Google Analytics

Amazon Contextual Product Ads

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

EDITORIAL 14.04.10

Please contact the list owner of subscription and unsubscription at: editorial@samarth.co.in 

 

media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month april 14, edition 000481, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

For ENGLISH  EDITORIAL  http://editorialsamarth.blogspot.com

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. MINISTERIAL SHENANIGANS
  2. GHOST OF BOFORS SCANDAL
  3. ARMY CHIEF MUST LEAD FROM FRONT - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. THE CURSE OF STALIN - PRIYADARSI DUTTA
  5. GOVERNANCE MATTERS - SHIKHA MUKERJEE
  6. MALIGNING MODI - SANDEEP B
  7. A SINISTER TRAP FOR MOSCOW - SHASHI SHEKHAR

MAIL TODAY

  1. TELL US MR MODI WHO OWNS THE OTHER TEAMS
  2. MANDARINS STILL RULE
  3. A STEP BACKWARD
  4. INDIA IS HIGH ON THE HIT LIST - BY MANOJ JOSHI
  5. DECCAN BUZZ - A SRINIVASA RAO
  6. ' BROKE' GOVT ASKS DDA TO FUND METRO PHASE III

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. THE RTI SPECTRE
  2. THAILAND'S TROUBLES
  3. GET THAT VISION 2014 -
  4. 'HUMAN WASTE AND TRASH ACCUMULATING ON THE GLACIERS' -
  5. PEHELE AAP, MANTRIJI - JUG SURAIYA

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. IN A FEW WORDS...
  2. THE ATOMS OF NUCLEAR TERROR
  3. FROM THE SIDELINES - KIRAN WADHWA
  4. ON THE SAME PAGE - SWARAN SINGH
  5. CHART A NEW COURSE  SAGARIKA GHOSE

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. DIGNITY IN RETREAT
  2. ON THE HOUSE
  3. ALBERT PINTO'S MISSING ANGER - PRATAP BHANU MEHTA
  4. KANGAROO COURTS - VINAY SITAPAT
  5. WAITING FOR A SUPER-REGULATOR - SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN
  6. THE RIGHTS CHOICE - D. RAJA
  7. THE GREAT GAME FOLIO - C. RAJA MOHAN
  8. FORGOTTEN FACETS - RANJANA-CHAUBE
  9. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. IT LOOKS UP
  2. INDUSTRIOUS PERFORMANCE
  3. WHAT'S ON SUBBARAO'S MIND - MK VENU
  4. INFY GIVES GOOD GUIDANCE - DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
  5. CLEANING UP EMISSIONS - JAYA JUMRANI

THE HINDU

  1. PROTECT ARCHAEOLOGY
  2. LANDMARK JUDGMENT
  3. PAKISTAN: PERCEPTIONS, PREJUDICES & POLICIES - CHINMAYA R. GHAREKHAN
  4. MODERN" TORIES ARE A ONE-MAN BAND, SAY VOTERS - HASAN SUROOR
  5. A CEASEFIRE WILL CREATE CONDUCIVE ATMOSPHERE FOR TALKS' - SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

DNA

  1. UNRAVELLING GORSHKOV
  2. INDO-US TIES
  3. DOWN TO A TRICKLE - BHAVDEEP KANG
  4. WHY WE LIKE TO BE RACIALLY VICTIMISED - VENKATESAN VEMBU

THE TRIBUNE

  1. TERRORISTS EYEING PAK NUKES
  2. PEACE OVER ULIPS
  3. KABADDI ON THE UPSWING
  4. PITFALLS OF LOCALISM - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  5. A BASKET CASE OF MANGOES - BY RAJI P. SHRIVASTAVA
  6. REINVENTING THE LEFT - BY SHELLEY WALIA
  7. POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT IN HARYANA - BY RAJESHWARI
  8. DELHI DURBAR

MUMBAI MERROR

  1. DAMN IT, MR GAJVI

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. SHIFTS IN FDI
  2. CONFLICT OF INTEREST
  3. DO CONTROVERSIES HURT BRANDS? - K V SRIDHAR
  4. LIMITS OF DISCRETION - M J ANTONY
  5. THE EMPIRE'S ORPHAN CHILDREN - NILANJANA S ROY
  6. SUBIR ROY: DAGGER THROUGH THE HEART OF INDIA - SUBIR ROY
  7. THE SPLINTERED DEMOCRACY - SANJEEV SANYA

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. JUSTICE DELAYED AND DENIED
  2. THINKING BEYOND 3G
  3. WILL IT RAIN ON APRIL 16 & 18?
  4. TREASURE YOUR FRIENDS - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  5. ROLLOUT OBLIGATION FOR WIMAX? - C S RAO, CHAIRMAN, WIMAX FORUM
  6. INDIA CAN BE THE WORLD'S FOOD BASKET: SCOTT PRICE, CEO, WAL-MART ASIA - GULVEEN AULAKH

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. US NEEDS TO REPAIR ITS IMAGE IN INDIA
  2. DISTRESSING THOUGHTS - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  3. PEACE WITH THE PAST? LEARN FROM POLAND - BY ROGER COHEN
  4. INDIA NEEDS NEW MANUAL ON NAXALS - BY ROHIT SINGH
  5. ISLAM IS THE SOUL OF SUFISM - BY SADIA DEHLVI
  6. FIGHTING MAOISTS & MOSQUITOES - BY PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

THE STATESMAN

  1. JUDGING THE JUDGE
  2. WORRYING SILENCE
  3. BATTERED BRAND
  4. PROPHET OF HUMANISM - BY CLAUDE ARPI
  5. SECRET FACE OF THE REAL PAKISTAN
  6. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY
  7. SO MUCH FOR THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. SPECIAL FOCUS
  2. LEFT LUGGAGE
  3. SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL - K.P. NAYAR
  4. NEVER FORGET - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. NARROW VISION
  2. RAJAPAKSA'S DHARMA
  3. PROSECUTE DINAKARAN - BY V R KRISHNA IYER
  4. POOR WATER QUALITY, A SERIOUS THREAT - BY Y P GUPTA
  5. CAMERA IN THE BEDROOM - BY J S RAGHAVAN

HAARETZ

  1. WHERE DID PEACE GO?
  2. SECRETS? WHAT SECRETS? - BY ALUF BENN
  3. THE RIGHT TO DEPORT - BY AMIRA HASS
  4. ISRAEL IS TO BLAME FOR JERUSALEM'S RISING ARAB POPULATION - BY SHAUL ARIELI
  5. IF I WERE URI BLAU, I'D REPORT TO THE SHIN BET - BY YOSSI MELMAN

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. MR. OBAMA AND MR. HU
  2. LESSONS FROM THE BIG BRANCH TRAGEDY
  3. THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER
  4. VISAS AND CENSORSHIP
  5. OUR FILL-IN-THE-BLANK CONSTITUTION - BY GEOFFREY R. STONE
  6. WHAT WE LEARNED FROM H1N1'S FIRST YEAR - BY RICHARD P. WENZEL

I. THE NEWS

  1. THE CRUNCH
  2. MORE TROUBLE
  3. REFORM, NOT REMIT
  4. SEN OBAMA'S 'I WILL' NUCLEAR PLEDGE - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  5. IS PARLIAMENT SUPREME? - AMEER BHUTTO
  6. THE PERPETUAL LOOT - A Q KHAN
  7. FATA FORGOTTEN - AYAZ WAZIR
  8. TO SCARE A VIP - ANJUM NIAZ
  9. A GOOD INITIATIVE - LIAQUAT H MERCHANT

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. WELCOME ASSURANCE
  2. LISTEN TO HAZARA
  3. MORE AMENDMENTS!
  4. PAKISTAN: STRATEGIC DELUSION - MAHBOOB A KHWAJA
  5. AU REVOIR TO AMERICA - RASHIDA MASOOD
  6. SPICY 'TALK SHOWS': A DISSERVICE - DR NIAZ AHMAD KHAN
  7. IN DARK TIMES POLAND NEEDS SUNLIGHT OF TRUTH - BEN MACINTYRE

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. SHUVO NABABARSHA
  2. FAKE PIR
  3. OBAMA-MANMOHAN TALKS!
  4. ENERGY CRISIS: OTHER WAYS TO FUEL THE POWER SECTOR - FORREST COOKSON
  5. ON HIGHER EDUCATION - GOPAL SENGUPTA
  6. WILL CHINA LEAD? - JAMIE F. METZL
  7. THE SPIRIT OF PAHELA BAISHAKH - RIPAN KUMAR BISWAS
  8. LOAD MANAGEMENT, AND FUTURE UNDP HEAD - DR. M. S. HAQ
  9. SHOULD THE UK LEGALISE ASSISTED SUICIDE? - BARRISTER M. A. MUID KHAN

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. BUILDING RETIREMENT NEST EGGS
  2. NEVER MIND THE POLITICS, IT'S TIME TO DEAL ON HEALTH
  3. CRUNCH TIME FOR APPLE GROWERS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. WHAT FOLLOWS THE FLOOD
  2. FREEDOM OF IRRELIGION
  3. DID COST-CUTTING COST LIVES ON BLACK SATURDAY?
  4. HEALTH PLAN GETS THE SPIN TREATMENT

THE GUARDIAN

  1. CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO: MORE CENTRED THAN BEFORE
  2. IN PRAISE OF… MARK DAMAZER
  3. SEX DISCRIMINATION: NOT EQUAL YET

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. NURSES OPERATING IN GRAY ZONE
  2. EDUCATION WITH LESS LATITUDE
  3. WHITHER GOES CHINESE IDENTITY? - BY KAZUO OGOURA
  4. OBAMA'S NEW NUCLEAR POLICY - BY RICHARD WEITZ
  5. FOR JAPAN TO THRIVE, THE WALL MUST COME DOWN - BY ROBERT DUJARRIC
  6. WHO SHOULD LEAD THE IMF? - BY KEVIN RAFFERTY

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. THE 'NEW' IMF AND INDONESIA: IT IS TIME TO TURN THE PAGE
  2. RELIGIOUS ORGANIZATIONS AND NU'S NATIONALISM - AS'AD SAID ALI
  3. THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY'S CHALLENGE - SUNNY TANUWIDJAJA

CHINA DAILY

  1. NUCLEAR SUMMIT OF ACTION
  2. HANDLING PUBLIC OPINION
  3. SLOW GROWTH IN RESERVES
  4. ENSURE AFFORDABLE HOUSING
  5. THE STATE OF CROSS-STRAITS RELATIONS - BY CHIH-YU SHIH (CHINA DAILY)
  6. ASIA'S RECOVERY - 'EXIT' TO WHERE? - BY JONG-WHA LEE (CHINA DAILY)
  7. HU'S VISIT TO BOOST RELATIONS - BY HUANG SHIKANG (CHINA DAILY)

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. WHY PUTIN SHOULD LEAVE - BY VLADISLAV INOZEMTSEV
  2. SCENT OF SHALE GAS HANGS OVER KATYN - BY YULIA LATYNINA 

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

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

THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

 

MINISTERIAL SHENANIGANS

SHASHI THAROOR FACES QUESTIONS OF PROBITY


Minister of State for External Affairs and Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram Shashi Tharoor has found himself at the centre of some controversy or the other ever since he won last summer's general election and was inducted in the UPA Government. But while it's his propensity to talk too much that has got him into trouble in the past, the latest controversy surrounding him raises serious questions of ethics and probity which neither do him credit nor reflect well on the Government which he represents. In the past couple of days it has transpired that the consortium of business houses led by Rendezvous, a firm nobody had ever heard of till it shot into the limelight, which has bagged the IPL franchise for Kochi for a staggering $ 333 million outbidding other contenders, has among its share-holders certain individuals whose identities were not disclosed voluntarily. But for the IPL chairman Lalit K Modi going public with the details of share-holders, we would not have known that they include a certain female entrepreneur based in Dubai who has been gifted free equity worth $ 16 million. It could be argued that she is not alone to have benefited by way of free equity and that there are others. But that should not distract us from two important facts: First, she is reported to be Mr Tharoor's fiancée — the Minister is said to be in the process of divorcing his Canadian wife — and, second, there was considerable lobbying in support of the consortium in which he actively participated. Mr Modi insisted that the consortium should disclose all details of its share-holders; the consortium baulked at the suggestion; and, the IPL chief says he received a call from Mr Tharoor, asking him not to press for full disclosure, a claim that has been denied by the Minister.


While free equity is by itself not illegal, questions are bound to be raised, as they are indeed being asked, as to what qualifies the Dubai-based entrepreneur to free shares worth $ 16 million. After all, those who pay huge sums of money — $ 333 million is not exactly petty cash! — to get IPL franchises do so as a business proposition. It is surprising that those who have actually invested money in the Kochi franchise should have happily gifted away nearly a quarter of the shares, a largesse of which this particular person is one of the main beneficiaries. A full inquiry is called for into the entire arrangement, if only to put speculations to rest. Second, the Congress cannot just wash its hands of the unedifying affair and say that it has nothing to do with it. A Congress Minister is linked, by his own admission, to one of the beneficiaries of the free equity bonanza; he has in the past had a Dubai connection; and, he has been accused of trying to suppress details which, now that they are in the public domain, have turned out to be embarrassing for him. Far better is expected from those who hold public office. There are two options to resolve the issue. First, Mr Tharoor could consider putting in his papers till the questions that have been raised are conclusively answered; bluff and bluster won't do. If Mr Tharoor feels that he need not bother about the serious charges and allegations being levelled against him and which on the face seem credible, then the party should instruct the Prime Minister to drop him from the Council of Ministers. Let him cool his heels till his name is cleared. Anything short of either of these two options would be tantamount to endorsing shameful ministerial shenanigans.

 

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


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

GHOST OF BOFORS SCANDAL

HAUNTED CONGRESS TRIES TO BURY IT. AGAIN!


The ghost of Bofors has reared its ugly head once again. In what can be described as yet another unholy attempt by the Congress-led UPA Government to bury the scandal, the Government's Assistant Solicitor-General appears to have taken recourse to legal trickery to ensure that the truth never comes out. On March 30, while hearing a petition questioning the Government's complicity in helping Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi evade trial in India, the Supreme Court seems to have been tricked into passing an order directing the trial court records relating to the Hinduja brothers to be sent back. What is astonishing is that the PIL being heard was in no way related to the Hindujas. Yet, while passing an order to dismiss the existing writ petition so that a fresh petition could be moved, as requested by the petitioner, the final order mysteriously recorded that the trial court records be sent back. It was latter learnt that this was done on the plea of the Assistant Solicitor-General. That there was some foul play became evident when the Assistant Solicitor-General brought up the matter of the trial court records on April 8 and tried to persuade the court to sent them back in this case and another pertaining to the Hindujas. Incidentally, the petitioner in the two cases happens to be the same person and, therefore, he objected to the Assistant Solicitor-General's plea. The Supreme Court bench hearing the case took note of this and subsequently turned down the Government's legal representative's request. It hardly needs mentioning that the trial court records are crucial in the context of the entire Bofors scandal.


No matter which way one looks at it, there is no denying the fact that there has been a concerted effort on the part of the UPA Government to bury the case once and for all. That the cover-up operation continues even two decades after the deal for the Swedish guns was originally inked only confirms that people in the existing Indian political set-up had a hand in the Rs 64-crore scandal and that they want all leads erased for good. Many would argue that a Rs 64-crore scandal that occurred in the 1980s is simply not worth investigating in the backdrop of today's scams that run into thousands of crores of rupees. But that is hardly the point. The Bofors scandal was the first case of its kind where a defence deal exposed possible corruption in the top echelons of the political system. In a way, the case is emblematic of how deep corruption can penetrate the Government machinery. In turn, uncovering the truth and exposing those culpable would be a triumph for our justice system and prove that we do have mechanisms in place to counter institutional corruption. But having given Quattrocchi a clean chit and with its latest legal jugglery, the Government, it would appear, is in no mood for justice.

 

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

 


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ARMY CHIEF MUST LEAD FROM FRONT

ASHOK K MEHTA


While the new Army Chief, Gen VK Singh, has set his own priorities, he has received a fair amount of advice from military veterans and newspaper editorials. On their own, Service chiefs can't do much by way of introducing change: They can tinker — which they usually do — or they can make grand resolves. But somewhere down the line it dawns on them that the system is too deeply entrenched and vested interests so embedded that it is not worth trying in the first place.


Still, some have succeeded in creating a spectacular mess in the name of change and innovation. One Army Chief started his innings with what was described as "reaching out to officers" with a personal letter encapsulating his vision of an Officer and a Gentleman. When he realised his ethical guidelines could not be implemented he forgot about it. The last incumbent discovered unpleasantly that the Army Chief, if he wishes to oblige, can be pushed around by his Minister to the detriment of that high office.


Gen Singh's first task is to restore the image of his office allowing no one to interfere in his chain of command and ensuring the principle percolates down the line. He must make known that he will protect and promote the health, prosperity and operational effectiveness of the Army whatever the stakes.


Most issues are best addressed collectively. Strength is in numbers too, as the Services discovered from the unified approach to the Fifth and Sixth Pay Commission. Why should the three chiefs allow the Ministry of Defence to divide and rule? A priority task for Gen Singh is to get hold of Admiral Nirmal Verma and Air Chief Marshal PV Naik to forge a united front. This will be easy as all three are of the same vintage and identical professional background.


Following the Dantewada massacre last week, the Army and Air Force Chiefs made some relevant professional comments on the CRPF-Maoist encounter in response to questions by the media. They were in good company as a couple of Ministers had also made critical remarks. Promptly the Cabinet Secretary issued a directive authorising only the Home Ministry to speak on the Maoist problem, forgetting that the Army and IAF are already involved in training and logistics support of the State and Central police forces.


While exercising care in what is said, the chiefs must not allow muzzling of legitimate views (including dissent) especially in relation to operational readiness, morale and welfare of troops. It was heartening to learn that Air Chief Marshal Naik has no objection to the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff provided the model is appropriate. This is a breakthrough of sorts as in the past, it is the Air Force which has blocked the creation of the CDS's post. The Group of Ministers approved the appointment of a CDS in 2000 after the Kargil intrusions, but the Government has stalled the appointment, saying there is no political consensus.


Gen Singh and Admiral Verma must settle with Air Chief Marshal Naik over single malt whisky on the right model for CDS. The blueprint is there. All that needs to be done is for the Service chiefs to accept one model, take it to the Prime Minister and President, and tell them this is what they want.


The Big Three must similarly attend to the festering sore of underutilisation of capital budget for defence modernisation. Over the last decade, around Rs 60,000 crore could not be spent (and an additional one-fifth was misspent at the last minute to beat the March syndrome) due to a variety of reasons. Very recently, Vice-Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal PK Barbora, stated at an international conference that politics was hurting India's defence and that political parties use defence procurement deals to settle political vendettas.

Defence Minister AK Antony, who has set saintly standards in probity, has ensured that one-fifth of capital funds go unused and back to the treasury to balance the fiscal deficit. The Service chiefs must ask for a Group of Ministers to end this farce. A separate committee, headed by a professional/strategic analyst — as was done recently in the UK through the Bernard Gray report — should be established to energise defence acquisitions, ensuring operational readiness supersedes probity and lengthy procedures.


As Eastern Army Commander, Gen Singh chaired a multi-faceted study on the operational preparedness of the Army so that he could implement the recommendations when he became Chief. In the Army's Military Operations room and its think-tank, Centre of Land Warfare Studies, impressive power-point presentations are made about the two-and-a-half front doctrine and cold start with the entire spectrum of conflict compressed on to two slides.


Such intense professional orientation to conventional and nuclear conflict in a network-centric environment underemphasises the nature of battle that the Army has been and will be fighting for the foreseeable future. It is Low Intensity Conflict where the stellar role is played by the Infantry soldier whose modernisation has been ignored since 1985 when the first 15-year Army modernisation plan was drawn. India has not fought a conventional war since 1971 though the Army, notably the Infantry, has not ceased fighting since independence. The infantry modernisation ('Infantry Vision 2020') was approved only last year and Gen Singh has to put this on fast track.


The Service chiefs who are accountable for the actions and outcomes of their warriors have not had a matching role in decision-making. This too, needs to be corrected and their access to the political leadership must not stop at the door of the National Security Adviser or the Cabinet Secretary. Gen Singh must lead the way in reopening access to the Prime Minister for institutionalised meetings as was the practice in the past.


In the mid-1980s the triumvirate of Gen K Sundarji, Admiral R Tahiliani and Air Chief Marshal D Lafontaine functioned admirably as a tri-service entity. The Army and Air Force accepted voluntary cuts to accommodate the Navy's requirements for additional funds, such was inter-service cooperation. No opportunity was given for bureaucracy-induced discord. It was boom time for the Services and requires to be reinvented.


As the primus inter pares, Gen Singh has to help build the triumvirate of Service chiefs speaking in one voice for the greater good of the armed forces and the country.

 

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


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

THE CURSE OF STALIN

PRIYADARSI DUTTA


They say Caesar, not Stalin, dead was more powerful than alive. Yet, the Soviet demagogue, whose policies claimed the lives of 17 million Russians, took some people with him to the afterlife. Hundreds of mourners died in a stampede at Stalin's funeral on March 9, 1953. But Stalin's curse — though Communists do not entertain any supernatural beliefs — seems to be very much at work. Polish President Lech Kaczynski and members his high-profile entourage were killed as the plane carrying them crashed on its way to Katyn in Russia. In 1940, the forests of Katyn had became the Golgotha of a Christ-less Russia where 20,000 Polish officers were executed by the invading Red Army. The decree authorising the slaughter was signed by Stalin himself on March 5, 1940, which, after an unlucky 13 years, would prove to be his own fatal last. It was in 1943 that Nazi Germans, the otherwise 'mass murderers', discovered the mass grave in the forests. But till the last days of the Soviet Union, the Communist Party continued to deny the massacre.


To the Communists, all massacres and oppressive policies are the handiwork of Right-wing extremists and Fascist forces. Post-USSR Russia, like post-Ottoman Turkey, finds it extremely difficult to reconcile itself with past sins. In 2005 — the 50th year of the end of World War II —then US President George W Bush subtly denied Russia the moral high ground for liberating Europe from the Nazis. He described the Soviet domination of Eastern Europe as "one of the greatest wrongs of history". The Soviet occupation of the Baltic States, viz Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, that saw their respective national languages, national flags, and national songs being outlawed from 1940 to 1991 did no honour to the USSR.


The Communists have the most acerbic tongue in condemning Fascism, which they falsely extend to Hindu nationalism. They, however, have selective amnesia when it comes to sleeping with the enemy. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Non-Aggression Pact of 1939 divided up Eastern Europe between Germany and the USSR. Poor Poland was trapped in between and got it both from the Left and the Right. No apologies warranted Indian Stalinists?

 

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


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

 

GOVERNANCE MATTERS

MAOISTS THRIVE ON THE GOVERNMENT'S INABILITY TO PROVIDE MEANINGFUL GOVERNANCE. TO FIGHT RED TERROR, THE POLITICAL CLASS NEEDS TO CONCENTRATE ON GROUND LEVEL DELIVERY AND FORGE A CONSENSUS THAT LEFT EXTREMISM POSES A SERIOUS THREAT TO THE NATION. ANYTHING LESS WILL NOT SUFFICE

SHIKHA MUKERJEE


To get down to the brass tacks, perhaps political grandstanding was necessary. But shouldering responsibility a la "the buck stops at my desk," is not sufficient.


There has to be a process of building a consensus on what is the Maoist problem. Between all the talking heads — Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and even Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K Rosaiah running around the mulberry bush is all that is happening with sporadic attempts to launch hunts that are inefficient in rooting out the problem.

The Maoists have the capability of planning an ambush and successfully pulling it off in Sildah, Dantewada, Odisha and earlier in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and even Maharashtra. This is not romantic guerrilla tactics. It is good military tactics. While the political class waffles on about how to tackle the Maoists the tactical advantage remains with them. Finding the consensus, naming the problem and quitting the blame-game will be the first sign of a political will to establish the rule of law in India. If the Centre believes that a third of the States are Maoist-infested surely what is at stake is the rule of law itself.


The terms on which the consensus needs to be reached is not the vague articulation of the issues involved, but a specific mapping of the problem. The deliberate regression or digression into the root causes of the Maoist problem is effectively one way of avoiding facing the problem, allowing every one of the talking heads to appear to be good and benign souls, rather than effectively govern.


In other words, a consensus needs to be arrived at is what exactly do all these people think on how the Maoists are the most serious internal security threat to India. Are the Maoists a simple law and order problem? Or are they more complicated and bigger than what any single unit of the Indian federal structure can effectively handle? Are the Maoists articulating the seething discontent of the tribals? Are the Maoists articulating the ghastly failure of delivery of governance to the poorest in the most backward parts of the country? How can an estimated 15,000-strong militia take on the combined forces available to the State Governments and the Centre? Why is the combined security operation ineffective?


By the logic of what the Maoists state and therefore the description of this force as the most serious threat to internal security, the problem is not a straightforward 'law and order' problem. Contrary to what Mr Bhattacharjee claimed it to be on Friday, the Maoists are not disrupting the usual law and order situation in West Bengal. In the pockets where they operate and thankfully they do so in limited parts of West Bengal, the Maoists are not disturbing the law and order norms. They are, by their own admission, waging war and doing so by means that are beyond the limited training and capabilities of the state's police backed by the strength and training of the Central Reserve Police Force.


Mr Bhattacharjee must acknowledge as indeed must his peers that usually law and order requires to be maintained rather than established. In the present situation, which is unusual, what is now necessary to oust the Maoists and restore the first fallen brick of the larger edifice that goes by the generalisation 'normalcy'. So too must Mr Chidambaram, who is the country's Home Minister, is in overall charge of ensuring that every citizen can live with a sense of security and without fear.


Downgrading the problem to mere 'law and order' is to encourage the Maoists and those who cannot identify them as such, which tragically for West Bengal includes the leading Opposition party and its leader the Trinamool Congress and Ms Mamata Banerjee. By taking back the self-confessed Maoist sympathiser Kabir Suman, allowing him to retain his seat in the Lok Sabha, the message that has been delivered is that the Maoists have a refuge, if not within the Trinamool Congress, but certainly with political freelancers who are part of the party.

It is perfectly in order for Mr Chidambaram to ask the Communist Party of India(Marxist) and the Communist Party of India to clarify their political position vis-à-vis taking tough action against the Maoists. By that same logic, he needs to ask the Trinamool Congress and all other political parties in the Opposition-ruled States, including the Congress in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, why they should not clarify their activities in those States vis-à-vis the Maoists.


By clubbing 'development', that is the blueprint of development that has been adopted by every parliamentary political party in general even though there are specific issues of criticism, with concern for 'tribal' welfare and conservation and with law and order, what is revealed is the unwillingness of the political system to get tough. These are excuses for inaction and inefficiency.


Yes, it is true that there is an appalling and shameful absence of minimum utilities and services in the backward/tribal areas. Women have to walk miles to get water that is not strictly potable. It is equally true that the conservationist lobby that is protective of 'tribal lifestyle and culture' has barely considered these women to be the same as all other women in India. The tribal woman in order to protect a culture is required to fetch water, go into the forests to collect fire wood and eke out a hard, harsh, humiliating existence.


Yes, it is true that mining interests are involved in the equations that apply in the backward areas where the Maoists operate. It is true that there is a mining mafia in the country. It is equally true that the mining mafia has a political nexus.


These are old stories that are being recycled by cynics for their own reasons. The tribals in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh have been subjected the 'civilising' agenda for well over a century, despite their rebellions and uprisings. The missionaries civilised them and now the Maoists are doing so, after the Indian state, which includes mining companies, power utilities, other businesses, did its bit. Ex-Maoist leader also a tribal, Gurucharan Kisku summed it all up; he reportedly said: "I quit the party when I realised that it does nothing for Adivasis." The credibility of his complaint is established by his explanation: "The party is destroying this tribal system and way of life… It is following the proletariat line where distinctness is not recognised."


Kisku can demand restoration or conservation of the tribal system and way of life. But he has to acknowledge that the way of life is not what it was in its pristine form, whenever that may have been. Kisku knows, as should the political establishment, that these are not islands as in the Andamans. Contamination is the reality and the Maoists are not the best cleaning agent that can effectively do the job.


The political class needs to arrive at a consensus from which a political will ought to emerge to deal with the threat to the way of life it promises to its citizens. Flawed as that model is pampering the Maoists as the protector of tribal culture and life is not the answer. The Maoist threat is, if indeed it is recognised as, a serious one and not only to law and order. It goes beyond that. The Maoists enjoy the advantage of operating on the perpetuation of failure of governance. The Maoists seem to hold the moral high ground because the political class prefers to make deals, score points rather than get down to brass tacks.


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

 


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MALIGNING MODI

BOGUS SECULARISTS IN MEDIA DERIVE PERVERSE PLEASURE

SANDEEP B


One occasion brings immense joy, deafening sound bytes, and bounteous monetary rewards to the establishment and the whole secular brigade. Not so much the occasion as much as just one personality who has been the subject of tremendous, sustained vilification and blind adoration depending on which side of the fence you are on. No other political figure has managed to command this extraordinary level of attention — for whatever reasons — and so consistently for about 10 years in recent memory.


Mr Narendra Modi has earned the wrath of not just his political opponents but of the entire class of self-proclaimed secularists in the media, academia, and the 'intelligentsia'. Especially to the latter class, Mr Modi has become a money-spinner of sorts. Every op-ed, article, fiction, and film on the 'dreaded Hindutva phenomenon' prominently stars Mr Modi and generates enormous revenue in cash, kind and contracts. And all of this based merely on allegations that Mr Modi had a hand in the post-Godhra violence. As I had noted on this page last year ("A lie split wide open," April 22, 2009), every new investigation into the Gujarat violence has only revealed his non-complicity! However, that hasn't stopped these worthies. The so-called secular media is itself both a worthy and an outlet for like-minded worthies.


The secular media has faithfully followed Lenin's advice of political deception of "stick(ing) the convict's badge first" and then leaving the hapless opponent trying to get rid of the badge. Before the courts even got to the cases, our secular media stars had delivered their pronouncement that Mr Modi was guilty. What followed were merely repeated assertions of this 'judgement'. But that's the least of their crimes. The greatest crime is their barefaced lying. From Arundhati Roy who wrote in 2002 about ripped foetuses that were never ripped to the latest, open falsehood perpetrated by virtually most of the major media houses.


A couple of weeks ago, a prominent newspaper reported that Mr Modi was summoned by the SIT's investigation team for questioning on March 21. This was promptly picked up by other news houses and was enough to ignite wild speculation about how Mr Modi "chose to defy the summons". Which is when Mr Modi himself released a statement that nailed the canard thus: "The purveyors of untruth failed even to think that March 21 happens to be a Sunday and a public holiday… (and) did not once bother to check whether the key SIT officers, who are appointed by the Supreme Court, were present in Gujarat on March 21, 2010." (http://www.narendramodi.com/post/Baseless-allegations-are-being-leveled-to-defame-Gujarat.aspx). What followed was a deafening silence by these media worthies except a few who retracted their original, misleading report. These worthies seemed to think it was okay to abandon even basic decency and dispensed with issuing an apology. But it didn't end there.


After the SIT questioning, which actually took place on March 28, the media turned its guns on Amitabh Bachchan for agreeing to promote Gujarat Tourism. The media's sights though were still firmly fixed on Mr Narendra Modi. Bachchan responded to this criticism with a longish blog post (http://bigb.bigadda.com/?p=4890) defending his stand.


The other side of the coin shows the same media game but with a different picture: The media completely mutes Gujarat's stellar economic achievements, programmes for rural women, superb road connectivity, impressive infrastructure, and exemplary governance all under Mr Narendra Modi's chief ministership. If it does condescend to mention these, it comes with the sickening rider: What about the riots of 2002, Mr Modi?

While all this may seem like an encomium to Mr Modi, it is really a call for fairness and balance in public discourse. Which is why it is pertinent to ask some uncomfortable questions to the secular media:

 

·  Should Mr Modi keep indulging every whim of media kangaroo courts or govern the State?

 

·  Is media's hatred of Mr Modi makes it so so blind that it thinks it's okay to resort to any vile trick to revile him time and again?

 

·  Does the media even admit to the existence of judicial processes of investigation, trial, and judgement?

 

·  Most importantly, does the media recognise that a Chief Minister is a constitutionally-appointed head of a State?

But given its record, it's obvious that such questions pose no discomfort to the secular media, which believes that no device, no knavery is too low to bait Mr Modi.

 

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


THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

A SINISTER TRAP FOR MOSCOW

REPORTS ATTRIBUTING THE DAGESTAN ATTACKS AND THE MOSCOW BOMBINGS TO ILYAS KASHMIRI'S LASHKAR-AL-ZIL MUST BE VIEWED AS A DELIBERATE ATTEMPT TO PROVOKE RUSSIA INTO INJECTING ITSELF INTO THE AFPAK QUAGMIRE

SHASHI SHEKHAR


APakistani-origin Muslim American was charged last week by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for attempting to send funds to 313 Brigade chief Ilyas Kashmiri. Raja Lahrasib Khan, who is a naturalised citizen of the United States and a cab driver in Chicago, claimed to have known Ilyas Kashmiri for many years and bragged to undercover officers that he had met with Kashmiri several times and had stayed with him. The case against Khan is primarily one of sending funds and attempting to send funds to Ilyas Kashmiri. Khan is also accused of having discussed with an individual associated with Ilyas Kashmiri on preliminary plans to conduct a terror attack inside the US at a sports stadium.


The 35-page complaint filed against Khan in the US District Court of North Illinois contains transcripts of extensive conversations between Khan and undercover agents in addition to conversations between Khan and individuals based in Pakistan to whom he had wired money. The most significant revelations from the complaint are references to Ilyas Kashmiri's whereabouts. Ilyas Kashmiri whom Khan calls Lala was said to have met Khan in Miran Shah and then again in Kotli in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. There are unsubstantiated references to arms being purchased on the black market from Russia and China. There are also revelations of Ilyas Kashmiri's intentions to train individuals who can carry out terror strikes inside the US. The other significant but unsubstantiated revelation from Khan is that Ilyas Kashmiri was directly in touch with Osama bin Laden and that he is alive.


The Khan case also focusses the spotlight back on Ilyas Kashmiri who has also been described as the head of the Lashkar-al-Zil or Shadow Army.


In a curious turn of events there has been a sustained attempt over the last few days within sections of the Pakistani media to attribute indirect responsibility of the terror attacks in Russia to Ilyas Kashmiri's Lashkar-al-Zil. The attacks on the Moscow metro conducted by female suicide bombers and the attacks in Dagestan have since been claimed by the Emir of the Caliphate of Caucasus Umer Dokuv. That however has not deterred media outlets with access to Ilyas Kashmiri ascribing indirect responsibility to Al Qaeda's Lashkar-al-Zil and to training camps in Waziristan.

 

The first such report which appeared within 24 hours of the attack in the Asia Times Online quoted reliable jihadi sources and was vague in its claim of indirect responsibility. While acknowledging that the attack itself may have been planned and executed by Chechen groups, the report claimed that the female suicide bombers were in all likelihood trained in the AfPak theatre. The report was also quite specific on the corridor used by the Chechens from AfPak to Russia through Iran with the support from the Jundullah.


The second report, which appeared on April 2, 2009, is far more specific and direct on Ilyas Kashmiri's role. The report titled 'Ilyas Kashmiri strategy behind Dagestan attacks' is quite extensive in attributing responsibility to Ilyas Kashmiri's Lashkar-al-Zil for all major attacks of mass terror starting from the attack on Serena Hotel in Kabul, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and a string of attacks in Lahore and Rawalpindi, including the deadly attacks on the GHQ and the Parade Lane mosque. The report also interestingly makes a reference to Ilyas Kashmiri-sponsored 313 Brigade attack in Akhnoor in Kashmir as well as to the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The report concludes with a warning not only to Russia but also to the US and its Nato allies operating in Afghanistan. The report also has an intriguing reference to robbing of banks, financial institutions and other unconventional means of fund raising. It must be noted that there is a precedent in ransom money from high-profile kidnapping being used to fund terror attacks. Ilyas Kashmiri's associates have been accused in the kidnapping of actress Juhi Chawla's uncle and film producer Satish Anand in Pakistan.


It is clear from the last 14 terror attacks in India that the Manmohan Singh-led Government will not be provoked into military action. The same cannot be said of the Vladimir Putin regime which is known for its low tolerance for terror and for its heavy response to terror. These series of reports must be viewed as a deliberate attempt being made to provoke Russia into injecting itself into the AfPak quagmire.


A similar attempt was made to provoke India following the Pune bombing with multiple claims from inside Pakistan vying with each other to confirm that the attack was sponsored by Pakistan-based groups.


It is must be a matter of concern that Pakistan-based Islamists are playing a dangerous game by testing the threshold for tolerance against terror. India's high threshold will be under stress if the next attack is a high profile political assassination or an attack with undeniable fingerprints of the Pakistani military. The Indian security establishment must review its strategy to pre-empt these scenarios and must also be prepared to effectively deal with their aftermath should they unfortunately play out.


-- The writer, an expert on security affairs, tracks terrorism in South Asia.

 

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

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

MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

TELL US MR MODI WHO OWNS THE OTHER TEAMS

 

INDIAN Premier League ( IPL) commissioner Lalit Modi has opened a Pandora's box with his Twitter " leaks" about the ownership pattern of the Kochi IPL team. The administrators of Indian cricket must take this opportunity to come clean on the investment pattern of all the teams playing in the IPL. Cricket is followed almost like a religion in this country but the sport is, sadly, characterised by administrative and financial opacity.

 

Thus, ironically, while the country likes its cricket and its superstars, it does not necessarily know the way it is run.

 

The IPL, with its almost $ 4 billion brand value, may be the richest league in the world, but it is incumbent upon those who run it to make the league's finances as transparent as possible. Doubtless, in a tournament of its kind, the opportunities for irregular financial transactions would be enormous. Vivek Venugopal, a co- owner of the controversial Kochi IPL team, is right to ask Mr Modi to come clean on the investment patterns of the other IPL teams.

 

More often than not, IPL's administrators ( and by extension, the BCCI's) have claimed that they are not accountable to the public because they are part of a private body, and are not a government organisation.

 

This is a legally correct argument; morally and ethically, though, it falls terribly short of being one. Last October, the Supreme Court brought under the purview of the RTI accounts of even the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, a move that the sports body was opposing tooth and nail.

 

The case for the IPL is somewhat similar. It may not be a government body, but by the sheer following and patronage the game receives, it has become " public". Therefore, if it has to regain public trust, it must be open about its financial dealings.

 

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


MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

MANDARINS STILL RULE

 

IN THIS case, the cure might prove worse than the disease. The finance ministry may have managed to temporarily resolve the spat between two of the country's apex financial regulators, but the ' solution' raises more issues than it resolves. The root of the showdown lies in the fuzziness covering hybrid products like insurance- linked investment plans — which are sold as insurance but are in reality investment products— which the markets watchdog Securities and Exchange Board of India claimed fell under its purview, a stand contested by the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. These kind of differences are bound to spring up in a complex field like financial markets, where new products are constantly being evolved, which will test the borders of regulation.

 

A consultative mechanism— the High Level Coordination Committee on the financial sector— already exists. By choosing to intervene, the finance ministry has rendered the committee toothless and sent a very unhealthy signal to the markets — that our regulators are subservient to ministry mandarins.

 

It is no secret that the ministry has been batting for the creation of a ' super regulator' to which all the financial regulators will report. The decision on such a body, however, should be through widespread debate and consensus and not by effectively hamstringing your existing regulatory bodies.

 

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


MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

A STEP BACKWARD

 

THE Chief Justice of India K G Balakrishnan's letter to the prime minister, seeking an amendment in the Right to Information Act that disallows the disclosure of certain kind of information by the judiciary, is a step backward for transparency and accountability in the institution's functioning. Justice Balakrishnan's plea that amending the RTI Act is necessary to preserve the independence of the judiciary lacks any sound basis.

 

This is evident from the latest controversy involving the Supreme Court's Collegium, the appointing authority for judges. Reports suggest that two judges— including the tainted Justice P D Dinakaran— have been appointed the Chief Justice of the Sikkim High Court. The public would like to know how this happened but were the CJI to have his way, this would not be possible. An RTI query has revealed that Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is against the RTI Act being amended for the purpose. The prime minister would do well to heed her advice.

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


MAIL TODAY

INDIA IS HIGH ON THE HIT LIST

BY MANOJ JOSHI

 

THE nuclear security summit that ended today in Washington is just one element in the US' ambitious strategy to retain the centrality of nuclear weapons in its security, and at the same time minimise, if not eliminate, the danger it faces from the nuclear weapons held by other countries, " loose nukes" from some rogue state's arsenal, or a dirty bomb made from easily available nuclear materials.

 

As things stand, India would be the second country to be the target of a loose nuke or a dirty bomb. Israel, of course, would be a close competitor. But if you were to prioritise the countries by the ease with which such a horrific act of terrorism could be executed, India would, unarguably head the list.

 

The US and Israel have created elaborate shields. They may fail, but at least they will have had the comfort of believing that they did all what was possible.

 

On the other hand, India has not even been trying. It is yet to secure its land and sea border from the movement of terrorists and smugglers, and though its airports are reasonably secure, there is little or nothing being done for its sea ports.

 

Fissile

 

Whether concern for this issue is what persuaded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take time away from a somewhat full plate of crises back home and go to the US is not clear. Certainly, there is little in the actions of the government to suggest that the possibility of a dirty bomb or an illicit nuke is something that it worries about. Experts now say that the cobalt wire whose radiation has made six men seriously ill in New Delhi last week was, in all likelihood, imported as scrap. That means it came through one of the country's ports, and came through undetected. It would have been a trivial task to check such a cargo considering that the radiation would have triggered off a dosimeter, had one been there in the first place.

 

Given the high levels of security at nuclear weapons storage sites, the chances of weapons falling into the hands of the bad guys are low. In addition, most modern weapons have systems that can disable a device should it fall in wrong hands. There has been no known leakage of Indian fissile material that could be used to make weapons or even a dirty bomb. But there could always be a first time.

 

According to physicist R. Rajaraman, as of 2008, India had produced some 779 kg of weapons grade plutonium, of which 130 had been used for making weapons. In addition there was some 2,550 tonnes of spent fuel from India's unsafeguarded power plants as of 2007.

 

Dirty bombs have not been used in any terrorist incident as such. But security officials worry about the psychological and, possible actual harm caused by a conventional IED in which fissile material is packed instead of the usual nails or ball bearings. Most countries, including India, now have specific rules about disposal of medical and other devices using radioisotopes. But the scrap industry around the world often gets medical scanners, food irradiating devices and mining equipment going back to the 1970s containing radioactive metals such as cesium 137 or cobalt 60.

 

India, is a well known destination of scrap material and it does not even have a perfunctory check for radioactive contamination.

 

A match- head sized piece of cesium 137 may not do much if it touches your hand, but if it gets into your lungs, you are bound to die. By the same measure, a speck of weapons grade plutonium is enough to kill a human being.

 

The biggest threat in this context that India confronts is containerised cargo coming from abroad. The country has some 12 major and 200 minor ports. As of now there is no screening of the cargo that comes enclosed in containers. It's been four years since a decision was taken to install scanners in Indian ports.

 

Today even the big ones like Kandla do not have scanners, leave alone the smaller ports. Even physical checks are limited, given the sheer volume of traffic.

 

The customs officers or police usually open the container, peer inside, and that's about it. As it is, the IAEA's sleuths have pointed to the fact that some contaminated scrap is often smuggled inside lead- lined boxes or beer kegs to prevent their detection.

 

Scrap

 

Last February, the then Indian Navy chief Sureesh Mehta, at a seminar on maritime security, called for urgent measures to step up port security. He pointed out that nuclear materials are just one aspect of the problem. The huge containers can and many officials believe, are, being used to smuggle weapons, ammunition and explosives.

 

In 2004, ten people were killed in a scrap plant when some of the scrap, which was actually disused mortar shells, went off in a Ghaziabad steel plant. In the hue and cry thereafter, it was discovered that there were over 30 containers lying in Kandla port that had been seized by officials because the scrap contained war materials in the form of mortar shells and artillery ammunition that had been left over from the Iran- Iraq war.

 

The interlocking elements of the US plan to protect itself from the nuclear threat are contained in the proliferation security initiative and the container security initiative. The PSI is quite straightforward in that it involves the seizure of ships or aircraft carrying nuclear material.

 

The CSI is more complex. Besides screening every container entering the US, it involves American customs agents being located in foreign ports to clear cargo destined for the US.

 

Chain

 

Both the projects look reasonable at first sight, but are plainly geared at securing the US first. The PSI has clear political overtones since it appears to be targeting countries designated as " rogue" by the US. But it could land India in difficulties since one of the " rogues" happens to be Iran with whom India has to conduct significant geopolitical business. Despite its awful record, Pakistan has been handled with kid- gloves in this matter.

 

Pakistan poses a unique problem not just for the world, but India. The reaction of some Pakistanis to the Mumbai attack has shown that there are many in the country who have little sympathy for India. It is not just a matter of schadenfreude, but a positive hatred for India. In this context it is not far- fetched to imagine a scenario where a rogue official, of the A. Q. Khan variety, leaks nuclear material or, horror, a weapon, to a jehadi group.

 

The CSI is a model that India could consider because if applied to Indian ports and Indian cargos, it would directly enhance Indian security. If India can afford it, it should get its own security personnel to certify cargo traveling to Indian ports. But the least we can do is to scan every container coming into Indian ports. It is not as though the plans are not there. But they remain to be implemented.

 

In this context it is important to note that cargoes in all ports which receive imported goods must be scanned because the chain will be only as strong as its weakest link.

 

Summitry is well and good as things go.

 

But when it comes to national security, substance must always be privileged over style and symbol. The US is thinking ahead to secure itself, so should we, keeping our peculiar circumstances in mind.

 

manoj.joshi@mailtoday.in

 

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


MAIL TODAY

DECCAN BUZZ

A SRINIVASA RAO

 

GOVT MUST REVEAL WHAT CAUSED RIOTS

NORMALCY has returned to the old city of Hyderabad after two weeks of communal tension. The police completely lifted the curfew under 25 police station limits on Monday.

 

People are still wondering what had gone wrong with Hyderabad suddenly. For, there have not been any communal riots here for almost one and a half decades; the last time the city witnessed major communal clashes was after the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya. Though there have been a few instances of communal strife, the situation was brought under control within a few hours, without any need to impose curfew.

 

Since this historic city attained a global image of being a hub of information technology and got transformed into a hi- tech city, there has been a major change in the mindset of the people. The youth in the old city have become more career oriented and communal issues do not really evoke their interest. For the last few years, there have been several instances of people displaying communal harmony — of Hindus participating in Muharram processions and Muslim groups making arrangements for the supply of drinking water and food packets during Ganesh Nimajjanam ( idol immersion) celebrations.

 

So, what could have led to the communal riots in Hyderabad in the last week of March? The ruling Congress government seems to have an answer, but it has not come out in the open about it for fear of trouble within the party.

 

Hyderabad police commissioner A K Khan made it clear on day one itself that the riots were not spontaneous

and had been orchestrated by some groups with vested interests.

 

According to one theory, the riots were the result of a war of supremacy between the Majlis- e- Ittehadul Muslimeen ( MIM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party. While the MIM is trying to dominate politics in the old city, the BJP is desperately trying to regain its hold in the Hindu- dominated areas, taking advantage of the rekindled Telangana movement.

 

DURING the Miladul- Nadi celebrations, the MIM displayed its power by putting up party flags all over the old city, while the BJP and its Sangh Parivar affiliates used Sriram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti to show their strength. The removal of flags by rival groups led to communal clashes, which spread to different parts of the city, including areas in Secunderabad.

 

During investigations, the police authorities found that most of those who took part in the riots in different parts of the city were outsiders. A section of Congress leaders from Telangana alleged that the riots were the handiwork of their colleagues from Andhra and Rayalaseema regions, aimed

 

at sabotaging the process of Telangana formation in collusion with the MIM. Another section suspected that the

riots were engineered by some political groups to destabilise the Rosaiah government, indirectly pointing the accusing finger at Kadapa MP Y S Jaganmohan Reddy, who desperately wants to occupy the hot seat. Congress MP from Nizamabad Madhu Yashki Goud went on record to say it was a conspiracy similar to the one hatched against the Channa Reddy government in 1990 to remove him from power by inciting communal riots. He was obviously referring to the allegations that former chief minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy had a hand in inciting the communal riots at that time.

 

Similar views were expressed by several Congress leaders including MLA P Shankar Rao and Rajya Sabha member V Hanumantha Rao. There were also some reports that the communal riots could be the handiwork of Karnataka's BJP minister Gali Janardhan Reddy in connivance with the party forces in Andhra Pradesh. They were perhaps trying to pull down Chief Minister Rosaiah, who has been creating hurdles before the Reddy brothers' mining activity in Anantapur district bordering Bellary.

 

The truth will never come out, as the Rosaiah government has remained tight- lipped over all these reports. Now that the situation is back to normal, the police, too, are unlikely to come up with any startling revelations.

 

DECCAN CHARGERS OWNER'S STOCK UP

HECTIC lobbying has begun among Congress leaders for the Rajya Sabha elections two months away.

 

One of the strong contenders this time is media baron T Venkattram Reddy ( TVR) of the Deccan Chronicle

group. In every Rajya Sabha election, he has desperately tried for a party ticket, but failed.

 

The only time he could become an RS member was for two and a half years in the ' 90s when his father T Chandrasekhara Reddy died while serving his RS term. Last time he almost got the ticket, but his uncle and former union minister T Subbarami Reddy came in the way.

 

According to party sources, TVR is most likely to get the RS ticket this time. First, he has become a popular figure because of the Indian Premier League — he owns the Deccan Chargers team.

 

Second, his main contender Girish Sanghi, who owns the daily Vaartha , will not be vying for the RS seat this time. The Congress high command might field TVR since the party needs the support of a mediaperson in the state, sources said.

 

THERE WAS A TELUGU COG IN THE LHCWHEEL

THE collision of two proton beams in the Large Hadron Collider ( LHC) at the European Centre for Nuclear Research ( CERN) in Geneva on March 30, was a moment of pride for every scientist associated with the programme.

 

Among them was Prof Sudhakar Katta, a Telugu scientist who played an instrumental role in building the LHC. Sharing his excitement with this correspondent on phone from Geneva, Sudhakar said he was involved in the fabrication of the Compact Muon Solenoid ( CMS), one of the ultra- sensitive detectors used to monitor and photograph the collision.

 

" I have been coordinating with the CMS experiment since 2001. Our team from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research ( TIFR), Mumbai, in association with another group from Punjab University, Chandigarh, provided the required hardware support," he explained.

 

Prof Sudhakar, who graduated from Andhra Loyola College, Vijayawada, did his master's in nuclear physics from Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, before joining TIFR in 1975, where he pursued his research.He said in the latest experiment, the two counter- rotating beams of protons in the 27- km- long underground ringed particle accelerator attained the intended peak energy of 3.5 Trillion electron- Volt ( TeV) each and were successfully brought to collide against each other." In another 18 months, we will work towards achieving a collision energy of 7 TeV. We are confident of cracking the mystery of the universe one day or the other," he said.

