couldn't get out of the rectory.

 

The priest was always a revered figure, the embodiment of Christ changing water into wine. (Older parishioners took it literally.) The altar boys would drink the dregs.

 

When I was in the 7th grade, one of the new priests took four of us to the drive-in restaurant and suggested a game of 'pink belly' on the way back; we pulled up a boy's shirt and slapped his belly until it was pink. When the new priest joined in, it seemed like more groping than slapping. But we thought it was inadvertent. And my parents never would have believed a priest did anything inappropriate anyway. A boy in my class told me much later that the same priest climbed into bed with him in 1958 at a rectory sleepover, but my friend threw him to the floor. The priest protested he was sleepwalking. Three days later, the archbishop sent the priest to a rehab place in New Mexico; he ended up as a Notre Dame professor.

 

Vatican II made me wince. The church declared casual Friday. All the once-rigid rules left to the whim of the flock. The Mass was said in English (rendering useless my carefully learned Latin prayers). Holy days of obligation were optional. There were laypeople on the heretofore sacred ground of the altar — performing the sacraments and worse, handling the Host. The powerful symbolism of the priest turning the Host into the body of Christ cracked like an egg.

 

In his book, 'Goodbye! Good Men,' author Michael Rose writes that the liberalized rules set up a takeover of seminaries by homosexuals.

 

Vatican II liberalized rules but left the most outdated one: celibacy. That vow was put in place originally because the church did not want heirs making claims on money and land. But it ended up shrinking the priest pool and producing the wrong kind of candidates — drawing men confused about their sexuality who put our children in harm's way.

 

The church is dying from a thousand cuts. Its cover-up has cost a fortune and been a betrayal worthy of Judas. The money spent came from social programs, Catholic schools and the poor. This should be a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance. I asked a friend of mine recently what he would do if his child was molested after the church knew. 'I would probably kill someone,' he replied.

 

We must reassess. Married priests and laypeople giving the sacraments are not going to destroy the church. Based on what we have seen the last 10 years, they would be a bargain. It is time to go back to the disciplines that the church was founded on and remind our seminaries and universities what they are. (Georgetown University agreeing to cover religious symbols on stage to get President Obama to speak was not exactly fierce.)

 

The storm within the church strikes at what every Catholic fears most. We take our religion on faith. How can we maintain that faith when our leaders are unworthy of it?"

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

HOW TO SAVE AFGHANISTAN FROM KARZAI

BY BING WEST

 

IN February, the Taliban sanctuary of Marja in southern Afghanistan was attacked in the largest operation of the war. Last week, President Obama flew to Afghanistan and declared, "Our troops have pushed the Taliban out of their stronghold in Marja .... The United States of America does not quit once it starts on something."

 

But what is that "something"? And, equally important, does Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, have to be a part of it?

 

The United States ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, was guilty of understatement last fall when he told Washington that "Karzai is not an adequate strategic partner." Still, getting rid of Mr. Karzai at this point wouldn't be easy, and any major upheaval would clearly imperil President Obama's plan to start withdrawing American troops next summer.

 

The Marja offensive, however, may have shown us an alternative approach to the war. For one thing, it demonstrated that our Karzai problem is part of a broader failure to see that our plans for Afghanistan are overambitious.

 

The coalition is pursuing a political-military strategy based on three tasks. First, "clear" the guerrillas from populated areas. Second, "hold" the areas with Afghan forces. Third, "build" responsible governance and development to gain the loyalty of the population for the government in Kabul. To accomplish this, the coalition military has deployed reconstruction teams to 25 provinces. We may call this a counterinsurgency program, but it's really nation-building.

 

The problem with building a new and better Afghanistan is that, above the local level, President Karzai has long held the levers of political power by controlling provincial finances and leadership appointments, including those of police chiefs. Regardless of the coalition's success at the district level, an obdurate and erratic Mr. Karzai is an obstacle to progress.

 

The success in Marja, however, changed the dynamics of the conflict. It now seems that the planned surge of 30,000 additional troops will likely achieve progress in "clearing and holding" Kandahar and other Taliban-controlled areas by mid-2011. At that time, the force ratio will be one coalition soldier for every three Afghan soldiers and policemen, and the Afghan Army will still rely upon us for firepower and moral support.

 

Ideally, we could then begin to withdraw major American units and leave behind small task forces that combine advisory and combat duties, leading to a new ratio of about one American to 10 Afghans. Not only would this bring our troops home, but it would shift the responsibility for nation-building to Afghan forces.

 

At the same time, we would have to pivot our policy in two ways. First, Mr. Karzai should be treated as a symbolic president and given the organizational "mushroom treatment" — that is, we should shut off the flows of information and resources directly to the national government.

 

President Ronald Reagan did something similar with another erratic ally, President Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. In February 1986, Reagan warned Marcos that if government troops attacked opposition forces holed up on the outskirts of Manila, it would cause "untold damage" to his relations with the United States — meaning the aid spigot would be turned off. When his countrymen saw that he was stripped of prestige and support, they forced Marcos into exile.

 

Second, the coalition must insist that the Afghan military play a primary role in the governance of the districts and provinces, including in the allocation of aid and the supervision of the police. We should work directly with those local and provincial leaders who will act responsibly, and cut off those who are puppets of Kabul.

 

This is happening, to some extent, in Helmand Province, site of the Marja battle, where the coalition has independent control over $500 million in reconstruction aid and salaries. We have been fortunate that the provincial governor, Gulab Mangal, while a Karzai appointee, has proved an innovative partner. But in any case, we know that coalition aid need not flow through Kabul.

 

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the head of Central Command, already seems to be considering this approach as the battle for Kandahar gains intensity. "One of the things we'll be doing in the shaping is working with political leaders to try to get an outcome that makes sense" including "partnering inside the city with the Afghan National Police," he told reporters last month.

 

Although isolating Mr. Karzai will strike many as a giant step backward, the truth is that we don't have a duty to impose democracy on Afghanistan. The advancement of liberty doesn't necessitate a "one person, one vote" system, as the 1.5 million fraudulent votes cast for Mr. Karzai in last summer's sham election showed. We cannot provide democracy if we desire it more than the Afghans.

 

The Philippines — and South Korea as well — evolved into thriving democracies at their own pace, well after American aid helped to beat back the military threats facing them. It was enough to prevent the Communist takeovers and leave behind governments controlled in the background by a strong military. We didn't spend tens of billions of dollars on material projects to inculcate democratic principles.

 

Similarly, a diminished Hamid Karzai can be left to run a sloppy government, with a powerful, American-financed Afghan military insuring that the Taliban do not take over.

 

Admittedly, this risks the emergence of the Pakistan model in Afghanistan — an army that has a country rather than a country that has an army. But we are not obliged to build a democratic nation under a feckless leader. We need to defend our interests, and leave the nation-building to the Afghans themselves.

 

Bing West, an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration, has reported on the Afghan war since 2001.

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

MOURNING IN THE MOUNTAINS

BY DENISE GIARDINA

 

Charleston, W.Va.

 

PEOPLE in West Virginia had hoped that on Monday night we would gather around televisions with family and friends to watch our beloved Mountaineers face Butler in our first chance at the men's N.C.A.A. basketball title since 1959. Men working evening shifts in the coal mines would get to listen thanks to radio coverage piped in from the surface. Expectations ran high; even President Obama, surveying the Final Four, predicted West Virginia would win.

 

Then, on Tuesday morning, we would wake to triumphant headlines in sports pages across the country. At last, we would say, something good has happened to West Virginia. The whole nation would see us in a new light. And we would cry.

 

Instead, halfway through Saturday night's semifinal against Duke, our star forward, Da'Sean Butler, tore a ligament in his knee, and the Mountaineers crumbled. And on Monday evening, while Duke and Butler played in what for us was now merely a game, West Virginians gathered around televisions to watch news of a coal mine disaster.

 

On Tuesday, the headline in The Charleston Gazette read instead: Miners Dead, Missing in Raleigh Explosion. And we cried.

 

Despite the sunny skies and unseasonably warm weather, the mood here in southern West Virginia is subdued. As of Tuesday afternoon, 25 men have been confirmed dead, two are critically injured, and four are missing and presumed dead. Their fellow West Virginians work round the clock and risk their own lives to retrieve the bodies.

 

Already outrage is focused on Massey Energy, owner of the Upper Big Branch mine. Massey has a history of negligence, and Upper Big Branch has often been cited in recent years for problems, including failure to properly vent methane gas, which officials say might have been the cause of Monday's explosion.

 

It seems we can't escape our heritage. I grew up in a coal camp in the southern part of the state. Every day my school bus drove past a sign posted by the local coal company keeping tally, like a basketball scoreboard, of "man hours" lost to accidents. From time to time classmates whose fathers had been killed or maimed would disappear, their families gone elsewhere to seek work.

 

We knew then, and know now, that we are a national sacrifice area. We mine coal despite the danger to miners, the damage to the environment and the monomaniacal control of an industry that keeps economic diversity from flourishing here. We do it because America says it needs the coal we provide.

 

West Virginians get little thanks in return. Our miners have historically received little protection, and our politicians remain subservient to Big Coal. Meanwhile, West Virginia is either ignored by the rest of the nation or is the butt of jokes about ignorant hillbillies.

 

Here in West Virginia we will forget our fleeting dream of basketball glory and get about the business of mourning. It is, after all, something we do very well. In the area around the Upper Big Branch, families of the dead will gather in churches and their neighbors will come to pray with them. They will go home, and the same neighbors will show up bearing platters of fried chicken and potato salad and cakes. The funeral homes will be jammed, the mourners in their best suits and ties and Sunday dresses.

 

And perhaps this time President Obama and Americans will pay attention, and notice West Virginia at last.

 

Denise Giardina is the writer-in-residence at West Virginia State University.