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


MAIL TODAY

' BROKE' GOVT ASKS DDA TO FUND METRO PHASE III

BY MAIL TODAY BUREAU IN NEW DELHI

 

A CASH- STRAPPED Delhi government has asked the DDA to foot its share of bills for the Metro railway's third phase of extension.

 

The state finance minister, A. K. Walia said, the government cannot pay the money because its coffers have dried up.

 

State finance ministry officials have requested the Union urban development ministry, which is an equal partner with the state in the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation ( DMRC), to fund the Metro's third phase of extension.

 

Metro officials say planning for the expansion, in which they aim to add another 120 km to the existing rail network, is underway.

 

The state government is worried that its bad financial shape could jeopardise the plans and have shot off a letter to the urban development ministry, requesting it to fully fund the third phase.

 

The state is supposed to pay nearly Rs 2,677.50 crore over the next few years for this phase, with Rs 558 crore due this fiscal, according to Walia.

 

It now wants the Delhi Development Authority ( DDA), which the urban development ministry controls, to pay its share of the cost.

 

" We have written to the ministry explaining our financial crunch. We don't have the money required for the job," Walia said. " The DDA is the city's biggest land- owning agency," said Walia. " And each

 

government usually earns the maximum revenue through land. The DDA should give back to Delhi a share of what it earns out of the city." The DDA has not replied to Walia's letter.

 

The state is yet to pay nearly Rs 1,417 crore as its share of the expenses towards the construction of nearly 125 km of rail network that was added in Phase Two, a senior finance ministry official said. " All construction going on right now is part of the second phase, which should be complete by September." Expenses on preparing for the Commonwealth Games have punched a hole in the government's pocket, another finance department official said. " That's why we had to levy taxes worth nearly Rs. 800 crore on taxpayers in this year's budget. We are broke, our revenues have dried up," he added.

 

In the third phase, the DMRC plans a link parallel to the Ring Road from Ghazipur in east Delhi to Dhaula Kuan, and another link from Noida Sector 18 to the National Highway 8, running parallel to the Outer Ring Road.

 

To be completed by 2015, the network is expected to cost over Rs 30,000 crore.

 

RAISINA TATTLE

 

TIME TO BUCK UP

THE SOCIAL justice and empowerment ministry under Mukul Wasnik seems to be in ferment.

And his core profile as a Congress organisational man isn't the reason. Things took a curious turn a few weeks ago when a parliamentary committee pulled up the ministry's top officials for going slow on various programmes.

 

The panel was particularly upset over the poor utilisation of funds.

 

Officers now complain that the style of functioning of people at the top doesn't really match the manner in which others want to work.

 

As a result, even routine files of the ministry take a long time to move from one desk to another. Questions are being raised over how the ministry will meet the tough performance standards that the government has seemingly set.

 

FITTING REWARD

A GOOD career graph always helps an officer after superannuation. Rajni Razdan, a no- nonsense Haryana cadre IAS officer who recently retired as the secretary in the department of administrative reforms, public grievances and pensions, may soon be appointed a member of the Union Public Service Commission ( UPSC).

 

Joining the commission is a dream of many retiring bureaucrats. But only a handful land up at Dholpur House, because people from other fields are also taken in as members.

 

If Razdan indeed bags the coveted job, it will be because of her good record as a civil servant. Her stint in the personnel ministry would merely be an added qualification.

 

NO TO FACEBOOK

NANDAN Nilekani, chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India ( UIAI), is discouraging his team members from accessing Facebook and other Internet social networking sites because he feels it amounts to wasting precious time. Many senior- level officials agree with him on the issue because of his impeccable work ethics.

 

Nilekani spends considerable time in the UIAI office in New Delhi's Yojana Bhawan. On many days, he works beyond regular hours.

 

His efficiency can be gauged by the fact that his office now uses its own Internet system, which is managed, developed and implemented by the National Informatics Centre.

 

FALLOUT OF ATTACK

LAST WEEK'S Maoist attack in Dantewada may have badly hurt some retired bureaucrats and army generals, who are vying for gubernatorial assignments. For, there is a feeling in the Congress that the presence of retired intelligence bureau and defence officials in Raj Bhawans has not yielded any positive outcome in the fight against the red menace.

 

In this scenario, the party brass has started viewing veteran politicians as governors once again, instead of the retired men in uniform and babus.

 

SURVIVAL MANTRA

EXPELLED Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh and BJP's L. K. Advani are using their blogs to stay relevant. Each time, they post an entry, their faithful send out SMS alerts to the media. It's a pointer to the sharp decline in Singh and Advani's political fortunes considering that not long ago, their remarks were immediately picked by the media without any prodding from their men.

 

Another hospitalised in radiation poisoning

By Mail Today Bureau in New Delhi

 

ANOTHER person was admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( AIIMS) on Monday afternoon, taking the number of patients suffering from suspected radiation poisoning to seven.

 

It includes scrap dealer Deepak Jain, who had been admitted to the Indraprastha Apollo Hospital.

 

Deepak was the first person to show symptoms of radiation poisoning after coming in contact with a radioactive waste, Cobalt 60, in his shop in Mayapuri last month.

 

" Bablu ( 28) was admitted to the hospital on Monday. Though he is stable, his platelet count is low. Tests are

being conducted to know the exact damage he has sustained because of radiation," said Dr D. K. Sharma, medical superintendent of AIIMS. All the six patients have been kept at an isolated sterile wing as they are at a high risk of infection due to the sudden drop in immunity. The patients are being monitored by a team of experts from the departments of medicine, medical oncology, radiological oncology and haematology under the supervision of Dr A. B. Dey.

 

Doctors claim that among the six, Rajinder's condition is the most critical.

 

" Rajinder continues to have a severe low WBC ( white blood cell) count. His blood platelet count has dropped significantly.

 

He has been given six units of platelet till date," a doctor said.

 

Doctors at Apollo hospital said Deepak is also in a very critical condition and needs a bone marrow transplant.

 

His treatment is being managed in consultation with senior Bhabha Atomic Research Centre officials. " Deepak is being treated for severe burns and his bone marrow is significantly suppressed.

 

 

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


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

THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

THE RTI SPECTRE

 

Few of our public institutions foster a culture of transparency and accountability. The Right to Information (RTI) Act was enacted in 2005 to change this tradition of opacity and make governance a transparent process. The Act's been working reasonably well and has become a useful tool for a large cross-section of civil society to examine the workings of government. Since in the process institutional failings get exposed as well, there is resistance to the RTI culture from various quarters including the government.


Many public institutions that come under the ambit of the Act now want its radical edge blunted. Many state information commissions are starved of funds and personnel, which may lead to a collapse of the institution itself. Pleas to amend the Act must be seen in this context and handled with caution. As Congress president Sonia Gandhi wrote in her letter to the prime minister, "It is important that we adhere strictly to its (RTI Act) original aims and refrain from accepting or introducing changes in the legislation on the way it is implemented that would dilute its purpose." Sonia's intervention has come in the wake of a letter written by the chief justice of India (CJI) to the prime minister. The letter states that information concerning the functioning of the judiciary should be exempted from the scope of the Act to safeguard its independence.


The CJI's apprehensions about possible misuse of information of "a highly confidential and sensitive nature" are valid. But should, for example, information on in-house inquiry proceedings regarding allegations against sitting judges or appointment of judges in high court be considered sensitive and barred from the public eye? Should not the apex court be in the forefront of an initiative to make the working of public institutions transparent? The push to amend the RTI Act came first from the government itself. Last year, the government proposed amendments to the Act so that "frivolous and vexatious" applications could be discarded and disclosure of file notings exempted. The amendments failed to pass muster with state information commissioners, but they could be revived at any time.


To give teeth to the RTI legislation, the government must beef up infrastructure at the information commissions. More personnel and infrastructure must be created fast at the commissions to avoid a breakdown. There are already more than 11,000 cases pending with the Central Information Commission. The situation is worse in many states. The focus must be on a climate of openness, rather than trying to restrict the scope of the RTI Act.

 

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


THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

THAILAND'S TROUBLES

 

With the Thai election commission's recommendation that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's party be disbanded, another episode in the cycle of instability and violence that has gripped Thailand since 2006 seems to be drawing to an end. This is no guarantee of future stability, of course. Divisions in the Thai polity run too deep for that. But it does point to a positive change in the country's politics. Given that the instability was sparked by 2006's military coup which ousted then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, giving rise to the 'red shirts' his supporters whose protests are responsible for the current government's imminent downfall the army chief's declaration now that he would prefer to see the issue resolved through political rather than military means is a welcome development.


The deep schisms in Thai society that are at the root of this instability, however, will not be dealt with as easily. Thaksin's red shirts come from his rural support base. Poorer sections of society tend to see the urban and military elite as corrupt and uncaring of their problems, unlike the former prime minister with his numerous social welfare schemes. On the other hand, the 'yellow shirts' who precipitated Thaksin's downfall royalists and supporters of those urban and military elites accuse him of corruption and authoritarian rule. The fear of instability provokes entities outside the political process to intervene with a heavy hand. But as the current violence indicates, that only pushes the ball further down the road. The solution is holding fresh elections, and allowing the political process to play itself out.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

GET THAT VISION 2014

 

As India grows in power, wealth and importance, a few analysts have attempted to formalise the process of external policymaking in New Delhi. This is a change from stringing knee-jerk reactions together and calling it policy. In other large countries, such a structured process begins by writing scenarios. Scenarios are an agglomeration of outcomes of drivers. Alternate scenarios are usually the norm. Scenarios are not predictions, so a recognised vocabulary exists in this process.


In Pakistan, the drivers are the army, the fundamentalists, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the political parties, the youth bulge which is larger than India's, the stagnant economy with its downstream consequences, centrifugal forces, the United States and the resolution of the Afghan war. The outcomes of these drivers are normally arrived at after getting an expert to write a paper on each driver, and extracting alternate outcomes from that paper. This whole process was gone through in 2005 and a scenario study produced for Pakistan that has proved stunningly accurate so far. This article attempts to extend the study beyond 2010 in an admittedly truncated way to 2014. After all, Pakistan will be where it is currently situated in 2014 too.


Engaging with our neighbours requires that a strategic long-term approach be developed. Some of the drivers will clearly emerge as 'scenario-defining' drivers, which hugely influence other drivers. For instance, this article almost pre-selects the scenario-defining driver to be 'the US and the outcome of the Afghan war'. Otherwise, 2014 has no particular significance in Pakistan's life.


Scenario-defining drivers hugely influence the other drivers. Pakistan's participation at the London conference was greeted with glee among Pakistani generals and with cynicism among civil society representatives at an Indo-Pakistani conference. The normally dominant driver of Pakistan, the army, visualises its desired scenario emerging in 2014 with US help. But hopes aren't always fulfilled, and the American negotiators of 2010 are cannier, wiser and probably better prepared than they were in 1979 or 2002. The generals, in fact, think that it is 1979 all over again.


So one scenario for 2014 may be described as 'Pakistan on steroids'. In this scenario, Islamabad (Rawalpindi actually) extracts big money from the US in return for 'delivering' two big Taliban groups it had protected all these years. One of these is the Mullah Omar group. The army also guarantees continued military logistics access, and a more controlled frontier, by beating the TTP into relative submission. US money restores army prestige and power. The US only makes ineffectual noises about the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) as long as jihadi activity does not transgress subcontinental boundaries. US forces withdraw partially, save $150 billion a year to balance their own books, invigorate the US economy and win the presidential election. Pakistan's remaining drivers catch up devastatingly when US aid peters out around 2018 and no internal reforms have taken place. Pakistan runs out of steroids around 2020. It has to find a new tenant to rent the state, probably China.


In the second scenario called 'Pakistan on glucose', US intelligence establishes its own channels to Pashtun groups and cobbles together an Afghan coalition without much ISI help. Agreements with the Central Asian Republics and Russia reduce the pressure on the Pakistani logistics route. American gratitude is matched by its smaller grant under the Biden-Lugar law. The Americans then play hardball with the army to disown the LeT, stay out of the government, control the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, in return for increasing financial assistance. Pakistani behaviour is made conditional to the West convening an aid-to-Pakistan group, and investing in Pakistan. The US provides the guarantee for the Turkmeni-Afghan-Pakistan-India pipeline which triggers a partial India-Pakistan rapprochement and frees up subcontinental trade. These steps alone push up Pakistan's GDP by 1.5-2 per cent.


The tough factor in both outcomes is that the scenario defining driver lies with the US's ability to help itself, Afghanistan and Pakistan by defanging the Pakistan army's domestic role. This is no great surprise. The army is the next most important driver, and consistently plays a malign role, in all scenarios. The actual scenario could lie somewhere in between these two. The Pakistani Taliban will continue attacking the state irrespective of either scenario.


The immediate danger to India actually comes from the second scenario, as events move towards subcontinental peace. The LeT will attack India, with ISI help, to trigger Indian retaliation and pull the Pakistani army and Taliban together against a common threat. In neither scenario does Pakistan get strategic depth in Afghanistan, a ridiculous idea anyway. The danger to Jammu & Kashmir from a resumption of militant activity is naturally greater in the first scenario.


Indian policy must aim to influence strategic choices in other capitals, knowing that reality will create scenarios as defined. Whining and complaining is not policy. At the grand strategic level, Afghanistan, Pakistan or any other area is handled by creating levers with the US.


Raja Menon is retired chairman of Net Assessment in the National Security Council and Rajiv Kumar is director, ICRIER. Views expressed are personal.

 

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


TIMES OF INDIA

 

'HUMAN WASTE AND TRASH ACCUMULATING ON THE GLACIERS'

 

Steve Swenson , 56, is president of the American Alpine Club. He is currently working on a book documenting his 30 years of climbing in Kashmir in the Karakoram mountains of India, Pakistan, and China. Swenson spoke to Sudeshna Chatterjee on the threats that mountain ecosystems face:

 

What's the impact of mountaineering and high altitude tourism on mountain ecosystems?

Probably the greatest impact on the sensitive mountain environment in the Karakoram mountains between India and Pakistan in Kashmir is the result of the ongoing military conflict there. Human waste and trash is accumulating on the glaciers. These don't degrade in cold and frozen places. Abandoned military equipment and fuel spills also contribute to the problem. An international peace park has been proposed in Siachen glacier so that each army can pull back from their high altitude posts and, thereby, reduce casualties and damage to environment.

High altitude mountaineering and tourism creates problems like improper disposal of trash and human waste. Trash should be separated into material that can be burned, bio-degradable materials that can be buried such as vegetable and fruit waste, and materials that must be transported out of the mountains to a proper location for disposal such as metal cans and glass. Human waste can be properly disposed of in an earthen pit of sufficient depth, but this is a problem on glaciers. Tourists would not want to visit areas that have been heavily impacted by improper disposal of trash and human waste. Deforestation leads to soil erosion which can be quite severe given the steep topography of these areas.


What steps do you think must be taken to protect mountain ecosystems, particularly the Himalayas?

A system of monitoring and enforcement of existing regulations must be created. Countries like India, Pakistan and China already have regulations prohibiting improper disposal of trash and human waste. These problems still persist because the governments have not funded a system of monitoring or for enforcing regulations. Many of the expeditions are required to have a liaison officer, but this system is not effective in enforcing regulations as the officer often leaves the expedition early or is not trained to manage an expedition with the intention to preserve the sensitive mountain ecosystem.


You are currently working on a book documenting your years of climbing in Kashmir. How do you see the conflict there?

The situation in the Karakoram mountains along the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) is very difficult for both the Indian and Pakistani armies. Many of the outposts are at over 6,000 metres and are manned throughout the year. The winter temperatures can be as low as minus 50 degrees C and both sides suffer casualties due to frostbite, avalanches and crevasse falls, and high altitude ailments such as cerebral and pulmonary edema. Local people get caught in the conflict and are cut off from relatives who are on the other side of the LoC or AGPL. This is a complex situation that India and Pakistan needs to resolve.

Implementing ideas such as the Siachen peace park may provide some relief. If these ideas can be successfully negotiated, they might serve as a first step towards building the trust required for a broader settlement. We hope that leaders on both sides have the courage and long-term commitment to reach such agreements.

 

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


THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

PEHELE AAP, MANTRIJI

JUG SURAIYA

 

There is pressure from some sections of the public that the defence forces be brought in to take on the Naxal threat, which is fulfilling PM Manmohan Singh's prophetic pronouncement that the Maoists pose the biggest challenge to India's security, more so even than adversaries across the border. Indeed, newspapers and TV headlines have already described the confrontation between the Naxals and the Indian state as a 'war'. But whose 'war' is it, and who ought to fight it, and how?

 

That the army chief, General Vijay Kumar Singh, has said that the army should not be enlisted in this conflict indicates that there have been moves to bring the defence forces to the forefront of anti-Naxal operations. This would not only be morally wrong - an irrelevance in the vocabulary of realpolitik - but also strategically wrong. Before even thinking of calling in the army, we should spare a thought as to the nature of this 'war': who are the belligerents, and who started it?

 

According to so-called intelligence reports so-called because India's 'intelligence' agencies have seldom demonstrated that attribute in terms of information-gathering, whether it is in the context of cross-border terrorism, or in that of the long-drawn insurgencies in the north-east there are no more than some 13,000 'hardcore' Maoist cadres, spread over some 160- to 180-odd districts spanning half-a-dozen states. The rest of the so-called Naxal 'forces' consist of a ragtag bunch of villagers and tribals many of them no more than children who out of coercion rather than conviction have been made to rally around the red flag of revolt.

 

Home minister Chidambaram was confident that this motley rabble ill-equipped, untrained and unmotivated would be routed in no time. His confidence was tragically misplaced. The Maoists and their cohorts have shown themselves to be more than a match for the paramilitary forces sent out to deal with them. How is this? Could it be that the Maoists represent people who are the most dangerous people in the world: people who have nothing left to lose? CRPF personnel have complained that they are being sent to fight the Naxals without adequate food, water or medicine. But lack of all three is what the majority of people in the Naxal-infected areas have been living with for generations, thanks to a state which has remained resolutely oblivious to their most basic needs and rights.

 

Which raises the question: did the Naxals and their supporters declare 'war' against the state, or has the state been waging an undeclared 'war' on the so-called 'reds' for years? Who is responsible for the genesis of the conflict: murderous peasants and tribals, or criminal neglect on the part of state? The real battleground of this 'war' is not in the forests of Dantewada; it is in the political seats of power, in the central and state capitals. The Naxals pose a political, not a military challenge. To call out the army against them would be abdication by our political class of its constitutional responsibility in a democracy. From J&K to the north-east, our politicians have, through shameless lack of governance, created messes which the army has been left to clean up. This is as bad for our democracy as it is for the morale of the armed forces, who are forced to fight against their fellow citizens.

 

Instead of sending jawans into the badlands, why not a contingent of netas to talk to the rebels and find out exactly why they're rebelling? After all, it was the netas' neglect that created the problems in the first place.

 

Army? No way. Pehele aap, mantriji.

 

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


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

HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

IN A FEW WORDS...

 

The old order changeth and giveth way to the new. And no one is spared, not even the Bard of Avon. No longer do you have to pore over voluminous texts, wiping a surreptitious tear away as you read of the agonies of the ill-fated lovers Romeo and Juliet. The balcony over which the poor girl called out for her swain is a thing of the past for now the timeless love story is on Twitter.

Six actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) are e-improvising the playwright's classic romance by responding to each other and the e-audience through curt soliloquies of 140 characters or less using cellphones. Here, the grammatically-challenged Juliet is grumpy for not being able to tweet from school and her cousin Tybalt doesn't 'give a crap' about being late for his class while Mercutio is thinking about his plans for the evening before 'picking up' Romeo. None of that olde English discourse for them, it's a joint or two and a few down the hatch.

The RSC hails it as a step towards getting the actors and audience closer. Which means it's quite likely that in future we may hear about, say, a womanising Hamlet tweeting how "there's nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Imagine King Lear on the heath tweeting his agony over the betrayal of his daughters. The possibilities are endless. For those of us with a short attention span, the prospect of reading War and Peace on Twitter is most appealing. But then again, the three witches from Macbeth meeting on that satanic night tweeting 'when shall we three meet again…?' doesn't quite work on Twitter. We wonder when we can stop writing these lengthy editorials and Twitter them to you instead.

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

THE ATOMS OF NUCLEAR TERROR

 

As no government can oppose making atomic substances less accessible, the real accomplishment of Barack Obama's grand summit may be highlighting the threat of nuclear terror. The United States president could claim a few political laurels including the surrender, by Chile and Ukraine, of their enriched uranium stocks. But this summit was more about nuclear terror, its prospects and its prevention, than anything else.

There is a general assumption that terrorists using nuclear weapons is only a digital video phenomenon. This may be naïve. Many terrorist groups and their allies have sought out nuclear knowhow for lethal purposes. The al-Qaeda has been the most vocal about its nuclear ambitions. But almost everyone on India's most-wanted list, from Dawood Ibrahim to the leaders of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, have been associated with nuclear questing. It is a mistake to assume nuclear warhead acquisition would be a barrier too high. A primitive Hiroshima-style bomb is remarkably easy to make — getting the fissile material is the difficult part. As one study has shown, such a bomb detonated in Mumbai would kill half-a-million people and leave nearly a million more wounded or poisoned. But nuclear terrorism's most likely manifestation would be in the use of a 'dirty bomb'. In this, any radioactive substance — including waste material, low-grade medical or industrial radiological sources — is combined with a normal ordnance and exploded in a populated area. The resulting area contamination, radioactive poisoning cases and general mayhem would produce just the sort of panic and state delegitimisation that terrorists seek.

The recent cobalt-60 tragicomedy in Mayapuri, West Delhi, has shown just how ill-prepared the Indian system is for a nuclear mishap. While the Mayapuri case was an accident, it revealed two things. One, on the preventive side, there is no regulated disposal of nuclear medical and industrial equipment. Two, on the reactive side, there is no transparent system of emergency response or decontamination, no genuine resources available for nuclear victims. Preemption, the deployment of the sort of nuclear-focused military units that exist in the US or Russia, remains the stuff of fantasy. This is all the more surprising given that India's neighbour is Pakistan — the country which best matches a nuclear terror matrix of fragile government, Islamic militancy and a nuclear complex. Hopefully, in addition to communiqués, the Indian government will return from the nuclear security summit with an appreciation of what nuclear terror can mean for the country.

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

FROM THE SIDELINES

KIRAN WADHWA

 

A shadow moves across the window on the first floor. The shadow then raises a hand. Oh, God! It looks as if the shadow is going to open the window of the first floor of the Mirza home in Hyderabad.

After waiting for at least five hours in the 41-degree heat, this is the biggest moment for the 150 journalists and cameramen. The window finally opens. The tripods are set, the camera flashes. What or who is going to emerge? Sania and Shoaib in a passionate embrace? TV channels can thrive off a shot like that for the next four days. Out comes the hand of the domestic help who quickly wipes the window clean and shuts it.

In the frenzy, one cameraman loses his balance as he climbs on to the wall of the neighbouring building and falls on the other cameramen trying to climb up behind him. A lot of screaming follows until the police personnel intervene to calm them down.

For more than a week now, several crews have been stationed outside the gates of Sania's and Ayesha's homes. Apart from two press meets, these journalists have had no access to either party involved.

But they have to give live updates every hour. One local TV channel ran 'exclusive' footage of the lobby of the Taj Krishna, the hotel in which the reception will be held on April 15.

Another ran some old pictures of Shoaib dancing with some girls at an after-match party in a nightclub. The women in the pictures were circled in red and the voice-over claimed that Ayesha is not the only woman Shoaib misled, but there were several other women too. The 'misled' girls, though, seemed to be having a, well, party.

If you are feeling bad for the poor TV sods, spare a thought for the print journalists. They wait for hours along with the TV guys and trip over the various wires from all the cameras and then get yelled at for almost upsetting a tripod. They never even get a chance to ask a question at the press conference, and even those who hold the press conference don't give two hoots about them because the print media does not give them their 15 seconds of fame. They still wait for hours and get pushed around and wonder what on earth are they doing when they could just sit at home and take notes from TV updates.

The only beneficiaries from the furore are the kulfiwala, chaiwala and channawala, who reach the spot by 7 every morning and station themselves alongside with the journalists.

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

ON THE SAME PAGE

SWARAN SINGH

 

The much-hyped two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC, marked the culmination of President Barack Obama's unprecedented nuclear disarmament diplomacy.

The two-day barrage of interactions was aimed at downsizing the role of nuclear weapons and preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists. Even if belatedly, this upsurge in Obama's disarmament agenda must bring some relief to the esteemed committee that conferred the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on him, based on little else, then, than a gut feeling.

Much of the work had been accomplished way before world leaders even landed in Washington. President Obama effectively deployed the repeatedly-postponed release of the US Nuclear Posture Review and the US-Russian Prague nuclear agreement as the backdrop to engaging world leaders, having frontloaded the threat of nuclear terrorism as the most serious threat of the 21st century.

Being the biggest summit for the US since the San Francisco Conference of 1945 that set up the United Nations, this was also an opportunity for about a dozen countries (including India) to have bilateral 'mini' summits with the Obama team, regarding the proverbial bees in their bonnets.

Learning from his belated intervention in the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference last year, his advance footwork this time secured a solid show of support, leading to the mother of all photo-ops with 'friends and allies'. This, of course, meant that several problematic countries were strictly excluded from being invited. Also, the absence of the prime ministers of Australia, Britain, and Israel did not go unnoticed. But, most significantly, both Iran and North Korea were not invited though they were at the centrestage of discussions, especially on the sidelines.

Unlike his predecessors, Obama remains convinced that nuclear terrorism poses the most immediate global security threat and needs urgent initiatives. This makes N-terrorism his top priority, opening new vistas for strengthening the Indo-US partnership. For India, this global groundswell for disarmament perfectly suits its own national security priorities, and further justifies the high moral ground taken by India, commensurate with its clean record. Given that India will be absent from the five-yearly Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York next month, the summit provided Prime Minister Manmohan Singh a golden opportunity to air India's views, vision and priorities.

Continued engagement by India had ensured that discussions did not drift towards it being a non-signatory to the NPT and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). This remains especially critical as India's evolving policy stance on both these treaties is not yet concrete enough for any formal announcement or public scrutiny.

So, despite several hiccups on bilateral issues like access to David Headley, rumours about Pakistan inching towards an India-like N-deal, India's role in Afghanistan etc., the two sides broadly found themselves on the same page regarding their security and development priorities, while India stood its ground on the ineffectuality of sanctions against Iran. This comes on the heels of the recently-concluded negotiations on the reprocessing agreement from which India gets to take away better terms than even Japan or the Euratom countries.

The foreign minister is visiting the US in June, and the PM will once again share space with President Obama in Ontario at the G-20 Summit in June. Leading up to the possible visit of Michelle and Barack Obama before the end of this year, this should give our negotiators ample time to build on this high-profile, high-visibility bonhomie to bring back the momentum that had made George Bush Jr. a much-favoured US president with New Delhi.

Swaran Singh is Professor for Diplomacy & Disarmament, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi

The views expressed by the author are personal

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


HINDUSTAN TIMES

CHART A NEW COURSE

SAGARIKA GHOSE

 

The Maoist attack in Dantewada has brought out two opposing arguments. One argument focuses on a savagely unequal socio-economic reality where State neglect and exploitation have spawned a fearsome response. The other view argues that unless the State forcefully stamps out the Maoists, all attempts at addressing development are futile. Yet there is a third view, a view distinct from the noblesse oblige of a welfarist argument that places charity at its centre and the Bismarckian blood-and-iron argument of those who believe in matching militancy with militancy. And that is the argument of reform. The revolution of the poor is calling for reform from the rich. The Naxal challenge, however criminalised and politically motivated it may be, is calling to us to create a new social contract based on a partnership of the rich and the poor.

The word 'reform' so far is sadly identified with finance markets and the industrial sector. Instead, if we are to reinvigorate the idea of India, we will have to widen the definition of liberalisation to mean a liberalisation of government, police, and a liberalisation of the way we think and live. Without reforming the mind, genuine liberalisation cannot succeed. How should an elite visualise itself in a country of the poor? As cornering the benefits of real growth for themselves and throwing sacks of grain or a few threadbare alphabet books at the 'servants'? That's the attitude of zamindars, not democrats.

Certain sections of the UPA seem to visualise a poor person as a bedraggled sufferer with his hand perpetually on the voting machine. Thus he must be the constant recipient of charity and the condescending kindness of a mai-baap sarkar. The Right to Food envisages throwing sacks of grain at these hungry mouths. The Right to Education aims at pushing alphabet books at the poor, and notch up numbers enrolled in any school of whatever definition. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is providing the opportunity to create short-term earthworks and a minimum wage to tide over short-term destitution. At the heart of these schemes is a benevolent feudalism of feeding leftovers to the poor, not encouraging them to earn and aspire like the rich.

Meanwhile, newly-rich India is fast becoming a sheikhdom where the rich live in fortified castles, where spoilt brats draw up in limousines at privileged schools to get "stress-free" education and private guards ensure that there are virtually no points of contact between 'master' and 'servant' in any public arena. If India's rich and poor had different colours of skin, we would be a society of apartheid based on wealth.

A manifesto for a new India is needed. A manifesto that builds social democracy in the mind and does not simply take recourse to populist welfare measures on the one hand and police brutality on the other. Instead of flinging sacks of grain at the poor, the government must regenerate productive capacity to such an extent  that the Right to Food is replaced with the Right to Work and the Right to Employment. People like us are food secure because we have an income.

Schools are being created on similarly condescending lines. Instead of seeking to create "schools for the poor", the government should aim to create good common schools where children from all classes can attend. Plan allocations for education are still far lower than in many other countries. When the rich go to good schools and the poor to bad schools, can we call ourselves a democracy?

The UPA's charitable schemes are oddly juxtaposed with its encouragement of dynasty. Political parties should pledge that they will stamp out the perverse force of dynastic succession. Politics is the one means by which the poor can get a stake in the system, it is the unparalleled method of upward mobility. If politics becomes an oligarchy, no amount of food and education schemes will break our social apartheid.

Instead of the politics of handouts, the government should shed ideological timorousness and move to create widespread productivity and a reformed administration so that every citizen has a chance to answer his aspirations, attend a good school and get richer. Reform must be posited not as beneficial for the corporate sector but as an urgent necessity for the poor. Let the best officers journey to Dantewada to set up offices. That land acquisition should be through voluntary purchase and not by force is now universally recognised. Justice in land rights must not just be done but seen to be done. If villagers benefit dramatically from industrial projects, they will no longer support Maoists who insist only on confrontation and vetoing all projects.

But for an imaginative outreach we need a drastic reform in mindset. Let us banish the word 'servant' and the phrase 'don't-you-know-who-I-am' from our vocabulary. Police should not be a colonial conqueror, but a partner. Let policymaking seminars shift venue from New Delhi to Jagdalpur and Ranchi. Let every Indian celebrity learn how so many Hollywood stars use their celebrity status to create awareness and change. Given its divergences, the Indian nation cannot be welded by brute force but by innovative negotiation and there is need for each one of us to become part of a new national reconciliation. Only if we do can Dantewada become a true turning point for us all.

Sagarika Ghose is Senior Editor, CNN-IBN

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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


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

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DIGNITY IN RETREAT

 

Shashi Tharoor has gotten into a quarrel with Lalit Modi over the appearance of probity, and managed to lose. This could, of course, be just tremendous entertainment; except for the fact that Tharoor is no longer a private citizen, but is a minister in India's ministry of external affairs. This is now the Congress's problem. It is the UPA's problem. It is India's problem. And it is no longer clear why this government should continue to underwrite one minister's gaffes, one minister's inexplicable inability to figure out what the dignity of his job entails.

 

In this latest brouhaha, Lalit Modi, the Indian Premier League's strutting commissioner, decided to tweet that Tharoor's "friend" Sunanda Pushkar owned much of the new IPL team from Kochi, and, furthermore, what she owned was "sweat equity", usually assigned to those who have put a big deal together, as a monetary reward and inducement. Naturally, this raises worrying questions about Tharoor's personal involvement — he has in the past announced himself to be something of a friend, philosopher and guide to the Kochi bid, a disinterested mentor, if you will, seeking only a team for Kerala. He still maintains he intends to make no money off the Kochi bid, "whatever my personal relationships with any of the consortium members". There is a pattern at work here that is problematic: Shashi Tharoor continues to underestimate the level of dignity and distance that is generally expected from someone who has taken on a ministerial position. If he took the time to acclimatise to this country's politics, however flawed, he'd find that it still privileges a sense of decorum and proportion he is in breach of.

 

Tharoor accuses Modi of a "breach of all propriety in publicly raising issues relating to the composition of the consortium". It is not at all clear why these are not issues that should be publicly raised. Are not IPL clubs equivalent to corporations? Is not the ownership of our public corporations supposed to be a matter of public record, held by the registrar of companies? Indeed, Modi's detractors have seized this moment to raise questions of ownership of other teams; the air is thick with unseemly allegations. Disclosure on the ownership of all teams is necessary. Is not, in the end, the IPL underwritten by the people of India, through the government's support for its parent, the BCCI? The BCCI, too, should remember that no "confidentiality clause" should be permitted to cover private companies that are supported by special state dispensation. No team should be exempt from public scrutiny of its ownership.

 

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


INDIAN EXPRESS

 

ON THE HOUSE

 

Official posts, once established anywhere, are almost impossible to abolish. Which is why the 1986 decision of the then AIADMK-controlled Tamil Nadu legislative assembly to abolish the state legislative council was so unique. The motivation seems to have been personal — apparently AIADMK leader M.G. Ramachandran was miffed that his candidate did not make it to the state Upper House, and total abolition was his way to get back. Now, 14 years later, the DMK-controlled Tamil Nadu legislative assembly has passed a resolution reintroducing a legislative council. Is this necessarily a good thing?

 

Currently, six states in the country have an Upper House, the largest being the 100-strong Uttar Pradesh legislative council, the smallest the 36-member Jammu and Kashmir legislative council. The logic for an Upper House of Parliament — the Rajya Sabha — is sound, to provide a second tier of scrutiny for work done by the Lok Sabha. The fact that its composition largely reflects preferences of MLAs also provides a federal character to what might otherwise be centralised legislation by Parliament. Also, in a parliamentary system where the Lower House is periodically, and sometimes abruptly, dissolved, the Upper House gives legislative continuity and stability. But the federal argument does not hold for states, especially since MLAs participate in the election of MLCs. Besides, there is little evidence to suggest that the majority of states with no Upper House are any poorer in legislative functioning. There is the widespread perception that state legislative councils are parking lots for party faithful who are unelectable or have recently lost their mandate. The promise of a free bungalow in a state capital, car and other perks make for an ideal gift — all at considerable cost to the state exchequer.

 

The case for the Tamil Nadu Upper House is mired in antagonism between the AIADMK and the DMK, which has been pressing for its reintroduction since its 1986 abolition. With help from the Congress and the PMK, the DMK has finally managed to pass an assembly resolution. But can we afford the resurrection of a body that would amount to little more than an instrument for patronage?

 

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

 


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ALBERT PINTO'S MISSING ANGER

PRATAP BHANU MEHTA

 

There is a deep puzzle about our current bout of inflation. Why is there not more palpable political rage at what is, by historical standards, unconscionably high inflation? What does this say about our economic and political discourse? In days of intelligent filmmaking we used to ask of our democracy, "Albert Pinto ko gussa kyon ata hai?" But we now need to ask, "Albert Pinto ka gussa kahan gaya?" Are we deep down really more content? Or is it a sign that our democracy has artfully neutralised all protest; if so, are we sitting on a time bomb?

 

The elements of the contentment argument go something like this. Most people have been cushioned, as it were, from the full blast of inflation. NREGA, the apparent rise in rural wages outpacing inflation, largesse of various kinds like loan waivers being doled out, no real cuts in subsidies, and the after-effects of the pay commission bonanza to a large section of the middle class have made the frontal effects of inflation less serious. Not only that, all this largesse might have caused inflation, and since we are now all complicit in creating inflation, we better not complain too much, lest we be asked to pay for our sins. Certainly, many policy-makers tout this line. There may be an element of truth to this. But the degree of callousness about inflation begs for some reflection.

 

This callousness on inflation is massively underestimating the ill effects of high inflation on the poor; indeed it could single-handedly wipe out any gains the poor might have experienced. In this sense, inflation callousness is another way in which we render poverty invisible to our consciousness. But the poor in India have always adapted and been far more self-reliant than the rich. That the poor don't protest is no surprise.

 

But inflation is hurting others as well, not just through rising food prices. While the official figure for non-food inflation seems more palatable, it probably underestimates the massive inflation in two key services almost everyone consumes more: education and health. In short, even the relatively more privileged have serious ground for discontent. Why is that not finding political expression? This is where the character of our democracy comes into place.

 

In part we appear to have been hoodwinked by the diversionary tactics of the official discourse on inflation. It kept being assigned to contingent causes: global surges in energy prices, expansion in global demand, then the drought and so on. The message consistently was: "Don't worry; it is a matter of weeks." We kept drifting from one seemingly plausible cause to another. And it has taken the government appallingly long to even begin to admit that we may have a serious structural problem on our hands. In a way, the creation of three new committees on the issue, two of them interestingly headed by chief ministers, is a belated acknowledgment of what was obvious to all but the most cavalier policy-makers.

 

The weakness of the opposition is also an issue. But the opposition is not just weak in credibility; it has lost all analytical focus. Analysis by my PRS Legislative Research colleagues suggests that parliamentary debates over inflation have a formulaic quality: exactly the same arguments are made in every parliamentary session. In short, by crying wolf too often, in the same way, the opposition has no ability to articulate precisely who is to blame.

 

The third reason why anger does not find visible articulation is that in an unintended way the media diffuses protest rather than encourage it, even when it is trying to rally for a cause like inflation. This is simply because public discourse becomes one state of generalised critique and anger. When we are in a state of permanent critique, no critique in particular matters; social anger gets dissipated by being generalised.

 

Fourth, there is the delicate question of the character of the political class itself. Although the Mumbai high court recently dismissed a PIL saying it did not want to interfere in policy matters, the case made sobering reading. The Maharashtra government pays Rs 5,000 crore subsidy to food-grain based distilleries, many of which are owned by prominent politicians. Just think of this. Five thousand crore subsidy for alcohol production, in a context where the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission was worried about an additional Rs 6,000 crore for increasing food subsidy! It is also a nice nexus: the big farmers that benefit and the distillers are politicians. And if the poor complain that food prices are rising because of a supposed crisis in agriculture production, we can numb them with alcohol, produced by food-grains! And alcohol is great because it generates more excise, so more money for state schemes. A nice little circle. Which political party dare question it?

 

A similar political logic also applies to the increasing gap between wholesale and retail prices, artificially created scarcity by mismanagement of food stocks. While there may be underlying structural reasons for inflation as well, the use of technical economic discourse has also become a diversionary tactic. Imagine if poor Shivraj Patil had said that the Mumbai attack was a consequence of structural factors in the region. But essentially, this is what we are letting the current agriculture minister get away with, on an issue that is arguably of even greater national importance. Part of the inflation story may involve tackling a complicated state, trader, big farmer, corporate nexus that no one really wants to touch.

 

In part we are becoming victims of our own sophistication. In the old days, lines were clear. Government is responsible, and it better show it is so. Now, no intellectual, even on the pain of being right, could possibly say that. That is so seventies and so uncool. Better to talk of global trends, structural factors. All those matter, but the conduct of the state does as well. With government out of the picture, there is no object to fasten on. Poor old Albert Pinto's tormentors were clearly visible: he could get angry at someone. We cannot get angry at our agriculture minister, since he has given us the best circus in town; we cannot get angry at the prime minister since he understands structural factors; we cannot get angry at the Congress president since she really does care about the poor through all these schemes; we cannot really get angry at any of the chief ministers since we might find our guy complicit as well. So Albert Pinto fends for himself, precisely because everyone is too busy looking after him.

 

The writer is president, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

KANGAROO COURTS

VINAY SITAPAT

 

In the Orwellian world we live in, euphemisms aren't the province of the state alone. The one that irks me most is "People's Tribunal". You've probably seen it in newspapers — a People's Tribunal on Batla House, another on Bt brinjal. Or the recent Independent People's Tribunal held last weekend in New Delhi, meant to discuss Naxalism, tribal exploitation, and mining. To term an unofficial fact-finding body as a People's Tribunal loads it with twin meaning: popular legitimacy and a judicial format. It is these claims that need testing.

 

I'm not for a second suggesting that civil society should not gather to discuss issues or to undertake fact-finding independent of the state. After all, atrocities by the state are hard for officials, no matter how independent, to alone expose. The need for an energetic civil society is as important as, say, a free press or judiciary to keep an eye on power. But People's Tribunals don't claim to be mere signatories to a petition; a group of concerned citizens presenting their point of view. The "judgment" they deliver purports to be twice-blessed. It is sanctified by the voice of the people as well as by the rituals of law. Really?

 

Take, for instance, the word "People" — the most abused of words in our age of democracy. "Jury" members in these People's Tribunals are neither elected, nor part of a democratic system, like official judges are. The belief that a few enlightened individuals can speak for a homogenous class of People without bothering to win their vote or mobilise their feet is pure hubris. As the Maoists' People's War believes, why bother standing for elections if a noble heart and a loaded gun is all that is needed to capture power. Even if benign and well-intentioned, People's Tribunals are just as non-representative.

 

But this is a minor quibble compared to the "Tribunal" epithet attached to the proceedings. People's Tribunals claim to be parallel courts with all the paraphernalia of the judicial system — witnesses, judges and a jury who will pronounce judgments. Some, like the one last weekend, even had two retired judges as jury members.

 

World over, if there are two procedural requirements that every "court" must follow it is this: every man has a right to be heard before he is condemned, and no one can be a judge in his own court. In last weekend's People's Tribunal on Naxalism, not a single member of the proverbial "other side" was in attendance. If those indicted were marauding jawans and greedy mining companies, where was their point of view? "Witnesses" who deposed were almost uniformly in agreement with the end result of the inquiry — namely that tribals were being exploited and that Operation Green Hunt was Evil. Very few of those who deposed were seriously questioned. The few disagreements were swiftly brushed aside. There is of course the handicap that every informal tribunal suffers from: officials will almost never agree to testify. But that does not mean that diverse points of view are neither considered nor articulated.

 

I can imagine all this sounds terribly boring, but there is a reason why our judicial system has these procedural hurdles — to ensure that even the vilest of the vile are heard out, and there is the appearance of fairness. To emphasise the importance of procedure, here's a reverse example. In 2008, in response to a Supreme Court directive, a National Human Rights Commission team visited Chhattisgarh; its report found many allegations against the Salwa Judum to be untrue. This fact-finding report provoked howls of protests from human rights groups who argued that the NHRC team had visited the wrong villages, and had not heard many of the real victims. In other words, the NHRC heard only one side. How different was the Independent People's Tribunal proceedings?

 

In fact, the interim observations of the "jury", released on April 11, read like the script of the film Avatar. Tribals, the jury held, are "far more humane and committed to universally accepted values than our urban society." The jury criticised the "corporate grab of their resources" and, amongst other demands, asked that the state halt operation Green Hunt. These are not the well-researched deliberations of a genuine inquiry. It is propaganda, or put more politely, it is a joint-communiqué of like-minded people — like the press release that follows the BJP's chintan baithak or the CPM's politburo meeting. Fair enough. But if only they would honestly say so.

 

vinay.sitapati@expressindia.com

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

WAITING FOR A SUPER-REGULATOR

SHOBHANA SUBRAMANIAN

 

Round one in the unseemly quarrel between two financial regulators — the Securities and Exchange Board of India, or Sebi, and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India, or IRDA — on who should supervise ULIPs (unit-linked insurance plans), has gone to IRDA. The government has brokered a temporary truce, leaving the matter to be settled in court. But, for IRDA, it may turn out to be a case of winning a battle but losing the war.

 

The debate is whether ULIPs, which are nothing but mutual fund schemes with the added protection of an insurance cover, should be regulated by Sebi or by IRDA. Sebi, the capital markets regulator, has pointed out that the attributes of ULIPs are very different from traditional insurance products, which is correct. But barring 14 insurance companies from selling ULIPs, was — to say the least — a hasty and thoughtless move on Sebi's part, and could have created panic among millions of small investors. Regulators need to be far more restrained even if they are in the right.

 

Indeed, Sebi's claim is valid because ULIPs are essentially capital-market products since the bulk of the premium is invested in equities or stocks or fixed-income instruments such as bonds. And that's how mutual funds too are designed. The main reason why ULIPs became more popular than mutual funds was because life insurance companies were allowed to pay their agents huge commissions of anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent of the premium in the first year and almost as much in the subsequent years. Investors for their part were lured by the potential returns from the stock market and the added comfort of the term insurance policy.

 

With commissions so high, it was, and probably still is, far cheaper to buy the mutual fund element and the term policy separately. After all, the commissions are deducted from the premium paid and only the balance is allocated towards investments and the term policy. But agents have managed to convince investors otherwise. The success of ULIPs has left life insurers with large pools of premiums that have found their way into the stock markets; they're estimated to have pumped in close to Rs 60,000 crore into equities (gross) in 2009-10. In contrast, with Sebi banning entry loads on mutual funds, in August 2009, it's not surprising that they saw outflows for six or seven months thereafter. Life insurers are becoming a big force in the stock market; in a couple of years, their purchases of stocks could match the inflows of Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) who have been the dominant players so far, having bought Indian equities worth $17 billion in 2009.

 

It's a fact that ULIPs have been around for a while now and Sebi could have raised the issue earlier. Nevertheless, late or not, since ULIPs are high-risk products, similar to mutual fund schemes, Sebi has a point in saying that one needs to keep an eye on the products. But, while Sebi does have the expertise to keep track of ULIPs, since it already watches over mutual funds and could do a good job, it might also turn out to be somewhat messy since there is also an insurance component.

 

There could be a solution. The finance minister announced a Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) in February this year, expected to play the role of a "super-regulator" though the government has not said as much.

 

The FSDC could come up with common rules for similar products in the capital market. Essentially, what's needed is a team comprising members from the government, Reserve Bank of India, Sebi, IRDA, PFRDA and maybe even the Company Law Board which can together sort out controversial issues especially where there's a regulatory overlap. One such team already exists; the HLCC (high level co-ordination committee) which is chaired by the RBI governor and has representatives from all regulators. The HLCC should perhaps have been a little more alert and taken cognisance of the differences between Sebi and IRDA; after all they had surfaced some time back, and in January Sebi issued show cause notices to life insurers. Indeed the HLCC needed to have looked into the commission structures for ULIPs to ensure a level playing field for financial intermediaries: the IRDA has been more than generous to agents at the cost of investors.

 

The HLCC has remained a discussion forum and perhaps could be given executive powers because it doesn't really make sense to create one more authority — unless the government believes that the FSDC should be armed with the necessary powers and play super-regulator. It doesn't matter too much which of them, the HLCC or the FSDC, has the powers as long as nothing falls between stools. The idea, after all, is that they come up with the right solution as fast as possible. And chances that such teamwork will result in workable solutions.

 

The writer is Mumbai Resident Editor, 'The Financial Express'

 

shobhana.subramanian@expressindia.com

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHTS CHOICE

D. RAJA

 

Every year, on the 14th of April, thinkers and political activists revisit Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, and each time, return with refreshingly new ideas. Well before many of the world's nascent democracies could emerge as strong democratic countries, he contributed immensely to the establishment of a democratic polity here, laying the foundation of a democratic republic interlaced with the philosophy of liberty,that has given a true meaning to freedom. Except for a few eccentrics who use communal fanaticism to hound out any creativity, we still hold on to the values of liberty of expression, freedom of speech and above all the freedom to pursue any entrepreneurial venture. Ambedkar's birthday is not a celebration for only Dalits, tribals and the marginalised, but also for women who crave emancipation, for all those who are fighting for revolutionary change. The people owe the civil rights they access to Ambedkar. And it is not as if, one fine morning after independence. Ambedkar listed all those fundamental rights and incorporated them in the constitution: it was a hard-fought, step-by-step battle, born out of his own life experiences and sufferings that Ambedkar conceptualised the civil rights of every citizen of a nation where everybody is to be equal. But for Ambedkar the accessibility of basic necessities of life namely food, water, shelter and clothing are not the only ones that are needed to survive. It is the right to be treated as an equal, and it is the reclamation of human personality that drove him to push for the civil rights that would allow a fellow human being to be able to walk on the streets with his chin up, to enter any hotel, restaurant, barber shop, cinema hall, bus, train, to be treated as an equal. Such a concept of civil rights is the contribution made by Ambedkar to the nation.  The Constitution of India abolished untouchability and passed a law in 1955 to enforce the civil rights of all individuals, including Dalits, called the Untouchability Offences Act — later renamed the Protection of Civil Rights Act. This piece of legislation is an exquisite exposition of what constitutes civil rights, granting access to shops, places of entertainment, restaurants, processions, public conveyances, water. India never needed a Rosa Parks; the freedoms that Ambedkar stealthily integrated into the constitutional conscience of the nation came well before the March to Washington for jobs and freedom in August 1963. In our first three decades, thanks to Ambedkar, our rights used the civil rights concept of equal access. The next two decades, as a nation, we moved to the civil liberties concept, in which the state machinery chose to deny the fundamental freedoms that accrue to every one of us. Very soon, though, access rights began to be demanded by the poor, the disadvantaged and the oppressed of our country — using, now, the human rights perspective under the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act of 1989 were born of this period, an indication of the necessity to have a far more stringent law. Today Dalit human rights organisations use these laws to reassert claims to freedoms for the oppressed.   Undoubtedly the existence of the directive principles of state policy in the Constitution allowed many, including the judiciary, to push the modern-day claims of the common man to livelihood and right to life. The country would have been a far better place to live in had the directive principles — some of which Ambedkar wanted to be on par with fundamental rights in the first place — were understood by those in power. Were the realisation to dawn on us, on Ambedkar's birthday, that civil rights, civil liberties and human rights, despite their nomenclature, are yet to be realised fully, then that would be the greatest tribute we could pay to him. The nation should rededicate itself to providing a reasonable life to every citizen: education for all, employment for all, health care for all, housing and a clean and healthy environment for all. But as the country progresses along the neo-liberal paradigm of development, the oppressive state machinery and the unequal society have more brutal methods to repress demands for rights.

 

The writer is national secretary of the CPI and a Rajya Sabha MP

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE GREAT GAME FOLIO

C. RAJA MOHAN

 

CEASING FIRE

After months of sniping at Afghan President Hamid Karzai, the Obama administration is backing off this week. Waving the white flag, the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton underlined the importance of treating Karzai with a bit of respect.

 

"We frankly have to be sensitive in our own comments about President Karzai... and be mindful that he is the embodiment of sovereignty for Afghanistan", Gates said. Such common sense tends to be uncommon when an imperial capital deals with a presumed client state. A few weeks ago when President Barack Obama was flying into Kabul, his national security advisor Jim Jones ostentatiously told the accompanying US media that Karzai was being told of the visit "about now".