 

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******************************************************************************************I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NUCLEAR FUTURES

 

Energy -- its production and transmission -- lies at the heart of our current difficulties as well as at the heart of future development both economic and social. Our energy needs are expanding year by year and will do so for decades to come as the population grows; and we need a diversity of energy sources to meet those needs. Water is going to get scarcer and we cannot rely on hydroelectric power in the long term if only because rivers are drying up and weather patterns changing. Coal is something we have in abundance and could do more to exploit, and alternative energy sources such as solar and wind are a very long way from making any significant contribution to the national power supply. Gas we have and need more of – but the proposed pipeline from Iran is already raising American anxieties and is anyway fraught with tricky issues like transit fees and pipeline security. Which brings the nuclear option into sharp focus.


The issue of civilian nuclear power and its further development was broached in the recent strategic discussions with the US and, whilst politely listened to, it is clear that the Americans are not in any hurry to do the same deal with us as they have with India. But that may not always be the case. As a nation we have 35 years of experience of operating nuclear power plants. We have a good record regarding the safety and security of our nuclear plants (and have put the issue of proliferation far behind us, a hard-learned lesson). Our nuclear weapons are secured by internationally reputable safeguards. The recent meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) noted that Pakistan qualifies as a beneficiary for civil nuclear cooperation – in other words our track record is sufficiently good to allow us into the civil nuclear club in order that we may better develop our nuclear resources. Nuclear power could make a very significant future input to the national energy need, but power stations take time to finance and build. We will need help with both if we are to manage the energy crisis effectively in years to come. So would America like us to seek help from China? Or Russia? Or Iran? Think about it Uncle Sam… just think about it.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WITH CLIPPED WINGS

 

The man who has borne the brunt of media and public attack as one who may have been involved in massive corruption, and as a controversial figure bent upon running most matters of state with his close aides, has made it clear he hopes to walk into history as a hero. In his third address to a joint session of parliament, Asif Ali Zardari called on it to undo the 17th Amendment – and by doing so restore democracy in its true spirit. The sight of a man calling for his own powers to be taken away is a rare one indeed. Whatever else one may say, Mr Zardari deserves credit for magnanimously relinquishing the extraordinary powers handed over to one man by distorting the Constitution. It is also true though that he did so under some pressure. The situation that will arise now will not be welcomed by all. Persuading parliament to act in a particular way is far harder than making one individual do so. There are elements who opposed the idea of powers being stripped from the president. Tampering with democracy becomes a far harder task in the future.


Mr Zardari also spoke of standing in the shadows of his late father-in-law and wife and continuing their legacy. This is no small aspiration. He must remember that the success of the PPP is linked to its standing with the people. The promise made to them by the party's founders lives on. And if he is to emerge as a knight in shining armour in the eyes of the people, it is this connection with the masses that the president must strive to resurrect. For the present it stands broken. Despondency hovers everywhere; the allegations of corruption fan it on and people have increasingly lost faith in their leadership. It would also be wise for the president to remember the last year and a half, during which he has held office, has resulted in his standing tumbling in the eyes of people. Speeches to parliament alone, no matter how eloquently worded, will not restore this. We need to see action as well. Once the 18th Amendment is passed, much of the responsibility for this will rest with parliament. But in his role as head of state and of his party, the president too needs to lead the way and demonstrate that he is committed to living up to the words he delivered before a nation that hopes to see real change.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JUDICIAL CHAOS

 

While some of the events seen recently in Azad Kashmir parallel those seen in the Federation of Pakistan, the situation in the territory has quickly become even more chaotic. We have two chief justices presiding over cases, a deadlock between the president and the prime minister on the issue and an infuriated judiciary which says the CJ deposed by the acting president on the advice of the PM can only be restored by the Supreme Judicial Council. In the meanwhile the acting CJ too continues to perform duties. The allegations of corruption and particularly those of using influence to have a daughter's grades elevated are also rather familiar ones to all of us who followed the prolonged judicial crisis at home and the eventual restoration of the judiciary deposed by President Musharraf in March 2009. A year later, the advantages of an independent judiciary are obvious.

So far, Prime Minister Gilani has declined to intervene. Given the extent of the crisis, it is uncertain how long this detachment can persist. But it is a fact that many of the problems of AJK have been created by manipulations from here. As a consequence the democracy the territory has known has been a warped one. Institutions have not developed and systems of checks and balances have not evolved. This is a key factor behind the farcical situation seen there now and should act as a reminder that we need unfettered democracy in AJK if its problems are to be solved.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BEWARE OF JIYALAS BEARING GIFTS

AMEER BHUTTO


At a time when the Peoples Party should be riding the crest of a wave upon the introduction of the 18th Amendment in parliament, they instead find themselves having to explain the resignation of their handpicked attorney general, Anwar Mansoor, the third casualty at that post to the government's obstinate defiance of the judiciary in the last two years.


More damaging than his resignation is the damning indictment of this regime borne by Mr Mansoor's not altogether surprising but nevertheless devastating disclosure that the law minister is the biggest obstacle in the implementation of the NRO verdict. As if that was not enough, on April 3 at Naodero, the Peoples Party's Central Executive Committee (CEC), in the most manifest and direct challenge to the authority of the apex court thus far, reportedly pledged a solemn oath not to allow the Swiss cases to be reopened, come what may. This comprehensively dashes all hopes that better sense might prevail and a clash between the highest organs of state might be averted.


The CEC of the Peoples Party declared that reopening the Swiss cases would be tantamount to putting Benazir Bhutto's grave on trial. The Bhutto name and legacy are to this government no more than a convenient political cash machine, from which they make withdrawals whenever they land themselves in trouble. This government owes its existence to Benazir Bhutto but did not even bother to file an FIR for her murder. Instead the ball was tossed into the UN's court in expectation that it would take as long to complete the inquiry as the Rafik Hariri's murder inquiry (six years). But now that the UN Commission has prepared its report much earlier than expected, it has been blocked by Zardari. The declaration to reopen the murder case in which Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged has become a routine occurrence on his birthday and death anniversary, but despite reveling in power for over two years even the process for reopening this case has not been initiated. How can this be regarded as an illustration of their fidelity to the slain leaders? All the Bhuttos get is meaningless lip service while the disreputable and disgraced feed off their legacy and hide behind their name.


The issue at hand is not that of putting anyone's grave on trial, but saving the skins of those who are very much alive and basking in undeserved fame and fortune. This government finds itself in the unique position of being the prosecutor and the accused at the same time. It is logically absurd to expect that they will assiduously prosecute and punish themselves. As such, this impasse over the NRO verdict was inevitable. The only way that law and justice can run their course is if the NRO beneficiaries, irrespective of any unethical immunity they may enjoy, are removed from the office and made answerable before the law under an impartial administration.

Against the backdrop of this crisis revolving around the implementation of the NRO verdict, the 18th Amendment proposal put together by the Parliamentary Committee for Constitutional Reform (PCCR) can be seen as an exercise in damage control and distraction. This government never does anything unless it absolutely must. The restoration of the judges, lifting of governor's rule in Punjab and the restoration of the suspended Punjab Provincial Assembly was ordered only when the PML-N's long march threatened to upset the whole apple cart. The appointment of judges was not ordered until the government was faced with an obvious contempt of court. Similarly, the PCCR did not kick into a higher gear till the NRO verdict was announced and the government needed a distraction and something positive to their name. Of course, they had not counted on the resignation of the attorney general to turn the tables on them once again.


The Peoples Party's CEC meeting at Naodero also decided to empower Zardari on all issues of national importance, even if the 18th Amendment is passed by parliament. What this means is that the 18th Amendment will be stillborn, having been strangled by the Peoples Party's CEC in the womb, and all hopes of a return to a genuine parliamentary system will have to be put on ice once again. This lends credence to suspicions that repealing the 17th Amendment and Article 58(2)(B) was merely a ruse. The 18th Amendment was actually meant to bring the judiciary under executive control by giving the powers of judicial appointments to a parliamentary committee. The malicious intent of the government is exposed by the fact that whereas the powers of the chief justice for judicial appointments are severely restricted, the executive is unleashed to run amok at will without any constraints or checks. Whereas not a single corruption case has been filed against any high ranking government officer over the last ten years, there is a concerted effort afoot to discredit, intimidate and hamstring the judiciary for exposing loot and plunder and striking down the NRO.


Furthermore, the proposed amendment seeks to make it easier for convicts, even those found guilty of propagating opinions against Pakistan and the judiciary, to find their way into public office and requirements on political parties to hold intra-party elections have been done away with. Changing the law is the easy solution for this government to have its crooked way in every matter. Since Zardari apparently possessed no college degree, his partner in the NRO deal, Musharraf, was prevailed upon to remove the minimum literacy requirement. If the NAB cases are a thorn in the side, then what could be easier than changing the NAB laws to legalise and institutionalise corruption?


Mercifully, this attempt was foiled by the hue and cry raised over the issue. If the judges are not cooperating, then the authority to appoint them must be transferred to the executive to ensure the appointment of friendly judges. Those who are dancing in the streets over the 18th Amendment should hold on to their hats for now. Nothing this government ever does is straightforward or above board. There are always ulterior motives. Beware of jiyalas bearing gifts. The euphoria generated by the supposed consensus over the new NFC Award has been quashed by the Sindh chief minister's revelation that the concessions made to the provinces have been left out of the presidential order. Similarly, there is much in the 18th Amendment that does not meet the eye. Much of its content is in conflict with the spirit of the constitution, which provides for an independent judiciary, separation of powers and genuine democracy. It is liable to be brought before the courts of law even if it is passed by parliament.


After the stand taken by the Peoples Party's CEC, it is no longer a matter of just the law minister committing contempt of court. It is the whole regime that stands in bellicose rebellion against the law and the constitution. After arduously blocking all avenues of military adventurism in their various verdicts, particularly the PCO verdict announced on July 31, 2009, their lordships may feel disinclined, on moral if not constitutional grounds, to invite the army to act in their aid under the Article 190 of the constitution. However, when confronted with a government that is hell-bent on perverting the constitution and destroying the institutions that are the foundations of our fledgling democratic system, a resort to extreme action is not beyond reason. Their lordships will have to make some very difficult decisions in the days to come to salvage the writ of the institutions that are the pillars of state and save the state from sinking into a quicksand of anarchy. The nation has had just about enough of this vengeful variety of 'democracy'.