 

Karzai, who began to develop his options amidst the prospect of the Obama administration trying to marginalise him, hit back hard. He accused Washington of political meddling and threatened that he might even join the Taliban to defend the dignity of the Afghan nation. The White House responded by suggesting that Obama might withdraw the invitation extended to Karzai for visiting Washington next month.

 

Then followed the last straw. One Mr Peter Galbraith, an American who resigned recently from the UN mission in Afghanistan, declared that Karzai was 'unstable' and might be using narcotics.

 

That utterly irresponsible statement probably reminded Washington that it had gone too far. Hillary Clinton quickly stepped out to support Karzai. "I personally have a lot of sympathy for President Karzai and the extraordinary stress he lives under every single minute of every single day," Hillary said, recalling her days in the Clinton White House when she and her husband were under relentless political scrutiny.

 

The statements from Obama's senior cabinet members suggest that the administration has recognised that it may not have too many alternatives to Karzai. That Washington had gone so far in humiliating Karzai before pulling back underlines the perils of the current liberal hubris in Washington.

 

Americans are not the first outsiders to underestimate the intelligence of the Afghans and presume that they "own" them, just because they are currently in occupation. History tells us that it is Afghans who manipulate the outsiders.

 

KYRGYZ BASE

As political turbulence grips Kyrgyzstan, the Manas air base in the country that is accessed by American troops operating in Afghanistan is in the news. The new leaders in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, are charging Washington of letting the family members of the ousted president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, of making windfall profits in contracts to sell jet fuel to the US planes. Companies controlled by the son of the ousted president, according to US media reports, made as much as US$ 8 million a month from the fuel sales. Bakiyev's links with the US and his corruption have been part of the anger that has propelled the Bishkek rebellion a few days ago.

 

The new rulers appear to have promised Washington that they will not disturb the arrangements with the US on the Manas base, at least for the moment. Beyond the issue of corruption, the Manas air base has been part of a geopolitical jockeying between US and Russia. Moscow had resented Washington's efforts at distancing the former Soviet Republics from Russia. As Obama seeks to "reset" US relations with Russia, a political understanding on respecting Russian interests in it's "near abroad" could help Washington win support for gaining sustained access to Afghanistan from the North.

 

KAZAKH DEAL

While there is some uncertainty about the future of the Kyrgyz base, the Obama administration has reasons to cheer about accessing Afghanistan through Kazakhstan. In a meeting with Obama in Washington on Sunday, the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has agreed to let the US fly troops and weapons over its territory. This deal will open up a direct route between the US and Afghanistan through the North Pole.

 

Although there is no real substitute for the current American overland supply routes into Afghanistan through Pakistan, the northern routes through Russia and Central Asia could help complement them. If the US does consolidate its access into Afghanistan as part of a political deal with Russia, Beijing might have to think hard about its own Central Asian strategy that has relied until now on a partnership with Moscow.

 

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

FORGOTTEN FACETS

RANJANA-CHAUBE

 

When Stalin decided to shelve Lenin's democratic dream, he put Lenin's waxed body into a glass case to prove his own fidelity to Leninism. Had B. R. Ambedkar been alive today, he would have completed 12 decades of his life. He would be surprised to see the adulation that surrounds his persona today. Few political leaders have continuously grown in stature in their afterlife more than Ambedkar.

 

But he would not be happy to see it. The tragic irony surrounding this great rationalist scholar is that he has been elevated to the rank of a god by his followers, who call him a Bodhisattva, an earlier incarnation of the Buddha. By all indications, Ambedkar was an atheist. His conversion to Buddhism was an act of revolt against the caste system defining Hinduism. Remember, Buddhism was an atheist philosophy in origin. The concept of Bodhisattva was bred by the Mahayana school of Buddhism that evolved in India sometime after the Buddha's death and smacks of the Manuvadi incarnation theory. The Theravadi school prevalent in South-East India does not recognize it.

 

Some Dalit leaders have further Hinduised Ambedkar by calling him "Babasaheb". This has saved them the embarrassment of going the whole hog with Ambedkar. It is not clear whether Ms Mayawati or her mentor, Kanshi Ram, adopted Buddhism. It is not clear whether a declaration to that effect would gel with the overwhelmingly Hindu electorate they are courting.

 

The other thing that Ambedkar may have been embarrassed with would be the rampant Congress-flogging that is Mayawati's pastime. It is true that Ambedkar, in his late life, was disgusted with the Congress. But that disgust was essentially on the general plane of the Congress's failure to ameliorate the condition of the Dalits; and, on the specific question of the Congress failure to steer the Hindu Code Bill drafted by him through the Provisional Parliament.

 

Ambedkar's difference with the Congress was purely on principles. He was a responsivist like many other politicians including M.R. Jayakar and Tej Bahadur Sapru. In the election to the Constituent Assembly of India in 1946 he was the only candidate of his party, the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF), from the Legislative Assembly of Bengal. In that Assembly alone, in all British India, did the SCF have a member — and just one member. Had the Dalits had a separate electorate, like the Muslims and the Sikhs, there would certainly have been more SCF members in the provincial assemblies. It speaks of the nobility of Ambedkar's character that, he surrendered this privilege in 1932 in order to induce Gandhi to end a fast.

 

According to the requirement of proportional representation a candidate in Bengal would require three-and-a-half votes of MLAs. The SCF made an electoral pact with the Communist Party of India (CPI) that had three seats in the Assembly, for the second preference votes each of which had half the value of one vote. The second preference vote of SCF saw the CPI candidate, Somnath Lahiri, through. The three second preference votes of the CPI made for one and a half votes. It appears that two other second-preference votes were supplied by the Muslim League. After Partition the SCF member, Jogendra Nath Mondal, moved to East Bengal and joined the Muslim League-led government there.

 

After Partition, Ambedkar and the CPI member of the Constituent Assembly lost their seats. This was payback time for the Congress. From the province of Bombay, M.R. Jayakar resigned from the Constituent Assembly because of some disagreement with the Congress and, particularly, with Sardar Patel. The Congress, which had been keen on building the widest consensus around the Constitution, nominated Ambedkar to that vacancy. He won and subsequently was made chairman of the Drafting Committee.

 

He did his job well. On the final day of the work of the Constituent Assembly he expressed his profound happiness with the cooperation of the Congress.

 

ranjana.chaube@expressindia.com

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


THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

NO WAR FOR CPI

While the CPM supports the Centre's security offensive against the Maoists, the CPI, it seems, is not in favour of an all-out war against the insurgents. Although admitting that Maoists along with some "arm-chair revolutionaries" have posed a serious challenge to mainstream Communist movement, the CPI has taken a line that the Left should not join the war-mongering.

 

Interestingly, the lead editorial in CPI mouthpiece New Age says the language and phrases being used by Union ministers, particularly P. Chidambaram, is deplorable by all means and it cannot accept concepts like "waging a war" against Maoists, keeping open the option of using the army and the air force. "There is no question of waging war against our own population. It will only aggravate the situation and may lead to civil war-like situation in certain areas controlled by these forces," it says and notes that the deployment of army and paramilitary forces for long periods in disturbed areas like J&K and the Northeast have led to human rights violations resulting in further isolation of people in these areas.

 

The CPI, however, agrees with the CPM's view that Maoist insurgency cannot be fought merely as a law and order problem and it has to be dealt with politically and countered with massive developmental activities to isolate them.

 

MODI'S BOOST

The war of words between Congress and Amitabh Bachchan may have subsided, but the comrades in hindsight feel that the controversy only helped Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as it diverted the focus from his questioning by the SIT in connection with the Gujarat riots. "The Congress successfully bailed out Narendra Modi while targeting Amitabh. They think they can create embarrassment for Amitabh, and perhaps there are not far from the truth. But does it help to isolate Modi?" CPI Deputy General Secretary S. Sudhakar Reddy asks in an article in New Age.

 

Recalling Bachchan's association with Rajiv Gandhi, he says the actor was never known to be pro-BJP, but "now the Congress is trying to force him to get closer to the BJP. "Sometimes I wonder whether the Congress is shortsighted, or does it commit mistakes with a purpose, to save their political rival, the BJP? The Congress attack against Amitabh is one such step."

 

THE BUCK STOPS

Home Minister P. Chidambaram's visit to Lalgarh and his "buck stops with you" advice to Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya certainly angered the CPM. In an article in the latest edition of party mouthpiece People's Democracy, the party calls that the Home Minister's journey to Lalgarh "uneventful", noting a special helipad had to be built at Lalgarh for his "bump-free landing", at some considerable cost to the cash-strapped state government. "Well, one takes such VVIP visits in unfazed stride — and merely tightens one's belt," the article quips.

 

So what did the home minister do in Lalgarh? In the CPM's words, "well, he got out of the helicopter, cuddled a few babies in the best style of US presidential candidates on the campaign trail, had one or two good words of greetings to say to the villagers... had a smile on his face even when he listened to the villagers talking grimly of the torture tactics, arson, mayhem, kangaroo courts, and killing by sharp weapons of CPM leaders as well as workers...."

And then he told the rural masses — "who had gathered around more out of curiosity than anything else" not to romanticise the Maoists.

 

"By coming to Bengal and Lalgarh, he certainly satisfied and reassured the depleting leadership and cadreship ranks of the Pradesh Congress," it says — and, interestingly, notes that the Maoists made no efforts to cause any discomfort or mental agony to the home minister despite having called for a boycott of his visit.

 

"Unlike Buddhadeb's visit to Salboni last year, no mines were blown, no IED's were exploded, no protest marches ordered. Is the message clear politically, or what?"

 

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

 

 

 

 


 

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

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IT LOOKS UP

 

Results of IT bellwether Infosys Technologies for the quarter ended March indicate that there is a pick-up in global technology spending and outsourcing opportunities are opening up in various specialised areas. Sequentially, the company's net profit grew by 2.6% and revenue by 3.5%, and it expects a revenue growth of 16-18% in dollar terms in FY11. The company has been able to maintain margins in one of the toughest years for the global software industry and added 47 new clients in the quarter ended March, as compared to 37 in the same quarter last year. Most notable is the fact that it added six new clients in the $100 million-plus bracket and execution excellence resulted in a higher share of repeat business at 95.4%. Interestingly, the company also saw 5.9% growth in its banking and financial services sequentially, reinforcing the fact that as companies in the West come out of the recession, they will have to increasingly look at outsourcing IT-related work to countries like India to save costs and redeploy funds for research and development activities. In fact, a recent Forrester Research report says that globally information and communication technology spending, which includes computer and network equipment purchases, will grow 7.7% this year from an estimated $1.46 trillion in 2009. The report highlights that companies will increase discretionary spending to make up for delayed orders during last year.

 

Of course, pricing pressure would continue this year, and companies will have to invest in training and retaining talent as attrition will grow as the industry recovers. It is noteworthy that Infosys has trained over two million person-days this year, and has filed eight patent applications in India and the US during the quarter ended March this year. Going forward, the next leap for the Indian IT industry has to come from solving complex business problems of clients and not just executing low-cost outsourcing projects. Currently, foreign software companies get mission-critical assignments, which involve getting to the core of the business problem, deciding the IT strategy, building the application and then managing them. That is the market Indian companies will have to focus on and invest in. Indian software companies will also have to look at new patented products to move up the value chain. The recovery in IT's fortunes should, therefore, be a reason to strive for the next level rather than to simply rest on the laurels of what may be a steadily eroding advantage in the lower value-added part of the global value chain.

 

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


FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INDUSTRIOUS PERFORMANCE

 

The 10.1% growth in the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) over the first 11 months of 2008-09 (for which data is now available) indicates that industrial growth in FY09 will be the highest in the last three years. Quarterly trends show that growth continues to accelerate impressively from 3.8% to 9% and 13.4% in the first three quarters to a still higher 15.9% in the first two months of the last quarter. But a sustained acceleration of this pick-up in the next fiscal year would require a significant correction of the sharply skewed growth rate in the different segments of industry. The sector that registered the highest gains in the first 11 months of FY09 was intermediate goods, where growth picked up by 16 percentage points to 13.7%, primarily on account of the performance in important areas like rubber, petroleum, plastic and coal products, wood products and auto ancillaries. The next best performance over the same 11 months was in the investment or capital goods sector, where growth almost doubled to 18.2%, mainly on account of a substantial expansion in the machinery and transport equipment segments. This huge surge in investment demand, which is important for sustaining growth in the medium term, is highlighted by the acceleration in quarterly growth rates from 2% in the first quarter to 50% in the first two months of the last quarter. However, the improvement in the growth of the basic goods sectors over the first 11 months of FY09 has lagged, with growth picking up by only 4 percentage points to 6.7%. This was mainly because of the poor performance in important areas like basic metals, where growth improved by only a few decimal points.

 

The consumption goods segment, which accounts for more than a quarter of the total output, has been the only real laggard with growth picking up by 2 percentage points to 7.1% in the first 11 months of FY09. But what is striking here is the highly skewed growth in its two sub-segments. While growth in consumer durable goods like cars and white goods picked up sharply by 21.4 percentage points to 25.5%, that of the consumer non-durables or items of daily consumption decelerated sharply to 1.3%. One explanation for these divergent trends is the squeeze on earnings of the low-income groups, partly on account of the slack demand in the rural sector. This, in turn, can be traced to the poor performance of agriculture, as well as the more extensive shrinking of real incomes due to soaring food prices. So, sustaining and building on the current industrial recovery would require a further boost to investments and consumer demand by simultaneously controlling interest rate increases and dousing inflation. What would also help is a good monsoon, which would give a real boost to the rural sector.

 

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


FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHAT'S ON SUBBARAO'S MIND
MK VENU


RBI has many things to worry about as it prepares to unveil its credit policy statement next week. The mood in RBI appears to be this—there is a need to quickly tighten monetary policy to reach a neutral position. The central bank has conducted wide consultations and it appears an overwhelming majority of market players and economists have endorsed the thinking that the problem of generalised inflation needs to be attacked before it gets too late. This could entail a reasonably sharp hike in the cash reserve ratio of banks as well as a tightening of the short-term policy rates. The market is already reflecting this in the government bond prices. The benchmark 10-year bond yield went above the 8%-mark last

 

Friday as the government came out with its first auction. The Rs 5,000-crore bond issue could not be fully subscribed, as there was nervousness among banks about liquidity tightening in the future.

 

The market, therefore, is clearly indicating what RBI might do next week in its quarterly policy statement. With inflation, in general, not showing any signs of abating, RBI is particularly worried that food inflation is not coming down as was projected earlier, in spite of a bumper rabi harvest. It may be recalled that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had made a statement last month expressing optimism about food prices gradually coming down after the rabi harvest. When this did not happen, Manmohan Singh decided to set up a Centre-state mechanism last week to tackle food prices by improving supply administration. More so, RBI's internal analysis shows that until last November food items contributed to nearly 100% of the rise in the wholesale price index (WPI). However, in recent times non-food items are contributing close to 50% of the rise in the WPI.

 

The other big concern for RBI flows from the unusual rise in asset prices over the past six months or so, fuelled largely by excess liquidity in the system. Most central bankers in the world kept easy liquidity conditions during 2009 to fuel a faster recovery. However, the easy liquidity largely ended in driving up existing asset prices, without creating any new productive assets. In India, too, private investment growth was hardly visible in 2009, which was clearly reflected in bank credit growth at single-digits. Consequently, a lot of liquidity in the domestic system, later compounded by a recovery in the foreign capital inflows, may have created new asset bubbles. RBI has studied the real estate prices in several cities recently and found evidence of potential real estate bubbles. The recent auction of a 19th floor duplex flat in Worli for Rs 37 crore was described as madness by the head of a global property consultancy. An RBI internal study shows the makings of a bubble even in other cities like Hyderabad, Bangalore, etc. The real estate prices around smaller state capitals like Jaipur, Lucknow, etc, too, have not come down in the past year, following the global crises.

 

In retrospect, it might have been a big mistake on the part of banks to have bailed out the big real estate players after the 2008-end market crash. The banks, by giving real estate companies financial succour, ensured that the price of real estate did not normalise enough downward. Needless to say, this decision was largely influenced by the 'politician-real estate baron' nexus.

 

Now it is coming back to haunt all of us. The one big consensus shift after the global financial crises was that monetary policy must sharply address asset prices, such as that of real estate. So this time around, real estate is very much on RBI's agenda.

 

The other serious worry for RBI relates to how it will manage the exchange rate in view of the increasing surge of capital flows into India searching for higher returns. India may well enter into another phase of liquidity deluge, as it did between 2005 and 2007. If the OECD economies get stuck in a sub-par growth trap and India resumes its 8.5% GDP growth rate, another tide of global capital will hit our shores. RBI is worried that this could create further surge of liquidity in the system at a time when it is trying to suck out excess money. RBI will also be internally under pressure not to allow the rupee to appreciate beyond what it sees as a fair exchange rate that is beneficial to the overall economy. This remains a subjective call as some sectors make more noise than others when the exchange rate moves sharply.

 

In this context, RBI had prepared a report, which the government was to share with the US treasury secretary. In

this report, the central bank expressed deep concern over the prospect of India appreciating its currency based on its largely market-determined exchange rate policy while China continues to maintain a fixed exchange peg. The Chinese currency is seen as undervalued by at least 40% by various experts. Assuming that the rupee is fairly valued at the current exchange rate, Indian exports are already suffering a big disadvantage vis-à-vis China. This situation will only exacerbate if the rupee appreciates by another 10% to 15% over the next few months on account of heavy capital flows, even as the Chinese currency remains pegged. Among other things, this is a top-of-the-mind issue for RBI.

 

mk.venu@expressindia.com

 

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


FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

INFY GIVES GOOD GUIDANCE

DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR


There is a certain predictability about Infosys results, yet there is much expectation around it. April is the first month of a new financial year and the IT industry is just coming out of recession. So, there was an air of apprehension surrounding the annual results, but knowing Infosys, many knew what to expect.

 

Much to the relief of those who watch the industry closely, and much in line with expectations, the IT behemoth guided for a 16-18% revenue growth in dollar terms (between $5.57-$5.67 billion). The numbers are a good indicator of a more stable pricing environment and greater flow of orders. This is a sure sign of recovery unless, as CEO Kris Gopalakrishnan said, there is something more to it than meets the eye.

 

This has cleared the air of any residual uncertainty prevailing in the market. While Infosys may not have pleased a few analysts with a guidance of 9-11% growth in rupee terms, it has to be noted that the dollar guidance is what matters globally.

 

Factors surrounding the currency had posed a big challenge for the IT major this time. The rupee appreciated by about 6% and analysts believe that this led to the conservative guidance in rupee terms. Infosys also had to factor in the proposed compensation hike. It is increasing wages of senior management by around 10%, middle to lower rung by around 13-17% and average offshore wages will go up by about 14%. Outside India, the company is planning to introduce a wage hike of 2-3%. Effective tax rates are also moving north to around 25% in FY11. So there is pressure on margins, but, overall, Infosys has estimated that the net impact on margins will be around 150 basis points.

 

Apart from the revival of the banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI) sector (which contributes more than 40% of the total revenues of most tier-I IT players in India), a highlight this time has been the gradual awakening of the manufacturing vertical. The Infosys management team spoke specifically about the vertical, and that's great news for the sector as a whole. While BFSI grew by 5.9%, manufacturing stunned the experts by growing 10.2% quarter-on-quarter. Its revenues from North America grew by 4.4% and that from Europe grew by 7.9%, underlining the global financial recovery. Europe's performance is especially heart-warming and analysts believe that it is a sign of things to come. Infosys's strategy is to eventually have a geographic revenue mix of 40:40:20 across the US, Europe and the rest of the world.

 

A few analysts that FE spoke to were a little critical stating that Infosys could have guided close to 20% growth, but it is not in the company's nature to be aggressive. It has always believed in the policy of safety first and hence the conservative minds at Infosys have given out an 18% growth rate at the higher end of the band. Still, it's something to cheer for. With Infosys, people are not easily satisfied and hard-nosed analysts often set high standards for the company and hence it is quite stunning how the company manages to almost always live up to expectations.

 

This has been a great year for Infosys. There has been an upgrade in the analysts' estimates every quarter and it has managed to round off the fiscal quite well. Its revenue numbers are ahead of expectations and it has managed to exploit the macro-economic environment without seeming to try too hard. On a full year term, the company's net profit moved up to Rs 6,219 crore while the top line moved further by 4.8% to Rs 22,742 crore, prompting Kris Gopalakrishnan to comment that the IT sector is on a recovery curve. Infosys closed five large deals in the last quarter, two of them worth more than $150 million. The previous quarter, the company did not see any deal worth more than $100 million. This is yet another indicator of the improved situation. Infosys's revenues in the transformational space have gone up 23-26%. Its revenue from application development and maintenance has come down and revenue in system integration and infrastructure has gone up.

 

Infosys's strong showing in the quarter, and the financial year as a whole, has already raised visions of an outstanding IT results season. The only real concern is the cross-currency movement, which threatens to throw a few things out of gear, especially for tier-II and tier-III IT firms. The rupee volatility is a big concern for IT players. One saw the rupee surging to 52, then sliding to under 40, then climbing back to 50, and now at 44.50. This is bound to hurt a few companies down the pecking order, but the big ones will sail through.

 

dj.hector@expressindia.com

 

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


FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CLEANING UP EMISSIONS

JAYA JUMRANI


At the beginning of this month, India moved towards more environment-friendly vehicles, outstripping Europe in terms of the number of years taken to move up to Euro-IV norms. India took only 14 years to achieve what Europe (currently at Euro-V) did in 22 years. India's achievement has not been a cakewalk. It has involved huge investments (worth Rs 97,000 crore) undertaken by the auto and oil companies in refinery and logistics management.

 

Automakers have graduated towards stricter fuel emission standards, forcing vehicles to use fuels with lower levels of sulphur and benzene—the main culprits behind fuel pollution. The new fuel, Bharat Stage-IV (BS-IV), is expected to cut emissions by half and limit its sulphur content to 50 ppm in diesel and petrol, from 350 ppm and 150 ppm, respectively, in Bharat Stage-III (BS-III) fuel. BS-IV—the local version of Euro-IV—diesel and petrol is now being sold in 13 cities. As per the auto fuel policy, the government was expected to bring in BS-III fuel to the rest of the country by April 1, 2010. But inadequate supply by the refining companies has proven to be the key hurdle. The companies quoted high costs of modernising decades-old refineries as the main reason for their inability to meet BS-III fuel demand. So, they asked the petroleum ministry to reschedule the introduction of the fuel from April 1 to October 1.

 

The ministry, as recently reported by FE, said that retailers have already started supplying BS-III fuel in Goa and it will also be made available in three other states by the end of this month. The ministry affirmed that it is all set to cover more than half the country by June 30. The transport ministry, the implementing body for fuel standards, was also asked to adhere to the petroleum ministry's schedule for BS III/IV. This is a move in the right direction because it will help the industry save itself from the creation of an inventory glut of unsold BS-II vehicles that would have added to the country's already severe pollution problem. The government should make certain that all standards are implemented with utmost urgency to meet our emission reduction objectives. Simultaneously, it should work towards the post-2010 roadmap and set the timeline for BS V/VI emissions standards. These will assist the oil companies to plan in advance, ensuring that they don't repeat their mistakes.

 

jaya.jumrani@expressindia.com

 

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


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

THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

PROTECT ARCHAEOLOGY

 

The ongoing excavation of the 2300-year old Avenue of Sphinxes in Luxor, Egypt is an instructive example of what can go wrong when short-term tourism interests set the agenda for archaeology. Since the 5th century CE, the 2.7 km-long processional route connecting the two ancient temples in Luxor fell into disuse. It was later buried under the silt and today most parts of this route run beneath the thickly populated old city. Since the 'Pharonic heritage' is a major attraction for the international tourist circuit and brings in a lot of revenue, Egyptian authorities have gone all out to exploit it, unmindful of the consequences. Sound archaeological principles have been sacrificed. Bulldozers tore down many later-period — but no less valuable — heritage structures and razed the old bazaar, displacing hundreds of people. As the larger plans reveal, the emphasis is on building more five-star hotels, IMAX-theatres, golf courses, and a monorail to take tourists to various historical sites. The vibrant old city of Luxor, one of the wonders of the ancient world, is at risk of being converted into a stage-managed theme park catering to a floating population of tourists.

 

India has its own share of misplaced projects such as the attempted eviction of vendors from the bazaar near the Virupaksha temple in Hampi. Equally worrisome are ill-conceived ventures such as the proposed theme parks in Hampi or the demolition of modern buildings in Jaipur city to put up structures that look like old ones. Archaeology is a serious scientific pursuit and cannot be treated as Lego blocks to build a make-believe Disney world. It may have social obligations to meet, but that is no excuse to compel it to serve casual visitors or compromise its research agenda. When historical sites are purged of the related associations, isolated from the immediate context, and alienated from the local communities, their archaeological future is likely to be jeopardised. It is a disservice to the serious tourist who travels in order to perceive the difference and looks forward to an enriching cultural experience. Policymakers must heed the call of the World Tourism Organisation, a specialised agency of the United Nations, to pay more attention to the social and cultural dimensions of tourism. There is no dearth of tools to evaluate the impact, measure the capacity of the local community to bear it, and find the 'limits for acceptable change.' What is required is a commitment to an integrated approach that abides by the rules, disciplines, and norms of an exciting field of knowledge, accommodates the needs of the people around the heritage sites, and harvests the economic benefits of tourism responsibly.

 

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


THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LANDMARK JUDGMENT

 

Who owns your genes? Among others, medical diagnostics companies, which — in certain cases, along with universities — exercise tight control over them. Nearly 20 per cent of the human genome is already patented. But in a recent landmark judgment, Robert Sweet, a senior U.S. federal judge who serves on the United States District for the Southern District of New York, invalidated seven of the 23 patents on two genes — BRCA1 and BRCA2. In 2008, the Myriad Genetics won a protracted battle to retain some European patents on BRCA1; the scope of the patents was reduced to cover only certain mutations. The two genes are commonly tested for mutations to determine the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. The Utah-based Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation hold the patents. Though patents cannot be granted to 'products of nature,' thousands of genes have been patented on the ground that isolated and purified genes are distinctly different in character and composition from those present in our body. Significantly, the invalidation of Myriad's patents has come on the basis of the very arguments the company's counterparts had put forth earlier in defence of gene patents. What is laudable is Judge Sweet's brilliant assessment of scientific facts to invalidate every claim of the company. For instance, he refused to accept that isolated and purified genes are structurally and compositionally different from those occurring in the body. The verdict also summarily rejects as "erroneous" the premise that isolated DNA molecules are like any other chemical compound.

 

Judge Sweet's ruling will have great implications if it is upheld by the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The district court's decision will not be binding on other federal courts, and the decision will not automatically extend to all U.S. gene patents. Yet there is a real possibility of more pleas coming up before courts for invalidating many gene patents . Exclusive licences, with some exceptions, are a great barrier to fostering research. There is no incentive to make diagnostic tests cheaper either; Myriad charges about $3,000 to sequence the two genes to look for cancer-causing mutations. The fact that 10-15 per cent of all inheritable breast and ovarian cancers have a mutation in these two genes, and about 5,000 new cases of both cancers are detected every year in the European Union makes a strong case against exclusive licences. The National Institutes of Health encourages non-exclusive licences for gene diagnostics. This currently provides a standard for NIH employees, and may soon become applicable to those receiving NIH grants.

 

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

 

THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

PAKISTAN: PERCEPTIONS, PREJUDICES & POLICIES

PAKISTAN IS NOT AT ALL UNHAPPY WITH THE PRESENT SITUATION; IF TALKS TAKE PLACE, IT WINS, IF THEY DON'T, INDIA IS ON THE DEFENSIVE.

CHINMAYA R. GHAREKHAN

 

A three-day visit to Islamabad to attend a conference, in which some influential Pakistani opinion-makers participated, was useful in understanding some of the perceptions, prejudices and policies of that country.

 

Not having had the opportunity to converse with that universal barometer of public opinion, the taxi driver — since transport was graciously arranged by the hosts — one was forced to draw such conclusions as one could from watching television. (Security considerations also ruled out moving about freely.) The electronic medium is vibrant there, with close to 50 television channels competing for ratings and advertising revenues. (Geo T.V. owned by the Jang group is way ahead of its rivals.) Going by that, three issues seemed to preoccupy the people of Pakistan — the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the Sania Mirza-Shoaib Malik drama, and inflation, which would include severe shortage of electricity and corruption, in other words the problem of governance. On all the domestic matters, civic society appears to be very active.

 

The 18th Amendment does not expressly take away the President's powers to appoint services chiefs. He will retain this function, but will have to exercise it on the advice of the Prime Minister. One of the provisions will restore the term of office of the services chiefs to four years as used to be the case. While General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani is widely, almost universally, expected to get an extension, it would become academic since he would, in any case, be entitled to a full four-year term in terms of the 18th Amendment — in other words, one more year in office beyond November.

 

There are no doubt sections in Pakistan which genuinely desire good-neighbourly relations with India. One respected economist openly advocated Pakistan linking its markets to the Indian and Chinese economies as a sure way of pulling the country out of its present two-and-a-half per cent growth rate. We were asked to believe that the civilian government, which has outstanding achievements to its credit, such as the 18th Amendment, and the award of the Federal Finance Commission, has gained respect and credibility and is functioning independently; the army does not call the shots, we were assured.

 

Three issues dominate the India-Pakistan discourse — Kashmir, water and Afghanistan. On the way from the airport to the city, a square is named 'Kashmir Chowk.' There is a sign: Srinagar 380 km. Water is now raised to the same level of importance as, perhaps even more than, Kashmir. Afghanistan, the Pakistanis insist, is best left to Pakistan, and to the Afghans of course; India should not want a role there. At the least, it should not permit its consulates to carry out subversive activities in Balochistan. Some people, who would certainly know better, place the number of Indian consulates in Afghanistan at 12! (The actual number is four and they have been functioning since 1949.) Incidentally, there are about 60,000 Pakistani workers in Afghanistan as opposed to around 4,000 from India.

 

On terrorism, the refrain is: the whole country sympathised with India after 26/11 which Pakistan condemned unequivocally but India is overdoing 'coercive diplomacy.' Civil society in Pakistan, which was fully behind India after the Mumbai attack, is now thoroughly disenchanted with India and is fully behind the Pakistani army. The army has re-established its credibility with the people after its determined campaign to defeat the Pakistan Taliban.

 

Water is definitely the new issue for Pakistan's propaganda machine. There is water scarcity in the country, but it is entirely — not largely — the result of mismanagement. There are inter-province disputes, with the Sindh complaining about Punjab not leaving enough water for the Sindhis. The storage capacity is highly inadequate and agriculture is inefficient, more so than in India. No less a person than Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi himself publicly admitted that nearly 40 million acre feet of water goes to the sea for want of storage capacity and that India is not to blame for this state of affairs; his remark was blanked out in the Pakistani media. The print and electronic media ceaselessly churn out stories of India stealing Pakistan's water, building hundreds of dams, destroying ecology in PoK, etc. Hafiz Saeed openly calls for a water jihad. President Asif Ali Zardari, in his address to the opening session of Parliament on April 5 mentioned water ahead of Kashmir, but he was careful to add that the issue should be dealt with within the framework of the Indus Water Treaty; he knows that the Treaty is more generous to Pakistan than to India.

 

This is not the space to go into the details of the water issue. But the fact is Pakistan is doing everything to blow it out of proportion as well as internationalise it, though with limited success so far. Water may soon become an emotive issue for the people of Pakistan, in which case all kinds of negative consequences might follow. India must prepare for this contingency. We have a solid case which needs explaining to our own people, especially in Kashmir, as also the people of Pakistan. Our High Commissioner in Islamabad is fully cognisant of the potential for mischief and is doing what he can. We need to think of innovative ways to explain the facts to the two publics in order to prevent and pre-empt the issue from acquiring menacing dimensions.

 

All is not 'hunky-dory' between Pakistan and Hamid Karzai, despite the Afghan President describing the two countries as conjoined twins. The Taliban, which Mr. Karzai wants integrated, is not the one Pakistan prefers. It seems Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who landed up in Kabul without an invitation, is laying down conditions which Mr. Karzai is in no mood to even consider, such as new presidential and parliamentary elections and the pullout of American and Nato forces within six months. It is obvious that the relations between the Taliban and Pakistan deteriorated during the period immediately preceding and following 9/11. This is described in detail in Mullah Zaeef's book My life with the Taliban. Zaeef uses some 'choice' words to describe his feelings towards Pakistan. Pakistan would like to use its influence with the Taliban's senior leadership in the process of reconciliation and reintegration, whereas the U.S. wants to persuade the foot soldiers and lower levels of the Taliban to switch loyalties. There is some scope for serious differences between Pakistan and the U.S. on this score though we in India ought not to bank too much on them. Pakistan continues to be indispensable to Barack Obama's objectives in Afghanistan; he knows it and Pakistan knows it. Islamabad may not be very successful in using this leverage to persuade Washington to pressure New Delhi on India-Pakistan issues, but it will not be for want of trying.

 

At the conclusion of the Foreign Secretary-level talks on February 25, Pakistan's official position was that it was not desperate for talks. It is taking full advantage of the perception in both countries that India is, if not desperate, quite keen on talks. This writer's hunch is that Pakistan is not at all unhappy with the present situation; if talks take place, Pakistan wins, if they don't, India is on the defensive. On balance, we should indicate our willingness to schedule another Secretary-level round, but not in a hurry and certainly not in a time-bound framework dictated by the timing of SAARC or other multilateral meetings. At the same time, we must not fight shy of discussing any subject Pakistan may wish to raise, including Kashmir. Let it elaborate its views on Kashmir. We can easily do the same, refuting its position. The only subject we must not discuss — as distinct from not allowing it to be mentioned — is water, which should be discussed only in the framework of the Indus Treaty.

 

A word on Track II. These dialogues can be useful, provided they are used to talk candidly about everything that divides us, and not just to mouth 'the same people, same culture' sentiment, etc. We ought not to be concerned if the conversation, at times, gets frosty or even contentious. Only such a dialogue would serve to create a better understanding between the two peoples.

 

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


THE HINDU

MODERN" TORIES ARE A ONE-MAN BAND, SAY VOTERS

HASAN SUROOR

 

When the Tories start disowning Margaret Thatcher and take to quoting Gandhi, as David Cameron did last week to pep up his party's election campaign, you can tell they are in trouble and desperate. And it is easy to see why.

 

Three weeks before an election that only a few months ago was theirs to lose the Tories are suddenly looking vulnerable. Despite a minor surge in their poll lead last week on the back of Labour's own goal in the form of an ill-timed announcement to raise the National Insurance contribution, the smart money is still on a hung Parliament.

 

While there is no doubt that public mood is in favour of a change after 13 years of uninterrupted Labour rule, not enough people are sure that the Tories are the "change" they want. And it is not a question of convincing just a few hundred or thousand voters. What the Tories need in order to win just a simple outright majority is a national swing of nearly seven per cent which means taking away some 117 seats from Labour and the Liberal Democrats — a feat that its own best friends liken to pulling off an electoral coup.

 

"No Conservative leader since 1945 has pulled off such an electoral coup — Margaret Thatcher scored only a 5.3 per cent swing in 1979. If he repeats Mrs. Thatcher's success, Mr. Cameron will only just lead the biggest party in Parliament," according to the Daily Telegraph.

 

The problem is that too many people still have bitter memories of the Thatcher-Major era and despite Mr. Cameron's efforts to take the party into the 21st century, its image as the "nasty party" (exclusivist, homophobic, pro-rich, anti-Europe, anti-immigrant) continues to linger. And, every time he thinks he has succeeded in rebranding it as a progressive and modern party, someone within his own ranks goes off- message reinforcing the perception that Tories will never change. This happened again last week when no less a figure than the shadow home secretary Chris Grayling (the man who would be Britain's Home Secretary in the event of a Tory victory) let off a whiff of homophobia by publicly supporting the owners of a bed-and-breakfast establishment who had refused to give a room to a gay couple in clear breach of equality laws.

 

It immediately reminded people of the Tories' long history of anti-gay prejudice ; and although an embarrassed leadership quickly stepped in to defuse the row few were convinced that Mr. Grayling's remarks were simply a "gaffe," Gay rights groups, who have become increasingly vocal of late, were incandescent saying that the episode confirmed what they always suspected: that beneath those shiny new clothes the emperor was naked. There is a significant "pink" vote up for grabs in these elections and Tories are clearly worried that the Grayling episode might prove costly for them. The backlash has already begun. A group of young volunteers who had been campaigning for Tories are now planning to switch support to Labour.

 

Not surprisingly, an operation "damage limitation" is in full swing. First there were anonymous anti-Grayling briefings suggesting that the boss was extremely angry over his remarks and he may no longer be in line for the Home Secretary's post in a Tory government. And then Mr. Cameron wrote an article in Pink News reiterating his party's "commitment" to gay rights and assuring the gay community that (notwithstanding what Mr. Grayling thought of it) there "will be no going back on equality legislation if the Conservative Party is elected."

 

To further mollify them, he threw in a bonus: he promised that his government would go so far as to apply the equality legislation retrospectively so that anyone who had conviction going back to the days when homosexuality was a criminal offence would have their conviction quashed.

"This is a question of justice and it's right that we should change the law and wipe the slate clean," he declared.

 

No matter what Mr. Cameron says or does, the truth is that at its core the Tory party remains fundamentally status-quoist and keeps retreating into its old comfort zone (no immigrants, single mothers, or homosexuals allowed). This leaves the "modernising" Mr. Cameron, effectively, a one-man band. If he is really serious about winning the elections then the first thing he will need to do is to tame the "enemy within" and keep his flock on a tight leash at least until the polling day.

 

Meanwhile, in a further attempt to burnish his 'new Tory' credentials, he promised to roll back Margaret Thatcher's "divisive" legacy; and then, in a move that must have made Churchill turn in his grave, he summoned Gandhi to the aid of the party. Launching a youth community service, he gushingly recalled what Gandhi once said about community service: "Gandhi put it beautifully, as he did so often: 'The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.'"

 

Except that when the Mahatma tried to "lose" himself in the service of his own people, the Tories ridiculed him with Churchill infamously saying that it was "alarming" and "nauseating" to see Gandhi "striding half-naked up the steps of the viceregal palace…to parley on equal terms with the representative of the king-emperor."

 

So, have the Tories really changed? Or is it the elections?

 

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


THE HINDU

A CEASEFIRE WILL CREATE CONDUCIVE ATMOSPHERE FOR TALKS'

IN AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW TO THE HINDU, AZAD, SPOKESPERSON OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA (MAOIST), ANSWERS IN WRITING QUESTIONS ON HIS PARTY'S ATTITUDE TO DIALOGUE WITH THE UNION GOVERNMENT.

SIDDHARTH VARADARAJAN

 

The written questions were sent in the second week of March and the answers received at the end of the month. The 11,400-word text of the interview is available at The Hindu 's website. An edited excerpt:

 

There have been statements in recent months by government and Maoist leaders saying they favour talks but each side seems to lack seriousness. There has also been an element of theatre, with Kishenji and P. Chidambaram exchanging statements through the media. Could you clarify whether Kishenji's statements can be treated as authoritative pronouncements of the CPI (Maoist) central leadership in pursuance of a national strategy? Or are these tactical announcements by him keeping only the specifics of the West Bengal situation in mind.

Our party leadership has been issuing statements from time to time in response to the government's dubious offer of talks. But to generalise that there is lack of seriousness on both sides does not correspond to reality. To an observer, exchanging statements through the media does sound a bit theatrical. But the stark fact is the lack of seriousness has been the hallmark of the government, particularly of P. Chidambaram. It is Mr. Chidambaram who has been enacting a drama in the past four months, particularly ever since his amusing 72-hour-abjure-violence diktat to the CPI (Maoist) last November. As regards Kishenji's statements, they should be seen with a positive attitude, not with cynicism. Though our Central Committee has not discussed our specific strategy with regard to talks with the government at the current juncture, as a Polit Bureau member, Comrade Kishenji had taken the initiative and made a concrete proposal for a ceasefire. Whether his statements are the official pronouncements of our Central Committee is not the point of debate here. What is important is the attitude of the government to such an offer in the first place. Our Central Committee has no objection to his proposal for a ceasefire.

 

Mr. Chidambaram says the Maoists should "abjure violence and say they are prepared for talks… I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions." Now 'to abjure' can mean to renounce or forswear violence, or even to avoid violence, i.e. a ceasefire. What is your understanding of Mr. Chidambaram's formulation?

This is a pertinent question as no one knows exactly what Mr. Chidambaram wants to convey. Some interpret his statement to mean Maoists should lay down arms. Some say it means unilateral renunciation of violence by Maoists. Yet others say what this could mean is a cessation of hostilities by both sides without any conditions attached. The Home Minister himself displayed his split personality, not knowing what exactly he wants when he says Maoists should "abjure violence." To a layman this proposal obviously implies that the State too would automatically put a stop to its inhuman atrocities on the adivasis, Maoist revolutionaries, and their sympathisers. But not so to our Home Minister! When you ask what our understanding of Mr. Chidambaram's formulation is, our answer is: the real intent is not a ceasefire between the government and the Maoists, like that with the NSCN, but an absurd demand for a unilateral renunciation of violence by the Maoists.

 

Mr. Chidambaram wants the Maoists to surrender. Or else his paramilitary juggernaut would crush the people and the Maoists under its wheels. While repeating that he never wanted the Maoists to lay down arms — as if he had generously given a big concession — he comes up with an even more atrocious proposal: Maoists should abjure violence while his lawless forces continue their rampage creating more Gachampallis, Gompads, and so on. Not a word does he utter even as inhuman atrocities by his forces are brought to light by magazines like Tehelka, Outlook, and, to an extent, some papers like yours.

The Maoists also have their preconditions. In a recent interview to Jan Myrdal and Gautam Navlakha, Ganapathi listed three demands for any kind of talks: "1. All-out war has to be withdrawn; 2. The ban on the Party and Mass Organisations has to be lifted; 3. Illegal detention and torture of comrades has to be stopped and they be immediately released." He added that if these demands are met, then the same leaders who are released from jails would lead and represent the Party in talks. Are these realistic preconditions? For example, the "all out war" can be suspended first before it is "withdrawn", i.e. a ceasefire, so why insist on its withdrawal at the outset? Are you asking for a ceasefire or something more than that?

I concur with the logic of your arguments. It is logically a valid argument that such demands could be resolved in the course of actual talks and not as a precondition for talks. But you must also understand the spirit of what Comrade Ganapathi said. What he meant when he said the government should withdraw its all-out war is nothing but a suspension of its war, or in other words, mutual ceasefire. Let there be no confusion in this regard. What Chidambaram wants is a unilateral ceasefire by Maoists while the state continues its brutal campaign of terror. On the contrary, what the CPI (Maoist) wants is a cessation of hostilities by both sides simultaneously. This is the meaning of the first point. A ceasefire by both sides cannot be called a precondition. It is but an expression of the willingness on the part of both sides engaged in war to create a conducive atmosphere for going to the next step of talks.

 

Ganapathi also wants the ban on the party and its mass organisations lifted and prisoners released. Usually in negotiations of this kind, the lifting of a ban is one of the objects of talks rather than a precondition. And the release of political prisoners an intermediate step. Is the Maoist party not putting the cart before the horse?

If peaceful legal work has to be done by Maoists as desired by several organisations and members of civil society, then lifting of the ban becomes a pre-requisite. Without lifting the ban on the party and mass organisations, how can we organise legal struggles, meetings etc. in our name? If we do so, will these not be dubbed as illegal as they are led by a banned party? According to us, the ban itself is an authoritarian, undemocratic, and fascist act. Hence the demand for the lifting of the ban is a legitimate demand, and, if fulfilled, will go a long way in promoting open democratic forms of struggles and creating a conducive atmosphere for a dialogue. What Comrade Ganapathi had asked for is that the government should adhere to the Indian Constitution and put an end to the illegal murders in the name of encounters, tortures, and arrests. We must include the term 'murders,' which is missing in the third point. There is nothing wrong or unreasonable in asking the government to stick to its own Constitution. As regards the release of political prisoners, this could be an intermediate step as far as the nature of the demand is concerned. However, to hold talks it is necessary for the government to release some leaders. Or else, there would be none to talk to since the entire party is illegal. We cannot bring any of our leaders overground for the purpose of talks.

 

What do the Maoists hope to achieve with talks? Are you only looking to buy time and regroup yourselves — which is what the government said you did during the aborted dialogue in Andhra Pradesh? Or is it part of a more general re-evaluation of the political strategy of the party, one which may see it emerge as an overground political formation engaged in open, legal activities and struggles, and perhaps even entering the electoral fray directly or indirectly at various levels in the kind of "multiparty competition" that Prachanda says is necessary for the communist movement?

The proposal of talks is neither a ploy to buy time or regroup ourselves, nor is it a part of the general re-evaluation of the political strategy of the party that could lead to its coming overground, entering the electoral fray and multi-party competition as in Nepal. You asked me what we want to achieve with talks. My one sentence answer is: we want to achieve whatever is possible for the betterment of people's lives without compromising on our political programme of new democratic revolution and strategy of protracted people's war. People have a right to enjoy whatever is guaranteed under the Indian Constitution, however nominal and limited these provisions are. And the government is duty-bound to implement the provisions of the Constitution. We hope the talks would raise the overall consciousness of the oppressed people about their fundamental rights and rally them to fight for their rights. Talks will also expose the government's hypocrisy, duplicity, and its authoritarian and extra-constitutional rule that violates whatever is guaranteed by the Constitution. So talks would help in exposing the government's callous attitude to the people and may help in bringing about reforms, however limited they may be.

 

Another important reason is that talks will give some respite to the people who are oppressed and suppressed under the jack-boots of the Indian state and state-sponsored terrorist organisations like the Salwa Judum, Maa Danteswari Swabhiman Manch, Sendra, Nagarik Suraksha Samiti, Shanti Sena, Harmad Bahini, and so on.

 

Would the Maoists be prepared to establish their bona fides on the question of talks by announcing a unilateral ceasefire or perhaps the non-initiation of combat operations (NICO) after a particular date so as to facilitate the process of dialogue?

It is quite strange to see intellectuals like you asking the Maoists to declare a unilateral ceasefire when the heavily armed Indian state is carrying out its brutal armed offensive and counter-revolutionary war. How would unilateral announcement of ceasefire or NICO after a particular date establish the bona fides of our party on the question of talks? What purpose would such an act serve? It is incomprehensible to me why we are asked to "display this generosity" towards an enemy who has the least concern for the welfare of the people. And how would this "generous Gandhian act" on our part facilitate the process of dialogue with the megalomaniacs in the Home Ministry who do not spare even non-violent Gandhian social activists working in Dantewada and other places?

 

The Maoists are engaging in armed struggle but have not hesitated to use violence against non-combatants. The beheading of a policeman, Francis Induvar, while in Maoist captivity, was a blatant violation of civilised norms and of international humanitarian law, which the Maoists, like the Government, are obliged to adhere to. If civil society condemns the security forces for killing civilians in Chhattisgarh and elsewhere and demands that the guilty be punished, it has an equal right to condemn the Maoists whenever they commit such crimes.

Our attempt will always be to target the enemy who is engaged in war against us. Non-combatants are generally avoided. But what about the intelligence officials and police informers who collect information about the movement of Maoists and cause immense damage to the movement? It is true most of them do not carry arms openly or are unarmed. What to do with them? If we just leave them they would continue to cause damage to the party and movement. If we punish them, there is a furore from the media and civil society. Caught between the devil and the deep sea! Our general practice is to conduct a trial in a people's court wherever that is possible and proceed in accordance with the decision of the people. Where it is not possible to hold the people's court due to the intensity of repression we conduct investigation, take the opinion of the people and give appropriate punishment.

 

I agree there is no place for cruelty while giving out punishments. I had clarified this in one of my earlier interviews while referring to the case of Francis Induvar. But it is made into a big issue by the media when a thousand beheadings took place in the past five years by the police-paramilitary and Salwa Judum goons. Do you really think the government is adhering to the law?

Just recently, two of our party leaders — Comrades Shakhamuri Appa Rao and Kondal Reddy — were abducted from Chennai and Pune respectively by the APSIB and the Central Intelligence officials and were murdered in cold blood in the early hours of 12th March. What is civil society doing when such cold-blooded murders are taking place in police custody? When our comrades hear of these cold-blooded murders committed by the APSIB or other officials of the state, it is natural that their blood would boil and they will not bat an eye-lid to hack any of the perpetrators of these inhuman crimes, say a man from APSIB or Grey Hounds, to pieces if he fell into their hands.

In the war zone, the passions run with such intensity, which one cannot even imagine in other areas or under normal circumstances. Could someone who has seen women being raped and murdered, children and old men being murdered after hacking them to pieces in the killing fields of Dantewada and Bijapur, ever give a thought to your so-called non-existent international laws when the perpetrator of such crimes happens to fall into their hands? The pent-up anger of the masses is so intense that even the party general secretary will perhaps fail to control the fury of the adivasi masses when they lay their hands on their tormentors.

 

Why has the CPI (Maoist) decided to reach out through the columns of a newspaper to clarify its views on the issue of a ceasefire and talks?

I think the media can play a role in carrying the views of a banned party to the government and the people at large, particularly at a time when facts regarding our party are distorted, misinterpreted, and obfuscated in a meticulously planned manner. And when there is no scope for a dialogue given the determination of the rulers to carry out their pre-programmed war offensive, we think it appropriate to reach out to the people at large through the media too. I thank The Hindu for the thought-provoking and incisive questions it has placed before our party. We look forward to more of such interaction with the media in future.

 

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

 


 

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

DNA

EDITORIAL

UNRAVELLING GORSHKOV

 

The Indian Navy's inquiry into the alleged misdemeanor of Commodore Sukhjinder Singh while working on the Gorshkov — the aircraft carrier India is set to buy from Russia at a price of $2.3 billion — is necessary but not sufficient.

The negotiations for Gorshkov — which will now be delivered at the end of 2012 and rechristened INS Vikramaditya — had been going for more than a decade now, and the price has trebled in the last six years.

 

When the Russians hiked the price from Rs 4, 870 crore in 2004 to Rs 11,850 crore this year, eyebrows were raised, but not too many questions. The argument was put forward by some experts that India needed an aircraft carrier and no other country would offer one except the Russians, and, therefore, there was not much of an option.

 

It is certainly the case that India needs an aircraft carrier and Russia is probably the only place to get it. But it does not follow that there was no room to negotiate the price.

 

Unfortunately, details of how the price was reached — the earlier one as well as the latest — are wrapped in secrecy. As a result, the role of the officials involved in the negotiation process was not scrutinised.

 

In this situation it would have become possible for powerful officers to influence things in one direction or the other.

 

It will be convenient for the government as well as the navy to focus on the Sukhjinder Singh episode and literally make a scapegoat of him. The only way the government can defend its credibility and that of the navy is by making public all the aspects of the Gorshkov deal, including the steep hike in price. This issue should not be reduced to a mere scandal involving a honey-trap. Sukhjinder Singh's high jinks make for a salacious story but it will help the government to sidestep the real uncomfortable questions.

 

The government will have to do nothing more than assign the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to look into the deal and place the details of a very important defence purchase in the public domain.