The writer is vice-chairman of Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PAK-US TIES LOOKING UP

SHAMSHAD AHMAD


The US and Pakistan finally seem to be moving in the right direction. This was a clear indication at the end of their recent "strategic dialogue" in Washington.


For Pakistan, a realistic expectation from this dialogue had been its transformation into a wider "strategic partnership" with clearly defined sectoral goalposts and priorities. This is exactly what happened.


A joint statement issued at the end of the talks said the two sides had agreed to expand the scope of their dialogue and established a joint Policy Steering Group to intensify and expand the "strategic dialogue" process which will be conducted at three tiers on an expanded list of sectoral tracks.


The joint statement noted that the desire to continue these talks at a higher plane was "in conformity with the importance" that both countries now attach to each other. They agreed to take further steps "to broaden and deepen their comprehensive cooperation and to further fortify the friendship between the two peoples." They will create an investment fund to support increased foreign direct investment and development in Pakistan which would provide much-needed additional support for Pakistan's energy sector and other high-priority areas.


Sectoral preparatory meetings are expected soon to evolve a mutually agreed time-bound and goal-specific cooperative framework before their next ministerial-level meeting in October, if not earlier. More focused talks will be held in Islamabad, perhaps this month, on "strategic stability and non-proliferation," an area in which Pakistan has special interest given its genuine demand from Washington for a "criteria-based" approach in its civilian nuclear cooperation policies.


While the joint statement made no mention of any discussion on this question, those privy to the talks confirm that the Pakistani side did voice its serious concern on America's country-specific preferential treatment to India and pressed its own case for a similar deal.


According to diplomatic observers in Washington, the very inclusion of "strategic stability and non-proliferation" in the sectoral dialogue with special focus in the joint statement is the beginning of serious business on a possible US nuclear arrangement with Pakistan at par with India. In fact, according to some reports, unpublicised talks on the nuclear issue have already been taking place between the two sides for sometime, and are now getting more focused in the context of "strategic stability and non-proliferation" as a formal agenda item of their ongoing sectoral dialogue.


At a meeting of the National Command Authority (NCA) on Monday, chaired by the prime minister, Pakistan staked its legitimate claim "for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level" and called for a non-discriminatory approach in international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Pakistan deserves treatment at par with India on the question of nuclear cooperation. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton implicitly acknowledged this reality when she said, "We are committed to helping Pakistan meet its real energy needs."


The NCA, which is the apex civil-military body responsible for custodial controls and safety and security of Pakistan's strategic assets, underscored the fact that Pakistan's socio-economic development was dependent on the country's ability to meet its rapidly expanding energy requirements. "There was a need to explore all options to ensure a reliable energy mix. The civil nuclear power generation was, therefore, an essential part of the national energy security strategy," said the NCA announcement.


That Pakistan is a nuclear-weapons state is a globally recognised fact. The US itself recognised this status immediately after our nuclear tests on May 28 and 30, 1998, following India's on May 11 and 13. This recognition was manifest in the eight-round dialogue the US conducted with India and Pakistan on equal terms to seek their cooperation on certain security benchmarks. At the end of this dialogue, a clear nuclear parity was established between the two countries in the form of an implicit "strategic linkage" for eligibility to "equal of treatment" in terms of future concessions, including access to technology.


For whatever reason that linkage was scrubbed, Pakistan has established its credentials as a responsible nuclear power by putting in place proper legislative controls and effective administrative mechanisms on export controls. The nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation measures are also supported by extensive legislative, regulatory and administrative framework guaranteeing the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities. There is no threat to our nuclear assets from within or without.


Concerns and fears about the effectiveness and safety of our nuclear assets are no longer valid. The A Q Khan chapter is closed now. Pakistan has a command-and-control system that is based on international guidelines, including those of the IAEA. Pakistan is already operating nuclear-power plants, and has highly trained manpower and a well-established safety and security culture. Therefore, it fully qualifies for equal participation in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level.


Pakistan is now pressing Washington for a nuclear cooperation arrangement similar to the one the US has with India. The Obama administration, while stressing the importance of the safety of Pakistan's nuclear assets, is apparently also seeking to dispel Pakistani fears that the United States was secretly plotting to seize the country's nuclear assets. There are now reliable signals from Washington that the Obama administration was seriously engaged in "steps to address Pakistani security concerns."


According to a Wall Street Journal report, the US is now actively lobbying for "more pressure" on New Delhi to ease tensions between India and Pakistan and to address Pakistan's legitimate security concerns in the context of India's role in Afghanistan. It has been revealed that President Obama had issued a "secret directive" for intensification of diplomacy for this purpose. According to some reports, President Obama also spoke to President Karzai in the same connection.


It is heartening that the US is now beginning to show practical sensitivity to Pakistan's legitimate India-specific concerns and security interests in Afghanistan. Another remedial step required from Washington is the removal of strategic imbalances in the region that have fuelled an arms race between the two neighbours with an escalatory effect on their military budgets and arsenals. What we need in this region is mutual arrangements between India and Pakistan for maintenance of military balance and non-induction of destabilising weapon systems.