 

The CAG, in the course of his scrutiny of the deal, will be able to throw light on the inordinate delays in clinching the deal, the reasons for the rise in price and whether this was necessary. People have a right to know what is the truth even if involves matters of national security

 

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


DNA

EDITORIAL

INDO-US TIES

 

Those in favour of deeper Indo-US ties will be heaving huge sighs of relief while those who have a historic distrust of the United States will be filled with their customary cynicism.

 

Yet, there can be little doubt that a better relationship with a nation that is still the most powerful in the world can be worked to one's advantage. This neither has to mean giving up one's sovereignty nor becoming a poodle state.

 

But it is also necessary to use a little healthy scepticism here and read between the lines. Yes, things have been a trifle shaky since Barack Obama won the presidency and George W Bush was out.

 

Though Bush appeared to be an enemy to much of the world, he was in fact a better friend to India than most US presidents. His clear preference for India over Pakistan led prime minister Manmohan Singh to make that emotional, if ill-advised, declaration that all of India loved Bush! Obama, on the other hand, seemed to veer back to the old US view of seeing Pakistan as a strategic ally, never mind that the ally has been breeding terrorists in his backyard.

 

Sunday's meetings between Singh and Obama and subsequently between Obama and Pakistan prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani appears to have soothed frazzled nerves in India. Obama has supported India's demands for access to David Coleman Headley, the Lashkar-e-Taiba operative in US custody who played a major role in the run-up to the November, 2008, Mumbai terror attacks. Obama said that India's concerns are kept in mind when dealing with security assistance to Pakistan. He was also appreciative of India's efforts in rebuilding Afghanistan.

 

The US president also walked a tightrope and apparently told Gilani that bringing the perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks to justice would be a positive step in improving Indo-Pak relations. He also felt that India was serious about improving those relations. Obama did not commit to a US-Pakistan nuclear deal.
It is best that India capitalise as fast as possible on Obama's assurances about access to Headley. The diplomatic back and forth dance will continue according to its own rules but the nation needs answers and justice for 26/11. This will also prove that the US is serious when it says that it treasures better India-US relations and is not just paying lip-service to a visiting dignitary. What we need from the US now is not love a la George Bush but a firm reiteration of the commitment to fight terror in all its ramifications. Access to Headley would be a fine show of faith.

 

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


DNA

DOWN TO A TRICKLE

BHAVDEEP KANG

 

As a blazing summer sets in and water stress is felt across the country, municipalities begin their annual struggle to quench public thirst.

 

Every year, it gets harder as the gap between water source and consumer becomes wider and the pipelines proportionately longer.

 

Mumbai is already heavily dependent on a tanker convoy to supply its need. Delhi is looking to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to satisfy its needs, Jaipur to Beesal, Haldwani to Jamrani, Bhopal to Hoshangabad, Indore to Maheshwar and so on. The policy-makers' efforts are geared exclusively towards the mining and transportation of water. This usually means damming rivers to create reservoirs and routing water over hundreds of kilometers through canals and pipelines. So focused are they on this exercise in engineering, they fail to consider the depletion of water sources to the point of no return.

 

Regeneration of river systems is not part of the planning process.

 

Flow rates of most Indian rivers and water quality have declined drastically, even as demand for water has increased. The drying of tributaries and the "order 1" and "order 2" streams is the first sign that water is not an inexhaustible resource. Overexploitation and pollution of rivers by factories, industrial farming and urbanisation coupled with the degradation of catchment areas have resulted in water stress even among communities living close to the river.

 

Delhi's insatiable demands for water have forced the state government to search for water sources farther and farther away. The city has financed — to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore —the Renuka dam across the Giri river in Himachal Pradesh, in the hope of importing its water from there. This water for will come at a huge cost, not just for extraction and transportation, but in terms of the displacement of whole villages. The irony is that Delhi sits on the banks of the mighty Yamuna, but no thought is given to renewing the river.

 

The national capital is a n object lesson for cities across India, who will soon find themselves in the same predicament: having drained the Yamuna dry and converted it to a sewage canal, the metropolis now imports water from mountain rivers hundreds of kilometers away, disrupting lives and livelihoods of people who have never set eyes on Delhi.

 

While there has been a lot of focus on the Himalayan rivers because of climate change and melting of glaciers, the central Indian rivers are not much better off. Take, for instance, the Narmada, the lifeline of central India, on which tens of millions of people in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra depend for water. Between 1990-91 and 2004-5, the flow rate has declined by 177,766 cubic metres. The inflow from its 42 tributaries has reduced drastically. At the same time, demand for water has gone up. A new pipeline from Shahganj to Bhopal is to provide the city of lakes with an additional 180 million litres of water a day.

 

There are other side-effects to this profligate exploitation of river water. The Narmada's famous mahaseer fish is now on the verge of extinction, as are other endemic fresh water species, owing to the construction of dams and increasing pollution. A hundred sewage pipes dump their contents directly into the supposedly sacred river.

 

The Damodar is even worse off because the coal mines and washeries, steel and thermal power plants, coke ovens chemical industries on its banks dump their effluents into the river. At places, the flow of the river is a trickle and the quality of water varies from highly acidic to highly alkaline. High concentrations of toxic heavy metals are found in its sediment and the aquatic biodiversity has all but vanished. The river has now been linked to a high incidence of diseases among the communities living along its banks.

 

Regeneration of rivers is seen as a political risky exercise. For example, no policy-maker wants to be seen as opposing hydel projects, even in the face of a negative environmental impact assessment (assuming it is credible and transparent) report, for fear of appearing retrogressive. Similarly, political will is needed to stop deforestation and degradation of catchment areas through industrialisation and urbanisation, farming of land adjoining river banks and illegal sand mining — all undertaken in the name of 'development'.

 

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan admitted as much when he inaugurated the International River Festival, 2010, on the banks of the Narmada last week. Even as he spoke, the many ills afflicting the river were starkly evident in the backdrop: constricted flow due to dams upstream; illegal sand mining; soil erosion due to riverside farms; sewers dumping their contents into the river, not to mention debris from religious rituals and animal carcasses.

 

A sea change in policy is needed to bring about a culture of "water discipline" and check wastage and this is possible only through a Gandhian approach to rivers: as a heritage to be preserved rather than a resource to be exploited.

 

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

DNA

WHY WE LIKE TO BE RACIALLY VICTIMISED

VENKATESAN VEMBU

 

The hysteria that gripped the Indian media for much of last year over alleged racist attacks on Indians in Australia has given way in recent weeks and months to a more nuanced commentary. What induced this sudden infusion of balance and sobriety, which were so conspicuously missing in the earlier frenzied narrative, was perhaps the realisation that at least a few recent instances of attacks on Indians were perpetrated by other Indians in that country — for profit or, as happened in one case, on a passing whim.

 

Additionally, recent incidents of street violence in Australian cities against people of other ethnicities and nationalities — in one case, a wheel-chair-bound Canadian and, in another, a Scottish tourist who was left in a coma after being battered by kids as young as 13 — have challenged the storyline that fed on the 'all-Aussies-are-racists' stereotype. If white men were also being bashed up, surely it must mean that Australian street gangs were racially undiscriminating equal-opportunity purveyors of violence!

 

That reading comes close to official Australian characterisation of the attacks on Indians: that they were 'opportunistic' street crimes, not racially motivated assaults, and that Indian students accounted for a disproportionately large share of the victims because of other social circumstances. But the temptation to portray Australian officials in KKK outfits proved irresistible: it gave us a sense of moral righteousness, which liberated us from dealing with the many-layered nature of reality. In a perverse sort of way, we wanted them to be racial attacks, because they made for a gripping black-and-white narrative.

 

That's not to say that Indians abroad don't ever face racial discrimination. However, there is something about the victimisation of Indians abroad that renders us more combustible as a nation when their experiences are packaged with a racial element. We may be wholly insensitive to rather more glaring instances of discrimination — based on religion, caste, language or other considerations — in our own backyards; but if even one Indian abroad faces a disquieting experience, and we suspect (even without evidence) that it's racially motivated, we summon up endless empathy and respond as if it were a personal attack on (or a slight to) all 1.1 billion of us.

 

The downside of a racially obsessed narrative is that it desensitises us to other forms of discrimination that Indians, among others, face overseas. Just last fortnight, Rashmika Patel, a 44-year-old Indian woman migrant worker in Australia, won a landmark civil action suit against her employer on charges of sexual assault. Although it's true that her identity as a non-English speaking Indian working as a low-wage fruit picker rendered her additionally vulnerable to exploitation, it was her identity as a woman that was primarily violated. Yet, her triumph, at great personal cost, in securing civil redress hasn't found resonance back home.

 

Another case last fortnight, involving an Indian in Hong Kong, offers a richly ironic twist to a story of racial discrimination. Baldev Singh came to Hong Kong in 2006, claiming he was a victim of torture in India, but his bad luck seemed to following him across the seas: last year, he was beaten up by Hong Kong police officers following a seaside altercation, and faced charges of drunk and disorderly conduct and assaulting police officers.He was subsequently acquitted on all counts, and has filed a complaint against police abuse. What these two cases additionally illustrate is that when Indians overseas face exploitation or discrimination, they sometimes have access to legal redress mechanisms in a way that they perhaps may not have had back home.And despite the disquieting experience of discrimination that they face on foreign soils, many still opt to stay on owing to quality-of-life considerations, when compared to how things are back home.

 

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


 

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

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

TERRORISTS EYEING PAK NUKES

TIME TO DEVISE A SAFETY STRATEGY

 

That terrorists and extremists have been desperately looking for nuclear weapons for some time is well known to the world. But it is quite startling to be told that Al-Qaida already has such nuclear capabilities or weapons". Their claim has been discounted by John Brennan, the White House counter-terrorism chief, during his briefing on the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington DC on Monday. Yet, the threat appears to be real. If Al-Qaida or any other terrorist outfit has not succeeded in acquiring weapons of mass destruction so far, they can get these in the future if the world community does not take the threat with utmost seriousness.

 

President Barack Obama is believed to have bluntly told Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani during their Sunday meeting that under no circumstances should Islamabad's nuclear weapons fall into terrorist hands. However, the situation in Pakistan is such that the world cannot totally depend on what Islamabad says. An international security strategy, independent of Pakistan, must be devised urgently. There is no time to delay the task. Terrorists have not only tried to acquire nuclear knowhow and bomb-making material in the past with the help of Pakistani nuclear scientists, but have also targeted Islamabad's nuclear facilities thrice since 2007. This clearly shows how desperate they are in having the ultimate weapon.

 

The Taliban, which has been closely linked with Al-Qaida, has no dearth of sympathisers in the Pakistan Army. The pro-Taliban elements in Pakistan's armed forces may help the terrorists and extremists in achieving their dangerous objective if steps are not taken to weed them out. International pressure must be brought to bear on Pakistan to act in this direction soon. Pakistan is playing politics when it says that its nuclear assets have to be kept in the areas having Taliban influence because of the heightened tension on its borders with India. Instead of bringing in the India factor, Pakistan should be forced to eliminate all kinds of terrorists, including those working against India. Most of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits have been functioning as the offshoots of Al-Qaida.

 

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

THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PEACE OVER ULIPS

REGULATORS' SPAT IN PUBLIC WAS AVOIDABLE

 

For days together two regulators were locked in an undesirable and avoidable turf war, with the Finance Ministry remaining a silent spectator to the unseemly controversy. On Monday senior Finance Ministry officials finally intervened and persuaded both SEBI (Securities and Exchange Board of India) Chairman C.B. Bhave and IRDA (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) Chairman J. Hari Narayan to "seek a binding legal mandate" from a high court. The fight is about the jurisdiction over the sale of ULIPs (unit linked insurance plans).

 

On April 9, SEBI, after taking legal opinion, banned the sale of ULIPs on the ground that the insurance companies selling these products were not registered with it. This annoyed IRDA, which came out in defence of the insurance companies and asked them to continue the sale of ULIPs regardless of the ban order. On Monday they agreed to the ceasefire brokered by the Finance Ministry under which the status-quo ante is to be maintained until the court verdict. There is a "High Level Coordination Committee" under the Reserve Bank which takes care of financial sector disputes. But in this case it was not approached and the issue instead has landed in the court.

 

Such squabbles along with market risks and uncertainties and the limited spread of financial literacy have come in the way of the growth of mutual funds and insurance products in this country of billion-plus people. There are not many takers for financial schemes and people still prefer to invest their surplus cash in gold or land. According to a March 2010 report of Boston Analytics, less than 10 per cent of Indian households have invested in mutual funds despite these being available in the market for about two decades. The recent global meltdown has added to public fears of investing in financial products that they do not understand. Though India has escaped unhurt, thanks to strict vigil by the regulatory mechanism put in place by the RBI, public apprehensions remain. And avoidable controversies like the one created by SEBI and IRDA drive investors away from volatile financial markets where risks are high and rewards limited.

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

KABADDI ON THE UPSWING

GOOD AUGURY FOR TRADITIONAL SPORTS

 

Who would have thought that the traditional sport of kabaddi would get the kind of attention that is normally the preserve of cricket and generate international euphoria! But surprises never end. The just-concluded inaugural Pearls World Cup Kabaddi, 2010, in which India emerged as befitting champion defeating traditional rivals Pakistan, has proved that there is life beyond cricket. Perhaps holding it in the mother state of Punjab contributed a lot, but the excitement of participants and spectators was to be seen to be believed. TV channels dutifully came into the loop and made stars out of the players almost overnight. The full backing of the Punjab government did the trick, what with a prize money of Rs 2.2 crore. That was the second highest after the IPL, eclipsing even tennis. There were attractive prizes for individual players also.

 

Circle kabaddi has been a huge draw in Punjab. National kabaddi is quite different and it is good that the traditional form is also getting due recognition. What is heart-warming is that now it is played in scores of countries. While most of the players are of Indian origin, it has also started attracting many foreigners. If the authorities build on the initial success, it can indeed find its way into the Asian Games, Commonwealth games and even Olympics.

 

For that, it will have to be promoted in a systematic way. Many private persons like Purewal brothers of Canada have been backing it but now all lovers of the game will have to come together to give it a massive heave. Here is hoping that the government will also chip in enthusiastically by building infrastructure in all districts. For instance, many matches of this tournament had to be played in unbearable afternoon heat because of the absence of floodlights. The offer of jobs to members of the victorious Indian team was a step in the right direction which might encourage many other budding players.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

PITFALLS OF LOCALISM

WHY REGIONAL PARTIES ARE VULNERABLE

BY AMULYA GANGULI

 

The people in two Mumbai households wake up every morning mulling over a suitable topic for their propaganda, which always has a mean streak. To retain public interest and for the sake of variety, their views keep changing. One day it is a tirade in favour of Marathi number plates in cars, on another day it is an agitation against a mobile phone company for not using Marathi and on a third against Bollywood's preference for white girls for dance sequences instead of locals.

 

There is also occasional recourse to violence as when Bihari taxi-drivers and vegetable vendors are roughed up or when demonstrations are held in front of Shah Rukh Khan's residence in protest against his preference for including Pakistani players in IPL 3. But the general tendency is to sustain a certain atmosphere of tension by an aggressive display of parochialism.

 

The task of the two families was less onerous when they were one. It was obviously easier then for the members to put their heads together to choose a subject which offered scope for campaigns with the potential for boosting the family's political fortunes. But ever since the nephew, Raj, walked out of uncle Bal Thackeray's house to launch his own political career, each family has had to think up an issue of its own. However, the selection process cannot be easy since their focal point of interest is limited to Maharashtra. Their restricted vision rules out themes on a wider scale.

 

What may be of greater concern to uncle and nephew is that they cannot but undercut each other because of the identical nature of their politics. Yet, the clash of egos left no alternative for them but to part company although they must have anticipated the hurtful impact of their decision. As is known, Balasaheb's promotion of his son, Uddhav, as his heir meant that Raj's thwarted ambition forced him to walk out and form his own party.

 

Such divisions are, of course, a feature of virtually all parties - national and regional - although familial rifts are usually not the case where the all-India parties are concerned. The Congress, for instance, has split more than once - in 1907, 1969 and 1978. In all these instances, personal ambition in the garb of ideology was responsible. "Extremist" Tilak and "moderate" Gokhale were the leading personalities behind the rupture in 1907 while the "progressive" Indira Gandhi pitted herself against the "reactionary" old guard in 1969 and decided to plough a lonely furrow in1978 after her tryst with autocracy. Similarly, the undivided communist party broke up in 1964, mirroring the Sino-Soviet split, and then the breakaway CPM disintegrated with the Naxalites walking out in 1969.

 

But if these parties managed to survive and even recover some of the lost ground, as the Congress did in 1980 and 1984 and, more recently, in 2004 and 2009, the reason was that their all-India spread gave them some kind of a cushion against too precipitous a fall. The problem with the local parties is that they lack such a buffer. It is obvious that the Shiv Sena and the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena cannot but hurt each other as they battle for political supremacy within the confines of a single state. Inevitably, one of them will be surreptitiously used by a party with a wider base to erode the support base of the other, as the Congress is suspected of doing by being soft on the MNS in the context of its law and order violations.

 

A similar scene may well be enacted in Tamil Nadu where another regional party, the DMK, is beginning to feel the tremors of a succession battle between two brothers, M.K.Azhagiri and M.K.Stalin. The parallels between what happened in Maharashtra and what is happening in Tamil Nadu are evident. Just as Raj left the Shiv Sena when he saw that he would not be allowed to head the party by Bal Thackeray, there is a possibility of a similar rupture in the DMK if party supremo and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi sticks to his decision to anoint his younger son, Stalin, as his successor in the DMK as well as the government.

 

It may be recalled that another rising star in the DMK, V.Gopalasamy or Vaiko, left the party and formed his own outfit in 1994 when he realized that he had no chance vis-à-vis Stalin where the leadership of the organization was concerned. In that case, blood proved to be thicker than water for Karunanidhi. In the tussle between Azhagiri and Stalin, however, the doting father clearly favours his younger son. If the sibling rivalry undermines the DMK, the fallout will be debilitating not only for it but also for the entire Dravidian movement.

 

The DMK escaped relatively unscathed from its first split in 1972 when M.G. Ramachandran broke away to set up the AIADMK because it had no serious opponent outside the Dravidian fold. The Congress at the time had lost its footing in the state after its 1967 defeat, the 1969 split and Kamaraj's death in 1975. The scene is different now. While the AIADMK has lost its sheen because of Jayalalithaa's diminishing popularity, as the recent poll outcomes show, the DMK also is no longer as influential as before. This is evident from the fact that it needs the Congress support to be in power. There is little doubt, therefore, that the party will lose ground in Karunanidhi's absence, especially if the two brothers slug it out. Since the AIADMK is unlikely to fill the breach, the Dravidian movement may fizzle out.

 

The fatal trajectory of the regional parties can be discerned in these developments. They begin on a high note as the champions of local causes. This was, of course, truer in Tamil Nadu than in, say, Maharashtra where the Congress was strong enough to keep the Shiv Sena on the periphery. But their vulnerabilities are in-built because their tunnel vision restricts their expansion beyond the state. As a result, once the original euphoria about their sub-nationalism begins to dissipate and internecine fights weaken their organizational cohesion, it isn't only the parties which lose ground but their ideas, too, seem to be overblown to their supporters.

 

The rise of regionalism was an inevitable aftermath of the Congress's decline and the failure of any other party to grow at the national level. The BJP has been able to fulfil the requirements of a second all-India party to some extent by its 100-plus Lok Sabha seats and two-digit percentage points along with being in power in eight states. But it is hamstrung by its communal image which keeps virtually all the minorities outside its ambit.

 

The regional parties, however, are apparently reaching the end of their tether by their refusal to grow beyond the borders of their respective states, a deficiency highlighted by the fact that Azhagiri could not function effectively as a Union minister because he knows no language other than Tamil. Similarly, the insistence of Raj and Uddhav Thackeray, though not of Balaseheb, to speak only in Marathi shows that they do not have the wish to play a larger role.

 

Tamil Nadu, of course, is an exception. It is the only state where the regional parties have ruled continuously for more than four decades. But as their decline suggests, they have begun to run out of steam. The reason, as also in the cases of the Telugu Desam or the Akali Dal or the various splinter groups of the original Janata Dal, is that they lack the ambition and also, perhaps, the ability to climb up to higher grounds.

 

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

THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

A BASKET CASE OF MANGOES

BY RAJI P. SHRIVASTAVA

 

I am sending you some mangoes from my home garden. Do make sure someone is at home to receive them", said the text message from a colleague a few summers ago.

 

"Sorry for the misunderstanding. I hope you will forget and forgive." This contrite note from a friend of several years came with a basket of ripe mangoes. "From my backyard," she had added.

 

A few days later, the teenager from across the road showed up with a small cane basket wrapped in tissue paper. "Mangoes!" he yelled and careened precariously on a pair of skates. "From our own tree!" he added proudly. I presumed they were a "Welcome to Chandigarh and the neighbourhood" gift, for I could not think of any other reason for this lovely gesture.

 

Our groaning refrigerator door could barely stay in place. Everything inside smelled of mangoes. We ate the tropical fruit with some start-of-the-season relish, then graduated to mixing it in ice cream, whipping it up in milk or making valiant attempts to concoct a pudding.

 

Mango kadhi in curd came next, followed by attempts to convert the cache into pickles, jams or jellies. The value additions like cardamom and star anise cost quite a bit and I wasn't sure the results were that great. There was enough to pass on as takeaways to other friends too. But apparently there were enough people growing and sharing their produce in the city so it seemed as if the amateur baskets were criss-crossing the sectors all season!

 

How could one hurt these avid horticulturists, though! I had, however, run out of acquaintances who did not have a mango tree in their backyard or similar enthusiastic mango-growers for friends and could therefore appreciate a share of our treasures. I was also fast running out of 'return gift' ideas.

 

"This is one amazing city", I said to myself. I was impressed by the spirit of its citizens. They seem to have managed to preserve fruit trees and many grow fairly decent quantities of mango, litchi and jamun. But even more, they are all heart. Wanting to share their goodies with friends and colleagues is not an insignificant trend in these indifferent and insensitive times when people did not know their neighbour's names and did not care either.

 

I remember metro-dwellers sneering, "It is really only a small town." Perhaps. But such overtures of friendship are hardly seen in big cities nowadays. The thought and care that went into such gestures never failed to touch me.

 

The pre-schooler in the house proposed, "Can we have some watermelon, please?" In relief, I agreed it was about time and proceeded to the fruit shop located in a small 'booth market' named for an erstwhile village. I bought some watermelon and guavas and looked around at the display of fruits. There were no mangoes. Sold out? I wondered. "We don't stock too many mangoes, Didi. They don't sell much here." He brightened up a minute later. "But if you need any baskets, they are only Rs 25 each……"

 

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

THE TRIBUNE

OPED

REINVENTING THE LEFT

WIDER PROCESSES OF SOCIETY NEED TO BE STUDIED

BY SHELLEY WALIA

 

Serious scholars have suggested ways of restructuring the Left within the so-called "New World Order" where environmental degradation, war, terrorism and poverty remain serious issues facing the world. Within this context, the urgent questions that take up Marxist concerns are a reassessment of economic progress, prognosis of the future of Marxism and the uncertainty of democratic institutions.

 

At the outset there arises the need to break away from the economistic version of Marxism, which emphasises the unproblematic nature of change brought about by laws of history independent of political movements and human will. Within the context of the rise of right wing economies like the US, Germany, Japan, France and Asia, wider processes of society need to be studied, especially the role of the media and the building of a new alliance between feminists, marginalised groups, gays, lesbians, ethnic groups, teachers, doctors, etc. thereby developing a new hegemonic outlook based on radical philosophical and moral ideas.

 

This would enable a relevant review of the Marxist belief that change can be brought only through the working class, whereas it is clear that it is not the only agency of change. Has the working class not been incorporated in the consumer class, leading to the shrinking of its role in the ushering of a classless society?

 

Positively, the agents of change lie elsewhere in the Green movement, peace movements, and ethnic and national movements. Consciousness-raising groups among women and self-help groups have developed new forms of social change through new radical politics.

 

Our age is full of uninterrupted disintegration and renewal, of struggle and contradiction, of ambiguity and anguish: the recent economic meltdown indicates that the grandnarratives of globalisation and capitalism stand suspect and progress seems only to be an illusion. The last decade of the previous century saw the end of the Cold War punctuated by the short-sighted theory of Fukuyama that history had come to an end. But it soon floundered in the wake of the economic downturn.

 

The euphoria lasted a brief period and it seemed that the eulogy to socialism was a premature gesture that had overlooked the lurking presence of Marx. The defeat of national dignity by hunger and war, the unrelenting siege of many developing nations by bankers and by the 'commercial masters of the world', as Eduardo Galeano has put it, are some of the factors that have prompted Marxists to condemn the systems that usurped socialism.

 

Marxists in India like Jyoti Basu have come under attack for not teaching the political and theoretical Left to re-read Marx from a new perspective and show ways of developing and living a constantly renewable stream of ideas where the cultural and political logic of the notions on liberation and ideology would help in reconceptualising the nature of power and the conditions of existence in modern societies, particularly in West Bengal. Marxism, indeed, gets locked directly into the structures of technological dominance, military violence and ideological legitimation and its role becomes an act of intervention with an emancipatory potential that is both ethical and political.

 

Upholding the virtues of such a standpoint, intellectual intervention into Marxism becomes a hopeful sign for its reinvention with the underlying queries: Are we ready never to regard a point of view as completely false or beneath contempt? Are we ready to fight for truth tenaciously but concede error graciously? Any meaningful answers need to take into consideration the place of Marx and the impetus towards socialist thinking that can reach out to millions. It is imperative to keep this fact of our social and economic history in the forefront in order to come to grips with the need to offer resistance to an increasingly exploitative world.

 

In our view of liberal democracy, we need to emphasise its shortcomings: if it is a superior form of governance, why are there problems in implementing it? Is the present world not replete with mass unemployment, homelessness, violence, inequality, famine and economic oppression? How, then, can the conservative Right occupy the moral high ground? With the victory of free market economics arise conditions which are deeply critical, fragile, and in certain regards, catastrophic. A unilateralism of the school of thought that favoured the triumph of liberal democracy has to be countered by a resurrection of Marx, thereby questioning the sincerity of political programmers, the working of free market economy and the notions of freedom and human rights.

 

With the passing away of Jyoti Basu, an era has come to an end. But let us not forget that history is full of beginnings and ends, replete with moments of hope and forward-looking expectation as well as an obsession with a haunting past. The question of the "end of history" syndrome, which arose with the collapse of the Berlin Wall, is far-fetched if we take into account that Marx will be relevant wherever there is a need for political and economic reorganisation.

 

The writer is a Professor of English at Panjab University, Chandigarh

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

POLITICS OF DEVELOPMENT IN HARYANA

BY RAJESHWARI

 

Both the major political parties in Haryana — the Congress and the INLD — are up in arms regarding the development of Sirsa district. But one needs to check the facts very objectively. Sirsa district has been identified as a backward district in the state and figures in the list of 144 most backward districts at the national level where the backward development initiative (BDI) has been launched.

 

The exercise of identification of backward districts in the country is meant to break structural backwardness of a place and its people.

 

The Planning Commission (2003) adopted three parameters to identify the backward districts: (i) value of output per agricultural worker (ii) agricultural wage rate and (iii) percentge of SC/ST population. The districts with low wages, low productivity and a high SC/ST population were ranked as backward.

 

On the basis of these criteria, none of the districts in Haryana can be counted as backward given the all-India scenario.The rank of all the districts in Haryana starts from 406 out of 447 districts in the country, as ranked by the task group of the Planning Commission. Sirsa ranks at 415.

 

Later on, it was decided that since there are pockets of underdevelopment within most developed states of the country, hence one least developed district in each state would also be chosen for BDI schemes. One would be surprised to find that Sirsa district figured on that list.

 

The fact is that it cannot be classified as backward at the state level, taking any criteria of development i.e. human resource, infrastructure and development in the productive sector etc. And if one takes the 3 parameters as adopted by the Planning Commision, then the report (2003) reveals that output per agricultural worker is the highest in Sirsa district.

 

It is the districts of southern and south-western Haryana — Gurgaon, Bhiwani, Mahendragarh, Rewari and Jhajjar — which lag much behind in terms of agricultural productivity.

 

Further, if one takes the indicators of demography and social development, Mahendragarh, Bhiwani, Gurgaon (more particularly now Mewat) and Faridabad are placed in the category of less developed districts of the state.

 

Sirsa district certainly lies in the middle-ranking districts in terms of many indicators of socio-economic development taken together. The state government has shown least respect to the criteria and objectivity and selected the district for launching BDI on political considerations in 2003.

 

The faulty mechanism of delineation of a backward district has lead to the diversion of resources to the relatively developed areas, which would further widen the existing inequalities in society. There are studies which have revealed that in AP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, MP, and UP where 55 districts have been identified as backward, as many as 32 districts do not satisfy the criteria of backwardness. There is a need to have a relook both at the state and national levels.

 

The writer is an Associate Professor in Geography, Kurukshetra University.

 

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


THE TRIBUNE

OPED

DELHI DURBAR

ALL FOR PUBLICITY

 

Congressmen just can't stop talking about one another. First, it was the turn of flamboyant HRD Minister Kapil Sibal to face the ire of party men who thought he was going too far with his reform agenda.

 

Then it was the reticent Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, whose Rajya Sabha extension controversy kept the Congress pinpricks going. Now it is the hard-to-ignore Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh suffering the love of his colleagues.

 

So you have at the AICC headquarters in the capital routine murmurings about how "pretentious and publicity hungry" Ramesh is. First, he does all this public hearing stuff on Bt brinjal to hog the headlines and now he publicly removes his convocation gown at the Indian Institute of Forest Management ceremony in Bhopal.

 

He even terms the practice of wearing such "colonial relics barbaric". Well, if the gown was so barbaric, why did Ramesh don it in the first place, ask his Congress friends. Others offer a prompt reply: "Donning the robe is no news. Removing it is. That's why!"

 

WHY IS SHAHNAWAZ SULKING?

The lone Muslim MP of BJP Syed Shahnawaz Husain is sulking. Since BJP president Nitin Gadkari announced his new team of office-bearers, Shahnawaz has kept away from BJP headquarters, 11, Ashoka Road, though he did attend the first office-bearers' meeting as the outgoing convener of the party's Minority Cell.

 

But that was an exception. The excuse is his apparent illness. But there are those who believe the illness was also the result of the shock he got for not being made the party general secretary. Worse his bete noire Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi has managed to return yet again as the party vice president. There is, therefore, some speculation of Shahnawaz looking for greener pastures. And as if to confirm this, one can often see vehicles flying the Congress flag parked in and around his Pandit Pant Marg House.

 

CHATWAL STAYS IN NEWS

Controversial NRI hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal appeared mighty pleased as he came to receive his Padma Bhushan from President Pratibha Patil at the Padma Award function at Rashtrapati Bhavan last week.

 

Dressed in his trade-mark red turban, Chatwal was seen shaking hands with all and sundry, looking relieved that he was finally receiving the coveted award despite all the controversies surrounding his nomination in view of allegations of financial irregularities against him.

 

But much to everybody's surprise, he was seated away from other Padma awardees and not amongst them.The apparent reason was that the organisers did not want lens-men present in large numbers at the function to focus their cameras on him. However, as soon as the function was over, Chatwal was quick to hog the limelight, giving on-the-spot interviews to reporters and posing for the photographers. The US-based Sikh after all knows how to remain in the news.

 

Contributed by Aditi Tandon, Faraz Ahmad and Ashok Tuteja

 

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


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

MUMBAI MERROR

EDITORIAL

DAMN IT, MR GAJVI

PREMANAND GAJVI'S LATEST PLAY, WHICH DEALS WITH A DEVELOPMENTAL-ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUE, APPEARS TO BE A VEILED PERSONAL ATTACK ON A WELL-KNOWN PUBLIC FIGURE

 

The overwhelming feeling I experienced at the end of Premanand Gajvi's latest play "Dam it, Anu Gore" was of extreme discomfort. Discomfort because the issue of large dams that the play addressed had been simplified to an unacceptable degree; discomfort because the play's sub-plot struck me as totally irrelevant; discomfort because this subplot appeared to be a veiled personal attack on a wellknown public figure.

 

Should I have walked out? I've done it before. Had it been one of those plays that wend their happy way through melodrama or doneto-death one-liners and mean nothing in particular to anybody, I'd have left. But this play was by Premanand Gajvi, a respected playwright. If something was drastically wrong with it, I had to stay and comment.


The problem with "Dam it, Anu Gore" is, it presumes to address in two hours one of the most complex developmental-environmental issues of our times the building of large dams and the consequent submerging of entire livelihoods and cultures. Gajvi enters only halfheartedly into the issue. He creates four characters to represent the Adivasi plight – a man, his daughter Tani, his sister and her son, Kondu. Except for Kondu, they are all your stereotypical adivasis. For them the annual feast of tiger worship is more important than fighting for their homes. "Who cares anyway whether we live or die," the sister reasons. Kondu is different because he has been taken away by the do-gooding Mr Gore, given an education and an equal place in the family with his daughter Anu. Anu grows up to lead the fight against the proposed dam, assisted by Kondu and a couple of others.


You think the stage is set for the fight. Anu needs to explain to the adivasis what will happen to them if they allow the dam to come up. Even as she makes a sketchy gesture in that direction, the playwright whisks us off to eavesdrop on a telephonic conversation between Anu and her lover Saandhya, a poet. This is not a one-off glimpse into Anu's love-life. The poet-lover calls a couple more times. Then there's a monologue by Kondu who is also in love with Anu. The attached flashback shows how Anu has played with his feelings.


Where does all this leave Kondu's family, the question of the dam and us, the audience? If we are being asked to take an interest in Anu Gore's personal life, why bother to mount the play against the Sahyadris, although Vivek Jadhav's award-winning set is a refreshing departure from the middle-class living rooms and kitchens which we normally see.


Once the focus has shifted to Anu Gore's love life, which is not shown to affect her fight against the dam in any way, the play falls apart. The confusion is confounded by the presence of a nationalistic police inspector and the occasional appearance of a mysterious man who comes dressed in many garbs and comments on ongoing events.


One remembers with wonder Gajvi's thoroughly researched, powerfully written play "Gandhi-Ambedkar", where a finely articulated argument between the two giants of the freedom struggle was presented. The playwright had chosen to cast the argument in the form of a debate to give both sides equal space, while nudging us towards his viewpoint. The question at the end of "Dam it, Anu Gore" (if you're still interested in asking it) is, what exactly is the playwright's viewpoint on the issue of large dams? Answer – thoroughly muddled and naive in the extreme.


Perhaps the more pertinent question is, what is his view on the subject of Anu Gore? Here the answer is clear. He sees her as a self-serving tease without principles. This last is conclusively proved when she accepts the Statue of Liberty award (sic) presented to her by "America", which has been characterised through the play, by her and others, as Enemy No 1.


Damn it, Mr Gajvi, what's come over you?

 

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


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

BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SHIFTS IN FDI

FOREIGN INVESTMENT POLICY MUST BE STABLE AND PREDICTABLE

 

On April 1, the government came out with a comprehensive document detailing for the first time in one place all its various policy provisions pertaining to foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country. Laudable as it was, the exercise lent clarity to the entire gamut of FDI policy issues. It also created a semblance of stability on the government's FDI policy front as it promised a review of the policy only twice a year. In other words, the next review of the policy was expected to take place on October 1. For foreign investors, this was a welcome relief as they could at least keep a six-month horizon in mind while they planned their projects in India in the secure thought that no sudden policy shifts would take place in this period. How naive they were must have dawned on them on April 7, when the Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, the government's highest economic policy-making body, decided to ban all new foreign direct investment in cigarettes. The comprehensive FDI policy document, announced and made effective just a week before that, had allowed 100 per cent foreign direct investment in tobacco, including cigarettes, after prior permission of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board. While the government's logic in disallowing fresh FDI in cigarettes may have been consistent with its commitment to reduce tobacco consumption and its overall concern for the health of its people, what certainly defies norms of good governance is the manner in which the sanctity of its own policy document was violated so soon after its enforcement.

 

Indeed, the two weeks since the publication of the FDI policy document have seen a fresh momentum to inter-ministerial consultation over further policy changes in key areas. The proposed changes include issues such as downstream investments by companies with less than 50 per cent foreign equity, exclusion of portfolio investments by foreign institutional investors while calculating the overall FDI limit, restrictions on sales by wholesale trading companies with foreign equity (or the cash-and-carry outfits) and raising the 26 per cent cap on foreign investment in defence units. A charitable view of the astonishing pace at which these consultations are taking place would be to justify these moves as part of the government's eagerness to be ready with the next round of review of the FDI policy to be enforced from October. However, it is obvious that the changes now under study are of a fundamental nature and the government may have needlessly rushed with a comprehensive FDI policy document in April without first plugging what clearly were glaring loopholes in the policy. By allowing companies with less than 50 per cent foreign equity to invest in any company which could then set up a project in any area irrespective of its FDI cap, the government had only allowed back-door entry of foreign investors in restricted areas. That the government now wishes to plug this loophole is a welcome move. Similarly, excluding foreign portfolio investments while calculating the foreign investment levels in a company is a pragmatic move as indeed portfolio investments should not be treated on a par with foreign direct investment. Raising the FDI cap in defence units beyond the existing level of 26 per cent has strategic implications. Therefore, a further relaxation in the FDI restrictions in this sector must bear in mind whether the change in policy would undermine the research and development efforts of the country's domestic defence units.

 

These deliberations make it clear that even after the formulation of a comprehensive FDI policy document, the government's approach to foreign investment in many areas requires greater and more broad-based consultation. If indeed the goal and the corollary benefits of a six-monthly review of the FDI policy are to be achieved, it is time the government thought of a permanent inter-ministerial body that continually evaluated policy changes that needed to be made and announced twice a year. This would obviate the need for making periodic and often abrupt as well as ad hoc changes whenever the industry ministry thinks it can prepare a fresh press note.

 

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CONFLICT OF INTEREST

TOO MANY MINISTERS HAVE TOO MANY INTERESTS

 

With all his years of experience as the public relations man for United Nations officials, Union Minister Shashi Tharoor knows how to stay in the news. This time, however, it is someone else's tweet that's got him into trouble. While Mr Tharoor's popularity may be rising among Kerala's youth, and understandably so given that the state has had a paucity of charismatic and good-looking leaders for a long time, the latest Tharoor tweet once again draws attention to a larger problem facing the United Progressive Alliance government. This relates to the problem of ministerial conflict of interest. There is, of course, the more narrowly defined concept of "conflict of interest" in politics, wherein a public official may be handling, as part of his official duties, a portfolio or a matter wherein she has a direct and personal interest. There is also a larger or wider concept of "conflict of interest" wherein a public official may have other, non-official interests that influence or impact upon her official position. Thus, for example, when a minister for mines has mining interests, there is a direct and visible conflict of interest. When the brother of a minister has business interests in an area where policy is being shaped by the sibling holding public office, that too would be an example of a direct conflict of interest. When a minister has business or other extra-curricular interests that place a demand on his working hours, that too is a kind of conflict of interest. Thus, the cricketing interests of the Union Minister for Food and Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, have come in for adverse comment because the minister has had to devote far too much time to cricket, at the cost of discharging his ministerial responsibilities.

 

There are dozens of examples of ministers in state governments and at the Centre who retain their business interests, indeed acquire new ones in power, and combine public office with pursuit of private interest. This is unacceptable. There is nothing wrong in business persons and professionals entering public life and becoming ministers. But once they do so, they should keep at an arms length their private interests, both of their own and their near and dear ones.

 

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

 


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

DO CONTROVERSIES HURT BRANDS?

TROUBLED STARS LIKE TIGER WOODS CAN NO LONGER BE USED TO CONNECT WITH AN AUDIENCE AT A HIGHER LEVEL. IF THEY CHANGE THEIR IMAGE, THEY CAN CONTINUE TO ENDORSE A DIFFERENT TYPE OF BRAND.

K V SRIDHAR

 

NATIONAL CREATIVE DIRECTOR, LEO BURNETT

 

Controversies involving brand ambassadors affect public perception — but the brand can get the same stars to endorse a different product based on their newly formed image

 

A scandal or controversy changes the value of a brand forever. Let me explain what I mean when I say this. There is a certain value attached to every image that you project, whether a clean one or a promiscuous one. A brand, therefore, can choose to tap what it finds relevant.

Good examples of this are Rolls-Royce and Rolex — these are brands that will never ride on the image of a celebrity who is viewed as a playboy. These are classic brands that sit at the very top of the need-hierarchy. For them, it is timeless beauty that counts. So, their choice of celebrity to endorse their brands will be in accordance with the standards they have set for themselves.

Certain brands are about sensuality and sex appeal. They choose the celebrity who endorses them while keeping in mind the image they have projected all this while. Axe is a good example of this type of branding.

In the case of Tiger Woods, he had been known as a good boy, a good father, a good husband, a good son and an ace golfer, till the infidelity issue dogged him. He was an ideal for many people at both the professional as well as personal level. Which is why Accenture backed him and made him its brand ambassador.

With the infidelity issue coming to light, however, people now see him for what he is — a man with his fair share of weaknesses, one who is frail and weak and can get swayed in quite the same manner that anybody else can be swayed. He is no longer infallible, no longer a man who is larger than life.

This change in perception, therefore, is likely to attract a different set of brands for him when it comes to endorsements. He may now appeal to them more that he would have earlier, at the time when he had a larger-than-life image.

So as I pointed out, Woods' value-perception has changed based on what he has been doing. One may argue that as long as he plays golf, it does not matter what he does and what he doesn't. But people's perception of him has changed, and this is what the advertisers have to bear in mind.

Which is why when Nike Golf released an advertisement with Tiger Woods recently, it played on the aspect of susceptibility, using the voice of his late father to project a Tiger who had swayed, seeking forgiveness for his misdeeds. It was a clever advertisement.

Brands will somehow have to live with the reality that Woods' brand value has changed. So if Jaguar comes to him tomorrow looking for a brand ambassador, chances are the company may not select him to endorse the classic car. It is too high up the need-hierarchy now for Woods to touch. But yes, the company may choose him to endorse a flamboyant or flashy sports car. This is quite possible.

Sometimes, the secret life of a sports star, or even a film star for that matter, can be quite exciting. Brands may choose to use this opportunity without admitting that they are doing so. There is a duality that exists here, and Tiger Woods will have to live with this.

The question is whether this is good or bad. I don't know, it is relative.

According to me, there is nothing good or bad in life. Life is what it is. Sometimes, you can't help certain things that happen to you. They just happen. Tiger Woods, too, was a victim of his circumstances and of his emotions to a certain extent. One shouldn't forget that he is human. And sportspersons can be intuitive at times. There is nothing wrong in it. One needn't rationalise every move made by them. I guess that's what happened to him. He just succumbed to his emotions at one point. The result was that his marital life fell apart. He had to publicly apologise for his misdeeds. Having done that, I think, he is ready to make a start, although in a manner that is different.

M G Parameswaran

Executive Director & CEO-Mumbai, DraftFCB+Ulka

 

The 'tainted' star may still attract the crowds because of all his shenanigans. But for the brand that used him for its promotion, the magic doesn't work

 

When a celebrity gets involved in a rather murky battle of the sexes, what happens to his/her brand value? When a sports star gets caught using intoxicants, what happens?

 

Tiger Woods has been acclaimed as one of the biggest sports stars ever. In fact, Time magazine did a story a couple of years ago on what it called the "gap" theory. The article said that the star value of a superstar could be measured by the distance created by him between himself and the next biggest competitor, a perceptual lead over his next toughest rival. The "gap" defines, in some form, the long-term legend potential of the sports star, or even film star. The article also pointed out that there were possibly only two big living sports stars who fulfilled the criteria that was laid down: Roger Federer and Tiger Woods (Sachin Tendulkar would have found mention if the author had even a passing knowledge of cricket).

 

Woods had the biggest endorsement deals at that time, the most prestigious brands were in his kitty. The sex scandal he was embroiled in grabbed equally big headlines, not to mention the innumerable internet jokes that it spawned. All that is water under the bridge, Woods is playing golf again, and his followers seem to be back. So the question remains, does the brand value of a star go up with notoriety? Or does it go down?

 

I would like to say that the brand value always goes down, unless the star has built his/her reputation on notoriety. For example, a rock star, a heavy- metal star or a gangster-rap star may actually sell more records when he gets imprisoned. But I can't see too many brands running to jail to sign new endorsement contracts with these artistes.

 

We have seen many cases where the star has been dropped like a hot potato when embroiled in a controversy. Thums Up dropped Salman Khan soon after the car-crash episode at Bandra in Mumbai. And there are more such examples.

 

Before jumping to a conclusion on brand value of stars and their apparent value to brands, let us revisit the basic reasons for which companies look for star power in the first place.

 

Companies use stars to promote brands for many reasons. For instance, a brand like Nike may use David Beckham or Tiger Woods to symbolise excellence in sports. Brands also use celebrities to inject credibility to their brands. For example, Hyundai used Shah Rukh Khan to build familiarity and credibility with Indian car buyers. Brands also use celebrities as a character in a well-told story. Look at brand Santoor's use of actors like Saif Ali Khan and Madhavan in this context. Sometimes, brands use a star to stand for something of a higher order like respect, perfection, etc. Several brands in India have used Amitabh Bachchan in that context. Internationally, the biggest such deal was possibly between Accenture and Tiger Woods.

 

It is here that the case gets interesting. If a brand-owner is using a celebrity star, from sports or film, to bring in a higher-order connection with its target audience, what happens if that celebrity is embroiled in a big controversy? The star may still be at the peak of his performance, may still attract the crowds to his or her concerts and games. In fact, the crowds may be bigger, simply because the star was in the news for months on end, for all his shenanigans. But to the brand that used him to bring that higher-order connect, the magic doesn't work anymore.

 

In a sense, the star is untouchable, untainted and pure when he is used for a higher-order connect. A scandal/controversy clearly diminishes his brand value.

 

I would like to add that all brands need a higher-order connect at some stage of their evolution. Using a "tainted" star, therefore, has its ramifications.

 

That said, Tiger Woods is an exception and Nike may continue to use him for another decade. I'd like to submit, however, that one Tiger doesn't make a summer.

 

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

 


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

LIMITS OF DISCRETION

THE ULTIMATE SOLUTION IS A JUDICIOUS USE OF DISCRETION BY THE JUDGES THEMSELVES

M J ANTONY

There are several reasons attributed to the 12 per cent growth of arrears in the Supreme Court, currently put at 80,000 cases. Shortage of judges, recurring adjournments, long arguments and even longer vacations are well known. What is not so apparent to the public eye is its frequent exercise of the power to grant special leave to appeal against any order of the courts or tribunals below.

This extraordinary power is used in the ordinary course every day. On a typical day, some 400 out of 700 cases coming to the court ssare via the "special leave" route. Article 136 confers discretion to the judges to hear appeals, even if the high courts or other courts have not granted leave to do so to the party which lost the case there. Article 136 bestows on the Supreme Court, "the widest conceivable range of judicial power, making it perhaps among the most powerful courts in the world," according to one of its own judgments in the PSR Sadhanantham vs Arunachalam (1979) case. This power is "extraordinary in its amplitude; its limit, when it chases injustice, is the sky itself".

However, in a recent judgment, the Supreme Court questioned the way this discretionary power was being exercised by the judges. A two-judge bench has requested the chief justice to constitute a Constitution bench to set guidelines for granting special leave to appeal (in the Mathai vs George case).

 The bench was dealing with the case of a disputed will, in which the genuineness of the testament was subjected to forensic tests. One party was not satisfied with the result and wanted another expert opinion. This demand was rejected by the district court and the Kerala High Court. Then the party approached the Supreme Court with a special leave petition (SLP).

The judges lamented that "nowadays all kinds of SLPs are being filed in this court against every kind of order. For instance, if the trial court allows amendment of an application, the matter is often contested right up to this court. Consequently, the arrears in this court are mounting and this court has been converted practically into an ordinary appellate court. In our opinion, now the time has come when it should be decided by a Constitution bench as to in what kind of cases SLPs should be entertained."

Though the good intentions of the judges cannot be doubted, the question arises whether discretionary powers can be defined as is done in case of a statute. Such attempts have failed before. For instance, one bench drew up guidelines for awarding capital punishment in the 1980s. The court hastily passed another judgment clarifying that those guidelines were not comprehensive and there were other criteria to be applied. The debate has continued all these years and the matter was referred to a Constitution bench last year. It will take many years (and convicts' lives) before the issue is settled.

In the present case also, the preliminary framework for guidelines is equally vague and debatable. Some of the guidelines are as nebulous as they can be. By suggesting that only "matters of national or public importance" or "where there has been grave miscarriage of justice" nowhere near a solution. These are exactly the phrases used by clever lawyers to get their SLPs admitted. This is the same tribe that used the fuzzy term, "basic structure of the Constitution" following the Kesavanand Bharati case, for shoving their SLPs on every sundry matters. A former chief justice remarked that he had to hear the basic structure theory in a rent control matter.

If Article 136 is cribbed and confined within strict guidelines, there could be miscarriage of justice. There are several warning signals. The Supreme Court frequently criticises the high courts for not giving any reasons for their judgments. This practice casts a dark shadow on judicial decisions. It is also widely suspected that the quality of judges in the high courts and below has declined over the years. Moreover, the right to life and liberty granted to the citizens under Article 21 is often telescoped into Article 136. Therefore, the court of last resort should not sacrifice justice in its attempt to reduce the pendency of cases. Every hypothetical situation cannot be envisaged while setting guidelines.

The judges especially should not blame the rush of SLPs for not getting enough time to write judgments, as the Mathai judgment proclaims. There are cases that were heard and forgotten more than two summer vacations ago in which judgments have not been delivered.

The ultimate solution is a judicious use of discretion by the judges themselves. In the words of the Supreme Court (Sadhanandam case), "Our constitutional order vests in the summit court a jurisdiction to do justice, at once omnipresent and omnipotent but controlled and guided by that refined yet flexible censor called judicial discretion."

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE EMPIRE'S ORPHAN CHILDREN

NILANJANA S ROY

As a touchingly emotional Rana Dasgupta rose to receive the Commonwealth Award for the Best Book, he joined a long list of distinguished winners, from Mordecai Richler and Rohinton Mistry to Peter Carey, Vikram Seth and Andrea Levy.

Dasgupta's Solo, his second book and first novel, is a virtuoso performance, like so many Commonwealth Prize winners. Set in Bulgaria, it explores the painful consequences of the choices made by both nations and individuals. Ulrich is blind, living out his years in a city where all the stories have changed, after "the former villains were cast in bronze and put up in parks". As his mind wanders through a real and sometimes imaginary past, his life seems like a settling, however unfair, of history's accounts.

With Peter Carey, J M Coetzee, Thomas Keneally and Chimamanda Adichie on the regional shortlists at one point, it seemed that Solo would be the dark horse of the competition, despite its obvious merits — but the final list of regional winners didn't include any of the big four, making Dasgupta and Michael Crummey the front-runners for the competition.

 For the Commonwealth Awards as they stand today, Dasgupta is the poster boy they need. His work is coldly analytical about globalisation and its impact on both the Third and the First World; and he writes well outside the shadow of Empire. But this particular prize is at something of a crossroads in its history.