We are opposed to a nuclear and conventional arms race in South Asia, and in pursuit of this objective we have been pursuing an initiative for a Strategic Restraint Regime with India involving three interlocking elements: conflict resolution, nuclear and missile restraint, and conventional balance. In the context of the composite dialogue, Pakistan has also finalised a number of nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures with India.

The US could best serve the cause of peace in South Asia by encouraging the resumption of the stalled composite dialogue between the two neighbours. But peace in this region would remain incomplete without Pakistan-India issues being addressed, which are not without direct impact on the overall situation in the Afghan theatre. The risk of a Pakistan-India proxy war in Afghanistan is fraught with perilous implications for regional and global peace, and must be averted at all cost. This is what Washington must ensure before it is too late.

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE – THEN AND NOW

DR A Q KHAN


In my column of Jan 28 I had written about Hazrat Umar (RA) who had informed his own son of the severe reprimand he got from Allah for the defective bridge built in Baghdad during his rule in which a goat had broken its leg. Hazrat Umar (RA) is reported to have said that even if a dog died of hunger on the bank of the Dajla (Tigris), he would be taken to task for it.


Contrast this to the situation nowadays. People are without food, water and electricity hardly a kilometre from the palaces of the rulers. Lavish lifestyles and foreign tours cost the exchequer millions of rupees, with the rulers totally ignoring the literally starving masses in the country.


Our Islamic history has many golden chapters of good governance and justice. It is all there as an example for us to act accordingly. We know that the USA has many Nobel laureates in economics, but that has not stopped the country from being almost bankrupt and asking other countries to bail it out. Were it not for its natural resources, the United States would have been totally bankrupt by now and perhaps disintegrated into individual states.

Many other Muslim rulers are famous for justice. Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA), Haroon Al-Rashid, Mahmood Ghaznavi, Alauddin Khilji, etc., all left a treasure of good governance and justice. Were our present rulers to follow this age-old tradition, we would come out of the precarious situation we are facing.


During the period of Haroon Al-Rashid, his Qazi was famous for his honest and quick decisions. His memoirs were so interesting that they were translated by the British and published as Reminiscences of a Mesopotamian Judge. One of the stories he told was related to an inspection tour to some far off place. The people there were very pleased and thanked him for having appointed a very honest Qazi. On hearing that, he held his head in both hands and thought: "Oh my Lord! Is it possible to have a dishonest Qazi?" I wish we could say the same today.

In that same column I had written about an adjudicator of justice and a famous administrator – Nizamul Mulk Toosi and Chanakya. The latter was the prime minister of Raja Chandra Gupt Mauria, was very clever and a great planner. He managed to get the Nanda dynasty wiped out through his intrigues. Chanakya's treatise on state administration was known as Arth Shastra and was translated into Urdu by Shanul Haq Haqqee and printed by Mr Ismail Zabi. Chanakya's policies and tactics were mostly based on unethical principles. It is believed that the Italian statesman and author Nicolo Machiavelli's book The Prince (1532) was based on Chanakya's Arth Shastra. His name and tactics are synonymous with cunning, scheming and unscrupulous behaviour in politics and business.


Nizamul Mulk Toosi was the prime minister first of Seljuk Sultan Alp Arsalan and then of his illustrious son, Sultan Malik Shah. He was a very competent, honest and efficient administrator. He wrote two treatises on administrative policies and methods for the benefit of Muslim rulers. These books, Siasat Nama and Dasturul Vuzara are internationally acclaimed as masterpieces. Both are based on truth, honesty, Quranic edicts, Hadiths and the Shariah. This noble person was murdered by a follower of Hasan bin Sabbah, who was out to destroy the stability and the very existence of Islamic dynasties. In his books, Nazimul Mulk Toosi mentioned many very interesting and eye-opening episodes regarding justice. Here I would like to tell the one related to Sultan Mahmood Ghaznavi.


Once Mahmood Ghaznavi and his companions listened to music and drank the whole night. Mahmood's commander-in-chief, Ali Noshtgin, and Muhammad Arabi drank excessively. Before dawn broke they were fast asleep and when they rose at about 10 a.m. Ali Noshtgin asked Mahmood for permission to go home. He was still drunk and his behaviour was erratic. Mahmood advised him to relax till Zuhar prayers and then go home, as by that time the influence of the alcohol would have worn off. If he went out in his present condition the Qazi might catch him and punish him according to Shariah.


Noshtgin thought that since he was the commander-in-chief nobody would dare touch him. In his arrogance he left the palace, ignoring Mahmood's advice. He had only gone a short distance with his soldiers and servants when the Qazi, a former slave, came upon him and, seeing that he was drunk, intercepted him. He told his guards to take Noshtgin off his horse and he himself whipped a screaming Noshtgin black and blue. The Qazi left him lying there. His servants took him home and treated his wounds. After a few days, when Noshtgin went to see Mahmood, the Sultan asked him what happened. Noshtgin told him and showed him his back, which was still sore and bruised. Mahmood smiled and said that a just and honest punishment had been carried out with justice applicable to all without discrimination. He said that had even he been caught in that condition, he would have been treated in the same way. Alhamdulillah.