As with all literary prizes, it's a big deal for the authors who win. Glenda Guest, who won the Best First Book award for Siddon Rock, pipping Daniyal Muenuddin's In Other Rooms, Other Wonders, was visibly moved: "I have to take a moment to breathe," she said on stage, confessing that she really hadn't prepared a speech. Former winner Githa Hariharan giggled about how her cheque for £3,000 was received with immense gratitude in the days when writers took the "broke and struggling" part of the job description seriously.

But the blunt truth is that there's no real reason to have a Commonwealth Prize, nor is there any commonality between the writers of the Commonwealth. I'm hardly the first person to make this point. Some years ago, Amitav Ghosh made waves when he asked for his book to be withdrawn from consideration: "The issue of how the past is to be remembered lies at the heart of The Glass Palace… I would [betray] my book if I were to allow it to be incorporated within that particular memorialisation of Empire that passes under the rubric of 'the Commonwealth'." If the award was called the Prize for the members of former colonies of the erstwhile British Empire, which is effectively what it is, few writers would subscribe to its logic.

It's worth noting that the impact of history may lessen over time. Salman Rushdie condemned the idea of Commonwealth literature in the 1980s, calling it an untenable ghetto; a decade later, he'd relaxed enough to allow his books to be entered for contention. What continues to make the Commonwealth an "anachronism", as literary columnist Salil Tripathi called it recently, is that it is, unfortunately, anchored to its history. This has an inbuilt absurdity to it: Malaysian and Singaporean writers are eligible for the Prize, but not Vietnamese or Thai writers, excluded only because the flag of Empire was never raised over their soil. It's similarly bewildering to have India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka on the list, but not Nepal, Bhutan or Burma.

It's with the question of languages that the most vexed issues are raised. The Booker Prize, similarly open only to works written in English, was founded explicitly as a prize intended to encourage reading in Britain. It expanded its frontiers over time, and cunningly included non-Commonwealth member Ireland (presumably because they have too many good writers to exclude).

The Commonwealth Prize had no such agenda when it began, and its inability to include works in different regional languages in English translation is deeply disturbing. The argument, made often, that this would render the Prize administration too complex is somewhat specious. One of the best contemporary literary prizes is the Impac, which treats works in English translation on a par with works originally written in English. This still excludes original, untranslated works, but it has the merit of reflecting the way readers actually read — most of us grew up reading a Garcia Marquez or indeed, a Saadat Hasan Manto or Thakkazhi, without "seeing" the translation behind the text.

This shouldn't take away from Dasgupta's win, or indeed from the achievements of any of the winners and shortlisted authors in previous years. But the Commonwealth Prize does need to craft an identity for itself. Most literary prizes do that on the basis of a common language — the Cervantes Prize for works in Spanish — or a common historical or national identity, as with the Pulitzer. Sharing a history of imperialism really isn't enough to create a body of works from the shortlist that would be of interest to most readers.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com  

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

 


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SUBIR ROY: DAGGER THROUGH THE HEART OF INDIA

IS THERE HOPE FOR THE TRIBALS AND FORESTS OF CENTRAL INDIA? IF NOT, IS THERE HOPE FOR THE KIND OF INDIA SOME OF US WANT?

SUBIR ROY

A dagger has been lodged into the heart of India and unless it is taken out, the future of the republic will be in peril. What makes things even more serious is that there is no agreement over what kind of a dagger it is and how to take it out. The heart of India stretches from Bihar in the north to Karnataka in the south, Maharashtra in the west to West Bengal and Orissa in the east. The dagger is adivasi (tribal) disaffection turning into armed Maoist insurgency and it is difficult to take it out because of a fundamental disagreement. Most of India's organised polity — the UPA as well as the Opposition BJP and the Left — thinks it is a revolt against the state which has to be met with force, while a minority, oddly sympathised by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, feels you cannot declare war on your own people, and that too on the earliest inhabitants of the land. The least you can do is to ask yourself why these tribals feel aggrieved after 60 years of independence.

The Maoist insurgency is now top of the mind because last week, in their deadliest attack so far, they ambushed and killed an entire force of 76 CRPF and local policemen in the Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh. They clearly know tactics and use of explosives and have sufficient modern weapons. The location underlines the fact that this district is mostly in Maoist control. Intensive police action, with weaponry and training from all over the world and abundant state resources, will be used to suppress the revolt, decimating the Maoist cadre and leadership. But the wound in the heart of the tribals will remain, to give rise to another revolt maybe decades later.

Two long essays, a scholarly piece by Ramachandra Guha in EPW in 2007, and a classical straight-from-the-heart piece by writer-activist Arundhati Roy in Outlook last month, tell us both how it came about and what has happened on the ground.

You don't need to agree with Roy's politics to appreciate her gripping report of what is happening, gathered after days of trudging on foot through the dense forests of Dandakaranya with Maoist cadres and talking to some of their leaders. It helps you put a finger on the raw nerve of tribal disaffection and their desire to eke out a living in their forests without outside depredation. Three lakh acres have been distributed among the tribals and 60,000 sq km has been "liberated", she says, with the Janatana Sarkar administration of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) in place. It even has its "save the jungle" department and a leader cites a government report that forest cover has gone up under Maoist watch! New ground in tribal society has been broken through the assertion of the women's cadre, Krantikari Adivasi Mahila Sangathan, in the Maoist movement.

Guha makes the telling point that the deprivations of tribals in peninsular India is more striking than that of even Dalits and Muslims. In the national consciousness, the tribals are not just marginal but invisible. In terms of human development indicators, the adivasis are worse off than even the Dalits! They have been disposed of by development and conservation, displaced first by the "commanding heights" of the economy and then by globalisation. Their major problems are land alienation, denial of forest rights, and displacement by development projects and national parks and sanctuaries. The British introduced laws which Independent India unquestioningly inherited, turning the lords of the forest into subjects of the forest department.

It is helpful to see where Guha and Roy agree and disagree. Both agree that the economic condition of the tribals is abominable. If malnutrition is the legacy of the past, poor education promises to be the curse of the future. The iron ore and bauxite, which should have been their blessing, have turned out to be their curse as they are unable to fight the displacement or make the best use of rehabilitation. Where the two disagree is in their view of the Maoists. Roy is soft on them, talking mostly about the violence on tribals and touching, only in passing, on the barbarity of the attacks of Maoists on their "enemies". Critically, they differ on the sandwich theory — that most of the tribals are caught between the violence of the Maoists on the one hand and that of the state machinery and settlers on the other with little hope of deliverance. Guha subscribes to this, Roy does not.

It is difficult to think up solutions because a critical statute, giving back to the forest dwellers their rights, is already in place. But it is the state governments which have to work it. And they will be the last to do so. They are in the grip of settlers, the non-tribals, who have taken over. The worst depredator, the state-sponsored vigilante Salwa Judum, led by a Congress MLA, came into its own when the BJP government assumed power in Chhattisgarh. Is there hope for the tribals and forests of central India? If not, is there hope for the kind of India some of us want?

subir.roy@bsmail.in

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


BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

THE SPLINTERED DEMOCRACY

THERE'S A NEED TO SYNCHRONISE THE SYSTEMS OF LOCAL REPRESENTATION

SANJEEV SANYA

Indian cities clearly should be managed better. Mega-cities like Mumbai may blame the sheer size of population and migration, but India's small towns are no better managed. If anything, small towns in the Gangetic plains are even worse managed than the big metropolitan cities. We cannot even blame poverty. There are other countries — like Vietnam — which are both very poor and very densely populated but do not suffer from the squalor that one associates with urban India. In short, there are no excuses for poor urban governance.

It has long been argued that the solution lies in decentralisation. Issues like waste management and water supply are local issues and need to be resolved locally. Fair enough. The newly built city of Gurgaon is expected to have an elected municipal government by the end of the year. In theory, this will allow municipal issues to be tackled locally rather than in faraway Chandigarh, the state capital. As a resident of the town, I should be jumping with joy but, like most others, I am ambivalent. The reason is that local municipal government has not been a great success anywhere in India. What is the problem?

 THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

In pre-colonial times, city government was handled by the local ruler or Mughal governor. This was an ad hoc system that the British attempted to modernise and institutionalise. In 1882, Lord Ripon created laws covering the establishment of local bodies, their powers and financial arrangements. This led to the evolution of functioning municipal bodies in at least some towns. Unlike later, local bodies attracted leading citizens and politicians. Calcutta Municipal Corporation, for instance, had well-known people like Subhash Bose as chief executive officer and later as mayor.

When India became Independent, it was envisaged that the government would have a decentralised structure with three tiers. In practice, however, the political dominance of a single party combined with socialist planning led to a very centralised power structure. Even when power did devolve to the states, it seldom percolated to the local bodies. In fact, state governments — usually dominated by rural politicians — saw municipal bodies as a threat and actively limited them. An attempt was made to force decentralisation in 1992 through the 74th amendment to the Constitution. Two decades later, municipal bodies remain very weak — their finances are poor and their powers unclear. Not surprisingly, citizens are usually apathetic to local body elections.

RWA democracy

Apathy towards local government does not mean that citizens do not care about local issues. Quite to the contrary, they actively participate in groups like Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs) created under legal provisions such as the Apartment Ownership Act (most states have their own version). Neighbourhood RWAs have long existed in different forms in Delhi's "colonies" or in the apartment blocks of Mumbai and Kolkata. They tended to limit themselves to micro-issues related to building maintenance. However, they are becoming increasingly vocal platforms because of the failure of the wider system.

The new-style RWAs are most active in new townships like Gurgaon that have mushroomed in the last decade. Typically, there is no pre-exiting elected body in these areas and the RWAs are the only form of local representation. However, both urban infrastructure and RWAs are organised according to "colonies". Urban governance, therefore, is splintering up into a series of gated communities. This is even true of the poor who live in "urban villages" that also organise themselves internally. There is no direct link between this inward-looking arrangement and the governance of the overall city.

As India experiences rapid urban growth, this phenomenon will become even more widespread. Note that many of the new RWAs represent very large areas and tens of thousands of residents. Increasingly, RWAs are taking on powerful political interests and real estate developers. However, all this is happening through agitation rather than through the governance system.

Unifying parallel systems

 

Interestingly, RWAs represent a form of citizen participation that involves the middle class that has been usually apathetic to mainstream politics for many decades. The political class has begun to take note of this change. A few years ago, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit introduced a scheme called "Bhagidari" to tap into the energies of the RWA movement to help solve local issues.

Unfortunately, the RWA-based "democracy" is far from perfect. There is a great deal of internal politics and sometimes we have parallel RWAs representing the same area. Very often, they look at issues from the narrow view of their community rather than that of the wider urban fabric. The needs of the poor are frequently ignored as they are not property owners and consequently not RWA members. However, the biggest problem is that the RWA system does not fit easily into the constitutionally mandated system of wards and local bodies. This is why the Bhagidari experiment has yielded mixed results. In effect, we have two parallel legal frameworks — one for the municipal corporation and one for the RWA. In Delhi, this is further complicated by the fact that both state and Central governments are actively involved in municipal affairs.

The first step towards better municipal governance would be to synchronise the two systems so that local democracy is unified. One way could be that RWA representatives are made part of the municipal council. This may not be straightforward. Local body elections are based on the principle of "one vote per person", whereas RWAs are based on real estate ownership. Nonetheless, we need to find a way in which all interests are reasonably represented within a unified framework. If not, we will continue with the current system of splintered democracy.

The author is President, Sustainable Planet Institute and Sr Fellow, WWF

 

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

 


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

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE DELAYED AND DENIED

 

The release of a Kashmiri accused of being involved in the 1996 Lajpat Nagar blast in the Capital, after the trial court declared him innocent after 14 years in jail, highlights, once again, the plight of undertrials and detainees in India.


The main issues in the wider problem of the denial of justice are the lack of accountability, the frequent misapplication of the law and the extremely slow pace of our judicial processes. This particular case again brings to the fore the danger of abuse of basic human rights entailed by the various stringent laws formulated to deal with the security challenges across the country.


There is little by way of redressal the country can offer this individual, for instance, given that he has spent half his life in jail after being arrested as a 15 year old. Then again, there are all too many instances of people being on trial for years on end, often spending more time in prison than what a conviction would have spent.


Two main aspects of the wider problem relate to the police's powers to make arrests and the tardiness of the judicial system. On the first count, the case has repeatedly been made for better implementation of existing laws, rather than formulating new, draconian ones.


Then, we need to implement amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code that relate to the police's power to make arrests and the granting or refusal of adjournments by courts, which were put on hold even as the CrPC (Amendment) Act, 2008, came into effect from the start of this year.

Setting up many more courts and streamlining procedures could lead to the unclogging of a severely burdened prison and judicial system. The problem is acute. According to the last (2007) report of the National Crime Records Bureau , the total number of jail inmates was 3,76,396 as against a capacity of 2,77,304. And a whopping 66.6% of the total inmates were undertrial prisoners.


And a high court judge recently opined that it would take 320 years to clear the backlog of 31.28 million cases in various courts in the country. How even those held on terror charges are treated is a reflection of our wider justice system. And that, by itself, is in serious need for some reforms.

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THINKING BEYOND 3G

 

Broadband is the greatest infrastructure challenge of the 21st century — thus begins the US Federal Communications Commission's new National Broadband Plan, which aims to connect 100 million homes with broadband at a speed of at least 100 megabits per second by 2020.


In India, the challenge is not so much building it as policymakers recognising broadband as essential infrastructure . Right now, any data connection faster than 256 kilobits per second qualifies as broadband, says the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India.


This has to change, rapidly, without waiting to go through the evolution , short as it has been, that broadband has gone through in the developed countries. India needs to leapfrog technologies and regulation, to provide really highspeed data connectivity to its people. This would, far from being at the expense of other key initiatives planned on education, food and employment, actually facilitate them and go far beyond.


The ongoing auction of small chunks of 3G and wireless broadband spectrum is a step in the right direction, but a small one. Far more needs to be done, on the ground. The data volumes and the corresponding data transfer speeds that relatively low-skilled internet users require are significantly higher than those required by more sophisticated users — the less skilled need detailed, graphic instructions to stand in for the simple verbal advice that would suffice for sophisticated users.


The burden of such speeds and data volumes cannot be placed on wireless broadband. India needs an extensive network of optical fibre. The government has more than Rs 20,000 crore worth of unused money at its disposal in the Universal Service Obligation Fund. It must use the money to build trunk networks across the country, and these must be commonly accessible by all internet service providers.


Japan and Korea, which lead the world in broadband access , mandate open access on internet infrastructure, increasing competition and access while lowering costs.


India needs a communications ministry that sees the future . What we have instead is one that keeps an eye open for short-term gains for itself and for its favoured companies . We deserve better.

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WILL IT RAIN ON APRIL 16 & 18?

 

The extent to which the Indian Premier League T20 cricket tournament has taken over mass consciousness can be seen by the fact that millions of cricket fans are wondering whether it will rain in Dharamshala this Friday and Sunday.

 

Dharamshala is the headquarters of the Kangra district and the town where the Dalai Lama has been residing for the last 50 years after fleeing Tibet. For the tourist, Dharamshala, set in the upper reaches of the Kangra valley against the backdrop of the snow-capped Dhauladhar range, offers some of the world's most scenic views. For pilgrims, Dharamshala lives up to its name through its Shiv and Kali temples, Tibetan monasteries and the small Anglican church of St John in the Wilderness where the viceroy Lord Elgin was buried in 1863.

For the IPL cricket fan, however, the focus will be on whether or not it will rain on April 16 and 18 when two IPL matches will be held for the first time in the Dharamshala Cricket Stadium. Dharamshala is one of the wettest places in Himachal Pradesh and is prone to unseasonal showers.


The first match between the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) and the Deccan Chargers (DC) will be inaugurated by the Himachal CM, the second between KXIP and the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) by the Dalai Lama. With the DC and CSK almost level on points, rain on either or both the days could affect their chances of making it to the semi-finals of the tournament. Their only consolation could be to tune in to what the Dalai Lama said years ago: "It is our custom to say that someone is 'lucky' or 'unlucky' .


It is, however, too simplistic to think in terms of random 'luck' . We seem to call 'luck' that factor which over-rides external conditions to bring about a positive solution ." Or, as the Marxist writer C L R James noted in his book Beyond a Boundary, published in 1963, "What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?"

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

TREASURE YOUR FRIENDS

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

It is claimed that the Panchatantra has travelled more widely than the Bible, for it has been translated through the centuries everywhere from Ethiopia to China, the renowned English writer Doris Lessing once wrote in her introduction to the great Indian classic.


"Yet it is safe to say that most people in the West will have not heard of it, while they will certainly at the very least have heard of the Upanishads and the Vedas ," she added.


"Until comparatively recently, it was the other way around. Anyone with any claim to a literary education knew that the The Fables of Bidpai or Kalila and Dimna — these being the most commonly used titles with us — was a great eastern classic. There were at least 20 English translations in the hundred years before 1888." What is the secret of its popularity, that enabled it to be absorbed without resistance, and to be loved by Buddhists, Zoroastrians, Christians , Muslims and Jews alike?


One answer lies in its masterly use of parables and beast-tales "that commemorate our instinctive knowledge of how we emerged from the animal kingdom , on two legs but still with claws and fangs," Lessing muses.
It's also about the very essence of our humanity — about making of social networks, about gaining and loss of friends — what makes mass phenomena such as Facebook and twitter virally popular today. But this wasn't the case when Pandit Vishnu Sharma wrote his classic treatise .


The reach of people's social world then was largely delimited by their physical ambit , by the number of people they encountered in person, writes noted evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar in his book, How Many Friends Does One Person Need. Notwithstanding the explosion of our so-called friendly spaces in the virtual lanes of the electronic world, most people still have a pretty average number of friends on their list, with few having numbers above 200. This is because humans are as much products of evolutionary history as are social species such as lions and cattle and jackals and crows that live and thrive in packs.


There's a bigger issue about who really counts as a friend and why. This is precisely where the Panchatantra's timeless insights match the evidence from cognitive sciences. It says the quality of your maitri matters perhaps more than the absolute number of friends you can count upon. So go cherish 'em , just as Vishnu Sharma says.

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

ROLLOUT OBLIGATION FOR WIMAX?

B K SYNGAL FORMER CMD VSNL

 

Rollout obligations were introduced and imposed in the licensing conditions for Indian telcos to prevent hoarding of a scarce natural resource like spectrum. Licensing authorities have, however, found it next to impossible to compel operators to meet the rollout obligations stipulated in their licensing conditions. This happened in the first round of licensing in 1994-95 and the latest one in 2008.


Many licensees are yet to start services. Worse, some operators also sold licences at high multiples of the acquisition price. Given the track record, there should be no rollout obligation for wireless broadband. An ideal option could be to impose spectrum squatting charges. Such a charge could be computed for three years and could be a percentage of the entry fee.


This charge should be made payable irrespective of whether the licensee rolls out services or not. The charge needs to be computed in a way that the potential annual gross revenue (AGR) expected from the usage of this spectrum over three years is recovered by way of the percentage fee imposed. Such acharge will give the licensee an incentive to roll out services to the optimum potential so that it generates sufficient revenues that enables them to pay the percentage fee.


A mechanism could be developed so that the percentage fee or AGR, whichever is higher during this period, becomes payable. Such a mechanism will encourage the rollout of services and ensure that there are no losses to the government. Today, there is enough backup data available for calculating such a percentage charge.


The new licensees can also be given five years to roll out services, and if they fail, their licence should be revoked. No resale of licences should be permitted during this period. Let these norms be cast in concrete with no ifs and buts. A mere mention of rollout obligation for non-performance is a non-starter as evidenced by historical data because the licensee writes and understands better English than government lawyer

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ROLLOUT OBLIGATION FOR WIMAX?

C S RAO, CHAIRMAN, WIMAX FORUM

 

India lags broadband access. So, public interest will be served with a rapid rollout of nationwide broadband services on Wi-Max platform. Spectrum is a national asset and needs to be used to meet the country's economic goals. There is compelling need to build India's future through broadband during the next three years. With a speedy rollout, a 10% increase in broadband penetration would improve the country's GDP by 0.6%.


India is unique with high density of cell towers, at every 700 m. Investments in tower, fibre and power infrastructure can be exploited for faster broadband network rollout. India can be transformed into a broadband nation within nine months from auction, with operators covering top 1,000 cities and towns. This will extend to all rural areas around these cities enabling the country to have 100 million broadband users by 2014.


Faster service rollout by telcos is possible as mature 4G WiMax is ready. Broadband wireless access spectrum is set at 50% of 3G reserve price to ensure faster rollout. IT, media and internet segments too would gain. Genuine operators see tighter rollout criterion as an opportunity to establish themselves first as national leaders. They can exploit economies of scale of a proven technology through competitive devices over globally harmonised spectrum with roaming.


Lenient rollout obligations result in hoarding of spectrum by bidders with different agenda for a few years. It would also deprive 20 million people of broadband access. As a result, the economy would stand to lose $6 billion.

National broadband growth objectives should override any self-interest in hoarding and trading of spectrum at the exchequer's cost. India cannot afford exploitation of easy rollout criterion by non-telco bidders and promoters of a technology motivated by long-term IPR revenue extraction on a globally-unaccepted and untested technology platform (TD LTE). This player needs four more years to reach the status of WiMax.

 

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


THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INDIA CAN BE THE WORLD'S FOOD BASKET: SCOTT PRICE, CEO, WAL-MART ASIA

GULVEEN AULAKH

 

CHANDIGARH : Bharti Wal-Mart wants to source $1-billion worth of goods from India and help the country become a food exporter, says Scott Price, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Asia.As Wal-Mart pans out in the country through its cash-and-carry Best Price stores in tieup with the Bharti Group, it wants to develop India into a sourcing hub for agri-produce worldwide by helping reduce wastage and improve productivity, he told ET in an interview. Excerpts:


What are you India plans when you say you are here for the long term?


Scott Price: I would love for Bharti Wal-Mart to help develop a sophisticated retail market in India, which is crucial for food security and efficiency. Nearly 25-30% wastage occurs when agriculture products move from farm to wholesale. Reducing this will bring down the cost of food.


Modern trade can also help develop agriculture for export purposes. That is a huge opportunity for India to progress from feeding itself to help feed the world. We also help bring in technology. We have trained nearly 2,000 people in our training centre in Amritsar. More than 120 of them have become associates at Best Price. I see a huge opportunity for us to play a role of bringing the experience that we have and not just focus on the role of wholesaler retail.


Does that mean you are counting on the government allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail?


Scott Price: We see a huge opportunity and long-term benefit from the Indian government to continue the dialogue to allow FDI. Our preference is a 100% open FDI. We've seen it in China, Japan and markets in South America.

But if there is a multi-step process to that, we understand. We see the relationship in the joint venture with Bharti today is being very productive. So, even with the frame up of FDI, we see long-term benefit from this relationship, particularly the experience that Bharti brings for us to understand how to operate in India.

But would you go alone if 100% FDI is allowed?


Scott Price: I see the Bharti Wal-Mart joint venture as very valuable and something that we would like to maintain in whatever structure for a long term. I think Bharti would bring a lot of value to this relationship.

Do you have plans to make India a global sourcing hub for Wal-Mart?


Scott Price: India already exports $125 million, mainly textiles. I would like to set a target of more than $1 billion of exports ourselves. Today our overall revenue is $400 billion globally, so a billion sourced by India for exports is not that big a number. I think a lot of product lines could be done from here.


If we can get the agriculture to global standards, I think India has a huge opportunity to become a food basket for the world — because of the temperate weather. Already we're doing textiles, but India would follow a same economic curve that most developing economies do, which is more educated workforce and more sophisticated value-added manufacturing and assembly.


Do the experiences in Wal-Mart operations in China or Japan applicable to India? Or is it the other way round?

Scott Price: It's actually vice versa. The direct farm concept came out of China where it was established. In China, we started in the outskirts of Beijing and moved to tier II and III cities. They looked at how we are doing it in India to understand how to grow in tier II and tier III cities since we have adopted the reverse approach here.

 

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


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

                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

US NEEDS TO REPAIR ITS IMAGE IN INDIA

India and the United States have come a long way since the end of the Cold War to build their bilateral relationship almost from scratch. The mood at both ends is positive. After the Sunday night meeting between the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, and the US President, Mr Barack Obama, the US government described the ties as "robust", with lots more to share in times ahead not just in bilateral relations but also in India making a contribution to addressing key international issues. Much of the optimism on both sides is justified. The India-US civil nuclear agreement signed under the Bush administration did much to fill the India-US dynamics with the spirit of optimism and mutual confidence. This can provide a lever for the ties to evolve greatly in the right direction for mutual benefit. And yet, leaders and policy-framers in Washington would do well to be sensitive to the fact that a significant cause — at the people level, if not always at the level of the government — for ambiguities and doubts in the past in respect of the US harboured by all classes of Indians was the perceived American support to Pakistan in the latter's adversarial expressions toward this country. This unfortunate triangulation has taken a long time to shake off. However, a modicum of doubt creeps right back in whenever it is perceived here (sometimes without sufficient reason) that the US-Pakistan military terms remain warm, and this gives Islamabad the sense that it can carry on with its proxy war against India, confident that in the end the US will look away as it badly needs the Pakistan Army for its geopolitical ends in this part of the world. The issue of access to David Headley, on which the Americans have appeared ambivalent, has once again stoked the concerns of Indians, although Mr Obama is reported to have responded sympathetically to Dr Singh's expression of concern. The Headley issue coinciding with the gifting of armaments to Pakistan — although to fight terrorism in the Pakistan-Afghanistan belt — has heightened concerns here. The history is that Pakistan has used US-supplied arms against India. It is not hard to see that a key reason for Dr Singh to have a bilateral meeting with the US leader on the eve of the Nuclear Security Summit was to make Mr Obama conscious that the quality of the triangulation must change if the full potential of the India-US ties is to be realised. Within the broad constraints of geopolitics imposed on the US on account of the Afghanistan factor, Mr Obama has given the impression that he understands Indian worries. Reports suggest that he communicated India's views to the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mr Yousaf Raza Gilani. These have two inter-related strands. One, that India's high-growth trajectory contributes to global financial stabilisation after the recession, and that this growth path is sought to be disrupted by Pakistani terrorism. This extends to saying that if Pakistan does not put an end to this and does not seriously move against the terrorists who hit Mumbai, there cannot be an atmosphere of trust between the two countries. This leads to the second strand — that Pakistan taking action to root out terrorism against India is important for South Asian security.

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DISTRESSING THOUGHTS

BY INDER MALHOTRA

DESPITE THE Niagara of words after the horrific massacre of an almost entire company of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) by the Maoists at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, it is necessary to raise a few questions and offer some suggestions. The most important issue, of course, is the training of the paramilitary personnel assigned the task of taking on the Maoist menace, rightly and repeatedly described by the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, as the "biggest internal security threat to the country". Dantewada has cruelly demonstrated if Lalgarh and Silda in West Bengal had not done so earlier, that the Maoist People's Guerrilla Liberation Army is very well organised, apparently has an effective intelligence network and is highly motivated and mobile, with a command and control structure of its own. Those CRPF jawans who sadly became sitting ducks were obviously neither so well trained nor so well led. Nor can this be dismissed as an aberration.

Instead of coming to grips with this grave problem the various elements in the ruling establishment at a rather high level immediately embarked on what can only be called a pettyfogging turf war. No sooner had the Army Chief said that the Alpha company of the 62nd Battalion of the CRPF was not adequately trained for the job that the director-general (DG) of the CRPF contradicted him flat, without caring to answer the general's categorical statement that the battalion that conducted the "area domination" operation around Dantewada had "never trained with the Army". The matter did not end there. Union home minister P. Chidambaram, obviously under stress on several counts, chose to confirm that the CRPF DG was working under his ministry and confute the Chief of the Army Staff. Ironically, only a few hours later, Mr Chidambaram's own ministry disowned him. In a press release it admitted that only 45 of the 81-strong company decimated at Dantewada had received "guerrilla warfare training".

Let this pass. The pertinent point is that a decade ago, the K. Subrahmanyam Committee on Kargil War had clearly recommended restructuring of the paramilitary forces, especially in respect of their training and command and control system. Had the then Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance government heeded the committee, the country would have been doubly blessed. Both the Army and the home ministry-controlled paramilitary organisations would have been much better off today than they are. This, along with the Kargil committee's rationale, needs some explaining. Some time before the Emergency, the Army had raised the service of jawans under the colours from seven to 17 years. The ageing of the Army this had caused was manifest by the time of the Kargil War. Equally obvious by then was the inadequacy of the training of paramilitary forces in view of the proxy war in Kashmir and what V.S. Naipaul had exaggeratedly called "a million mutinies". The committee suggested that the service under the colours should again be fixed at seven years and the recruits to the Army and the paramilitary outfits should all be trained by the Army. After initially serving the Army for seven years all of them should be accommodated in respective paramilitary services until the age of retirement. This would bring down the Army's average age, save it a huge pension bill, and bring up to the mark the combat capacity of paramilitary personnel. Unnecessarily ignored in the past, this idea needs to be taken up seriously now. For one of the lessons Dantewada has driven home is that only those who have all the skills of an infantry soldier would be able to fight and defeat the Maoists.

A particularly distressing feature of the often inane debate after Dantewada has been the clamour for the use of the Army and the military's air power against the Maoists. This is wrong, indeed unwise. Counter-insurgency within the country is the job of the civilian armed force with the best possible training, not of the armed forces meant to fight the external enemies. The use of the Indian Air Force (IAF) across the 223 districts in 20 states comprising the red corridor, with attendant risks of civilian casualties and collateral damage, would be particularly dangerous. I know that on one occasion in the 60s, Indira Gandhi ordered the Air Force to bomb Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, which had been overrun by the rebels. But that was in a small area and a one-time affair. What the civilian armed forces engaged in the fight against the Maoists should be enabled, even encouraged, to do is to acquire unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance and helicopters for transport. Air strikes by the IAF would be counter-productive. It is no surprise, therefore, that both the Army and Air Chiefs opposed the involvement of the defence services in anti-Maoist operations. Unfortunately, what they should have conveyed to the government privately they broadcast publicly, the Air Chief more vehemently than his Army colleague. The Prime Minister has done well, therefore, to get it conveyed to the service chiefs to be silent rather than rush to the TV cameras at the drop of a peaked cap. Defence minister A.K. Antony has also some duty to discharge in this connection.

Finally, it is regrettable that Mr Chidambaram and serving and retired officers of the CRPF are going on with the refrain that it is the duty of the state governments to conduct operations against the Maoists, the Centre can support them only by providing them with paramilitary forces. Even if this idea had any validity ever, it is now totally out of date. By the home minister's own admission — for once backed fully by the principal Opposition party, the BJP — that the Maoists have "declared war on the Indian state". In that case, the Indian state in its entirety has to fight this war though with civilian armed agencies only. In any case, there never has been any ambiguity on the part of the Maoists. Their declared aim is to overthrow the democratically-elected Indian government by armed force by 2015. This leaves no room for incomprehensible quibbling over the respective responsibilities of the Union and state governments.

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PEACE WITH THE PAST? LEARN FROM POLAND

BY ROGER COHEN

 

NEW YORK

My first thought, hearing of the Polish tragedy, was that history's gyre can be of an unbearable cruelty, decapitating Poland's elite twice in the same cursed place, Katyn.

My second was to call my old friend Adam Michnik in Warsaw. Michnik, an intellectual imprisoned six times by the former puppet-Soviet Communist rulers, once told me: "Anyone who has suffered that humiliation, at some level, wants revenge. I know all the lies. I saw people being killed. But I also know that revanchism is never ending. And my obsession has been that we should have a revolution that does not resemble the French or Russian, but rather the American, in the sense that it be for something, not against something. A revolution for a Constitution, not a paradise. An anti-utopian revolution. Because utopias lead to the guillotine and the gulag".

Michnik's obsession has yielded fruit. President Lech Kaczynski is dead. Slawomir Skrzypek, the president of the National Bank, is dead. An explosion in the fog of the forest took them and 94 others on the way to Katyn. But Poland's democracy has scarcely skipped a beat. The leader of the Lower House of Parliament has become acting President pending an election. The first deputy president of the National Bank has assumed the duties of the late president. Poland, oft dismembered, even wiped from the map, is calm and at peace.

"Katyn is the place of death of the Polish intelligentsia", Michnik, now the soul of Poland's successful Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper, said when I reached him by phone. "This is a terrible national tragedy. But in my sadness I am optimistic because Putin's strong and wise declaration has opened a new phase in Polish-Russian relations, and because we Poles are showing we can be responsible and stable".

Michnik was referring to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's words after he decided last week to join, for the first time, Polish officials commemorating the anniversary of the murder at Katyn of thousands of Polish officers by the Soviet Union at the start of World War II. Putin, while defending the Russian people, denounced the "cynical lies" that had hidden the truth of Katyn, said "there is no justification for these crimes" of a "totalitarian regime" and declared, "We should meet each other halfway, realising that it is impossible to live only in the past".

The declaration, dismissed by the paleolithic Russian Communist Party, mattered less than Putin's presence, head bowed in that forest of shame. Watching him beside Poland's Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, I thought of François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl hand-in-hand at Verdun in 1984: of such solemn moments of reconciliation has the miracle of a Europe whole and free been built. Now that Europe extends eastward toward the Urals.

I thought even of Willy Brandt on his knees in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1970, a turning point on the road to a German-Polish reconciliation more miraculous in its way even than the dawning of the post-war German-French alliance. And now perhaps comes the most wondrous rapprochement, the Polish-Russian.

It is too early to say where Warsaw-Moscow relations are headed but not too early to say that 96 lost souls would be dishonoured if Polish and Russian leaders do not make of this tragedy a solemn bond. As Tusk told Putin, "A word of truth can mobilise two peoples looking for the road to reconciliation. Are we capable of transforming a lie into reconciliation? We must believe we can".

Poland should shame every nation that believes peace and reconciliation are impossible, every state that believes the sacrifice of new generations is needed to avenge the grievances of history. The thing about competitive victimhood, a favourite West Asian pastime, is that it condemns the children of today to join the long list of the dead.

For scarcely any nation has suffered since 1939 as Poland, carved up by the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact, transformed by the Nazis into the epicentre of their programme to annihilate European Jewry, land of Auschwitz and Majdanek, killing field for millions of Christian Poles and millions of Polish Jews, brave home to the Warsaw Uprising, Soviet pawn, lonely Solidarity-led leader of post-Yalta Europe's fight for freedom, a place where, as one of its great poets, Wislawa Szymborska, wrote, "History counts its skeletons in round numbers" — 20,000 of them at Katyn.

It is this Poland that is now at peace with its neighbours and stable. It is this Poland that has joined Germany in the European Union. It is this Poland that has just seen the very symbols of its tumultuous history (including the Gdansk dock worker Anna Walentynowicz and former President-in-exile Ryszard Kaczorowski) go down in a Soviet-made jet and responded with dignity, according to the rule of law.

So do not tell me that cruel history cannot be overcome. Do not tell me that Israelis and Palestinians can never make peace. Do not tell me that the people in the streets of Bangkok and Bishkek and Tehran dream in vain of freedom and democracy. Do not tell me that lies can stand forever.

Ask the Poles. They know.

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

INDIA NEEDS NEW MANUAL ON NAXALS

BY ROHIT SINGH

The Naxal threat has grown steadily but subtly, and unchecked by commensurate counter-action its severity now surpasses the capabilities of the current strategy, which does not have all stakeholders on board. The state cannot succeed simply by trying harder: it must now adopt a fundamentally new approach. An insurgency as long-drawn as the Naxal one cannot be solved by merely pushing in more paramilitary forces nor by using "kinetic forces" of the Army alone for it is a war hijacked by vicious anti-state forces exploiting the weakness of state institutions, and the malign actions of power — brokers, widespread corruption and abuse of power by various vested interests — give people little reason to support their government and, instead, provide cannon fodder to Naxal "elites", "intellectuals" and sympathisers to drive deeper wedges between the aggrieved population and the state. Meaningless security actions hurt the people, deprived as it is because of lack of economic opportunity.

"Don't mess with our control of the interior of the country" is the strategic message coming out of the Dantewada massacre. For a state that aspires to become a power and to a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, its "refusing-to-develop-country status" (85.7 per cent of its people live on less then $2.50 per day) is primarily owed to huge swathes of land out of the reach of state governance.

In examining why so many counter-insurgencies by powerful militaries failed against weaker "enemies", noted military historian Martin Van Creveld advised that the "first and absolutely indispensable thing to do is to throw overboard 99 per cent of the literature" on the subject because most of it was written by the losing side.

The core of the strategy now advocated is the fight for the population which both the opposing forces are vying for, and therein lies the contradiction. Lethal or kinetic use of force is highly counter-productive and will mean a failed strategy. Non-application of forces, disjointed, indecisive action will prolong the insurgency, bringing more areas under Naxal parallel control (Naxal extortion on an all-India basis is Rs 1,600 crores, annually).

The most significant truth emerging out of Dantewada is that the Naxals have graduated from a guerrilla force to a "People's Army", having morphed into battalions, companies, platoons, intelligence and logistics departments with indigenous weapon- and improvised explosive device (IED)-manufacturing capacity. Having upgraded their mobile warfare capacities, they are gravitating to their next level of "positional warfare", which is when they will attempt to capture territory, having already carved out "safe sanctuaries".

The strategy is simple: with the Army in the lead to clear Naxalite strongholds/safe havens in and around the vicinity of remote population centres, the paramilitary and police follows in its wake to hold (areas cleared) and then deny access to Naxals to population centres. Then a civil administration is needed to build infrastructure, developmental projects, poverty alleviation programmes. Before launching operations in a given area, let the "enemy" know you are coming, such that the Naxals have the opportunity to either flee or fight. If they choose the latter they will concentrate more numbers to counter the offensive, inviting decimation, a counter-insurgent's delight. If they flee, which most likely they will if the Army leads, they are separated from the population from which they feed. This will make them desperate and they will coerce the population for various needs, thus making their movement unpopular, slowly but surely. Admittedly, this will be a slow process, but a few years will be a drop in the ocean of almost 40 years of insurgency.

This strategy aims at providing enough things (security forces) in enough places (strongholds) for enough time (so as to frustrate the Naxal capacity to fight for their "sea", i.e., the population). A caveat, however: clear only those areas for which paramilitary forces are available to hold. In the order of priority, address key economic zones (as in Jharkhand coal fields) and population centres, including areas around them, choking off finances. For logistics, any insurgent is dependent on the population.

A constant media flow of information on the course of "clearing operations" will take away the propaganda tool from the Naxal activists and sympathisers who can constantly be reminded that the choice to fight or flee has already been given to the Naxal. The biggest danger this operation will face is the IED threat for which huge Army resources will have to be pooled, as was done in the operation in Nowzad, Afghanistan.

The strategy of letting the "enemy" know that you are coming will raise many an eyebrow, but then let it be remembered that 99 per cent of counter-insurgencies have failed because of the failure to resort to "out-of-the-box" thinking.

The use of the Army will again raise a hornet's nest. But this is a novel way of using it, and only for "clearing operations". When the paramilitary imbibe the nuances of such operations by on-the-job training, the use of the Army may be dispensed with for subsequent phases. A beginning has to be made with success. The Army is the way to begin to do it.

For once, India needs to act soon and act decisively. Increasingly, Naxals are colluding with jihadi elements. Additionally, a lot of poor people's lives are dependent on early action. An iron fist in a velvet glove, rather than kinetic force which feeds the insurgency, is the answer.

The author is a research associate at CLAWS, theCentre For Land Warfare Studies, Delhi

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

ISLAM IS THE SOUL OF SUFISM

BY SADIA DEHLVI

 

I come across many people who believe that Sufism has little or no connection with Islam. They mistake Sufis as freestyle mystics outside the boundaries of religion. Socially, I come across people who refer to themselves as Sufis, often signifying nothing more than a fashionable attitude. Many others add that they are "spiritual" but not "religious". Frankly, such words sound hollow, for spirituality simply cannot exist without religious foundations. One must go through some specific religious discipline in order to transcend its ritualistic form and unite with God. Just as there can be no Zen without Buddhism, Vedanta without Hinduism, Sufism cannot exist outside of Islam.

One of the most misunderstood aspects of Sufism is its music and dance, where the word, "Sufi" is often robbed of its spirituality and exploited by market-driven agendas. "Sama" literally means "to hear" and sama mehfils, Sufi music assemblies, require certain conditions of physical and spiritual purity. Sama is not about the listener, but the addressee. Poetry is sung or recited for God, Prophets and Sufi masters to invoke blessings. Sama must be presided by a Sufi master, who controls both, the singers and the gathering. In these collective gathering of remembrance, a definite etiquette is required, where clapping from the audience is unacceptable.

In Sufi philosophy, the most distinctive theme of the Quran to understand the meaning of human existence on earth is Misaq, the pre-eternal covenant that Allah made with unborn human souls prior to their creation. "When thy Lord drew forth from the Children of Adam — from their loins — their descendants, and made them testify concerning themselves, (saying): 'Am I not your Lord (who cherishes and sustains you)?' — They said: 'Yes! We do testify!' (This), lest ye should say on the Day of Judgment: 'Of this we were never mindful'". (7:172)

This day of the covenant, when nothing but Allah existed is called Yau-e-Alastu, when the fate of all souls was sealed by Divine predestination. The foundation of Allah's love was laid; the souls that responded instantly with a passionate yearning became His chosen friends. The friends experienced union with the Beloved, understanding that moment as the most precious one. Sufism teaches that man's duty on earth is to know God and fulfil this primordial covenant with Him. Sufis believe that the first music assembly occurred on this day, when the souls of the lovers danced in spiritual ecstasy on hearing the voice of their Lord.

The ultimate goal of the mystic is to achieve fana, annihilate himself in God. The use of music to induce hal, a state of spiritual ecstasy, is practiced by most Sufi orders barring some sections of the conservative Naqshbandi order. In hal, the Sufi loses consciousness and reaches higher spiritual levels. The term for ecstasy is wajd, which literally means "finding", that is to find God.

Be it the recitation of scriptures or listening to mystic verse, the devotee experiences a sense of spiritual bliss which may manifest as celestial lights, mystical states and physical effects. These are derived from the present world and the angelic sphere.

Sufis teach that music assemblies provide nourishment for the soul, for during sama Divine grace flows from the Heavens. It is a time where Allah unveils Himself to His Friends. This uninterrupted shower of blessings is called sharaab-e-marifah, the wine of gnosis, and sharaab-e-mohabbah, the wine of love.

Bayazid Bistasmi, the 9th century Sufi of Iraq, wrote:

I have planted love in my heartAnd shall not be distracted until Judgment DayYou have wounded my heart when you came near meMy desire grows, my love is bursting.

He has poured me a sip to drink.

He has quickened my heart with the cup of loveWhich he has filled at the ocean of friendship.

Mevlana Rumi wrote at length on the beauty and force of sama:Sound drum and fellow flute, resounding to Allah Huance ruddy dawn, in gladness bounding Allah HuSound exalted in the centre, o thou streaming light
Soul of all wheeling planets resound Allah Hu

Participating in a genuine sama mehfil is a purifying experience, one that fills the listeners' hearts with the remembrance of God; releasing it from selfish desires, worldly pursuits; the only claim on one's soul being that of the Lord.

 Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam. She can be contacted at sadiafeedback@gmail.com [1]

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


DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

FIGHTING MAOISTS & MOSQUITOES

BY PATRALEKHA CHATTERJEE

 

At a time when Sania Mirza, Shoaib Malik and Maoists are competing for eyeballs, what chance does a story about malaria stand? But despite the heavy odds against it, malaria hit the headlines recently with a twist in the tale: Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men deployed in the dense jungles of Chhattisgarh to flush out Maoists are up against another deadly enemy — mosquitoes. Many security men are falling prey to malaria, and have had to proceed on sick leave. The non-availability of medical facilities have made matters worse.

Malaria in India is a governance issue. The worst-affected areas — and most of the deaths — are where the health facilities are scant or non-existent, where there is hardly a semblance of the state. Many of the things which need to be done to fight malaria in the tribal belt are also critical to success in the battle against Maoists. To fight Maoists, security forces would need allies. Such allies would necessarily have to include tribal communities who have myriad justifiable grievances against the Indian state as anybody who has ever visited a tribal settlement in the rural interior knows. Today, when Maoists are seen as the biggest internal security threat facing the country, and the government has announced plans for a massive anti-Maoist offensive, it is vital that tribal communities get to see a benign image of the state as well. That is unlikely to happen if the only sign of the state they see is a uniformed man wielding a gun.

In February this year, there was another report pointing out that more than 100 policemen fighting Maoists in the state of Jharkhand have died of malaria in the past two years. Sadly, the grim realities confronting the paramilitary forces is the stuff of everyday life for those who inhabit these vast swathes of forested, mineral-rich, infrastructure-poor land. Malaria does not make news in tribal districts because it is so common. Tribals make up eight per cent of India's population but contribute about 30 per cent of India's total malaria caseload. Tribal communities also bear a disproportionate burden of malaria deaths in the country.

Why is this so? Three years ago, while researching an article about a cholera outbreak in three tribal-dominated districts in Orissa, one of India's poorest states, I discovered some uncomfortable truths. More than 150 people had died of cholera in these districts because they did not have access to safe drinking water. Many villages did not have a functioning hand pump and residents had been forced to drink water from streams and rivers, the same water sources they used for bathing, cleaning and washing clothes. The scarcity of doctors and a weak local health system added to the death toll. Similar factors worked in the case of malaria. A senior official of the Regional Medical Research Centre for Tribals in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh, told me that the government had put in place special regimens for malaria control in tribal areas because these regions are often inaccessible and forested. But, unfortunately, malaria programmes did not have the desired impact in tribal areas because of a shortage of manpower: 30-40 per cent of the fieldworkers' posts typically remain vacant and posts for medical officers stay unfilled.

The Maoist massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Chhattisgarh is uppermost in every mind. But the continued suffering of the ordinary tribal caught in the crossfire between Maoist insurgents and government forces is no less poignant. Many innocents have died. Many more are suffering. Apart from healthcare, the other area which graphically illustrates the impact of the conflict on tribal communities is education.

In a 103-page report (Sabotaged Schooling: Naxalite Attacks and Police Occupation of Schools in India's Bihar and Jharkhand States) last December, Human Rights Watch detailed how the Maoists, or Naxalites, are targeting and blowing up state-run schools. The report also pointed out that simultaneously, security forces were disrupting education for long periods by occupying schools as part of anti-Naxalite operations. The report was based on visits to 22 schools in Bihar and Jharkhand, and interviews with over 130 people. The losers — the students.

Last week in Delhi, at one of the sessions during the Independent People's Tribunal on Land Acquisition, Resource Grab & Operation Green Hunt, one heard from the affected people directly. Montu Singh and Gajen Singh, two tribal activists from the non-government organisation (NGO) Bhumija Kalyan Samity in West Bengal's West Midnapore district, spoke about the misery of villagers whose lives are being torn apart by the conflict. Classes were suspended in many schools in the conflict-scarred Lalgarh area between June and December 2009 because security forces needed to camp in the premises. Students and teachers began agitating. A public interest litigation was filed by Samity, seeking the Kolkata high court's intervention in resumption of normal functioning of schools in the district. The forces had to eventually vacate the school buildings, following a court order. But many students, especially in senior classes, suffered because they could not appear for examinations. Montu and Gajen said even primary health centres in the area were being used as camps by security forces.

There are many inspirational examples of what can be achieved even in this difficult terrain given will power. Even in the conflict-affected areas of Chhattisgarh today, NGOs are running mobile medical clinics, providing malaria treatment and even hospital services.

Today, tribals in the conflict-scarred areas live in abject fear, dreading displacement and an uncertain future. They need more than promises of a shiny future. The government's fight against Maoists will only be strengthened by action on the ground which includes dialogue with local people and measures that assure tribal communities that tomorrow will be better than today.

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

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


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

THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

JUDGING THE JUDGE

DINAKARAN COCKS A SNOOK 

 

THE manner in which the Supreme Court collegium has handled the Karnataka Chief Justice, PD Dinakaran logjam so far has dented public faith in the judiciary. After finding him unfit to be elevated to the Supreme Court and judges of the Karnataka High Court raised the banner of revolt against his authority, the collegium asked Dinakaran to go on indefinite leave, which he ignored. As a last resort, he has been transferred to the Sikkim High Court as Chief Justice. The impeachment motion against Dinakaran adopted by the Rajya Sabha states that he failed to keep his oath of office to dispense justice without fear or favour and passed judicial orders on dishonest and extraneous considerations. Does the collegium expect litigants in Sikkim to subject themselves to tainted justice? Not surprisingly, the Sikkim Bar Association has threatened to boycott him should he accept the Gangtok posting. 


The collegium itself is a product of creative jurisprudence in interpreting the Constitution by the Supreme Court. The law ministry does not see eye-to-eye with the collegium. Unmindful of the collegium ordering Dinakaran's transfer to Gangtok, the law ministry hurriedly asked Jammu and Kashmir High Court Chief Justice Barin Ghosh to take charge of the Sikkim High Court and his swearing in  by acting Governor MK Narayanan was arranged for Tuesday evening, leaving Dinakaran in limbo. Impeachment, the only remedy prescribed by the Constitution to deal with deviant judges, is unworkable, as past experience has shown. Since Independence, no judge has been impeached. The 1993 impeachment proceeding against Justice V Ramaswami of the Supreme Court was undermined by the Congress, by abstaining when the motion was put to vote in the Lok Sabha. 


When the collegium recommended Dinakaran to be elevated to the Supreme Court and the Forum for Judicial Accountability submitted a memorandum to the President, Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India levelling serious charges of corruption against him, Dr Manmohan Singh refused to order an inquiry into the charges pleading the Memorandum of Procedure for the appointment of judges gave no such power to the executive. What is shocking is the abject admission of powerlessness by the Indian state in the case of a defiant judge. No doubt the Judges Iniquity Act, 1968, shields judges from vexatious allegations. Be he ever so high, the judge is not above law. The Indian Penal Code is no respecter of rank and status. Why cannot the government apply penal law against erring judges? The Union Law Ministry has been planning for long to enact the Judges Standards and Accountability legislation. It is about time Veerappa Moily got his act together with the proposed legislation which would have a statutory effect on judges who know that impeachment is an unworkable solution to bring them to book. In the final analysis, as former Chief Justice PB Gajendragadkar had said, the best way to sustain the dignity and status of the office of judge is "to deserve respect from the public at large by the quality of judgments, the fearlessness, fairness and objectivity of their approach and by the restraint, dignity and decorum which they observe in their judicial conduct."

 

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


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WORRYING SILENCE

CHANCE TO STRESS CORE VALUES LOST 

 

TIME was when folk in civvy street little bothered themselves with how the Army handled misconduct. Aberrations were rare, there was confidence that exemplary action would follow. That, alas, is no longer true: while it would be unfair to suggest that the Army makes light of misdemeanour, a fair conclusion would be that the "consequences" offenders suffer has not sufficed to avert repetition. That the leadership was aware of the erosion of the military's core values was clear from the observations of General VK Singh when he assumed office as Chief: indeed well-wishers of the uniform appreciated his frank expressions of concern. Now they are a trifle disappointed at the silence of Army Headquarters ~ nobody expected a personal comment from the Chief ~ on the arrest of two jawans for allegedly raping a young college student in Pune last week. True the men have not been proven guilty, true also that the Army appears to be cooperating with the local police, but would this not have been an opportunity to send out a firm message of zero-tolerance? Most probably an in-house signal to that effect has been issued, sadly it is the public that now needs reassurance. Surely it would have been prudent to direct a senior officer to condemn the development: perhaps deny the "pious" defence minister opportunity to pontificate before a TV crew. 


The incident is disturbing. A couple was targeted by two soldiers when their two-wheeler ran out of fuel, the man was beaten up, deprived of his cell-phone; the young woman student raped. How daring the men were is evident from their noting her cell-number, then phoning her to meet them. Which she was smart enough to do, with a police squad lying in ambush. The guts she displayed merit a gallantry award ~ except that her identity must be protected, her privacy respected. Particularly disgusting is that the arrested men belong to the Rajputana Rifles whose regimental centre in Delhi Cantonment is not far from the Buddha Jayanti Garden where a somewhat similar outrage had been perpetrated by cavalrymen of the President's Bodyguard a few years ago. Regretfully the action taken then had no lasting impact just a few kilometres down the road.

 

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

 


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

BATTERED BRAND

CM'S STRATEGIC CONTACTS MAKE LITTLE HEADWAY 

 

THE Left may have no option but to utilise Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee as its brand ambassador in the crucial municipal elections that will determine its prospects in the showdown next year. The chief minister, on his part, has decided on strategic contacts to reassure voters that his government is the best bet despite the inroads made by the Opposition. The strategy may look good on paper in the context of repeated declarations from Alimuddin Street and appeals by the late Jyoti Basu that the Left has suffered because it has become distant from the masses. But what Mr Bhattacharjee may have discovered is that ritual contacts are not enough. Nor is it possible for his own image to work when people are deprived of basic needs and his government cannot claim to have the essential infrastructure to cope with disasters such as the fire in Park Street or the demands for power and drinking water across the state at the height of summer. Where his government cannot provide remedies that fall within its commitments, the chief minister is woefully short of selling points. The just concluded tour of Malda would confirm that his priorities are two-fold. The first is to regain the minority vote. Repeated references to the Ranganath Mishra commission report and distribution of scholarships cannot conceal neglect over the years. The second objective is to re-emphasise the "hazards'' of swinging towards a party that the CPI-M would have voters believe is working "hand in glove'' with the Maoists. If the strategy hasn't worked, it is because his government is burdened with bad news and has nothing substantial to offer. On the contrary, it confesses that the power generating units at Kolaghat and Bakreswar are not working to their capacities. The chief minister can only appeal to citizens to "wait for a month'' by which time the monsoon will be here. Whether people will be convinced remains doubtful. The Left may be equally doubtful about a brand that, after glaring evidence of non-performance, misadventures, belated sops and pathetic confessions, now looks hopelessly battered.

 

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


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

PROPHET OF HUMANISM

100TH ANNIVERSARY OF SRI AUROBINDO'S ARRIVAL IN PONDICHERRY

BY CLAUDE ARPI

 

Although Pondicherry is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Sri Aurobindo's arrival in the former French establishment, the historic event was triggered by events which occurred a few months earlier in Calcutta.
 In March 1910, two of the tallest spiritual giants of the 20th century, both fighting for the Independence of their country, could have met in Calcutta. It was not to be and soon their fate took them to places far apart. 
As Sri Aurobindo, the Prophet of Indian nationalism spent his last weeks in British India, Thupten Gyatso, the  thirteenth Dalai Lama who had recently arrived in Darjeeling, visited Calcutta.


After the troops of a Chinese warlord had entered Lhasa, the Tibetan leader was forced to take temporary refuge in India. Soon after his arrival in Darjeeling, an invitation came from Calcutta: the Viceroy, Lord Minto, wanted to meet him. As he arrived, he was received as a Head of State and given a 17-gun salute and escorted in a royal carriage to Hastings House. Though it was obvious that Britain would remain neutral in the Sino-Tibetan dispute, the Viceroy held long discussions with the Dalai Lama who eventually returned to the Land of Snows in 1911 and a year later declared the independence of Tibet. His is still considered as one of Tibet's greatest spiritual masters.


Purna Swaraj

Sri Aurobindo had a different fate. After his return from England in 1893, he had been at the forefront of the freedom struggle against the British Raj. At the time the Dalai Lama was received in great pomp, the same Lord Minto wrote to London: "I can only repeat that he is the most dangerous man we have to reckon with". He was speaking about Aurobindo Ghose, who had been the first proponent of Purna Swaraj for India.
The two spiritual leaders would never meet; one can only call it fate. For Sri Aurobindo, events were hotting up. One day, while he was in the Karmayogin office, he received information about a police search and his likely arrest. Some of his young disciples were arguing about what to do, when Sri Aurobindo suddenly heard a voice saying, "Go to Chandernagore." 


Sri Aurobindo left immediately for the small French comptoir. There, a disciple Motilal Roy arranged his accommodation. Roy recalled later that the Master was totally immersed in his sadhana. He used to meditate with open eyes, and see subtle forms and spiritual visions: "A completely surrendered individual ~ one felt when he spoke as if somebody else was speaking through him… I placed the plate of food before him ~ he simply gazed at me and then ate a little ~ just mechanically!"


For a few days, Sri Aurobindo had to shift residence several times as Roy feared that the dreaded British CID would find out about the presence of the revolutionary who finally asked Roy to make arrangements for his departure for Pondicherry; he would leave by the steamer Le Dupleix on 31 March. After some last-minute incidents (which would have greatly disturbed any ordinary human being, but not Sri Aurobindo), he finally boarded the steamer at midnight and sailed to a new phase of his life.


Sri Aurobindo had already 'seen' that India was independent; it was only a question of time before it  'came down' on the material plane. He later shared his certitude with some of his disciples.


From now on, he would consecrate his spiritual energies to help humanity to undertake a new step in its evolution, a decision that many politicians in India never forgave.

In the afternoon of 4 April 1910, the Pondicherry pier witnessed a strange scene: a strict orthodox Tamil Brahmin, Srinivasachari, and Suresh Chakravarti, an 18-year-old Bengali revolutionary, shared a small boat to row out to Le Dupleix which had just arrived with the 'dangerous' man on board. The young Bengali had managed to dissuade Srinivasachari and others (including Subramanya Bharathi) to have any official function. "Sri Aurobindo's coming to Pondicherry was a closely guarded secret", says one of his biographers. For several months, Sri Aurobindo and his companions stayed on the second floor of a house belonging to one Shankar Chetty; Swami Vivekananda had stayed there when he had visited Pondicherry a few years earlier. Chakravarti remembered the poor material arrangements: as there was no bathroom in Sri Aurobindo's room, he had to come down to the ground floor at dusk for his bath. The daily menu never changed, same boiled rice, same brinjal, same dal cooked on two earth stoves. But nobody complained ever.


Life continued thus during the following years, though rules gradually became less strict for the disciples who were even allowed to play football. As for Sri Aurobindo, he was intensely immersed in his sadhana. 
  Very few are those who met Sri Aurobindo during his stay in Pondicherry. One of them was Rabindranath Tagore who came in 1928 and wrote: "At the very first sight I could realise that he had been seeking for the soul and had gained it, and through this long process of realisation had accumulated within him a silent power of inspiration. His face was radiant with an inner light. I felt that the utterance of the ancient Rishi spoke from him of that equanimity which gives the human soul its freedom of entrance into the All. I said to him, 'You have the Word and we are waiting to accept it from you. India will speak through your voice to the world. Hearken to me…"


Ashram attacked

During the following decades, Sri Aurobindo kept in touch with Bengal, mainly through a close disciple, Surendra Mohan Ghose, who was the West Bengal Pradesh Congress president and used to visit Pondicherry. He usually had four sessions with Sri Aurobindo: one to speak about international affairs, one for national politics, one for the situation in West Bengal and the last consecrated to Ghose's personal sadhana. 
On 15 August 1947, as everyone celebrated India's Independence in Pondicherry, a shocking event took place. In the evening, goons belonging to a local political party turned violent and attacked some of the inmates of the Ashram. Mulshankar, a personal attendant of Sri Aurobindo, was stabbed. Nirodbaran, a close confident of the Master, wrote later: "Sri Aurobindo listened quietly [to the news] and his face bore a grave and serious expression that we had not seen before." 


After The Statesman had reported some kind of satyagraha in the Ashram, Sri Aurobindo dictated a letter to the Editor: "There was no satyagraha of any kind. There was an attack on the Ashram in which one member was stabbed to death and others injured and Ashram buildings stoned. …The attackers were mostly professional goondas of the town hired and organised for the purpose. We consider it as the result or culmination of a long campaign by a political party which has been making speeches and publishing articles and pamphlets against the Ashram and trying in all ways to damage it in the eyes of the public for the last two years." Sri Aurobindo explained: "There are three sections of the people here who are violently opposed to the existence of the Ashram, the advocates of Dravidisthan, extreme Indian Catholics and the Communists."


 For these small sections of the local community, Sri Aurobindo probably became the 'dangerous man', for he foresaw the future of humanity rising above differences created by ideologies, castes, creeds or religions. He was indeed the Prophet of a new Humanism. A hundred years after his arrival in Pondicherry, one should not forget his message: "At present mankind is undergoing an evolutionary crisis in which is concealed a choice of its destiny." The choice is ours.

The writer is an expert on China-Tibet relations and author of the Fate of Tibet.

 

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


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SECRET FACE OF THE REAL PAKISTAN

 

 "Civil society" constitutes the most important public opinion maker in a multi-dimensional society like India. Hence when a section of Indian society is keen to build bridges of love, peace and friendship with a neighbour, it is time to take stock of the ground reality. It is necessary to "know thy neighbour" and to "know yourself".
Let us begin with one of the largest English dailies The Nation, published simultaneously from Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad. Editor-in-chief, The Nation and chairman of the Nazria Pakistan Trust (NPT), Majid Nizami, stated as recently as on 10 March, 2010 that "freedom is the greatest blessing of the Almighty, Who may save us from dominance of Hindus, as our sworn enemy is bent upon destroying Pakistan. However, if it did not refrain from committing aggression against us, then Pakistan is destined to defeat India because our horses in the form of atomic bombs and missiles are far better than Indian donkeys."


Nizami revealed to a captive audience that "if one wants to have an idea of what would have been our condition had Pakistan not come into existence, he should visit India to apprise himself about untold pathetic living conditions of the Muslims there at this point of time." Nizami thundered that "the day was not far off when we would once again conquer India" and that "Pakistan had to play a key role in liberating enslaved minorities from the clutches of Hindu majority" in South Asia.


The potential of India emerging big is unacceptable to the Pakistani ruling class. Or else, how does one justify the unsubstantiated  public statement by the Chief Justice Khwaja Muhammad Sharif of Lahore High Court that the "Hindus of Pakistan are funding terror activities in Pakistan!"


The hate-India attitide does not end with the vituperative and venomous excesses of the national press and Islamabad's judiciary. It is put into practice with all sincerity and dedication by the de-facto ruling class, the army.


Reportedly, "the Pakistani army is sexually assaulting minority women and using them as sex slaves, alleges the European Organisation of Pakistani Minorities (EOPM), an NGO working for the rights of minorities in Pakistan. In a prayer-cum-demonstration held at the United Nations, it said the Pakistani army is taking minority women away from their families, raping them and using them as sex slaves."


Reference was made to the case of "Zarina Marri, 23-year-old school teacher from Quetta, being used as a sex slave by the Pakistani army", alleged EOPM. It was categorically maintained that "the attacks on minorities in Pakistan were increasing" and that "the religious minorities constitute much more than five per cent – as claimed in Pakistani census – of Pakistan's 160 million people." The idea is to "intentionally keep the minority population low to deny them greater representation." All in all, "Christians, Sikhs, Hindus and other minorities are constant targets of attack in Pakistan."


Understandably, therefore, Pakistan last year ranked as the "world's top country for major increases in threats to minorities since 2007."


The story of the unfinished task of Pakistani establishment does not end with a newspaper group, the High Court and the Army. It is only that now the civilised world outside Islamabad is trying to come to terms with the cocktail of rabid communalism, terrorism and fundamentalism for the sake of expanding its political power base through the state-sponsored religious order's (should one say "disorder") foot soldiers like the ghazis, fidayeens, lashkars and mujahideens.

The flip side of this long-term diabolical plot, however, is the present masked attempt to "cultivate" the "evil society" of the non-Islamic, ("Hindu") enemy state of India. Hence the attempt to build a bridge through the Jang group of newspaper's English daily News. Curiously, however, the Government of India's ban on this publication 47 years ago is still on. Thus a Government of India notification dated 19 January, 1963 stipulated "The Central Government hereby prohibits the bringing by sea or land into India of any issue of the Urdu newspaper entitled Daily Jang, Karachi, edited, printed and published by Mir Khalil-ul-Rahman from Javed Press, Mcleod Road, or any extract from, or reprint of, or any translation of, or other document reproducing any matter contained in any issue of the newspaper". In another notification dated 30 January, 1963, the Government of India once again "prohibited" the Daily Jang, Rawalpindi, edited by Mir-Jamil-ul-Rahman. Curiously, the ban has not been lifted to this day. However, ban or no ban, Pakistan can find its way to the "interior" of the "Hindu India" and get away scot-free for its acts of omission and commission through its media, its biased anti-minority higher judiciary and the army of Islamabad which the Pakistanis consider it to be the army of Islam!


One pities the psychic disorder of the Pakistani ruling class which is not its own creation. It has been in the genes of the "ruling class" of South Asia through the ages. One can get an idea of the Pakistani psyche in general and read the mind of Muslims in particular from the following speech of a liberal Muslim leader (Mr R.M.Sayani) in his presidential address at the 12th Indian National Congress held in Calcutta in 1896: "Before the advent of British in India, the Mussulmans were the rulers of the country. The Mussulmans had, therefore, all the advantages appertaining to the ruling class. The sovereign and the chiefs were their co-religionists, and so were the great landlords and the great. The court language was their own. Every place of trust and responsibility or carrying influence and high emoluments was by birth theirs. The Hindus holders of position were the tenants-at-will of the Mussulmans. The Hindus stood in awe of them. Enjoyment and influence and all the good things of the world were theirs. By a stroke of misfortune, the Mussulmans had to abdicate their position and descend to the level of their Hindu fellow-countrymen. The Hindus who had before stood in awe of their Mussulman masters were thus raised a step by the fall of their said masters, and with their former awe dropped their courtesy also.


"But the Mussulmans were not in a mood to learn anything that required hard work and application, especially as they had to work harder than their former subjects, the Hindus. Moreover, they resented competing with the Hindus, whom they had till recently regarded as their inferiors. The Hindus, from a subservient state, came into the lands, offices and other worldly advantages of their former masters. Their exultation knew no bounds, and they trod upon the heels of their former masters. The Mussaulmans would have nothing to do with anything in which they might have to come into contact with the Hindus. The fall of their former greatness rankled in their hearts."


Having successfully regained the status of the "Muslim ruling class of Pakistan", in 1947 which they had "lost to the British in 1857", the Pakistanis just cannot forget that their predecessors (even if not necessarily bound by blood) were the minority ruling class over a vast majority of non-Muslim people which, at its peak, stretched from the Hindukush to Chittagong and Kashmir to Cauvery. Hence, "once a ruler, always a ruler" is the attitude. And that is the problem. The Pakistanis, thus, given a chance, would like to get as much and as many of their co-religionists as possible under a single religious umbrella to spread the mantra of its rule over India. Unfortunately, some Indians of "civil society" have decided to look the other way to avoid the issue thereby abdicating their duty and responsibility to protect and preserve freedom. That is the "wonder that is India"!

The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College of India and a member of International Institute for Strategic Studies, London

 

.***************************************


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

OCCASIONAL NOTES


A movement has been set on foot to perpetuate the memory of the late Mr Romesh Chunder Dutt, C.I.E., by the establishment of a Literary and Historical Museum in Calcutta. This proposal was formulated at the third sitting of the Bengal Literary Conference at Bhagalpur under the presidency of Mr Sarada Charan Mitra, M.A., B.L., ex-Judge of the Calcutta High Court, who is chairman of a committeed formed for the furtherance of the scheme. His Highness the Maharaja Gaekward of Baroda is patron of the Memorial Fund, and has subscribed towards it the munificent sum of Rs 5,000, as a mark of appreciation of the ominent services rendered by the late Dewan of Baroda to that State in particular as well as to the country in general. As it was felt that the late Mr Dutt belonged to all India, it has been resolved that subscriptions shall be invited from the whole country. The form which the proposed Memorial is intended to take seems appropriate. It is intended partly to supplement the archaeological section of the Indian Museum and partly to build up a collection of indigenous works connected with Indian arts and letters, there being no such collection at present in the Province. It is expected that the rapidly growing collection already in the possession of the Bangiya Sahitya Parishad of Calcutta will furnish a suitable nucleus.


It is understood that the long-discussed scheme for amalgamating Public Works Department accounts with the ordinary Civil accounts, and the creation of a separate Accountant-General for Railways, is now unlikely to be brought into operation before next June. The existing arrangement meanwhile continues under Mr O'Donoghue, who has posponed his leave for three months.

 

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


THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SO MUCH FOR THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP

 

On past form, a familar ritual should be playing out here in a few weeks' time. Assuming there is no hung parliament, a newly elected British Prime Minister will travel to Washington to meet the US President. Someone in the travelling media will ask about the state of the "special relationship" between the two countries. The American side will look bemused, while the smile on the face of the British ambassador will tighten to a rictus.


But at last comes hope that events will not follow this embarrassing script. To anyone living in the US, the lopsidedness of the "special relationship" has long been glaring. But it has taken the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee to spell it out in London. Not only was the term virtually meaningless, the cross-party panel said in its recent report; the very use of it "raises unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the UK". Never was a truer word spoken.


Let us examine where a British Prime Minister ranks among foreign visitors to the White House. Very high indeed, is the obvious answer, when he happened to be the leader of America's most substantial ally in an unpopular war. But in normal times the list would look something like this.


Undisputed number one would be the Chinese President, representing the other half of the world's most important bilateral relationship. Next probably comes the leader of Russia, by dint of Moscow's ability to obstruct, and its continuing status as the one country that has the weapons to blow the US off the face of the earth. Next, for varying reasons, is a group containing the Israeli Prime Minister, the Indian Prime Minister and the President of Pakistan. Britain is somewhere in the following pack, along with Germany, France, Japan.


That's not to say the US and the UK aren't exceptionally close. They have an enormous familiarity with each other. The military, intelligence-sharing links, as well as financial and cultural ties, underpinned by a common language, are colossal. Naturally from time to time they disagree, but on most global issues the instincts of the two countries are usually the same. Arguably, they still come closer than any to disproving Lord Palmerston's dictum about nations not having permanent friends or allies, only permanent interests.


The problem is, this matters much more to us than to the Americans. The imbalance is everywhere. Each British election becomes more American; there is precious little sign of British political habits crossing the Atlantic in the other direction. It is reflected in the media coverage too. Every wrinkle in US politics is covered in Britain. This all-consuming interest, however, is not reciprocated. Last week's announcement that the general election would take place on 6 May was only the lead brief in the next day's Washington Post.


The arrival of the Obama administration has if anything accelerated the trend. This President, whose grandfather was imprisoned by the British during Kenya's struggle for independence, is without the sentimental reflexes towards Britain of his white, Anglo predecessors.


Lately, the disagreements seem to have become more common: among them US anger over Britain's return of the convicted Lockerbie bomber to Libya, and over the release of intelligence material about Binyam Mohamed, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee.


There were the perceived personal slights too: the removal of Winston Churchill's bust from the Oval Office, and Gordon Brown's quest for a bilateral meeting with Obama last year that yielded that strange 'walk-and-talk' summit in the UN kitchens. But we're not the only ones feeling aggrieved.

This administration is not only less Britain-centric, but less Euro-centric as well. With the Cold War over, the US is no longer a European power through its leadership of Nato. Born in Hawaii, part-raised in Indonesia, Obama is America's first Pacific-orientated president. He made his priorities crystal clear when he chose to pass on next month's EU-US summit, much upsetting Spain, the putative host, in the process.
America too is itself becoming less "European". Its variety and its powers of assimilation are as strong as ever, but now the newcomers are increasingly Asians, Muslims and of course Hispanics. In this ever more crowded canvas, Britain stands out less, the offshore island at the north western corner of Europe, where geography placed it. The eternal problem of course, is that the offshore island doesn't always see things that way.
There's a tendency to treat Britain's relations with Europe and the US as what the American's call a zero-sum game – that the closer Britain moves towards Europe, the weaker will be its ties with America, and vice versa. In fact, the opposite is true.


Nothing would make the US happier than for Britain to play its full part in Europe. The British vision of Europe, open and non-protectionist, is the American vision too. To that extent, if relations between the UK and Europe are weakened, then so too are relations between the UK and the US.


Thus the potential dilemma facing David Cameron's Conservatives, sour on the "special relationship'' and out of step with an ever more hardline Republican party, yet if anything even sourer on Europe. Thus too, the tragedy of Tony Blair. Not only was he an Atlanticist, he was also the most Europhile Prime Minister since Edward Heath. Alas, Blair's dazzlement at American power, and the absolute priority he placed on the relationship with the US, led him inexorably into Iraq war.

 

But the disaster may prove to be a blessing. Iraq was a brutal lesson in political realities. It revealed how little influence Britain ultimately exerted on its vastly more powerful partner, for all the loyalty it displayed. The most revealing moment came as Blair was facing rebellion in Labour ranks, just before the invasion. It didn't matter if Britain pulled out, Donald Rumsfeld declared publicly, the US could (and would) go ahead on its own.
In terms of bluntness, tactlessness and arrogance, the former Secretary of Defence is in a class of his own. But that day in March 2003, he was speaking the truth. And the Commons Foreign Affairs' Committee report is a sign that on the other side of the Atlantic, that truth has at last been recognised as well.


The Independent

 

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


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

THE TELEGRAPH

SPECIAL FOCUS

 

There seems to be something very comforting in the idea of the president of the United States of America and the prime minister of India meeting one to one to discuss problems. Such a meeting serves to reiterate the special relationship that India has come to enjoy vis-à-vis the US. One hates to raise a dissonant note regarding what is obviously a budding relationship, but it needs to be pointed out that when Barack Obama and Manmohan Singh met very recently in Washington DC, they discussed terrorism and its shadow over India and South Asia. In other words, they spoke about Pakistan and the threat that emanates from there towards India. This points to the fact that the relationship between India and the US, however special it might be, has acquired a very narrow focus. There exists a context for this but there is a need to break out of this straitjacket if the relationship between the two countries is going to be endowed with a global, as distinct from a regional, significance. There is a fear that the narrow focus may not be entirely context-induced. It might be a result of Mr Obama's attempts to break away from the way his predecessor viewed India, the latter's relationship with the US, and India's position in global affairs.

 

One justified apprehension is that meetings like the one Mr Obama and Mr Singh had fuel the feel-good factor on the Indian side but mark no substantive advance. It is by no means clear what the US president wants to do in Pakistan and in what state he wants to leave Afghanistan before the promised pull-out of US troops from there. Under the circumstances, the word, special, in the special relationship deserves to be put within inverted commas. There is no denying that a great deal of bonhomie exists between Mr Obama and Mr Singh but these personal equations cannot overcome history and political compulsions arising out of ground realities. India, for very valid reasons, cannot ignore the problems posed by violence and instability in Pakistan, especially as both these are driven by Islamic fundamentalism. India can run to no one else save the US to articulate its fears and grievances. The US, however sympathetic it might be towards India, cannot completely abandon Pakistan. Indo-US relations would thus appear to be caught in a pincer. Top-level meetings are necessary, but they should only be viewed through the cold and cynical prism of reality.

 

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

 

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

LEFT LUGGAGE

 

India must stop so that Prakash Karat's failed "third front" can take off. For all the charade of Opposition unity, there is no doubt that the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is the prime mover behind the call for a Bharat bandh on April 27. And for all the rhetoric about the need for a fight against price rise, the real reasons behind Mr Karat's — and his party's — return to militant politics are not difficult to guess. The CPI(M) faces crises on several fronts. Mr Karat's brinkmanship, which resulted in the Left withdrawing its support to the previous government of the United Progressive Alliance, did little harm to the Congress but has had disastrous effects on his own party. Their numbers in the Lok Sabha drastically reduced after the 2009 polls, the CPI(M) and its leftist allies have lost their relevance in national politics. Worse, the party's long reign in West Bengal is in real danger of collapsing in next year's assembly polls. Mr Karat and his party think that the only way they can try and stave off the coming collapse is by returning to their old, militant ways. Hence the sudden spurt in Left-sponsored strikes and other mass protests, ostensibly against the Centre's policies. The desperation shows also in the way Mr Karat has tried to get even some UPA partners support his plan for the countrywide bandh.

 

Mr Karat will be deluding himself if he thinks that the people will fall for his game. All past experiences show that Left-sponsored bandhs are restricted only to West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, where the governments become the main sponsors of disruption of public life. The rest of the country ignores such calls. There is no doubt that this will be the case with this Bharat bandh call too. But even in the Left-ruled states, the public anger at strikes and other shutdowns is rising. As on so many occasions in the past, the CPI(M) seems to have failed to read the people's mood correctly. The party may be desperate to try old ploys, but it must be extraordinarily naïve to think that these can help in its recovery, especially in West Bengal. For all its national pretensions, the CPI(M) is a party with an extremely thin geographical spread. It is thus not unreasonable to suspect that the Left's bandh call has little to do with rising prices. It is all about the CPI(M)'s struggle to keep its head above water.

 

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

THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

Top of Form

SPINNING OUT OF CONTROL

INDIA NEEDS TO GET OVER ITS PETTY OBSESSION WITH PAKISTAN

DIPLOMACY - K.P. NAYAR

 

The Global Nuclear Security Summit, which concluded in Washington yesterday, was remarkable for its revelation that India cannot hope to be a global power of any significance unless it gets over its petty obsession, as a nation, with Pakistan. At the press conference that the foreign secretary gave immediately after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with the president of the United States of America, Barack Obama, on Monday, there were as many as 30 direct or indirect references to Pakistan.

 

Nirupama Rao is free of any blame for this predicament. Of the 13 questions that she took at the press conference, 11 were on Pakistan. If she had refused to answer any questions on Pakistan because the subject of her press conference was the highest level Indo-US meeting, there would have been only her opening statement and two questions: one about Obama's forthcoming visit to India and another about the sanctions Obama wants to impose on Iran soon.

 

When she tried to brief the press in New Delhi in the run-up to the prime minister's travel to Washington and Brasilia, the situation was slightly better, but only because Rao firmly told the media that "I am here to discuss the subject of the Nuclear Security Summit…. We are not going to get into country-specific situations." There was a time when the reverse was true: Pakistan's obsession with India had become a standing joke in major world capitals, where Islamabad's resident diplomats, visiting ministers, even its heads of State, who are more often than not dictators in military uniform, saw ghosts of India in their own shadows, under their beds and behind drawn curtains.

 

The lowest point in Pakistan's notoriety over this obsession was on April 6, 1995, when Benazir Bhutto was escorted to the US Senate floor by the late Jesse Helms, long-time chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and introduced thus: "The Foreign Relations Committee has had the honour of welcoming the distinguished Prime Minister of India and I wish to bring her to the floor." As Benazir stood there and gaped in horror at the introduction, the Republican senator compounded his sin by saying that the error was because he had just completed "a delightful hour-and-a-half conversation" with the Pakistani prime minister and she was talking mostly about India.

 

But Pakistan's obsession with India is understandable because India is the raison d'être for Pakistan. Even now, historically speaking, six decades after it was born, Pakistan has no reason to exist as a state without India. But what is it that has made the opposite true? Why has Pakistan become the be-all and end-all of Indian foreign policy, not for the government, but in the public domain? Part of the reason is that successive Indian governments in recent years have diluted India's participation in important international gatherings by arbitrarily introducing an Indo-Pakistan sub-text to the proceedings. Thus the non-aligned summits in Havana and in Sharm el-Sheikh were allowed to be overshadowed by meetings between India and Pakistan.

 

Neither Jawaharlal Nehru nor Indira Gandhi permitted this because they believed that if India was attending a Bandung conference or a non-aligned summit, those meetings by themselves demanded their total involvement and anything else that could loom large at those meetings under a sub-text would diminish the importance of the big multilateral summits. Such diversions as those that occurred in Havana or in Sharm el-Sheikh did not begin in India's foreign policy until Rajiv Gandhi allowed his "my-mummy-your-daddy" diplomacy with Benazir Bhutto to get as much importance at international gatherings as those summits themselves.

When V.P. Singh became prime minister without much experience or interest in foreign policy, he allowed his external affairs minister, I.K. Gujral, to hijack the country's global agenda and subvert it to suit his desire to leave a legacy with Pakistan. Gujral did it once again when he became external affairs minister for a second time and later prime minister. But in between, P.V. Narasimha Rao brought back some sanity to India's participation in international gatherings: whether it was because Pakistan permitted no room for normal bilateral dealings with India in those years is difficult to tell.

 

During the early days of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministership, until his 'bus trip' to Lahore and later after Kargil, the margins of multilateral summits provided the only opportunity to maintain a modicum of contact with Pakistan. Besides, Vajpayee was shrewd enough to realize that the risks involved in meeting the Pakistanis in New York or Caracas was much less in political terms than of meeting them in Agra, New Delhi or Lahore.

 

If India is to get over its growing obsession with Pakistan, it has to firmly and decisively stop meeting the Pakistanis on the margins of multilateral summits such as the non-aligned movement and the Commonwealth heads of government meetings. Any such meetings should be restricted to within the territories of India or Pakistan.

 

India's foreign-policy-makers spent decades trying to de-hyphenate the Indo-Pakistan relationship from New Delhi's dealings with third countries. To a very large degree, India succeeded in doing so in recent years, especially in its dealings with the US. But if that process is stopped or reversed, it will partly be because the public debate in India has become more Pakistan-centric than at any time since the crisis in South Asia which led to the birth of Bangladesh.

In a sense, it is futile to blame the media for making it appear that multilateral summits such as NAM and CHOGM are taking place on the fringes of Indo-Pakistan meetings, not the other way round. The summits of NAM and CHOGM are open to the media only during the opening and closing sessions. That means, members of the media, who are more or less captive during the three-day interregnum have to find stories that sell with their news editors.

 

Just as an idle mind is a devil's workshop, they spin stories with an Indo-Pakistan angle because such stories will find the kind of space back home in a way a story on nuclear waste, non-alignment or Commonwealth development efforts will never do. But if India makes it a policy not to meet the Pakistanis at any level on the margins of multilateral summits, such stories will fade out in due course. It is imperative that they must because the way it is now, everything that India does on the global stage has become secondary to Indo-Pakistan engagement, never mind whether such stories are real or imagined.

 

Lately, Pakistan's spin masters have begun to capitalize on this Indian weakness because they realize that it is so easy to unsettle New Delhi through the media. Whether this policy has anything to do with the recent relocation of the former US diplomat, Robin Raphel, to Islamabad is a moot question. When she was an assistant secretary of State for South Asia, Raphel publicly proclaimed that it is so easy to create a storm in New Delhi and proceeded to prove her theory by telling a media briefing in Washington on background that Kashmir's Instrument of Accession to India was illegal. Her assertion led to such a ruckus in India that eventually Parliament passed a resolution declaring the inalienable nature of Kashmir's link with the rest of the country.

 

Take the case of a nuclear deal which is about to happen between Pakistan and the US if sections of the Indian media are to be believed. Such a deal is entirely the creation of the Indian media and in recent weeks, Pakistan has attempted to capitalize on this and keep the story alive by making statements from time to time which are faithfully picked up and blown up in the Indian public domain.

 

The story of a US-Pakistan nuclear deal is like the old tale around the question whether a man had stopped beating his wife. As long as the question is whether someone had stopped beating his wife, the answer becomes somewhat redundant compared to the pregnant nature of the query itself. Similarly, the US has a problem when the Americans are pointedly asked about a nuclear deal for Pakistan. They cannot answer in the negative about any such deal because they have no desire to go out of their way and annoy Pakistan. They obviously cannot say anything affirmative because there is no such deal on the horizon, at least not for now. This allows for men like the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, to thrive on the ambiguity and claim political capital back home under the pretext of fighting for such a deal in Washington.

 

On January 1, 2011, India will become a member of the United Nations security council for a two-year term. The country will then have to behave with greater maturity than it has hitherto been doing if that elected term in the security council is to eventually become a permanent seat at the global high-table. It is time for the spin masters in New Delhi to consider how a misplaced and often exaggerated enthusiasm for Pakistan in the public domain can be moderated to reflect the realities of Pakistan's relations with India and with the rest of the world.

Bottom of Form

 

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


THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

NEVER FORGET

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

Sometimes it's the speaker, or the circumstances, not the words, that make a saying memorable. Take Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died 65 years ago this week. The only American ever elected president four times, he was a giant of the 20th century, like his friend Churchill, but far less of a phrase-maker. Yet his words too are remembered.

 

Before his first election, in 1932, he talked of a new deal for slump-ridden America; no new phrase, but it became rightly famous. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, from his inaugural speech in 1933, is a fine phrase — but more so as it is usually misquoted, We have nothing to fear but fear itself. An earlier President (Theodore) Roosevelt is remembered even now for the words that summed up his foreign policy, Speak softly and carry a big stick — though, in fact, he first used them for a quite different topic. FDR's notion was homelier, yet became as well known: he talked of being a good neighbour.

 

Curiously, his simple phrases tended to hide half-truths more than did Churchill's sharp or sonorous ones. Whether Churchill was gibing in 1931 at Gandhi as a faqir... striding half-naked, or in 1940 defying Hitler with We will fight on the beaches... we will never surrender, he felt exactly what he said. Not always so FDR.

 

Witness his anti-imperialism. In 1940 he declared that America must be the great arsenal of democracy, meaning Britain; not quite how Indians saw the British. Later, FDR expressed vigorous dislike of the British empire. Yet his plan for Indo-China after empire was not far from British views of India under it: "trusteeship —have a Frenchman, one or two Indo-Chinese, a Chinese and a Russian, maybe a Filipino and an American — to educate them for self-government..." His ideas for world development looked even further back: send hosts of European refugees or others to backward regions, with a sense of "mission", like the early colonizers of the Americas. Ask Native Americans about that.

 

Nor did his dislike of empires include America's. In 1935 he agreed to free the Philippines from American rule — but not from American apron-strings and not till 10 years later, 20 times as long as it took the British, once they'd made their minds up, to quit India.

 

There were worse gaps than these between FDR's rhetoric and his practice. There never has been any race of people fit to serve as masters over their fellow men, he once said. Except in America, maybe. In the mid-1930s he opposed a federal bill to punish state officials soft on lynchings. Only the threat of a march on Washington by blacks in 1941 pushed him into an order opening jobs in defence factories to them. And America's armed forces remained segregated, indeed tried to enforce this even in off-duty places abroad such as British pubs. It took a fierce German counter-attack in late 1944 to alter that nonsense, slightly, on the ground. In law, it lasted until Truman ended it in 1948.

 

The four freedoms that FDR proclaimed in 1941 did not, even then, include refuge in America for Jews fleeing from Hitler; let alone earlier, as one shameful episode in 1939 had shown. Americans still cite his phrase for Pearl Harbor: a date which will live in infamy. Yet it was he who prepared the way for two far uglier dates in August 1945, those of the first atomic bombs.

 

And yet. The New Deal did happen. However one-eyedly, Britain was defending democracy. For FDR, these were the big issues, and they shed light on others. His excuse for dawdling on black rights was (and it was true) that he needed southern-state Democrats to get the New Deal into law; as he saw it, "to save America from collapsing". And whatever his dislike of British colonialism, he knew Nazism and its allies were worse. A far subtler politician than Churchill, he was less straightforward. But his hypocrisies helped toward worthy ends. Politicians' word-play can do worse.

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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


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

EDITORIAL

NARROW VISION

''OBAMA GOVT TREATS INDIA AS PART OF AFPAK POLICY.''

 

 

The fact that issues relating to Pakistan's policies and actions dominated the talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Barack Obama in Washington shows a narrowing of the bilateral relationship between India and the US. Most of the issues that India raised concerned Pakistan — its reluctance to speed up the trial of those involved in the Mumbai terrorist attack, the fear that the arms supplied by the US may be used against India and the Pakistani establishment's opposition to any role for India in Afghanistan. Even the demand for access to David Headley which India has sought has a Pakistan angle. New Delhi may be able to get more information on the involvement of Pakistan's military or intelligence officials in Headley's activities which were directed against India. The claim that Obama was receptive to Indian concerns on all these is not a singular achievement for India.


It has long been the US policy to place its relations with India in the context of its relations with Pakistan. The Bush administration had moved out of this axis and had tried to develop an independent relationship with India, befitting India's emerging role in the world. The Obama government has however seen ties with India as a part of its AfPak policy. India has also fallen into this trap by limiting its discussions with the US to a Pakistan-centric agenda. Obama was quoted as saying that there was no country in the world where the opportunities for the US for a strong and strategic relationship were greater than those with India. But this was not underlined by the drift of the talks in Washington.

 

The prime minister did well to state India's intention to pursue its policies and interests in Afghanistan with or without the US, and to express reservations over the US plan to impose more sanctions on Iran. It is easy to explain that the US is constrained by the compulsions arising from its involvement in Afghanistan. But India will have to pursue independent bilateral relations with both the US and Pakistan, without being influenced by the nature of US-Pakistan ties. As long as the Obama administration confines India to a regional matrix, the full potential of India-US relations cannot be realised. This is the message India should drive home to the US, even as regular contacts are helpful in understanding each other's positions and addressing mutual concerns.

 

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


DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

RAJAPAKSA'S DHARMA

''LANKA SHOULD LOOK FOR CONSENSUS ON TAMIL ISSUE.''

 

 

The remarkable victory won by the United Progressive Freedom Alliance led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the parliament elections held in Sri Lanka is a continuation of the impressive mandate secured by him in the presidential elections in January. The popular goodwill and political strength gained by him after the military defeat of the LTTE last year have expectedly continued to give his alliance a near two-thirds majority in parliament. The results give the Rajapaksa government an opportunity to pursue constitutional reforms which it has been planning, and to concentrate on economic reconstruction. But it will be unfortunate if the planned reforms lead to a more authoritarian system, as there are already such indications. It is also important that the government improves the human rights situation in the country. Sri Lanka's democratic credentials have recently been marred by human rights abuses which were once even sought to be justified by the threat posed by the LTTE.


The opposition is in disarray, as seen by the lacklustre performance of the United National Party, though it has the consolation that its core strength has not been seriously damaged. The third front, consisting of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna led by former army chief Sarath Fonseka, who is facing a court martial, has fared poorly. The decline in polling percentage to about 55 per cent from the 75 in the presidential elections and from the normal 60-65 in Sri Lanka's elections was not the only reason for their failure to make an impact.


The voter turnout in the North and East which have large Tamil populations was especially low, showing the continued alienation of the minorities. It should also be noted that the pro-LTTE Tamil National Alliance has done fairly well in the elections in the North. That makes it important that the new government considers reconciliation with the Tamil minority and its political and emotional integration in the Sri Lankan nation as its main task in the coming months. There are many proposals for a viable political order in which more powers are devolved to the minority-dominated regions. Rajapaksa can try to evolve a wide consensus on them, involving the Tamils, the Muslim minority and the opposition parties, within the framework of national unity. The victory in the elections should prod the government to move in this direction.

 

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


DECCAN HERALD

PROSECUTE DINAKARAN

THE JUDGES ARE ALSO BOUND BY THE PENAL LAW, GIVEN THE SANCTION OF THE CHIEF JUSTICE. DOES NOT THE HIGH BENCH KNOW THIS?

BY V R KRISHNA IYER

 

 

The chief justice of the Karnataka high court, Justice P D Dinakaran, who has refused to proceed on leave as advised by the supreme court collegium and may now be transferred to the Sikkim high court, has made a travesty of our judicial and democratic system. The collegium now has to shift a judge who was sworn in as the chief justice of the Sikkim high court on Tuesday to make way for Justice Dinakaran. The series of developments in the Dinakaran saga and the twists and turns it has gone through do not bring any credit to the higher judiciary.


It is a contradiction that the little Indian who is larger in number is bluffed by those who have state power and resources. The Union law minister recently realised the importance of the lower courts for dispensing justice to the masses. They are more important to the people than the remote, lofty higher courts which are expensive and unapproachable. The minister announced an expenditure Rs 5,000 crore to strengthen the lower courts. But he missed the real weakness of the present judicial process.


If the lower courts, which form the foundation of the judiciary, are weak, the whole structural fabric will fail. Eighty-seven per cent of the litigation in the country is fought out in the lower courts. If they are manned by brilliant young judges, the judiciary will be invigorated and will command great regard. If justice at the trial stage is strong, then the judicature will be great at the ground level. If the trial court is fragile and the supreme court a crowd, the institution will remain just a glowing illusion in the sky.


The small litigant will lose all he has and he will fail to secure justice. A top-heavy and fragile system will be a disaster. The Parkinson's law, which states that organisations become top-heavy even as output diminishes, and the Peter principle which says that in an organisation every member rises to his level of incompetence are both true of the higher judiciary now.


The more the number of judges, the less the work, and the bigger the pile of arrears. Such a structure will weaken the courts and adversely affect the delivery of justice. The problem is aggravated when the moral calibre of judges comes to be questioned and when ineffective methods and procedures are followed to deal with it. The creation of new mechanisms like the collegium is another way of compounding the problem rather than solving it.


A constitutional conundrum


The collegium of the supreme court is a constitutional conundrum. It is not mentioned in our long Constitution. It is not an institutional functionary and was created by the judiciary.

 

Many jurists, the bar and journalists are averse to discussing the handling of the Dinakaran case for fear of misuse of contempt of court. Many jurists are not forthcoming with their views when the chief justice of the world's largest democracy keeps information secret and says he is not a public servant. Then whose servant is he? The judicature will no longer command confidence if they are, like Everest, beyond the reach of Indian humanity. It was too plain a blunder.


Justice Dinakaran has defiantly dismissed a direction of the top body of the supreme court. How can a judge who is accused of wrongdoing and has been found unfit to be elevated to the highest bench be allowed to continue as the chief justice of a high court? How should the people take it and what should they make of it? It is still worse when they discover that the same judge, who is under a cloud, is transferred to the Sikkim high court. It is being unfair to the people and the litigants of Sikkim.


The obvious course to be adopted is to prosecute the corrupt judge. The judges are also bound by the penal law, given the sanction of the chief justice. Does not the high Bench know this? Who is more ignorant than the other, the collegium or the delinquent judge? The pity of it is that India should be a victim of this folly.


The flouting of a high collegium by a judge and his getting away with it is bad enough. But it is equally shocking that a chief justice and his senior-most companions of the highest court have pocketed the insult without straightaway directing prosecution of the culpable for corruption. It is strange that a puisne judge is so pugnacious and the collegium is pusillanimous. The penal code should not be sleeping when the accused is a judge.

The robed brethren are not beyond the reach of the Indian Penal Code. Be the judge ever so high, he is not above the law, and the highest judge cannot be ignorant of the law. The highest court can act now, even though it is late, and start prosecution proceedings against Justice Dinakaran, without waiting for his impeachment. Ignorance of law is no excuse even for the highest judicial office. There is no iron curtain between the curial robe and the criminal code.


(The writer is a former judge of the supreme court)

 

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


DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

POOR WATER QUALITY, A SERIOUS THREAT

OF 1.42 MILLION VILLAGES IN INDIA, 1,96,813 ARE AFFECTED BY CHEMICAL CONTAMINATION OF WATER.

BY Y P GUPTA

 

 

A recent United Nations report says that more than three million people in the world die of water-related diseases due to contaminated water, which includes 1.2 million children. In India, over one lakh people die of water-borne diseases annually. It is reported that groundwater in one-third of India's 600 districts is not fit for drinking as the concentration of fluoride, iron, salinity and arsenic exceeds the tolerance levels.


Rajasthan, Gujarat and Karnataka are the worst affected. About 65 million people have been suffering from fluorosis, a crippling disease due to high amount of fluoride and five million are suffering from arsenicosis in West Bengal due to high amount of arsenic.


According to an earlier UN agency report, since the world's population has grown to over six billion, many countries have been facing water crisis. A majority of the poor in these countries do not have access to safe drinking water. Around 80 per cent of diseases in the developing countries are attributed to poor quality of water supply.

The World Health Organisation reported that of the 10 million annual deaths in India, 7.8 lakh are due to lack of basic health care amenities like effective sewage system, safe drinking water supply, elementary sanitary facilities and hygienic conditions. Almost 90 per cent of diarrhoea cases are due to contaminated water.


Getting worse

The UN reported that some 2.6 billion people in the world, mostly in Africa and Asia, do not have access to basic sanitation, which increases the risk of diarrhoeal and other diseases fatal to children. Also, rapid urbanisation, growth of unauthorised colonies, lack of amenities and medical facilities and disposal of garbage have worsened the situation.


Water-borne diseases like cholera, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea have been erupting every year during summer and rainy seasons in India due to poor quality of drinking water supply and sanitation. A California think tank reported that as many as 76 million children could die worldwide from water-borne diseases by 2020 if adequate safeguards are not taken.


Children among the poor are most vulnerable to water-borne infections as they are largely undernourished and their immune systems are underdeveloped. Trans-Yamuna and resettlement colonies of Delhi are largely afflicted every year from these diseases due to shortage of safe drinking water.


A World Resources Report says: about 70 per cent of India's water supply, is seriously polluted with sewage effluents. The UN reported that India's water quality is poor. It ranks 120th among the 122 nations in terms of quality of water available to its citizens.


The World Development Report says: Delhi's water supply is among the worst in many big cities of the developing world. The Central Pollution Control Board has found that the tap water in Delhi contains carcinogenic substances and the toxic quotient is five times higher than the WHO standards. It is reported that of the 1.42 million villages in India, 1,96,813 villages are affected by chemical contamination of water.

The water supply from rivers is invariably contaminated to a greater extent by bacteria, viruses and parasites. These are found in large numbers in domestic sewage, effluent from slaughter houses and animal processing plants, all of which contaminate water catchment areas.


Over 18,000 million litres of untreated sewage water enters the Yamuna river daily, passing through Delhi, and thereby polluting it with toxic chemicals and high level of coliform and other bacteria. The high level of coliform bacteria increases the incidence of water-borne diseases. These microbes grow in the intestines of humans and animals, where they multiply and thereby cause disease.


These water-borne pathogens survive under low temperature, low salinity and low intensity of light. Warm temperature is favourable for their rapid growth. Also, industrial effluents and municipal waste in Haryana have been polluting the western Yamuna canal water, and thereby adversely affecting the drinking water supply in Delhi. A large number of fish deaths in recent past in Punjab — caused by industrial effluents — created panic in certain areas of Punjab and Rajasthan because the drinking water supply became unsafe.


It is reported that 10 per cent of diseases worldwide could be avoided by improving the water supply, sanitation, hygiene and management of water resources. Today, water resources are depleting due to increasing consumption because of rising population and improved living standards in urban areas.


The government has committed to provide drinking water to all habitations by 2012 under the millennium development goals and therefore has a major responsibility to provide safe drinking water, particularly in urban slums and rural areas.

 

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


DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CAMERA IN THE BEDROOM

WHEN I TALKED ABOUT A CAMERA IN THE BEDROOM, SHE SHOT UP LIKE A JACK IN THE BOX.

BY J S RAGHAVAN


When Pushpa hit the bed after finishing her nightly chores in the kitchen she was puzzled to see Badri searching for something. "What are you looking for?" she asked. "The camera. I kept it in the bedroom." She shot up like a jack in the box. "Camera in the bedroom? My god. Is a camera watching the two of us?"


Badri burst into laughter. "Don't be silly. But I can't blame you for your vigilance. Listen, ours is a respectable residence and not an ashram. I bought a new digital to capture our crawling Nandu. Not sure where I kept it. By the way, I rang your mobile twice this morning. Why didn't you answer?" "May be I was having a bath."


"Pushpa, can't you take it to the bathroom? Ours is as big as a tennis court. You can keep it on the shelf, away from the shower spray." "No way, Badri. The cheeky thing is bound to ring when I'm under the shower. And with no specs on, if I press a wrong button it may take a picture of me."


Badri smiled broadly. "C'mon! Yours is a basic model. It can't click." Pushpa yawned. "But, Badri why should a cellphone carry a camera? Does a camera carry a cellphone? Why invent such things and invite trouble? And please, don't ask me to open your mail when you are on your tours. I see several unmentionable things in your spam mail... Are you asking for such items?"


"No. God knows who sends them. Don't worry I am getting a blackberry. I can access my e mail from anywhere." She yawned again. "Badri, it was high time that we change our TV. Can we shop for a special model that will suit my needs?" "Special model? Which one?"


"The one that will have the husband-lock, like a child-lock, so I can scramble the channels or programmes I don't want you to watch on the sly when I am asleep or away... What is that? Is that the camera you were searching? Looks sleek. Badri, hope its eye is closed. And not focusing on us? Shove it at the bottom of the suit case. Can't take chances with these fancy contraptions. Now let's go to sleep. It's almost eleven."

 

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

 


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

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

WHERE DID PEACE GO?

More than a month has passed since the crisis erupted over the expansion of the Jewish East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo during U.S. Vice President Joe Biden's visit here, and the peace process is still at a total standstill.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the U.S. administration's demand that Israeli construction be frozen in East Jerusalem and was thrust into an unnecessary and damaging confrontation with Israel's most important ally. Indirect talks with the Palestinians have been delayed and the freeze that Israel declared on residential construction in West Bank settlements will soon expire.


The Americans are hinting that if the diplomatic stalemate continues, they will release their own peace plan, which Netanyahu views as a recipe for an imposed agreement. The Israeli public is mostly apathetic to the peace process. As long as there is no terrorism and no intifada, only a small number of Israelis take any interest in the plight of the Palestinians or what is being done in the territories.


This apathy relieves Netanyahu of domestic pressures and gives him freedom to act. The prime minister, however, prefers to bide his time, apparently in the hope that U.S. President Barack Obama will soften his demands or that Israel's supporters in the United States will organize opposition to an imposed peace agreement.

Netanyahu's conduct reveals his true position. The expansion of the Jewish footprint in East Jerusalem is more important to him than safeguarding our essential relationship with the United States. He prefers to approve construction in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah and quarrel with Obama than foster closer coordination and understanding with Washington in the face of the Iranian threat.


At the moment of truth, Netanyahu opted to go with his ideological roots and sacrifice Israel's strategic interests - and his commitment to advance a peace settlement with the Palestinians on the basis of "two states for two peoples."

Netanyahu's priorities are a mistake, but one that is not too late to rectify. He should respond positively to the American request and temporarily halt construction in East Jerusalem to quickly restart talks with the Palestinians. The future of East Jerusalem must be decided through negotiations, as Israel committed to in the past, and not through unilateral decisions.