The second story is about a fifth-generation descendent of Mahmood, the Sultan Ibrahim Ghaznavi, who was also famous for his justice and good governance. It so happened that all bakeries were closed and bread was scarce. People were facing hardships because of it and complained to the sultan. Upon enquiry he was informed by the bakers that all the wheat and flour that was being brought to the city by the farmers was being forcefully bought by the supervisors of the royal kitchen and bakers were not able to buy even small quantities. Ibrahim Ghaznavi became very angry and ordered his guards to fetch the supervisor, throw him in front of an elephant and then tie his mutilated body to the tusks of the elephant and allow it to roam the city for all to see. By evening there was an abundance of bread in the bakeries and flour in stock!


These two stories have been told to illustrate how our rulers and judges of yore dispensed justice and practiced good governance. The system was applied without fear, discrimination or undue delay. Nowadays people have lost faith in receiving quick, fair justice and the words "good governance" no longer exist. The remedy lies in strict and severe laws to be promulgated by our lawmakers and their strict and exemplary application by our judiciary.

Presently there is neither the will nor the application to do so. Recently, hoarders of sugar and flour caused unimaginable hardships to the poor public while allowing some to become billionaires overnight. Mill-owners from the ruling party and the opposition alike made profit. The judiciary was helpless in the absence of stringent measures that could be applied. It could deal with the menace only to a limited extent.


Nazimul Mulk Toosi had warned that a heavenly curse and worldly problems are the forerunner of the decay and fall of a nation. The best period in any nation's history is when just, honest and efficient rulers are in charge. Since the demise of the Quaid-e-Azam we have not seen anyone without ulterior motives. There seems, for the time being anyway, no change forthcoming.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE INTOLERANCE SYNDROME

RAOOF HASAN


The symptoms of excessive violence being exhibited as a matter of routine by various segments of our society have been on display for long, but they have only now begun to be translated into a consistent collective character trait. This has rendered the society into becoming unmanageable and unwieldy, with conflicting violent groups that are operating mostly to assert their will on the rest of the society. We have succeeded in painting a picture that is an extremely perverse version of how we should have evolved as a nation.


When I was growing up in the late fifties and early sixties, I remember a society that was extremely tolerant of the way others were. Even if there were stark differences, they were overridden by understanding and giving others the right to live their lives the way they wanted to. There was no sickly urge to impose oneself over others and force them to submit to the way you perceived the world to be. There was little to no discrimination on the basis of religious, cultural or social affiliations.


This was all washed away by the religious bigotry unleashed on the country by the Zia dictatorship. Much of it emanated from the lack of legitimacy of the despot who believed that no one would be able to oppose him if he espoused the cause of religion as the principal objective of his military coup. His decision to push Pakistan into the Afghan cauldron exposed the country to extremism and violence.


The best part of the proposed 18th Amendment to the Constitution is removal of the name of Gen Ziaul Haq from history as a president of Pakistan. This move will bring the country much closer to the true cause of its creation. There is more to be done in terms of dealing with the legacies of other dictators, including Gen Musharraf and the way he brought infamy to the country. But you must credit him with provoking and precipitating the movement for the independence of the judiciary that can easily be termed as the single most significant achievement of the people of Pakistan over the last 62 years.


It is strange how the dictatorship malaise has permeated our daily lives, impacting the psyche of a whole nation. It has been instrumental in eliminating the power of logic and reason, replacing it with a tendency bordering on an insane espousal of the concept of self-righteousness with an inherent urge to pontificate and show others the "correct" path. This has invariably led to the elimination of the instinct to set ourselves credible goals and the urge to make a genuine and sincere effort of moving towards their attainment. Instead, we have been overridden by the belief that we are aware of all that moves under the skies, and what is left is only to let others understand that we know more and better than all of them put together.


This is an unmistakable sign of plunging to the depths of depravity of a mindset that not only blocks all avenues to progress but also curtails one's ability to be able to think straight. Instead, a know-all syndrome sinks in deep that plagues one's ability for lateral comprehension and objective appraisal. Thus we become a stunted people without the ability to initiate a process of self-appraisal to determine what assails our ability to think straight.

If this is the ultimate that we envisaged to achieve as a nation, then we are right there, having attained infamy and the unmistakable title of the preachers of violence in our midst as well as throughout the world. We have reduced ourselves to becoming an incongruous phenomenon that the rest of the world believes has to be dealt with urgently and effectively. Consequently, we are insulted at every port of entry to any civilised country of the world. We are meted out a treatment more deservedly meant for some other kind of species. But it is we who have brought it upon ourselves.

If we are to develop as a nation and a distinctive polity, we have to address the issue in its entirety. We have to revisit the causes that may have provoked this plunge into notoriety and evaluate ways and means to extricate ourselves from the clutches of intolerance and violence. It is only then that we would be able to take the first step on the road to achieving salvation and link up with the ideals of our creation.


The writer is based in Lahore. Email: raoofhasan@hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HAIL TO THE CHIEFS

ANJUM NIAZ


The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

Zardari's crack-job-in-chief 'Dr' Babar Awan's four word retort to the Supreme Court orders on the NRO is "over my dead body." The law minister would do well to read Christopher Marlowe's play Dr Faustus, in which a man sells his soul to Mephistophilis the devil, in return for power and knowledge. It was written 400 years ago.

Awan's cheap antics with the judges resulting in a standoff between the judiciary and the government over Swiss cases may well bring the government, already a house of cards, tumbling down. Former attorney-general Anwar Mansur has declared that the $ 60 million cannot be released from Switzerland unless our government provides proof "beyond reasonable doubt" that this money belongs to the people of Pakistan. He has said that had the Supreme Court been fully cognizant of the Swiss cases intertwined in a labyrinth of blind alleys, it would perhaps not have insisted on their being reopened.


Case closed! The Supreme Court may look elsewhere (there are plenty of corruption cases going-a- begging for suo motto notice) against the PPP government in Pakistan.


Said a savant once "Nations are built by proactive visionary intellectuals and leaders, not by military dictators and bootlickers' neocolonial politicians pursuing egoistic agendas." The sage has clubbed the military dictators and neocolonial politicians as the destroyers-in-chief of democracy. So does that leave the Supreme Court to be the shining star upon the hill lighting up the path to greatness?


Wait, not so fast. Many self-appointed "proactive visionary intellectuals" earmarked as 'spokesmen/women' for the people of Pakistan by their media outlets – print and electronic – conversely accuse the Supreme Court to be antithetical to the democratic process. More of this in a minute.


Moving beyond the political minutiae our "egoistical rulers" provide the citizens distraction from real issues. Is it not a fact that apart from the Supreme Court and the GHQ, the other two powerhouses, legislative and executive, carouse a merry-go-round as though Pakistan was their personal playing ground? First it was Larkana where the featherbrained queued up for a show of hands in solidarity for the president, flying, feasting and frittering at the taxpayers' expense. Then came the presidential address with all its frills and foppery, celebrating the day as if we had hit a gold mine or struck oil. Once again all the political hides were in assembly from four corners of the country costing us a packet. The roads leading to the king were closed to the commoners. One more workday was thus lost.


Now to the chief justice of Pakistan: Are people genuinely browned off by him? If you go by what our TV swamis, some well-known names, preach from their nightly pulpits, you would think the nation is no longer in awe of Our Lordship. One senior editor/TV commentator of a private channel swears on the head of his source that Nawaz Sharif was instructed by the chief judicator not to accept the 18th Amendment unless the composition of the judicial commission tilted in the CJ's favour. The story was of course leaked to the Time Magazine. The CJ and his bench of learned judges, according to such naysayers, are overstepping their boundaries; are doggedly hounding and persecuting the ruling party and its co-chairman; are letting the PML-N cheats off the hook; are bullying the federal secretaries and threatening them with dire consequences; are going after the president when he enjoys immunity and cannot be touched.

Joining in the anti-judiciary chorus are human rights power horses who feel that the judiciary is going too far and thereby inviting trouble. By trouble they mean, martial law. Aiding and abetting our armchair pundits in the print and electronic media are government factotums, especially those whose NRO cover has been blown off, rendering them unprotected. A malicious campaign against the Court is being mounted by our officials in Washington DC who have hired expensive lobbyists to denounce Justice Chaudhry in leading US newspapers.


Supreme Court with its pants down is a book that died in its embryonic stage. "I did not pursue the project lest it may adversely affect the lawyers moment for independence of judiciary – and in particular diminish the invaluable contribution of the present chief justice," says Justice Fakhruddin G Ebrahim. His opinion is always balanced, practical and impartial. And for these rare qualities the retired judge is widely respected. Acknowledging the failure of the superior judiciary, FGE as he's fondly called admits "We allowed Zia and Musharraf to give us a lawless Pakistan, launching the era of army-judiciary-axis."


Lamenting the lack of a "political process" he blames the generals for "mutilating and deforming" the 1973 Constitution with the cunning support of bureaucracy and collaborators. "We have allowed an unabated exploitation of religion and in a country created in the name of Islam, Muslim kills Muslim without leased compunction – and not a single mass demonstration held to stop this orgy. We have had in real terms only two general elections since the 1973 Constitution, one under Z.A. Bhutto and the second in February 2008."


Does the master jurist have an antidote to corruption?


"We can demand a transparent and an open government," he says. "When a tender is invited of a value exceeding a specified sum, say Rs10 million, it must be published in newspapers." I think the learned judge is referring to the horrendous stories of kickbacks and commissions pocketed by cabinet ministers both in the centre and the provinces when awarding contracts. "Every step must be taken in processing the tender including making public the noting of the bureaucrats in charge of dealing with the tenders." To ensure that there's no hanky panky by babus and their political bosses; FGE goes a step further and recommends that "reasons for accepting the tender of X and reasons for rejecting the other tenders must be published in national newspapers." Finally, should there be a delay in decision-making; the government must let the public know. "After all the government spends large sums of money in advertising its imaginary achievements along wit