Israel gains nothing from Netanyahu's time-wasting and is only suffering as a result of the prolonging of the conflict and the undermining of American support. Instead of entrenching himself behind his political partners, the prime minister needs to show courage to break the diplomatic stalemate after more than a year in office with little to show for it.

 

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SECRETS? WHAT SECRETS?

BY ALUF BENN

Come quick! This looks interesting," yelled Alon, my instructor in the traffic accident investigation division at Tzrifin army base. As I entered the office, Alon put two pages of carbon paper on the desk and turned on the light. The typewritten headings jumped out at me - "Protocols of meeting with the Mossad head," and "Meeting emorandum with Shin Bet chief."


We grew excited - there's something intoxicating about finding state secrets. It was the summer of 1984, Shimon Peres had just taken office as prime minister of a national unity government, and here were the memoranda of his meetings with the heads of the secret services, figures whose names, at the time, were kept secret. The record of the meeting with the Mossad director mainly included code names of secret operations and instructions to continue hunting down Nazi war criminals. The one featuring the Shin Bet chief was more absorbing - Peres had ordered surveillance of lawmakers from the Progressive List for Peace, a fringe party then holding talks with the PLO leadership in Tunis.


How did such sensitive material reach the hands of two Military Police corporals who had undergone no vetting or security clearance? Simple - the chauffeured vehicle of Peres' military secretary had been involved in a minor collision and its driver filled out a triplicate form as required. In those days before computer, printer and compact discs, the driver had asked clerks in the office for copy paper, and they gave him papers used earlier to record the prime minister's secret meetings.


As traffic accident investigators, our work was mostly thankless and administrative - completing forms and signing off on authorizations to fix cars after fender benders. Only occasionally did we encounter a serious accident. To overcome the boredom we collected military secrets, competing against one another to see who could enter more high-security intelligence and air force bases. Once I went to investigate an accident at just such a base. I didn't see a thing other than a pretty view and nondescript offices, but what did it matter? On my return I had a story for the guys.


I thought back to those experiences this week when I read about the "astonishment" Judge Zeev Hammer expressed at the "data security failures" in the office of then-GOC Central Command Yair Naveh that allowed Anat Kamm, a soldier with no security clearance, to copy hundreds of military documents to her private computer. The judge apparently forgot that this is the IDF, not some European or American army with discipline and regulations and starched uniforms. No one here takes bombastic headlines about security clearance seriously, instead trusting that "everything will work out fine." That's apparently what Anat Kamm believed as well - that like every other "security source" who gives information to journalists, she could trust the military censor to prevent any real damage to national security.


Let's keep things in proportion - the "it'll be fine" mentality wasn't invented in Naveh's office. In a country where everyone serves in the army, all are exposed to sensitive information that cannot be erased or forgotten. Every plane of Israeli tourists abroad carries far more state secrets than Kamm's lost compact discs. Even employees of the Dimona nuclear reactor travel the world, and are not imprisoned in a closed city with a barbed wire fence for fear that they will chat with the locals or be kidnapped.


The Israeli security apparatus was born in the underground, and for years nurtured an inflated sense of secrecy. Its leaders and units exulted in various code names, and its bases were situated "somewhere" in the country. That secrecy didn't prevent security lapses, but simply encouraged the curious to rummage around in drawers and computer folders in search of state secrets. Aside from a handful of incidents (an intelligence officer stationed on Mount Hermon fell into Syrian captivity in 1973 and divulged data-collection methods to his captors in fine detail), it is hard to identify significant damage to national security caused by leaked secrets, other than damage to the defense establishment's prestige. Even Kamm's detractors are having trouble pinpointing the damage she supposedly caused, and are thus content to denigrate her as a "thief."


Even the closest-guarded secrets seem ludicrous in hindsight. The heads of the security services are now known to all, and the same Shimon Peres who ordered the Shin Bet to monitor peace activists Uri Avnery and Matti Peled more than 25 years ago received the Nobel Peace Prize a decade later for forging contact with those same PLO leaders.

 

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

THE RIGHT TO DEPORT

BY AMIRA HASS

 

When Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, who was commander of the IDF's units in Judea and Samaria, signed a military order six months ago in which 10 different variations of the Hebrew root for the word "deport" appeared, it seemed neither he or the faceless army jurists who formulated the edict verified which week the order would come into effect. As it turned out, the amended "order to prevent infiltration (into the West Bank)" coincided with the saddest of April's days.


Once the order's implications were published and once human rights organizations and the Palestinian grassroot groups and officials began fighting it, Israeli security sources sought to calm fears.


There is nothing new in this order, they say. The (military) law has always permitted the expulsion of illegal sojourners. Contrary to what has been written, the new edict is designed to ameliorate the lot of the individual being expelled by allowing for judicial oversight.


On March 25, the Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual dispatched a letter to current GOC Central Command Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi warning the officer of the danger inherent in enforcing the order. If the edict contains no new provisions, then why didn't the military authorities offer clarifications to Hamoked's legal experts before it reached the press?


The Israel Defense Forces' reassurances address a second order, which joined the above-mentioned order against infiltration. This second order concerns the establishment of a military judiciary committee to examine the deportation process.


The army's attempt to pacify public opinion ignores the main order and ignores the accumulated changes - for the worse - that the Israeli government introduced limiting Palestinian freedom of movement and residency.

By what right? By Israel's right as a military regime that is above all. The vague language used in the order combined with the gradual changes are enough to sound the warning siren. This ambiguousness is not just any ordinary slip of the tongue.


Army order number 1650 expands the legal definition of infiltrator, the criminal, so that it can immediately be applied to the following population groups: Palestinians (and their offspring) who lost their residency status due to Israel's actions since 1967; Palestinians whose ID lists them as Gazans; and foreign nationals.


That is killing many birds with one stone - birds who are already in the West Bank and those who plan to commit the crime of "infiltrating" it.


The goals are to limit the population growth of Palestinians in the West Bank; to complete the process of severing the Palestinian population in Gaza from West Bank society (in violation of the Oslo Accords); and to deter foreign nationals joining the popular struggle against the occupation (see: IDF raids in Ramallah in search of foreigners).


But the order also has the potential to add more categories of "infiltrators."


The new key word in the amended edict is "permit," without which an individual will be considered an infiltrator. Over the last 20 years Israel has instituted a complicated system of travel and residency permits for the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza.


"Permit" is a euphemism for prohibition. The more Israeli politicians spoke of a two-state solution, the more complicated this regime of travel restrictions between Gaza and the West Bank became. The tentacles of this regime, which made travel between Gaza and the West Bank more difficult, and limited entry to individuals in certain areas of the West Bank, branched out further and further.


There are bans that were instituted for emergency periods and were later suspended. But the ban on living or entering without a permit to the area that lies between the Green Line and the separation fence - be it your home or land - remains in place. One mustn't forget that permits are given sparingly.

 

When one takes into account Israel's policy of disconnecting East Jerusalem from the West Bank, it is quite possible that the military ban on Palestinian East Jerusalemites entering areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority without a permit will be renewed.


The military commander of the area reserves his right - a right taken by force of arms and military coercion - to concoct new permits. The order implies that new permits/prohibitions might be invented, and more individuals defined as infiltrators.


Is this impossible? Is this the product of delusions? The delusional did in fact happen to the residents of the Gaza Strip. Since January 1991, Israel has instituted restrictions on their travel to education or residence in the West Bank. Now, as of 2000, they are even officially classified as illegal sojourners there.


Since 2007, those few Gazans who are permitted to exit the Strip are also required to apply for a permit to stay in the West Bank.


The regime, which constantly invents new types of permits, has become the trademark of Israel's military rule. It grants junior and senior commanders the right usually reserved for authoritarian rulers or military dictators to determine whether people are able to study and where they can work, live or travel. It even allows them to decide whom they can marry. The new edict expands the right of the ruler to expel.

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL IS TO BLAME FOR JERUSALEM'S RISING ARAB POPULATION

BY SHAUL ARIELI

 

The conduct of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet marks a new peak in the government's march of stupidity on Jerusalem. In the best case this march will put Israel in an inferior position when negotiations with the Palestinians are renewed. In the worst case it will advance the transformation of Jerusalem into a capital with an Arab majority of a single state between the Jordan River and the sea.


Cutting East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and expelling 60,000 Palestinians from its precincts by means of the separation fence were aimed at ensuring Israel's control of a "united Jerusalem" and establishing a solid Jewish majority in the city.


H owever, since the erection of the fence thousands of Palestinians have moved into the city, including its Western part.


This migration stems from the fears of Palestinians living outside of Jerusalem or outside the country that their Israeli residency will be taken away from them and thus they will be cut off from East Jerusalem, which serves as the center of their lives.


It is also motivated by the security checks, which make their access to the city ever more difficult.


During this past year the implementation of these threats has increased migration, bringing the day closer when the share of the Palestinian population in the capital (which rose from 25 percent in 1967 to 36 percent in 2009) will cross the median line.


Jerusalem's former mayor, the late Teddy Kollek, held the "mosaic" view of the city, the main principle of which was the maintenance of the contiguous developed Jewish area. This has given way to a policy of "vertical envelopment" - the purchase of buildings and the construction of Jewish neighborhoods in the heart of Arab villages like Ma'aleh Zeitim in Ras al-Amud, Kidmat Zion in Abu Dis, Beit Yonatan and Beit Hadvash in Silwan and the attempt by Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat to let Jews live in Sheikh Jarrah.


This presence will not be able to vanquish the Arab neighborhoods demographically. It will only exacerbate the daily friction and lead to the expenditure of about NIS 50 million from the public coffers for security. In the long term, these moves will sabotage the necessary condition for a permanent status agreement - a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.


During decades of neglect, the Arab neighborhoods have lacked in infrastructure, education and health; 36 percent of the city's inhabitants received only 7 percent of its budget.


Demolition orders have been issued for thousands of homes built without permits in those neighborhoods, for which no master plan has been drawn up during the past 40 years.


None of this has motivated the Palestinian inhabitants of Jerusalem to move out of the capital. On the contrary. A survey conducted recently in the Jewish neighborhoods of the city found that during the past three years 1,361 apartments in those neighborhoods were sold to Arabs.


The shortage of 1,500 classrooms gives criminal gangs and terrorist groups a chance to reach kids who have nothing better to do than roam the streets.


It came as no surprise that in the 2006 elections Hamas won all the Jerusalem seats in the Palestinian parliament.

The statements by some members of the government and the Knesset concerning their willingness to relinquish the outlying Arab neighborhoods are contradicted by the municipality's actions. Thus recently a road was paved from Pisgat Ze'ev to the Begin freeway which crosses through Beit Hanina, and the route of the light rail line will pass through Shuafat.


The new buildings going up in Beit Hanina are being connected to the Jerusalem water grid, whereas their neighbors are connected to Ramallah.


These measures and trends will not benefit Israel during negotiations, or in their absence. The government of Israel must give up the dream of a united Jerusalem for all eternity in order to ensure that Hebrew Jerusalem, including its eastern neighborhoods, will remain the capital of the Jewish state for the next generation as well.

 

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

IF I WERE URI BLAU, I'D REPORT TO THE SHIN BET

BY YOSSI MELMAN

Over the past 30 years I have been questioned three times by the police over information I received and then published in Israel. On one of the occasions, officers from the London police participated in the questioning and asked me whether I had received secret information from an officer from MI-6, the British secret service.

I reported for all the interrogations. It was not pleasant. They were lengthy, and the questions were probing. Now and then the interrogators hinted that I could expect severe punishment. I refused to reveal my sources, and I asserted that I had acted within the law and performed my journalistic duties as is customary in a democratic society. In the end, even the interrogation was not so terrible.

 

This is what I would do if I were Uri Blau. It also looks like this is ultimately what will happen. An arrangement will be found to enable him to return to Israel. He may be summoned for questioning, and he will return the documents he received from Anat Kamm in his capacity as a journalist.


This outcome could have been achieved several months ago. Evidently, in the Kamm affair - which certain people are trying to transform into the Uri Blau-Haaretz affair, due to extraneous and perhaps even hostile interests - everyone has gone too far out on a limb, and is having trouble backing down. This story contains excess emotionality, pride, prejudice, vengeance and ego, and there are too many honor games.


I have no doubt that Shin Bet security service head Yuval Diskin is feeling wounded and believes Blau is toying with him. However, his hurt feelings do not entitle him to hint that in the future, the service will be more heavy-handed with journalists. A free media is the oxygen of a democracy and an important element in Israel's security, no less so than the Shin Bet.


Haaretz may have to conduct its own reckoning in the wake of how the affair has been handled. The newspaper erred by letting the reporter and his attorneys decide which documents to return. However, ultimately, let there be no confusion: Blau did his work properly. His exposure of suspicions that the Israel Defense Forces top brass ignored High Court instructions was important, and its publication was appropriate.


Kamm, a young soldier, was motivated by a sense of mission and wanted to expose what she believed were illegal acts. A number of democratic societies would laud her as a whistleblower. In Israel, regrettably, the majority of the public perceives her as a traitor.


Kamm erred and she deserves punishment. She admits this, and so do her parents. However, to accuse her of high treason with the intent of harming the state's security is madness. Is handing information to an Israeli journalist equivalent to the high treason committed by Prof. Marcus Klingberger and Col. Shimon Levinson, the security officer in the Prime Minister's Office who spied for the Soviet Union, or to Nachum Manbar's sale of materials to the chemical weapons industry in Iran?


There is an uncomfortable sense that the defense establishment abuses the weak and glosses over leaks by top people like prime ministers, cabinet ministers and IDF generals acting to advance their own political or personal interests. And the list is long: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he was opposition leader, Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom, former Military Intelligence head Eli Zeira and more.


It appears that the IDF information security department and the Shin Bet, with the help of the State Prosecutor's Office, are behaving overzealously and out of a desire for revenge, because Kamm has exposed in all its inadequacy the information security system in an office as sensitive as that of the GOC Central Command.

All the elements involved should calm down, act with the necessary proportionality and draw from this affair all the necessary conclusions, of which there are many.

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


 

 

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

EDITORIAL

MR. OBAMA AND MR. HU

 

We think President Obama made the right decision — for now — not to pick too public of a fight with China over its currency manipulation.

 

The administration postponed a report to Congress due this week on Chinese monetary policy. After Mr. Obama met with President Hu Jintao of China in Washington on Monday, the White House made a low-key statement that Mr. Obama had pressed Mr. Hu on the need to "move toward a more market-oriented exchange rate" and played up China's pledge of cooperation on sanctions for Iran.

 

Beijing's aggressive undervaluation of the renminbi is a serious problem for the American economy and the global economy. Going one on one is likely to backfire. The best hope for persuading China to change its ways is with sustained pressure from many countries. It will certainly make it harder for Beijing to hide behind claims of sovereignty and accusations of big power bullying.

 

That means that Mr. Obama will have to work hard to rally others to jointly press the issue. The best forum is coming in June when the leaders of the world's biggest economies gather at the Group of 20 meeting in Toronto. They need to use that occasion to tell China, in no uncertain terms, that it cannot keep building up its own economy by undercutting the rest of the world's exports.

 

They need to leave no doubt in Beijing's mind, that its global standing will suffer if it does not listen. Few countries have benefited as much as China from the open trading system. Under sufficient pressure from its trading partners, Beijing would be likely to relent.

 

It's still not clear how hard they will have to push.

 

At Monday's White House meeting, Mr. Hu reportedly told Mr. Obama that China planned to move away from its fixed currency peg to the dollar. He didn't say when. And according to remarks released by the Foreign Ministry, he also stated that the objective of changing China's currency strategy "won't be advanced by any foreign pressure." Mr. Hu's next stop is Brazil. Finance Minister Guido Mantega said last week that China's exchange rate peg is hurting Brazil's manufacturing. We hope that Brazilian officials are just as direct in their meetings with the Chinese president.

 

This is a global problem. The renminbi's fixed and artificially cheap exchange rate is undercutting exporters throughout the developing world. It also is seriously complicating economic policy-making among China's neighbors. So long as the Chinese currency remains so cheap, they cannot afford to combat burgeoning inflation by allowing their own currencies to rise because it could further undercut their exports.

 

China would also benefit from shifting from exports to internal consumption as a source for growth. It would improve the living standards of its citizens. It would ease the job of its central bank in trying to keep inflation at bay. And it would establish China as a more responsible player on the global economic stage.

 

The Chinese bureaucracy is clearly split. Central bank officials have been arguing for some time that a stronger currency would help them combat rising inflation. The Commerce Ministry is adamantly opposed. Ministry officials latched on to the fact that China recorded its first monthly trade deficit in six years in March — a one-time blip because of fast imports of raw materials for China's export industry — to argue that their cheap currency is not the cause of global trade and financial imbalances.

 

It is. China should not be allowed to forget it. Barring a change of exchange rate policy, China's trade surpluses are going to bloat again in the months to come.

This is not a problem just between the United States and China. It is a problem between China and most of the world. The challenge for President Obama now is to get the rest of the world's leaders to deliver that message as clearly and urgently as they can.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

LESSONS FROM THE BIG BRANCH TRAGEDY

 

It is still not known what set off the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers — the nation's worst mining disaster in four decades. What is clear is that federal oversight of the industry must be greatly strengthened.

 

The first task is to reform the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Its powers are limited. It has been remarkably forgiving of bad actors. And even when it uncovers serious, repeated violations, its cumbersome, industry-friendly appeals process makes shutting down a mine virtually impossible.

 

The Upper Big Branch mine, where the explosion occurred, is a case in point. According to a 2007 agency letter to the Massey Energy Company, the mine's owner, Upper Big Branch had incurred 204 safety violations just in the previous two years. Disturbingly, the agency soon pronounced itself satisfied that Massey had addressed the problems. But in the past two years, the mine has been cited repeatedly for safety violations, many of them serious, and some involving improper ventilation.

 

These alarming numbers should have given the agency sufficient ammunition to prove a "pattern" of violations, a necessary precondition for shutting the operation. But the agency's procedures prevent it from taking decisive action until the appeals process runs its course, and industry has become remarkably adept at prolonging legal challenges for months or years.

 

Federal officials say the backlog has been holding up strong enforcement action — including shutdowns — against 48 mines, one of which is the Massey mine.

 

Strengthening the agency means strengthening the Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977. Regulators lack subpoena power, a basic investigatory tool. Violations of safety standards that lead to deaths are mere misdemeanors. The agency also needs more inspectors and administrative judges to deal with the appeals backlog.

 

Representative George Miller, the California Democrat who leads the House Education and Labor Committee, is eager to begin addressing these deficiencies, as is his Senate counterpart, Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat. Both are scheduled to hold hearings.

 

After the Sago mine disaster in 2006, Washington increased inspections but did not fundamentally reform the system. This time the chances look better. Joseph Main, the boss of the Mine Safety and Health Administration, is a former union official and a far cry from the industry enablers who dominated the place under the Bush administration. He and his superior, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, are planning to meet with President Obama on Thursday to discuss ways to guard against similar disasters.

 

Meantime, public anger is at a high pitch, even among West Virginians who rely heavily on coal mining for their livelihoods. West Virginia's governor, Joe Manchin III, has now appointed his own investigative panel.

 

No one should underestimate industry's capacity to resist. The time to fight this battle is now, before the tragedy at Upper Big Branch, like so many other mining disasters, recedes from the public consciousness.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

THEY SHOULD KNOW BETTER

 

We were disturbed to learn that health care workers shunned the swine flu vaccine in droves. Their training and skills will be essential if there is a dangerous flu outbreak. They, of all people, should know how important it is for them to get vaccinated — and that the risk of serious side effects is negligible.

 

The good news from a survey of health care workers conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the RAND Corporation is that 62 percent of them had received a vaccine to protect themselves against the standard seasonal flu by mid-January, a much higher percentage than in any previous season. By contrast, only 37 percent of the health care workers had received a vaccine against swine flu.

 

Although they were designated a high-priority group to get swine flu vaccine, many health workers remained indifferent or hostile. Luckily, the swine flu outbreak turned out to be comparatively mild — but there are no guarantees for the next time.

 

Medical personnel need to get vaccinated for two reasons beyond protecting themselves and their families. If they become ill, they will be unable to work at a time when their institutions most need them. And those who have direct contact with patients especially need immunization lest they spread illness and death among already vulnerable sick people. The reasons most frequently cited for ducking either vaccine were "I don't need it" and "I may experience side effects." Only 17 percent blamed difficulties in getting the late-arriving swine flu vaccine.

 

The survey found that when employers required their health care workers to get vaccinated against swine flu they got 87 percent compliance; when they recommended that workers get vaccinated, they got 43 percent compliance; and when they did neither, they got only 11 percent of their workers vaccinated.

That strengthens the case for making flu shots mandatory for all health care workers in coming years.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

VISAS AND CENSORSHIP

 

Claiming that it was part of the fight against terrorism, the George W. Bush administration revived the loathsome cold war practice of denying visas to foreign intellectuals, artists and others because of their views.

 

In January, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lifted the ban on two prominent scholars: Adam Habib, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, and Prof. Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University. She needs to go further and renounce ideological exclusion.

 

Mr. Habib, a human rights activist, learned that his visa had been revoked when he sought to enter the United States in 2006 for professional meetings. Mr. Ramadan, a Swiss national and well-known Muslim academic, learned that his visa had been revoked in 2004 when he was to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame. Mrs. Clinton's action followed a federal appellate court ruling against the government.

 

The appearances last week by the two men at separate public forums in New York City were a tangible victory for freedom of speech and the robust exchange of ideas across international borders.

 

Free speech advocates have called on Mrs. Clinton to end ideological exclusion and reconsider the Bush administration's questionable visa denials — a list that includes Dora María Téllez, a Nicaraguan political activist and historian, and Haluk Gerger, a Turkish writer and human rights activist. She should do both without delay.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

OUR FILL-IN-THE-BLANK CONSTITUTION

BY GEOFFREY R. STONE

 

Chicago

AS the Senate awaits the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice, a frank discussion is needed on the proper role of judges in our constitutional system. For 30 years, conservative commentators have persuaded the public that conservative judges apply the law, whereas liberal judges make up the law. According to Chief Justice John Roberts, his job is just to "call balls and strikes." According to Justice Antonin Scalia, conservative jurists merely carry out the "original meaning" of the framers. These are appealing but wholly disingenuous descriptions of what judges — liberal or conservative — actually do.

To see why this is so, we need only look to the text of the Constitution. It defines our most fundamental rights and protections in open-ended terms: "freedom of speech," for example, and "equal protection of the laws," "due process of law," "unreasonable searches and seizures," "free exercise" of religion and "cruel and unusual punishment." These terms are not self-defining; they did not have clear meanings even to the people who drafted them. The framers fully understood that they were leaving it to future generations to use their intelligence, judgment and experience to give concrete meaning to the expressed aspirations.

 

Rulings by conservative justices in the past decade make it perfectly clear that they do not "apply the law" in a neutral and detached manner. Consider, for example, their decisions holding that corporations have the same right of free speech as individuals, that commercial advertising receives robust protection under the First Amendment, that the Second Amendment prohibits the regulation of guns, that affirmative action is unconstitutional, that the equal protection clause mandated the election of George W. Bush and that the Boy Scouts have a First Amendment right to exclude gay scoutmasters.

 

Whatever one thinks of these decisions, it should be apparent that conservative judges do not disinterestedly call balls and strikes. Rather, fueled by their own political and ideological convictions, they make value judgments, often in an often aggressively activist manner that goes well beyond anything the framers themselves envisioned. There is nothing simple, neutral, objective or restrained about such decisions. For too long, conservatives have set the terms of the debate about judges, and they have done so in a highly misleading way. Americans should see conservative constitutional jurisprudence for what it really is. And liberals must stand up for their vision of the judiciary.

 

So, how should judges interpret the Constitution? To answer that question, we need to consider why we give courts the power of judicial review — the power to hold laws unconstitutional — in the first place. Although the framers thought democracy to be the best system of government, they recognized that it was imperfect. One flaw that troubled them was the risk that prejudice or intolerance on the part of the majority might threaten the liberties of a minority. As James Madison observed, in a democratic society "the real power lies in the majority of the community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended ... from acts in which the government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents." It was therefore essential, Madison concluded, for judges, whose life tenure insulates them from the demands of the majority, to serve as the guardians of our liberties and as "an impenetrable bulwark" against every encroachment upon our most cherished freedoms.

 

Conservative judges often stand this idea on its head. As the list of rulings above shows, they tend to exercise the power of judicial review to invalidate laws that disadvantage corporations, business interests, the wealthy and other powerful interests in society. They employ judicial review to protect the powerful rather than the powerless.

 

Liberal judges, on the other hand, have tended to exercise the power of judicial review to invalidate laws that disadvantage racial and religious minorities, political dissenters, people accused of crimes and others who are unlikely to have their interests fully and fairly considered by the majority. Liberal judges have ended racial segregation, recognized the principle of "one person, one vote," prohibited censorship of the Pentagon Papers and upheld the right to due process, even at Guantánamo Bay. This approach to judicial review fits much more naturally with the concerns and intentions of people like Madison who forged the American constitutional system.

 

Should "empathy" enter into this process? In the days before he nominated Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, President Obama was criticized by conservatives for suggesting that a sense of empathy might make for a better judge.

 

But the president was correct. If all judges did was umpire, then judicial empathy would be irrelevant. In baseball, we wouldn't want an umpire to say a ball was a strike just because he felt empathy for the pitcher. But once you understand that the umpire analogy is absurd, it's evident that a sense of empathy can, in fact, help judges fulfill their responsibilities — in at least two ways.

 

First, empathy helps judges understand the aspirations of the framers, who were themselves determined to protect the rights of political, religious, racial and other minorities. Second, it helps judges understand the effects of the law on the real world. Think of judicial decisions that have invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage, granted hearings to welfare recipients before their benefits could be terminated, forbidden forced sterilization of people accused of crime, protected the rights of political dissenters and members of minority religious faiths, guaranteed a right to counsel for indigent defendants and invalidated laws denying women equal rights under the law. In each of these situations, in order to give full and proper meaning to the Constitution it was necessary and appropriate for the justices to comprehend the effect that the laws under consideration had, or could have, on the lives of real people.

 

Faithfully applying our Constitution's 18th- and 19th-century text to 21st-century problems requires not only careful attention to the text, fidelity to the framers' goals and respect for precedent, but also an awareness of the practical realities of the present. Only with such awareness can judges, in a constantly changing society, hope to keep faith with our highest law.

 

This does not mean judges are free to make up the law as they go along. But it does mean that constitutional law is not a mechanical exercise of just "applying the law." Before there can be a serious national dialogue about our Constitution, our laws and the proper role of our judges, that myth must be exposed.

 

Geoffrey R. Stone, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, is an editor of The Supreme Court Review.

 

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

 


THE NEW YORK TIMES

 

WHAT WE LEARNED FROM H1N1'S FIRST YEAR

BY RICHARD P. WENZEL

 

Richmond, Va.

ONE year ago today, a government worker in Oaxaca, Mexico, became the first person to die of swine flu. At the bedsides of other men and women struggling to stay alive in Mexican critical care units, we clinicians noticed early on that this novel H1N1 flu virus diverged from influenza's usual pattern of activity in striking ways. It began in the Northern Hemisphere, not in Asia, and in mid-spring, not late fall or winter. It also had a worrying predilection for children and young adults, not the elderly and newborns.

 

In the months after those first deaths, the virus ignited a global pandemic. While the epidemic never became as deadly as we initially feared, it was not as mild as some experts now believe. What's more, it exposed some serious shortcomings in the world's public health response.

 

Those who now describe the pandemic as mild base their conclusion primarily on what, at first, seems like a mortality rate in the United States similar to those seen after seasonal influenza. But my colleagues in developing countries would strongly object.

 

Though we lack reliable death rates from country to country, certainly no one who helped care for the large

number of critically ill patients in Mexico could conclude that the flu in the United States was as severe as in

developing countries that lacked our resources.

 

Here, the vaccine arrived later than estimated, and only about 80 million Americans received it — not nearly

enough, but a far higher proportion of the population than in many developing countries. In fact, only 26 of 94 poor countries in need of the protective H1N1 vaccine have even received it so far.

 

We also cannot count as mild any virus that was so devastating for young adults, along with pregnant women, obese patients and minorities.

 

Worse yet, this virus made itself particularly hard for clinicians to identify. Whereas doctors associate fever and cough with outbreaks of influenza, one-third of patients admitted to hospitals and up to half of infected outpatients in this pandemic had no fever, yet they were infectious.

 

And because it is likely that only patients with fever were tested for the presence of the virus, we greatly underestimated the number of people infected. A telling report from Britain showed that when children were tested in cross sectional surveys after the first wave of infection, one in three had antibodies to the virus, meaning that they had been infected — this was 10 times more people than estimated from clinical surveillance.

 

H1N1 posed huge infection-control problems, especially in hospitals. This was because it was found not only on

hard surfaces in the environment, which is common to all influenza strains, but in the stool of patients, a feature

of avian influenza.

 

Public health groups emphasized the necessity of frequent hand-washing, which surely helped reduce transmission. But those groups also disagreed on other preventatives: for instance, the World Health Organization and Society for Health Care Epidemiologists of America recommended the relatively inexpensive surgical mask, whereas the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued for the N-95 respirator mask.

 

In our own country, the virus struck at a time when Americans seemed particularly skeptical about our government and large institutions. The C.D.C. faced an uphill battle to characterize the trajectory of the pandemic, to define its impact, to offer suggestions and to convince a wary public to get vaccinated.

 

At times, health officials erred in their recommendations. C.D.C. authorities often said that ill children and adults could go back to school or work 24 hours after their fever disappeared — even though young children are contagious for up to three weeks and adults for 5 to 7 days.

 

It is not an easy task, but our public health authorities need to become clearer about the lexicon of uncertainty — what they know and don't know about a pandemic. They also need to be transparent about how they devise their recommendations, which often have to balance between infection control and the daily activities of offices and schools. And we need to identify which social distancing techniques truly help control pandemics — for example, does the closing of schools and malls minimize the spread of viruses from infected children to adults?

 

One year after its appearance, we continue to have many unanswered questions about the virus. Will the novel H1N1 agent become a persistent seasonal virus? Can we produce vaccine more quickly by moving to a cell-based rather than egg-based method? Can we possibly identify the Holy Grail of influenza vaccination, finding a virus target common to all influenza A strains so that we can administer a single vaccination at 10-year intervals?

 

Even as we work to solve these enigmas, we can try to prepare better for future pandemics. First, we need to approach disease control not as individual nations, but as a global community. In this, Mexico has already set an excellent example. Only 10 days passed between Mexican health authorities' recognition of a possible new epidemic and their announcement of it, a sharp contrast to the many months in 2003 between the outbreak of SARS in China and its public declaration.

 

Mexico's transparency was a policy decision made with full recognition of the unfavorable economic consequences from H1N1, now estimated to have cost almost 1 percent of the gross domestic product. Thanks to that decision, we had an edge in fighting this virus. We should find ways to financially reward early reporting of novel infectious agents, while doing a better job of sharing resources and agreeing on common containment strategies.

 

Second, we should rely not just on governments for reporting but on the cooperative efforts of international health organizations as well. These groups should set up better sentinel reporting systems in places where new swine or avian variants are most likely to occur — wherever people and pigs or birds live closely together — so that they can identify new virus progeny quickly.

 

Eventually, we'll also need to encourage farmers in developing countries to follow agricultural and safety practices that make it less likely that viruses will jump species.One predicts influenza at his own peril, but it is likely that H1N1 will continue to cause sporadic cases. In some highly susceptible, unvaccinated populations it may even produce local outbreaks.

 

But the struggle between people and pathogens is a part of life itself. We cannot continue to be surprised every

time a new virus emerges. Instead, we must use the lessons we've learned during the year since H1N1 arrived to

develop more effective public health responses.Richard P. Wenzel is a professor of internal medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases at Virginia Commonwealth University.

 

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


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

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE CRUNCH

 

With all eyes on Washington and the nuclear talks which are being presented as a crossing of the Rubicon for Pakistan, matters domestic are perhaps being overlooked. Overlooked to the tune of $1.2 billion, which is a substantial sum to lose sight of. Our problem lies with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their problem with us is that we have failed to comply with the terms of the loan which has been agreed between us, thus jeopardising the payment of the next tranche, which is the aforementioned $1.2 billion. We were expected to raise power tariffs by six per cent from April 1 (we didn't) and seem nowhere ready to implement Value Added Tax (VAT) from July 1. During the recent strategic talks in the US we attempted to get the US to do a little arm-twisting with the IMF but the IMF is not about to be influenced in its decision-making. The IMF wants compliance and if it does not get it then we do not get the money, and considering the parlous state of the national economy this is bad news.


Thus far we have received $6.4 billion out of an $11.3 billion package, and were expecting a 'soft landing' as far as the VAT and power tariffs were concerned. It appears that the government has been very eager to implement parts of the agreement, particularly the VAT element. Legislation has been tabled but not passed, there has been no setting up of a department to gather the tax, no training for civil servants and no guidance for traders and retailers as to how they should make payments to the treasury. It is now too late to complete this complex range of tasks and we are going to be in default of our agreement with the IMF. The government is in a fix. There are national protests at the absence of power yet it is bound to raise the price of a commodity it is unable to adequately supply. A rosy glow in Washington is going to do nothing to lighten what has now become a bitter reality.

 

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

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MORE TROUBLE

 

As if NWFP did not already face enough problems, it has been overtaken by more. Adding to the Taliban insurgency and acts of terrorism that have created havoc across the region, we now have violent protests against the new name for the province. Hundreds of protesters in Abbottabad, the epicentre of the province's Hazara belt, took to the streets on Monday – objecting to the new Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa name. Seven people died and over 200 were injured as clashes erupted with the police. There are conflicting reports on whether the police overreacted, or whether there was no other way of bringing in check hordes who burnt down cars and attempted to set buildings alight. On Tuesday there were reports of violence having spread to other parts of the Hazara region while a strike was observed. What is sad is that it would appear the trouble was deliberately inspired, perhaps even incited, by the PML-Q. The party that has opposed the name change for NWFP and has stated it will keep up its move to block it in the Senate is reported to be behind the several days of violence in Abbottabad. It may not be entirely alone. PML-N members from Hazara, including the son-in-law of the party chief, had walked out of the National Assembly during discussion on the name change. It is believed these elements too may be behind the unexpected unrest. The PML-Q is demanding negotiations on the issue, ignoring the fact that the name change came about only after fairly intense discussion in the first place.


The whole thing is entirely unnecessary. It throws a province that has already seen far too much turmoil into still more turbulence. This is obviously not a situation the NWFP government would have wanted. Indeed it now faces a kind of new crisis, just as it had thought the naming crisis was finally over. The PML-Q must also consider the consequences of its actions. The opposition to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa name from the 'Punjabi' belt of the province and from a party centred in that province will only add to federal animosity and distrust among the units. This is not a development that is in any way welcome. The PML-Q and its allies also need to spell out in clearer terms what their objection is. The name they had proposed for the province, Sarhad, makes little logical sense. The new name falls broadly into line with names for the other provinces. Most importantly of all, it is a name backed by the majority of people who live there. This should be reason enough to quit stirring up trouble, accept the change and do all that is possible to retain peace in a province that has already seen far too much violence.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

REFORM, NOT REMIT

 

With a penal system firmly focused on punishment rather than reform the likelihood of President Zardari's best chum Ahmed Riaz Sheikh mending his ways on release is remote. The same is going to be true of other prisoners recently offered a remission of one quarter of their sentence and the Punjab government has rightly held back from a wholesale release and referred the 'remissions' to the advocate-general, the prosecutor-general, the home department and the police in order that a proper evaluation of the threat presented by such a mass release may be made. The fact of the matter is that it makes no sense at all to release at least 736 convicted criminals back into the community – where they will contribute immediately to an already spiralling crime wave.

Ahmad Riaz Sheikh will be fine. He is rich and powerful and his family and cronies will ensure that he does not feel the bite of hunger, the chill of homelessness and the despair of unemployment. The other 735 have a rather more uncertain future. There is no probation or aftercare system to receive them, no half-way houses to integrate them back into the world and often no family either. The drug-peddlers will go back to doing what they know best, likewise the thieves and burglars and highway robbers and fraudsters, because there is nothing in prison that will have diverted them towards the paths of goodness and honesty. In principle there is nothing wrong with occasional remissions of sentence, but only for those prisoners at the lower end of the sentencing tariff and only those who have shown genuine remorse for their crimes. Ahmed Riaz Sheikh may have to wait a while before smelling freedom again, and so he should; and the president needs to think through a little more carefully some of his wilder schemes.

 

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

I. THE NEWS

SEN OBAMA'S 'I WILL' NUCLEAR PLEDGE

SHAMSHAD AHMAD


President Obama has been busy this whole last week in staging three high-profile nuclear security-related events, which included the signing of a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, unveiling of his country's new Nuclear Posture Review and hosting of a global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.


In a speech in Prague in April last year, he had presented an ambitious three-part strategy to address the international nuclear threat, proposing measures to reduce and eventually eliminate existing nuclear arsenals, strengthening the NPT and halting the proliferation of nuclear weapons to include additional states, and preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or materials. At the end of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit, Obama seems to be "redefining" the nuclear issue.


The focus now is not on nuclear disarmament; it is on nuclear terrorism. The focus emerges from the Washington Summit as the most immediate and extreme threat to global security. With the participation of 47 states and of related UN agencies, there is now a global strategy to be laid out on a time-bound basis "to secure vulnerable nuclear materials, break up black markets, detect and intercept materials in transit, and use financial tools to disrupt illicit trade in nuclear materials."


The security of nuclear materials, including prevention of illicit trade and transfers, is a global problem that needs a global cooperative response. There are currently nuclear-weapons materials in more than 40 countries, some "secured by nothing more than a chain-link fence."


The Washington strategy might perhaps serve to reinforce the already existing systems, and tighten the legislative controls and administrative mechanisms on export controls. But to be effective, its applicability must be non-selective and non-discriminatory, and in dealing with the countries known to possess nuclear capability, a criteria-based approach by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) will be needed to ensure a properly accountable and verifiable civil nuclear cooperation.


It will not be sufficient for the US just to obtain commitments from the leaders of the 47 nations present at the summit, producing broad backing for Obama's call for a concerted international effort to secure the world's supply of nuclear material. "At the end of this, we're going to see some very specific, concrete actions that each nation is taking that will make the world a little bit safer," President Obama said.


Even if this strategy works to secure vulnerable nuclear materials against unauthorised use or capture and disrupt their illicit trade in black markets, the fears and concerns over the risks of a disastrous nuclear conflict remain unaddressed. The future of the world remains hostage not only to one act of terrorism, but also to one accident or one strategic miscalculation.


The only time nuclear weapons were used was when America's Little Boy and Fat Man descended on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, wreaking havoc of a kind the world never experienced before, or since. It was not an act of terrorism but a calculated military move in anger and desperation by a "civilised" state against another state.


Now, instead of devoting our energies and attention to the elimination of the root causes of wars, or even focusing on the need to free the world of nuclear weapons through "general and complete disarmament," as envisaged in Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), we are still talking of the use of nuclear weapons against perceived or imaginary enemies, or those which do not accept "nuclear apartheid" and insist on a non-selective and non-discriminatory non-proliferation regime.


To our friends in the Western world the nuclear question has traditionally been one-dimensional. The symptoms, not the disease, are their problem. Their undivided focus has been on non-proliferation only as a concept which they have ingeniously adapted to their own objectives. Partial efforts at arms reduction and arms limitation between the United States and Russia, the two major nuclear-weapon states which between them are in possession of more than 95 per cent of the world's nuclear arsenals, also do not amount to disarmament.


The signing of a new arms reduction treaty in Prague on Thursday by President Obama and President Medvedev was nothing more than a follow-on confidence-building measure to stabilise relations between their two countries. By agreeing to reduce their overall nuclear arsenals and cut the number of deployable warheads from by about a third, to 1,500, doesn't change their alert status. Neither trusts the other. There is no change in their Cold War posture.


During his presidential campaign, Obama had promised he would do something about that. In a speech in April 2007, he was crystal clear: "If we want the world to de-emphasise the role of nuclear weapons, the United States and Russia must lead by example. President Bush once said, 'The United States should remove as many weapons as possible from high-alert, hair-trigger status -- another unnecessary vestige of Cold War confrontation.' Six years later, President Bush has not acted on this promise. I will. We cannot and should not accept the threat of accidental or unauthorised nuclear launch."


But according to The Washington Post, the US military balked, and the new nuclear posture document only recommends "evaluating additional options to increase warning and decision time." Despite President Obama's intention to reduce the US nuclear stockpile, the Federation of American Scientists finds that New START "doesn't force either country to make changes in its nuclear structure."


President Obama's new Nuclear Posture Review is being hailed "as a commonsense acknowledgment that in the modern age, nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism are of greater concern than an apocalyptic battle between superpowers," and that the US will not use nuclear weapons except in the case of a threat to its very survival. There is nothing new in this doctrine. China has always subscribed to "no-first-use" policy and to "non-use" of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states approach.


In the final analysis, the key to a world free of nuclear weapons remains the four-decades-old NPT whereby non-nuclear nations (except Israel, India and Pakistan) had foresworn becoming nuclear powers. In exchange, they were guaranteed access to resources and technology for nuclear power production for peaceful purposes. The nuclear powers also pledged in the NPT's Article VI to engage in "good faith negotiations" to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.


However, since 1970, when the treaty came into force, there has been constant erosion of arms control and disarmament measures, reversal of non-proliferation policies of the key powers, violation of treaty obligations and weakening of UN disarmament institutions. There are clear differences of perspective, approach and modalities among states to promote international and regional peace and security through disarmament and non-proliferation.

Lack of progress in the resolution of long-standing regional disputes, emergence of new forms of conflicts, which emanate from power asymmetries, as well as economic and social disparities and injustices, continue to obstruct the objective of equal security for all. In addition to horizontal and vertical proliferation of WMDs at state level, the threat of acquisition and use of WMDs by non-state actors has become a growing concern.

If global disarmament is beyond reach today, it is only because the multilateral system is being used to legitimise the strategic and security setup for a few. Ironically, their own huge nuclear stockpiles do not seem to prevent the nuclear powers from demanding that the rest of the world refrain from attempts to join the nuclear club, or be subject to punitive measures, a situation that amounts to telling people not to smoke while you have a cigarette dangling from your mouth.


Unless they change their view of global security, there is no prospect for a global consensus on disarmament in pursuit of a nuclear weapon-free world. President Obama may be sincere in calling for such a world. He is surely echoing the global sentiment. But he knows the reality and admitted that he may not live long enough to see a nuclear-free world, and that the US will maintain a nuclear arsenal "as long as these weapons exist." This sums up the entire disarmament scenario and redefines the "reality" of global nuclear issue.


The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@ yahoo.com

 

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

IS PARLIAMENT SUPREME?

AMEER BHUTTO


On April 7, the judiciary came under heavy criticism on the floor of the National Assembly. The general upshot of the furore was that parliament was supreme and if the judiciary failed to honour parliamentary actions, then parliament too would be under no obligation to respect court rulings. On April 2 the speaker of the National Assembly declared that parliament was supreme and that courts could not undo its legislation. Zardari echoed the same sentiment in his address to the joint session of both Houses on April 5 and the prime minister has made the same assertion more times than one cares to recall.


So is parliament supreme? The fundamental rule of democracy is that the people are sovereign and their will is supreme. In the exercise of their will, they elect representatives to reflect their aspirations in parliament and make laws by which the country will be governed. Towards this end, parliament enacts a constitution. The essence of written constitutions is that they define the scope and extent of powers to be enjoyed by all institutions. Definitions, by their very nature, are restrictive in the sense that they strictly identify each body's sphere of authority beyond which it must not venture. Such a notion of confinement of authority to a clearly defined sphere is anathema to the concept of unfettered supremacy, such as that enjoyed by the British parliament, which is guided not by confining written laws but by historical customs and conventions.


In the case of our parliament, its adoption of the 1973 Constitution was an act of a voluntary surrender of supremacy in the wider sense, because it consented to function under the restraints imposed upon it by the constitution. Since this constitution was acceded to by parliament and the restrictions contained therein were self-imposed rather than inflicted by any extraneous source, parliament cannot escape its binding force. Ahmer Fazeel, in his commentary on the 1973 Constitution, writes: "The doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty has no place in a federal system of government functioning under a written constitution and the power of judicial review extends not only to executive acts and legislative measures, but also to constitutional amendments. Hence, Majlis-e-Shoora (parliament), in the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, does not enjoy the supreme status like the British parliament."


The constitution defines and limits the powers of parliament in a number of ways. Parliament cannot alter or legislate against the spirit of the constitution, which provides for, among other things, an Islamic way of life, representative democracy, separation of powers and a guarantee of fundamental rights for the citizens. Nor can it violate the letter or spirit of the Objectives Resolution, since it is now part of the constitution under Article (2)(A). For instance, it cannot pass laws that are contrary to the edicts of Islam as that would be in breech of Articles 2 & 31. It cannot declare a person to be president for life without need for elections as that would be repugnant to Article (44)(1). It cannot take cognisance of the conduct of judges of the Supreme Court or High Court in the discharge of their duties as that would be a violation of Article 68, nor can it violate fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 8 – 28. If parliament were to act in violation of the spirit of the constitution, its actions would be subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court under Article (184)(3) and by the high courts under Article 199. The 18th Amendment has reportedly been challenged in court because some of its provisions are deemed to be in conflict with the essence of the constitution. The concept of judicial review has been further developed in a number of court rulings such as in the Sindh High Court Bar Association Case, announced on July 31, 2009, in which the Supreme Court ruled that:


"The judiciary was the interpreter of the Constitution and was assigned the delicate task of determining the extent of power conferred on each branch of government, its limits and whether any action of that branch transgressed such limits… It is the duty of the judiciary to determine the legality of executive action and the validity of legislation passed by the Legislature."


This means that the courts can examine the validity of all actions taken by the executive and legislative branches under the microscope of the constitution. The same principle has been confirmed by a number of prominent rulings, the most recent being the NRO verdict.


Furthermore, the constitution very clearly demarcates legislative authority between parliament and the provincial assemblies. In Article (142)(A) & (B) the authority of parliament to legislate on subjects included in the Federal and Concurrent Legislative Lists is recognised, whereas in Article (142)(C) all subjects outside the ambit of these two lists are unequivocally declared as beyond the legislative jurisdiction of parliament. The 18th Amendment's proposal to eliminate the Concurrent List is bound to further restrict the jurisdiction of parliament, transferring the subjects contained therein to the provinces. Despite this, claims of parliamentary supremacy by the government betray a comprehensive cluelessness on its part regarding the legal consequences of its own actions.


Parliament is subject to a system of checks and balances imposed by the constitution to establish a balance and separation of powers. If it claims to be supreme within its sphere as a law-making body, then the judiciary can also claim to be supreme in its role as the adjudicator and interpreter of the constitution and any action taken by the courts in exercise of the constitutional power of judicial review should not raise complaints in parliament. The Supreme Court recognised the parliament's authority to legislate by allowing it an additional 120 days to decide the fate of the NRO, even though the time period stipulated by the constitution had lapsed. But the courts cannot be expected to surrender their power of judicial review. That itself would be a violation of the spirit of the constitution.

 

Incessant claims of parliamentary supremacy on the part of the holders of highest public offices in Pakistan are substantiated neither by the constitution nor by the judicial rulings that leave no ambiguity in this matter. These claims reflect either an alarming ignorance of law on the part of parliamentarians who were supposedly elected under a minimum literacy requirement or, worse, a dictatorial yearning to operate free of the limits defined by the constitution. Even if parliament were supreme, how can the government justify a virtual declaration of war against the judiciary and non-implementation of the Supreme Court's verdicts? How can it justify meddling with vital state institutions and laws of the land to cover up loot and plunder by trying to sweep the issue under the NRO rug and prolong one man's joyride in power that is costing the nation dearly? How can it justify allowing free license to indulge in corruption without any fear of accountability? Is it for such unholy purposes that the government hallucinates about parliamentary supremacy?


It is the unmitigated misfortune of the people of this country that their fate lies in the hands of those who are incapable of understanding, respecting or shouldering such responsibilities. Uncontainable emotions unleashed by the murder of Benazir Bhutto coupled with the cursed NRO produced convoluted results in the February 2008 elections. The people realised their mistake too late and now desperately yearn for relief from the disastrous status quo they find themselves hopelessly mired in. I am reminded of these lines from Gerry Rafferty's song: "Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, and here I am stuck in the middle with you!"

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.

 

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

THE PERPETUAL LOOT

A Q KHAN


Ye nagar sau martaba loota-gaya


Was the romantic verse recited by famous Urdu poet Mir Taqi Mir almost two hundred years ago. "Nagar" (meaning his heart having fallen in love and been robbed a hundred times) also hinted at the city of Delhi that was attacked and looted so many times. Mir belonged to Delhi and had to migrate to Lucknow after it was attacked and its inhabitants were mercilessly massacred at the hands of the invaders, Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali. When he reached Lucknow dressed very shabbily, people looked down upon him and taunted him. He responded with the following verse:


Kya bood-o-baash poochho ho, poorab ke saakino,


Ham ko ghareeb jaan-ke, hans-hans pukaar-ke.


Dilli jo ik sheher tha aalam men intikhaab,


Rehte-the muntakhab hi jahaan rozgaar ke,


Us-ko falak ne loot-kee veeraan kar-diya;


Ham rehne-vaale hain usi ujre dayaar ke.


Mir was very conscious of the pitiful condition of Delhi. There had been three devastating wars at Panipat, succession wars between Moghul princes and three days of non-stop massacre of the people by Nadir Shah's army in 1739 and then by Ahmad Shah's army in 1761. All this was on his mind.


Later in history, the War of Independence of 1857 (or the Mutiny, as the British called it), the communal riots of 1947 and the massacre of the Sikhs after Indira Gandhi's murder, all saturated Delhi's soil with blood. All this makes his abovementioned verse very appropriate.


If you look at Mir's verse with relevance to Pakistan, we realise that this poor country has not only been looted a hundred times. It has been robbed continuously for the past 60 years – 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Democratic governments proved to be no different from military dictators. The good times lasted only for the first five years of our independence. Leaders at that time were so honest that when Maulana Maudoodi taunted Liaquat Ali Khan about his new suit, the prime minister showed the receipt in the next gathering, pointing out that he still had to pay the tailor. Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, though a federal minister, lived in a small rented house in the PECHS.


What a contrast now! Our rulers and leaders own luxurious villas, extremely expensive cars, foreign properties and foreign-currency accounts. Their luxurious way of living would put many Nawabs and Rajas to shame. Their motorcades bring city traffic to a halt, causing untold miseries to the public. The emperors and kings in our history were kind and caring and conscious of the needs and comfort of the people. They were extravagant (and could afford to be), but they kept the welfare of the poor in mind. Nowadays, the comforts and needs of the poor don't even enter into the picture, the only interest of the rulers lying in using economic "wizards" to levy more and more taxes on essential items to satisfy the demands of international lending institutions in order to obtain yet more loans. Most of the money extracted from the poor as taxes for development ends up being used for luxurious living, sumptuous dinners, receptions and foreign tours.


The decay and destruction of our national economy and fabric of the country started with the murder of Liaquat Ali Khan. An unstable, unbalanced governor general, Ghulam Mohammad, laid the foundation of our country's downfall. Corruption, nepotism and favouritism flourished and spread, ultimately leading to the break-up of the country in 1971. Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did some excellent work in securing what was left of the country and putting it back into some sort of shape. Within five years he managed to get our PoWs back from India, strengthen the army with new formations, held the Islamic Summit and, above all, laid the foundation of the most needed nuclear deterrence programme.


The fact that we now receive almost $9 billion as remittance from expatriates is due to Mr Bhutto's foresight in making it easy for Pakistanis to obtain passports. Had Ayub Khan taken that step ten years earlier, millions more Pakistanis could have been working abroad, and been an asset to the country. However, Mr Bhutto too was not without his own shortcomings and soon dictatorship again struck.


After the elimination of Mr Bhutto, Gen Zia-ul-Haq played havoc with the country, destroying all state institutions. Those 11 years were the darkest in our history. After the death of Gen Zia, the successive governments of Benazir Bhutto and Mian Nawaz Sharif could not fulfil the aspirations of the people and many politicians and their associates looted the country at will. Another dictator struck on Oct 12, 1999.


One cannot but be astonished at the tenacity of our poor, helpless country to have survived such ferocious onslaughts. After every mishap, there was renewed hope for betterment, but it always turned out to be a dream only. After having acted against the Constitution, Gen Musharraf then went on to make a controversial and ignominious deal with the PPP – the NRO – in order to prolong his illegitimate rule. But Allah is the final Disposer in all matters and the general failed in his efforts and was forced to resign, and later to leave the country.

Unfortunately, the present rulers, in their two years at the helm of affairs, have failed to tackle serious problems such as inflation, load-shedding, hoarding, corruption, terrorism, lawlessness, nepotism, favouritism and the price hikes of electricity, gas, petroleum products and edibles.


If not blatantly lying on TV and in the press, then making promises that were not kept has become the order of the day. The breaking of solemn promises was declared as politically expedient and not the words of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH). Though appearing on TV with solemn faces, saying that they are aware of all the problems faced by the people, in their hearts, they know that they have everything they need and have nothing to worry about. They ask the public to have patience and that it will take time to solve the problems. Meanwhile, they will be gone with filled pockets and the problems, no doubt, will remain. People are conscious and talk about the fact that the country is being looted mercilessly every day by those who already have so much.

I can't help thinking that our poor, helpless and innocent masses are similar to the prey of animals like wild dogs, hyenas and piranhas. As Mir said: "Yeh nagar sau martaba loota-gaya," and this has been going on for the last 60 years, day in and day out. It is a wonder that we still exist, even though we have come very close to being a failed state.


I don't believe that swallows will come and shower stones on the wrongdoers. Nor will a sudden, violent hurricane or flood come to wipe them out. However, I do believe that Allah Almighty has His own way of sending remedies from the most unexpected direction and source. Since there is nothing much left to loot, may Almighty Allah help this poor country and its people now. Ameen.

 

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FATA FORGOTTEN

AYAZ WAZIR


While the political parties are jubilant that they have delivered what the people expected of them in the form of the 18th Amendment, the people of FATA are bemoaning the fact that they have been left high and dry, not knowing what to do. Should they join in the celebrations or should they mourn the passing of an amendment that contains nothing for them. They were hoping that their decades-long demands concerning their areas would be incorporated in the amendments through changes to the Article 247 of the Constitution. They were dreaming that the draconian laws of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be amended and the Political Parties Act would be extended to their areas as promised by the president. The prime minister had also made similar promises earlier.


The Reforms Committee itself is on record as having proposed that the Article 247 be amended, saying that "the government should take immediate steps to implement the reforms announced by the president in respect of FATA, particularly about major changes in the FCR and providing opportunities to the national political parties to organise their activities in that area. The government may also associate other parties who are stakeholders in the ongoing consultations regarding administration of tribal areas."


That this recommendation has not found place in the draft is in itself a mystery. It seems some invisible yet powerful force prevented the committee from including the recommendation in its final list. The members of the committee, particularly those from FATA, would be in a better position to explain as to which force was so powerful to do that. What has happened to the leadership of political parties championing the cause of Pashtoons? What stopped them from raising their voices against maintaining the status quo in FATA? What stops them from joining hands to demand the abolition/amendment of the FCR? When are they going to show solidarity with the people of FATA who stand deprived of the fundamental right to protest against injustice?

If the name of NWFP could be changed with relative ease because it was given by our colonial masters and did not represent the major ethnic group living in that province, the name FATA was also given to the tribal areas by the colonial masters and it doesn't represent the people in any sense. If Lyallpur could become Faisalabad, Montgomery became Sahiwal and NWFP became Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, why isn't FATA given a name representing the people living there?


Why is the leadership of the nationalist parties of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan silent on the injustices done to FATA in the 18th Amendment bill? Why have they maintained a stony silence by not raising the issue? The members in parliament from FATA have won elections on individual basis or with the support of invisible hands. They prefer making money over changing the condition of the common man of the areas they represent. They do not support extending the Political Parties Act to FATA because once political parties start functioning in those areas, these pygmies will have no role to play.


Notes of reiteration or dissent were recorded by various parties and individuals but there is no mention of any such thing from the representative of FATA in the committee. He was either asleep during all meetings or was simply not interested in political and economic reforms for his area. Some members from FATA did wake up from their deep slumber and threatened to withdraw their support for the bill in the Senate, only to take it back later. The people of FATA have seen, over the years, what their so-called elected representatives have done for them. If they were to resign from parliament they should have done so when they were ignored by the government while the latter undertook military operation in FATA.

In the last nine years of war against terror, fingers were pointed at FATA for acts of militancy elsewhere in the country. The inhabitants of the tribal areas were accused of breeding militants, providing them with training camps and indulging in acts contrary to the interest of the state. All this was attributed to the backwardness of that area. Now when there was a golden opportunity to get rid of that backwardness by introducing reforms in the FCR, it was missed.


Let's not waste any more time to rid the people of the tribal areas of the reviled FCR which keeps them totally isolated from the outside world. Let us pave the way for the tribesmen to join the mainstream by giving them equal rights and opportunities. Let's bring them at par with the rest of the people of Pakistan. Only then will peace come to them and to the rest of the country.


The writer is a former ambassador hailing from FATA. Email: waziruk@hotmail.com

 

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TO SCARE A VIP

ANJUM NIAZ


The writer is a freelance journalist with over twenty years of experience in national and international reporting

First the good news: the 70 per cent young who make up Pakistan are visible, active and adversarial. You saw their faces, albeit poor, miserable and scruffy, on your television screens last Sunday. They are the foot soldiers of change.


Second, yet more good news: the best way to scare our VIPs is to shout 'mob! mob! Take cover.' For additional spooky effects, get some ghostly-look-alike to shout 'boo' from the back. Watch then our chastisers-in-benefactors designer suits and starched shalwar-kamiz cower behind their palace walls. Zardari, Gilani, Pervez Ashraf, Naveed Qamar, Nawaz Sharif and their band of merry men may merely pay lip service to power crisis, but hell hath no fury like youth scorned.


This is no fiction, but the truth.


Last week, our VIPs (minus Zardari, just wait, he too will wake) were woken up from their cool slumber with the shouts of 'end loadshedding.' The angst of the people on the streets spread like bush fires in towns and cities across Pakistan. Admittedly, the mobs were not overwhelming in numbers, but be warned, it doesn't take long for scattered embers to turn into a conflagration.


The inferno can singe leaving behind cinders for us to pick up. Zardari and his corrupt cronies (I know it's Gilani now, but until Mr Gi sacks his ministers/officials responsible for the mismanagement of the power crisis, Mr Zee is our point man) will have to start the rebuilding process from square one. God forbid!

The first salvo was shot from London where the prime minister arrived to pass the night in the jocund company of his high commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hassan of the Swiss boxes fame. An idiotic message from the government-owned APP read: 'PM takes notice of power protests.' (Did the PM really think the people will never protest?) More government gobbledygook followed when the news item said that Gilani "instructed the ministry of water and power to take long and short measures to immediately reduce loadshedding."


The 'pronto' order from the PM worked wonders with the minister for water and power. "In the light of the instructions of the prime minister, the ministry of W&P held a special meeting to review measures to decrease power shortage."


Over to you Raja Pervaiz Ashraf.

 

The raja has been missing from the 'crime' scene for many weeks. Where did he run off to? Well, after the PM's shout from London to "reduce loadshedding" there was the raja holding forth before the television cameras. He appealed to the mobs to stop protesting; he appealed to the people to conserve electricity. (Look who's talking! Go tell this to the presidency, PM House, ministers' colony and government toadies who are ablaze with illuminations celebrating something or the other every night. Recently Shakarparian in Islamabad was bathed in light for the spring festival at Arts and Crafts village.)


Anyway, our minister for darkness has claimed that he's getting new power plants, the emphasis being on 'new' and not the second-hand ones that he got for us earlier and Halleluiah they shall start producing power in six weeks, yes, you heard him right, six weeks. Not only that, but the minister said he has cancelled the "vacations and foreign tours of WAPDA and PEPCO employees to resolve the energy crisis as quickly as possible."


So, dear readers, it takes the prime minister and his minister to act when mobs come out on the streets. Until that happens, our rulers live a life in Khabistan, not Pakistan.


Lo and behold, the mighty Sharifs of Punjab too woke up last Sunday to discover for the first time that there was a power crisis in Pakistan! The Sharif brothers saw the menacing smoke rising above the Lahore skyline from their gilded palaces and rushed to blame Musharraf and Zardari for being so callous. How come they never mentioned the power crisis before? Yes, you guessed it right. They live in La la land and think that the people and industries under their benevolent rule are flourishing and growing from strength to strength no matter what the "loudmouth" Governor Salmaan Taseer may say.


We have to thank the Lahori youth for sounding the waking bugle to arouse our VIPs asleep at the wheel. The rulers are hard of hearing and next time the protesters may require pressure horns.


Moving into top gear, the media too needs to brush up on its reporting rather than swooning and crooning about the Sania-Shoaib marriage, it should be digging deeper in finding clues to the energy crisis. We're told that the ADB has $2 billion waiting for Pakistan to ask for its energy needs! The World Bank too wants to lend money to us. And then there's the earnest-faced Iranian Ambassador Shakeri always offering bijli to us but nobody takes his votive seriously. Akhar kyoon? Yes, we know there's corruption involved in awarding contracts to investors offering power. A five-star hotel here holds so many secrets of how investors and their agents would arrive from abroad to make deals with the government. One such US-based party was thrilled when the deal was almost signed, until Zardari's minister, and allegedly his business partner, visited the party at the hotel and demanded his five per cent of the share!


Kaput! The deal died on the spot.


It's not good enough for Gilani to open up his heart to Shaheen Sehbai, group editor of this paper, during his stay in Washington and admit his government's folly in addressing the power crisis: "he (PM) also agrees that the energy issue was mishandled by his own water and power minister which cost him and his government a lot of political capital and damaged image" wrote Sehbai.


Who cares about your 'political capital' and 'image' of your government, Mr Prime Minister? All that the people of Pakistan care about today is power in their homes, factories, schools, offices, roads and shopping areas.


According to an "energy expert," VIPs use influence to "steal power" with "KESC connivance" in Karachi where they install more than one electric meter in their homes. "This is happening in KDA scheme No 1 where a new double-storey house on a 600-sq-yard plot has been given seven electricity meters… they were shifted inside by KESC when neighbours started asking awkward questions… we really need to analyse this gulf between the unconcerned privileged class and the vast majority of the nations' populace."


Would the PM and his minister for water and power care to comment on the above? To stand atop a high moral ground and make high-sounding statements pledging help to the people sound so hollow. Better it would be to descend from your pedestal, roll up your sleeves and get down to shovelling out the corrupt. The exercise, though strenuous, is the only answer to our energy crisis.


Finally, what became of the much-touted report on loadshedding meant to be presented to the PM "within a week" by a three-member ministerial committee comprising Pervaiz Ashraf, Naveed Qamar and Hafeez Sheikh that met on April 2? Why give such deadlines to your ministers, Mr PM, when you know, either they or your good self won't meet? This time the onus falls on you for missing the deadline because you're currently enjoying your stay at the Four Seasons luxury hotel in Washington.


Email: anjumniaz@rocketmail.com

 

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


I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

A GOOD INITIATIVE

LIAQUAT H MERCHANT


For the people of this subcontinent who are sick and tired of wars, territorial claims, security issues, mutual suspicion, unresolved disputes, hostile rhetoric and propaganda, unproductive peace dialogues and an unrealistic visa regime, Aman ki Asha is indeed a breath of fresh air. The two sovereign nations, which share common borders and which should sensibly and naturally be interlinked and inter-dependant on each other for the common good of their people, are unfortunately arch-rivals.


In this background of hostility which has prevailed over the past 62 years,

 

the highly commendable and praiseworthy initiative taken by the Jang Group with The Times of India to set up a crossborder collaborative peace project is an unparalleled shot in the arm. Smaller organisations on both sides of the border have been making endeavours to achieve a similar purpose, but a project as large as this can only be achieved by large and prestigious institutions which have a voice that reaches the people of the two countries, for it is the people who are the ultimate sovereign with a perpetual tenure as governments which formulate policies during their respective tenures come and go.


It is heartening to see the two major media organisations from both the countries taking this initiative because it is the media only that can reach out to the masses and mould public opinion in the right direction. And it is the public opinion which can and will ultimately mould and control government policy on all issues. The task before the two parties is Herculean and there will be many sticking points. But what needs to be done on a priority basis is to drive home that we are not mutual enemies but a part of the same sub-continent and our destinies are inter-linked. The next effort must be to get civil institutions of the two countries closer to achieve a durable peace. Words such as 'disputes' must give way to 'differences' and 'hostility and mistrust' to 'hope and faith'. It must be remembered by both sides that a substantial majority of the people want peace and friendship and that a very small minority exploited by vested interests create conditions conducive to hostility and conflict to serve their agenda.


A very good beginning has been made by the two media moguls and it is now up to the civil society and the non-governmental organisations from both the countries to support this move.


The two countries, which have achieved political independence, should realise that economic independence on a joint-effort basis will give them unthinkable advantages. Both Mahatma Gandhi and Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah wanted them live in peace and join hands in a quest for development and prosperity . Let us begin with allowing free trade, travel, tourism, exchange of academics, artists, professionals, businessmen, industrialists, students and representatives of NGOs, media personnel and trade bodies by introducing a liberal visa regime and open up air, sea and rail traffic without fear or intimidation. Discussions at all levels should be encouraged. Both countries should start with the pledge of non-interference, declaring the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each other of paramount importance.


The major issues between them will become easier to resolve over a period of time once an atmosphere of peace, sincerity and friendship is formed. Not only do the people of India and Pakistan want peace but the world wants it too, and if we take the first step, the international community will certainly put its weight behind these peace initiatives. The Pakistan-India Citizens Friendship Forum welcomes the Aman ki Asha initiative in principle and wishes the two media groups all success.

 

The writer is a prominent lawyer and co-chairman of Pak-India Citizens Friendship Forum

 

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


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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WELCOME ASSURANCE

 

SUNDAY'S meeting between Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and the US President Barack Obama on the eve of the Nuclear Summit in Washington has once again indicated that relations between the two countries have started proceeding towards positive direction. The favourable remarks made by the US leader about PM Gilani and issues of crucial interest to Pakistan have sent right kind of signals to Pakistani people and hopefully

hese would help improve American standing in the country.


Apart from the remarks made by President Obama about increase in powers of the Prime Minister in the backdrop of the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill, he also gave a welcome assurance that the United States has no sinister designs on Pak nukes. Not only that, he also declared his country's confidence in Pakistan's capability to defend its nuclear installations. This is important if seen in the context of the unending Press leaks in the United States and other Western countries about possibility of Pakistani nuclear assets falling into the hands of unwanted elements and the need to secure them through this and that means. There have been even reports that the United States has prepared contingency plans to get hold of Pakistani nuclear assets and their ultimate storage in some locations in the United States. It is also worth-mentioning that the Indian diplomats and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have been making attempts to make security of Pakistani nuclear installations and assets an issue at the global Nuclear Security Summit but the clear-cut statements made by the American President are being viewed by analysts as an outright blow to Indian designs. We hope that things would not remain to verbal assurances and the United States would change its machinations within Pakistan, which create doubts about intentions of Washington. These include stationing of Americans close to Pakistani nuclear installations and roaming about of its personnel in security sensitive areas. We would also expect that conscientious efforts would be made by the United States to ensure that no anti-nuclear programme (of Pakistan) leaks are made to media in future. Now that the United States has made categorical statements about safety of Pakistan's nuclear programme, it is hoped that tangible progress would be made towards civil nuclear cooperation. Apart from raising this issue at the bilateral level with the United States, Prime Minister Gilani at the Nuclear Summit has also rightly underlined the need for such a cooperation at the international level by pinpointing grave energy crisis in the country. Acceptance of this demand would also remove the sense of discrimination that Pakistan currently feels due to nuclear accords by a number of countries with India.

 

 

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

LISTEN TO HAZARA

 

WITH emotions running high among the people in Hazara for loosing their identity in the renamed Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa Province, the death of seven protestors and injury to more than 100 others has added fuel to the fire. For the last ten days the protestors remained peaceful and aired their resentment over the renaming issue to draw the attention of the Government and other parties in Parliament that while Pakhtoons have got identity, people residing in resource rich vast lands of Hazara have lost their existence.


To cash on the popular uprising PML-Q is spearheading the movement while other parties particularly the PML-N is highly perturbed over the situation in its stronghold. The ANP-led Government also failed to realise the gravity of the situation and imposed Section-144 in an attempt to suppress the protests. The PML-N, which had a strong base in Hazara, is at the receiving end and it would be difficult for it to retain this strong base unless and until it asserts its political standing in Parliament for reconsideration of the renaming issue. The decision to hold a PML-N convention in the streets of Abbottabad on Monday when people were expressing their opposition against it and the ANP was also politically a wrong move. The only way out for the PML-N is to hold fresh round of talks with PPP and ANP on the renaming of the Province. The movement has now spread to more places and emotions are running high following the death of innocent people. It is time to listen to the demand of Hazara people as the 18th Amendment is still being debated in the Senate and the damage done could be controlled. We would caution that if delayed, similar movements could be launched in other areas for creation of more provinces and the situation would go out of control.

 

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

MORE AMENDMENTS!

 

AS 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill is in the process of adoption by Parliament with the Upper House debating its various provisions, Pakistan Muslim League (Q) has declared its intention to move the 19th Amendment Bill to give, what it believes, more autonomy to the provinces and proposing financial autonomy to the Election Commission. PML(Q) legislator Marvi Memon has claimed that the Party was contacting other parties to build consensus on the proposal.


There is freedom of expression in the country and, therefore, every citizen, a party or a group is fully entitled to express views or advance them through whatever means it thinks it appropriate for the purpose. However, we should not do politics for the sake of politics and that too at the cost of highly sensitive issues. Some people are in the habit of creating controversies just to remain in the limelight but this tendency needs to be curbed. As for this particular proposal, everyone knows that Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Reforms took a considerable time and had scores of brainstorming sessions to review each and every aspect and clause of the Constitution and as a result came out with a consensus report that is now before Parliament in the shape of 18th Amendment. All political parties including PML(Q) had adequate representation in the Committee and it is believed that many of their proposals have been accommodated. Why the party could not put forth its point of view on the two issues for which it wants to move another Constitutional Amendment Bill? The Constitution is not an ordinary book or piece of paper to be tempered with every now and then. Otherwise too, the question of provincial autonomy has been addressed in the 18th amendment satisfactorily and there is even an impression that the federation would be weaker and too much dependent on provinces. Similarly, the issue of autonomy for the Election Commission should have been priority with all parties during deliberations on the constitutional reforms. We need no more amendments but implementation of the existing provisions in letter and in spirit.

 

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

 

 

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN: STRATEGIC DELUSION

MAHBOOB A KHWAJA

 

Former President George W Bush declared in his 2006 State of the Union message that "our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy without public debate and without congressional hearings, a segment of the Pentagon and fellow travelers have embraced a doctrine known as the Long War, which projects an "arc of instability" caused by insurgent groups from Europe to South Asia that will last between 50 and 80 years. According to one of its architects, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan are just "small wars in the midst of a big one." (Tom Hayden "Our Government Is Planning to Stay at War for the Next 80 Years- Anyone Got a Problem with That? LA Times, April 1, 2010) Pakistan's much optimized strategic relations with the US at best appears to be "an odd marriage of convenience." After decade old war against the "Islamic terrorism", the Bush presidency failed to achieve any known aims - if there were any aims of the unwanted war except to occupy the natural resources and to dominate and secularize the Muslim world with guns and bullets. Bush had no sense of the eventualities of the "war on terrorism."


It was an outcome of sheer madness and hopelessness of the US – a superpower at the time to deal with the crisis of 9/11 terrorist attacks. The US military is entrenched in Iraq and Afghanistan and all the strategic indicators point out to only one possible conclusion that the US and its European and other paid allies will negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan to ensure safe exit from the faith-based unconquerable mountainous people of southwest Asia.


Pakistan is much needed for any closure process to take its shape. Its corrupt and weak government will do all to appease the master. India and Iran are

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AU REVOIR TO AMERICA

RASHIDA MASOOD

 

George W Bush Administration started global war on terror with a big bang asserting that terrorists would be smoked out and terrorism washed off the face of earth and the world made safe. The plan envisaged sequential destruction of Muslim countries in which Iran, Pakistan, Syria and even Saudi Arabia figured out. They ignored massive protests all over the world including USA against intended invasion. In order to pacify the opponents, Bush and Blair helped by intelligence agencies fabricated a false story that Saddam regime was in possession of WMDs and was linked with Al-Qaeda that had organized 9/11 attacks. Torture inflicted upon prisoners in infamous Abu Gharib, Baghram and Guantanamo prisons and application of excessive force by trigger happy US-NATO forces resulting in mass killings of Afghans and Iraqis triggered anti-Americanism. Humiliation meted out to Muslims living in western world under the pretext of security and deliberate effort made by western and Jewish media to defame Islam evoked resentment against the west and made them more religious. It also led to more conversions to Islam. Unjust and barbaric policies further steeled the resolve of resistance forces and inflamed terrorism.


Terrorism was fought without defining terrorism since USA, Israel and India qualified as the leading terrorist states. In order to defame Islam and Afghan Taliban, weaken Pak Army and to crush militant Pashtuns, foreign powers worked on a devious plan to kill many birds with one stone. They managed to win over some elements within FATA promising them full support to accomplish their dream of forming an Islamic Caliphate in FATA and possibly in whole of Frontier Province. They were guided to work on the pattern of Afghan Taliban to gather support of the locals. They were provided huge funds, plentiful arms, equipment, training facility, intimate guidance, intelligence and reinforcement. Their opponents were gradually bumped off. Pakistan was then coerced to induct regular Army in South Waziristan to oust foreign terrorists and was clearly told that US troops would barge in if it failed to do. From 2002 onwards, 120000 security forces, later increased to 148000 are engaged in fighting the militants in FATA and other parts of Frontier duly aided by foreign powers based in Afghanistan. Most interesting part of the story is that the US in collaboration with India, Israel, Afghanistan and Britain is fomenting terrorism in Pakistan but also pestering and pushing Pakistan to fight terrorism. Drone attacks on Damadola in Bajaur in January 2006 followed by another on a madrassa in October were deliberate acts to provoke the militants of Bajaur. It resulted in cancellation of peace agreement and a terrorist attack on Punjab Centre recruits near Mardan in November. It triggered spate of suicide attacks and brought terrorism into cities. In 2007, 56 terrorist attacks took place; in 2008 the incidents shot up to 72 taking 1565 lives and in 2009, 130 attacks took place killing 1800. In 2010 till 15 March, 29 strikes have taken place.


Pakistan was made to fight on two fronts to weaken it from within. One was against terrorism at the behest of USA and the other against Baloch separatists supported by foreign powers. By pushing Pak Army deeply into the furnace of insurrectional war in the northwest, the US has succeeded in profusely bleeding the Islamists as well as the soldiers by making them clash with each other with full force. Pro-government elements in FATA are being systematically gunned down by drones and Blackwater.


Once Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan was roped in, RAW and RAAM agents penetrated its ranks as fake Taliban and indulged in destruction of schools, attacks on mosques, Imambargahs, tombs of saints and funerals, kidnapping for ransom, beheading of captives and other gruesome acts so as to foment hatred against Taliban and Islam among Pakistanis and to terrorize locals. The US thus cunningly shoved the whole lot of Islamists against the wall by dubbing them as extremists, terrorists, pro-Taliban and an existential threat to Pakistan. Those who propped up US agenda were and are promoted and painted as patriots and democracy lovers. The other front that was activated in 2005 was in Balochistan where Baloch nationalism is being encouraged and supported by India, USA and Britain. Intelligence agencies of the three countries together with Blackwater are actively involved in supporting separatist movement spearheaded by BLA, BRA and BLUF based in Afghanistan. Baloch rebels are being led up the garden path by USA and India by assuring them that they will be extended full support for the realization of their goal of independent Balochistan. Hate literature in Balochi language is being supplied from across the border and the Baloch students are being brainwashed to hate Pakistan, Punjab and Pak Army. Pattern is similar to the one adopted in erstwhile East Pakistan. Concrete evidence of RAW's deep rooted involvement in Balochistan has been collected. B. Raman, former RAW agent and Pakistan basher stated that struggle for an independent Balochistan is part of unfinished agenda of partition.


Baloch nationalist leaders are openly espousing the cause of independent Balochistan and proudly claim that in all Baloch run schools Pakistan flag has been replaced with Baloch flag, national anthem with Baloch anthem. Baloch students and women are being methodically brainwashed. Target killings of non-locals and pro-government elements are continuing unabatedly. Attacks on security forces are also taking place unceasingly. Brahamdagh Bugti, Harbyar Marri, Gazan Marri and Khan of Kalat Suleman Daud in exile and under the patronage of foreign powers continue spewing poison against Pakistan and say that they will accept support from any country assisting the Baloch in giving them independence. Suleman has formed 'Council for Independent Balochistan' in London. He claims to have support of several friendly countries promising full support. Counter action by security forces is condemned by USA, western countries and India and dubbed as human rights violations. The US is responsible for getting Pakistan engaged in bloody civil war. It has betrayed Pakistan by encouraging India to keep Kashmir issue on the backburner and to foment unrest in Pakistan. It never uttered a word on numerous incidents of thefts and accidents in Indian nuclear plants, alignment of Indian army with Hindu terrorist organizations and indulging in rogue activities, or on water terrorism. While India has heinous designs against Pakistan and intends transforming our agricultural lands into arid deserts, America continues to see India from its coloured periscope and idiotically insists that it is a friend and pose no threat. Despite putting all our eggs in the basket of USA and rendered massive sacrifices to serve American interests at the cost of our national interests, Pakistan was duped and subjected to worst form of discrimination. Blind loyalty to US has robbed Pakistan of its integrity, honour and independence. The need is desperate and Urgent to think, plan and act for a navigational change. More than anything, the people of Pakistan need intellectual security to safeguard their integrity.

 

Time has now come for us to say to US leadership to stop its bluffing game and spell out whether it is with India or with Pakistan.In an interview last Monday, Mr Obama said that "I feel confident that Pakistan has secured its nuclear weapo

 

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SPICY 'TALK SHOWS': A DISSERVICE

DR NIAZ AHMAD KHAN

 

Journalism, due to its vibrant and guiding role, is considered the fourth pillar of a state. It goes without saying that in addition to meeting the requirements of national solidarity in this modern age, media is also playing a pivotal role in an effective manner in terms of creating general awareness among general masses. It was the media that made the general masses aware of their genuine rights, positively contributed in sailing the campaign for judiciary's independence towards success, highlighted the identity of civil society, raised voice against corruption and boldly unveiled the facts before the nation.


Media, both electronic and print, without getting intimidated by the dictatorial rules, has always brought to light the truth and, of course, rendered invaluable sacrifices. But the more independence was given to media, the more channels were launched and a certain clique started grooming with their vested interests. And now with the mushroom growth of TV channels, this group has regrettably put the noble cause of journalism at the backburner and is adopting their selfish approach in order to serve their own vested interests. This group is airing sectarian prejudices and regionalism in addition to not only damaging the very foundation of Pakistan but also is out to promote the Indian culture in our Islamic society. This group, which, instead of character building of the society, is hell bent to sell only their programmes, belongs to TV channels.


Though this group is from various channels, yet their motive is the same. Certain anchor persons of these channels have so far failed to highlight the real issues in their 'Talk Shows' and 'Debates' rather they provide the viewers with an opportunity to get amused by the derogatory remarks various political opponents and ministers charge sheet each other and use derogatory remarks against each other during their 'Talk Shows', and these anchor persons criminally enjoy this situation. Sometimes the invitees of these TV shows use abusive language and create an unruly situation, which turns to be a laughing stock for the whole nation. Though viewers are unable to understand the motive of these programmes, yet they prefer to see such programmes. These anchor persons are the real actors who provoke the guests of their programme and turn it 'spicy' and interesting for the viewers. As a practice, after introduction of the invitees the debate starts on hot issues like constitutional reforms, 17th amendment, 58(2)b, NRO and other controversies. Within moments, they start charging each other with corruption and other crimes…sometimes they turn the TV programme in to a fish market. And meanwhile the programme gets over leaving the debate inconclusive and forcing the viewers to think what are the real public issues. Are unemployment, price hike, crimes, law & order and load shedding not the real issues? In fact these are the real issues being confronted by the general masses these days.


At this stage, a question mark is put on the motives of these anchor persons 'Talk Shows'. Whether any of these anchors has ever questioned any political leader, advisor or minister as to what they are doing to provide basic needs like food, shelter and accommodation to the general masses and what they have in hand for the provision of education to the children of neglected segments of the society, elimination of load shedding as well as illiteracy…when will they break the begging bowl and when will the people of Pakistan get out of the clutches of the international lenders. During these 'Talk Shows', government representatives have never been asked about the prices of sugar, wheat flour and oil in the local market. They won't do it as they don't want to embarrass government ministers and advisors. If it is done so, the viewers won't get entertainment they expect of them by hurling accusations against each other during these TV programmes. I have participated in more or less 200 programmes of about 12 TV channels where I have explained a number of options to get Pakistan out of the present economic. I have been presenting a viable solution that can ensure the country's economic revival within four to five weeks and the homeland can become the 'economic tiger' of Asia in real terms. But I have to say with regret that I use my earnings for this volunteer formula for the economic revival which is purely of the task of the government of Pakistan. It is on record that whenever I shared my proposals for the country's economic revival, they refused to present in their 'Talk Shows' saying they can't do it as nobody wants to view their programmes on such 'boring' topic….they want 'spicy issues'. These anchor persons have no interest in highlighting the real issues. By doing so they are only after securing their jobs.


The more 'spicy' programme of an anchor, the more he/she would be popular among viewers. One can say that 'spicy programmes' are a pre-condition for an anchor person to become popular. Their only job is to kill time by conducting 'popular' Talk Shows, get heavy salaries and nothing else. The million dollar question is avoided on all debates and that is if they raise the basic issue of how any party will remove the poverty which is cause of all ills .If on any talk show this question is raised there will be a zero response from leaders and the debate comes to an end and the anchor person loses his popularity and hence will be fired from his job which nobody wants .Not a single party has any manifesto which is going to address this issue of removing poverty and I in my personal opinion these anchor persons are the actual taliban because they sponsor talabinuiztion by not asking these big leaders the economic solution of their party which unfortunately they have none and poverty is the real cause of taliban. can you think any body will blow himself if one has at least one meal a day to survive?

Now it is up to the public to decide who are real the taliban. Contrarily, the media has a number of those who feel the pains of the economically hardened general masses, have options for the character building of the society, have the mission to protect the very foundation of Pakistan and counter the foreign cultural invasion of the Islamic society. But regrettably the anchor persons with vested interest have always put hurdles in the way of these shining and professional media stars. They are absolutely indifferent to the economic problems and other difficulties of over 170 million people of Pakistan…they are interested only in getting heavy salaries and popularity and these things can be achieved only through their cheap 'Talk Shows'. This is absolutely no service to our homeland we got after paying a heavy price. The real service to the country is possible if the vested interest group of anchor persons prefers the national cause to their personal interests avoids concealing facts about national issues and performs duties professionally.

 

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

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

SPICY 'TALK SHOWS': A DISSERVICE

DR NIAZ AHMAD KHAN

 

Journalism, due to its vibrant and guiding role, is considered the fourth pillar of a state. It goes without saying that in addition to meeting the requirements of national solidarity in this modern age, media is also playing a pivotal role in an effective manner in terms of creating general awareness among general masses. It was the media that made the general masses aware of their genuine rights, positively contributed in sailing the campaign for judiciary's independence towards success, highlighted the identity of civil society, raised voice against corruption and boldly unveiled the facts before the nation.


Media, both electronic and print, without getting intimidated by the dictatorial rules, has always brought to light the truth and, of course, rendered invaluable sacrifices. But the more independence was given to media, the more channels were launched and a certain clique started grooming with their vested interests. And now with the mushroom growth of TV channels, this group has regrettably put the noble cause of journalism at the backburner and is adopting their selfish approach in order to serve their own vested interests. This group is airing sectarian prejudices and regionalism in addition to not only damaging the very foundation of Pakistan but also is out to promote the Indian culture in our Islamic society. This group, which, instead of character building of the society, is hell bent to sell only their programmes, belongs to TV channels.


Though this group is from various channels, yet their motive is the same. Certain anchor persons of these channels have so far failed to highlight the real issues in their 'Talk Shows' and 'Debates' rather they provide the viewers with an opportunity to get amused by the derogatory remarks various political opponents and ministers charge sheet each other and use derogatory remarks against each other during their 'Talk Shows', and these anchor persons criminally enjoy this situation. Sometimes the invitees of these TV shows use abusive language and create an unruly situation, which turns to be a laughing stock for the whole nation. Though viewers are unable to understand the motive of these programmes, yet they prefer to see such programmes. These anchor persons are the real actors who provoke the guests of their programme and turn it 'spicy' and interesting for the viewers. As a practice, after introduction of the invitees the debate starts on hot issues like constitutional reforms, 17th amendment, 58(2)b, NRO and other controversies. Within moments, they start charging each other with corruption and other crimes…sometimes they turn the TV programme in to a fish market. And meanwhile the programme gets over leaving the debate inconclusive and forcing the viewers to think what are the real public issues. Are unemployment, price hike, crimes, law & order and load shedding not the real issues? In fact these are the real issues being confronted by the general masses these days.

At this stage, a question mark is put on the motives of these anchor persons 'Talk Shows'. Whether any of these anchors has ever questioned any political leader, advisor or minister as to what they are doing to provide basic needs like food, shelter and accommodation to the general masses and what they have in hand for the provision of education to the children of neglected segments of the society, elimination of load shedding as well as illiteracy…when will they break the begging bowl and when will the people of Pakistan get out of the clutches of the international lenders. During these 'Talk Shows', government representatives have never been asked about the prices of sugar, wheat flour and oil in the local market. They won't do it as they don't want to embarrass government ministers and advisors. If it is done so, the viewers won't get entertainment they expect of them by hurling accusations against each other during these TV programmes. I have participated in more or less 200 programmes of about 12 TV channels where I have explained a number of options to get Pakistan out of the present economic. I have been presenting a viable solution that can ensure the country's economic revival within four to five weeks and the homeland can become the 'economic tiger' of Asia in real terms. But I have to say with regret that I use my earnings for this volunteer formula for the economic revival which is purely of the task of the government of Pakistan. It is on record that whenever I shared my proposals for the country's economic revival, they refused to present in their 'Talk Shows' saying they can't do it as nobody wants to view their programmes on such 'boring' topic….they want 'spicy issues'. These anchor persons have no interest in highlighting the real issues. By doing so they are only after securing their jobs.


The more 'spicy' programme of an anchor, the more he/she would be popular among viewers. One can say that 'spicy programmes' are a pre-condition for an anchor person to become popular. Their only job is to kill time by conducting 'popular' Talk Shows, get heavy salaries and nothing else. The million dollar question is avoided on all debates and that is if they raise the basic issue of how any party will remove the poverty which is cause of all ills .If on any talk show this question is raised there will be a zero response from leaders and the debate comes to an end and the anchor person loses his popularity and hence will be fired from his job which nobody wants .Not a single party has any manifesto which is going to address this issue of removing poverty and I in my personal opinion these anchor persons are the actual taliban because they sponsor talabinuiztion by not asking these big leaders the economic solution of their party which unfortunately they have none and poverty is the real cause of taliban. can you think any body will blow himself if one has at least one meal a day to survive?

Now it is up to the public to decide who are real the taliban. Contrarily, the media has a number of those who feel the pains of the economically hardened general masses, have options for the character building of the society, have the mission to protect the very foundation of Pakistan and counter the foreign cultural invasion of the Islamic society. But regrettably the anchor persons with vested interest have always put hurdles in the way of these shining and professional media stars. They are absolutely indifferent to the economic problems and other difficulties of over 170 million people of Pakistan…they are interested only in getting heavy salaries and popularity and these things can be achieved only through their cheap 'Talk Shows'. This is absolutely no service to our homeland we got after paying a heavy price. The real service to the country is possible if the vested interest group of anchor persons prefers the national cause to their personal interests avoids concealing facts about national issues and performs duties professionally.

 

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


PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IN DARK TIMES POLAND NEEDS SUNLIGHT OF TRUTH

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

BEN MACINTYRE

 

In 1943 Poland's wartime leader accused Moscow of ordering the Katyn massacre, the systematic murder of 22,000 Polish officers and intellectuals. A few months later he was dead, the victim of an air crash. Was it murder? Almost certainly not, but Poland's painful past, combined with official secrecy, created precisely the muggy and mysterious conditions in which conspiracy theory thrives. In 2010 another Polish leader, President Lech Kaczynski, heads to Katyn to commemorate the appalling massacre that took place there. Within hours he too is dead, along with his wife and 94 other members of Poland's elite, the victims of another air crash.


The thread connecting these events is secrecy, for it is concealment that turns a tragedy into a festering historical sore. Britain still has not released all the files on the death in 1943 of General Wladyslaw Sikorski, Prime Minister of the Polish Government-in-exile. For decades Moscow declined to admit what had happened at Katyn, and Vladimir Putin still refuses to apologise. In the confusion and grief following the Smolensk air crash on Saturday, the whispers, rumours and accusations have begun to circulate. The Polish president's plane, it is noted darkly, was Russian-made, and recently serviced in Russia. The Russian Government heartily disliked President Kaczynski, who had criticised Russia's "new imperialism". Moscow declined to invite him to a ceremony at Katyn last Wednesday — so Kaczynski decided to hold a second memorial service, and was killed en route.


Initial reports have ruled out mechanical failure, so was the pilot pressurised to make the landing by his august passengers? Polish conspiracists are already blaming the Russian secret service, while others suggest that Russian hardliners may have sought to undermine Mr Putin by sabotaging the plane. Poland has a deeply emotional, almost mystical relationship with the story of tragedy, rebellion, courage and repression that is Polish history.


Lech Walesa's remark was even more telling: "This is the second Katyn tragedy; the first time they tried to cut our head off, and now again the elite of our country has perished." Implicit is the assumption that "they", unnamed enemies, must also lie behind Poland's latest national calamity. The only way to ensure against wild conspiracy theories is to conduct the crash investigation in the disinfecting sunlight; to eschew the secrecy that is Moscow's natural instinct; and to ensure that the historical verdict on this episode is provided, or at least believed, by Poles. To do, in short, everything that Britain failed to do when investigating the death of another Polish leader, 67 years ago. On July 4, 1943, General Sikorski, the Polish commander-in-chief of land under Nazi occupation, took off from Gibraltar in a converted RAF Liberator bomber, bound for England. A few minutes later the plane plummeted into the harbour, killing 16 passengers on board including Sikorski's daughter, Zofia. The Czech pilot was the sole survivor. A British court of inquiry conducted a swift and secret investigation, which ruled out sabotage but failed to establish the cause of the crash. The pilot said his controls had jammed. The conspiracy theories erupted almost immediately, and have continued ever since.


One held that the Nazis had orchestrated the crash, determined to remove a popular Polish figurehead. Even greater suspicion fell on Stalin, who had most to gain from eliminating the troublesome general. have been allowed virtually free rein. Kim Philby, then head of MI6 counterintelligence for the Iberian Peninsula, was said to have had a hand in organising Sikorski's death on behalf of his Moscow spymasters. Sikorski's daughter was allegedly spotted in a Soviet gulag many years later. Sikorski himself was variously said to have been poisoned, strangled, suffocated or shot before being loaded on to the doomed plane. Last year Polish forensic scientists exhumed the general's corpse from a crypt in Cracow and concluded that he had died in the air crash after all. But, as Polish historians pointed out at the time, until or unless all the British and Soviet archives are released, the fate of Poland's wartime leader will continue to be a source of friction and fantasy. Sikorski's plane probably crashed because someone accidentally placed luggage on the steering mechanism. An equally simple explanation — most likely pilot error — may lie behind the accident that deprived Poland of so much of its leadership last weekend. If so, it is essential that the Polish people themselves see the truth being revealed. So far, Russia has made the right noises, promising an open investigation and agreeing to leave the aircraft at the scene.

But so long as Mr Putin heads the commission investigating the crash, Poles will wonder about the truth of its findings. Russia should invite Polish experts to take part in, and witness, every aspect of the investigation. Mr Putin has gone some way towards building a historical consensus about Katyn, even making a personal appearance at the service last week. This is another opportunity for him to demonstrate that history, as it unfolds, can bring old enemies together, as well as force them apart. Like the Katyn massacre and the death of General Sikorski, the Smolensk crash will come to represent another tragic milestone in Poland's history. — The Times

 

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


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

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

SHUVO NABABARSHA

 

Like much of the subcontinent, we too celebrate the coming of the Bengali New Year - Pahela Baishakah. It is the 1417th year, according to this solar calendar which is calculated from one dawn to another. But then the year hides the age of the calendar itself. It is one of the many timeless achievements of Todar Mal - the genius of a finance minister of the Mughal emperor - Akbar the Great in 1584 A.D. The primary object of the calendar was revenue collection. That should make the calendar slightly more than 400 years old. But Akbar being a Muslim, it was antedated to the time of the hegira - the flight of Prophet Muhammad (SM) from Makkah to Madina. 


The national celebration of the Bengali New Year is a recent phenomenon, however. It started very modestly in the 1960s with musical groups rendering songs at Dhaka's Ramna Gardens under a huge banyan tree. But later other elements like fairs were added which gave it a more rustic ambience. The celebrations were a part of cultural revival and were critical in developing national consciousness during the country's nationalist movement.


The celebrations got a different dimension after the liberation of the country in 1971. It was perceived as a vindication of the ethos for which the celebrations stood for. Popular participation also increased and so did the activities. The latest addition has been a masked carnival that goes around the Suhrawardy Uddyan. It adds vivacity to the great festivity.


Since 2001, when a bomb blast at Ramna Batamul killed 10 people and injured many more, the celebration grounds are scanned extensively and fool-proof security is ensured. But this has not dampened the spirit of the Day. Rather, people have turned out in greater numbers, since then, to register their protest against the evil-doers and uphold the spirit.


 As the years go by, the Baishak festival is likely to take on different forms in line with the prevailing cultural ethos of the time. But the spirit will live on. To find the roots of our nation through the different rites, rituals and festivals that has defined this culture of ours. Long live the New Year or as it is said in Bangla - Shuva Nababarsha.  

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

 

 

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

FAKE PIR

 

Yet another fake faith-healer in the camouflage of a 'pir' (saint) has made screaming headlines in different newspapers recently for his demonic healing procedures. He is a vendor-turned-healer named Amzad Hossain who in no time got huge publicity in his village and the surrounding areas, barely 30 kilometres from the capital. Surprisingly, this fraud in collusion with a notorious band of his village could cash in on people's illiteracy, ignorance and superstition for long two months until a leading Bangla newspaper carried out a pictorial report of the deceitful and cruel method of treatment he practised supposedly to cure patients. According to him, any disease in effect is caused by the bad influence of either ghost or jinn or of both combined.


Clearly his mischievous business was thriving with 300-400 people coming to seek his treatment daily. What is so galling is that no one really cared to report the fraudulent means of treatment to the local thana or the health officials for such a long period. It is clear that no one got cured and still people assembled there in droves. All because, his behind-the-scene partners went on a publicity campaign based purely on rumours that spread like wildfire.


It is not for the first time that men like Amzad can shoot into prominence in rural settings where modern healthcare facilities are conspicuous only by their absence. If that is the condition favourable for the rise of such monsters, it is more than clear that proper healthcare has to be available at the grassroots level in our society.  The government's initiatives to revive the moribund thana health complexes and also build community health clinics at the union level can go a long way in doing away with such healing malpractices. 

 

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

 

 

THE INDEPENDENT

BOB'S BANTER

OBAMA-MANMOHAN TALKS!

 

All Indian papers carried photographs this morning of Obama and Manmohan sitting together and chatting, I doubt the American newspapers carried the same picture because by now most Americans can't be bothered who their president talks to, sups with or jokes about as he fills his four year term.


But India is thrilled and most headlines were optimistic, one, saying 'Singh, Obama put ties back on track' and another, 'Obama Nudges Pak'. Like I just said most Americans couldn't be bothered what their president talks about, but one, the cook's brother who had slipped into the room and was around before the cook shooed him out swore the conversation between the two country heads went something like this:


"Howdy Obama!"


"Hey Manmohan you saying howdy jes' like your Shahrukh Khan said in his movie?"


"Nice shoes!"


"Chinese!"
"Nice suit!"


"Chinese!"
"Your tie?"


"Chinese, you know with what I get as salary I can only afford Chinese Manmohan! Hey what's that?"

 

"My lunch, wife packed it!"

 

"Indian meal huh?"

 

"Chinese!"
"You eating Chinese?"


"It's cheap! And with what salary I get as Prime Minister.."


"I know, I know we're really an underpaid bunch aren't we?"


"Yes!"
"Listen the Pak President is in the other room he's talking to yer Bangladesh President and the Sri Lankan Pres and Canadian PM are also somewhere around!"


"So?"
"Lets get them all together and form a union, tell the world we are underpaid and we demand we want better pay so we can stop eating Chinese!"

 

"Wearing Chinese!"


"Talking Chinese!"

"Talking Chinese? Who's talking Chinese?"


"Me," said the brother of the cook as he came out of hiding, "Me Chinese, me talk Chinese!"


"Then you no understand English right, so you only hear we talk about nuclear technology and global warming right?"


"Me only know Chinese!" said the brother of the cook as the cook shooed him away and he came out and told me what had transpired in the room…in English..!


—bobsbanter@gmail.com

 

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

THE INDEPENDENT

ENERGY CRISIS: OTHER WAYS TO FUEL THE POWER SECTOR

FORREST COOKSON

 

The energy situation in Bangladesh continues to deteriorate. Government has acted recently to improve the availability of gas which should improve conditions. This is the third in a series of four articles that reviews briefly the issues and possibilities. In the first of this series the availability and prospects for natural gas were discussed with the conclusion that there were prospects for some increases, but significant increases were far in the future. The second article covered the challenge of increasing the generating capacity of the power sector. The conclusion was that so long as the Government relied on the state enterprises to generate the electricity there would be perpetual shortages; the success of the Awami League in their first government was based on the introduction of the IPPs. Government owned plants are inefficient, poorly operated, and difficult to finance and construct. In this article the alternative fuels besides natural gas are reviewed. There are six possibilities: Hydroelectricity, heavy fuel oil, coal, nuclear, accessing neighbours surpluses and renewable methods such as wind and solar. We review briefly the advantages and problems of each. In the short run there is little that can be done. The only fuel that can be delivered immediately is heavy fuel oil in amounts needed to provide a significant increase of power. So we are talking about the long run here, after 3-4 years.
Hydro electricity: In Bangladesh the very flat landscape means that there are few sites suitable for dams to generate hydroelectricity. Good hydro power plants require both a large flow of water and a large drop of the water over a short distance. While there are rivers with large water flows there is little fall in the level of the river, and no really good dam sites. Major hydro sites are found outside Bangladesh in the foothills of the Himalayas; but development of such sites to benefit Bangladesh requires the agreement of the Indian, Nepalese and Bhutan Governments. So far it has proved impossible to utilise power from such sites. In the very long run one might expect the emergence of a regional management of the hydroelectric energy but we are very very
far from achieving such an outcome.


But there are other problems: there is widespread opposition to hydroelectric project from the environmental movements in the world. This anti large dam movement is very strong in India and Nepal and is certainly alive and well in Bangladesh. Any serious attempts to develop major projects would immediately bring strong protests from such people. Realistically there is no possibility of significant hydroelectric energy over the next 15 years other than the possibility of imports from India but these will be limited as India's hydropower development is limited in the east.


Heavy fuel oil and diesel: This is being proposed and planned for use in Bangladesh as alternatives to natural gas. PDB has not indicated that they have done careful homework on the cost implications of such an approach. There are tenders out for the dual fuel plants; until these are available the cost implications of use of this fuel are uncertain. The cost increases arise from the use of heavy fuel oil or diesel as the fuel and the increased cost of equipment in order to provide for the ability to use both fuels. In addition storage facilities are needed for the heavy fuel oil or diesel. Finally, unlike the gas fired plants which are run off natural gas with a price controlled by the Government, using heavy fuel oil exposes the operator to changes in the market price. The use of heavy fuel oil or diesel in dual purpose facilities may be a sound approach for small facilities that can be completed in the near future, but large projects cannot be operated this way when there is much cheaper coal and natural gas available. One should only commission large gas fired plants when there is sufficient gas available for the lifetime of the plant. Large dual fuel plants present tricky operational problems.


Coal: Three approaches to using coal for power plants have been discussed: Import coal, mine coal using underground methods, mine coal using open pit methods. There are a few comments that have to be made: (1) Coal causes pollution from green house gas emissions; but Bangladesh should not be asked to increase its cost of electricity by not using coal when it is now one of the nations with the least pollution of the atmosphere. (2) Coal does not provide a short term solution; it will take 4-5 years to have plants running and either mines in operation or facilities for handling coal imports constructed and operating. (3) Domestic coal production from open pit mines requires very careful treatment of the resettlement problem and very careful treatment of the ground water management.


a. Import coal: Expensive; requires considerable handling facilities and constant dredging. Cost varies with the international market. I estimate that the fob price will be $70/mt during the next few years and the transport cost to deliver to a power station in Bangladesh will add another $10/mt. Hence I think imported coal will average something of the order of $80/mt over the next five years. Indian coal is imported by truck and costs about $70/mt at the border. [Official invoice value is $40-45/mt; rest is paid through hundi system] Storage and transport by road will be expensive and unless there is strict regulation, tear up the roads. Finally Indian coal does not meet Bangladeshi's environmental standards.


b. Domestic production through underground mining: Expensive; amount that can be extracted from the ore body is only one fifth what can be taken using open pit mining [given the geology of northwest Bangladesh]. Less disturbance of population compared to open pit mines. However, based on the existing mine at Barapukuria the cost is above $100/mt. [Some costs are hidden.] Within in limits one can make a fixed price, long term contract for domestic coal.


c. Domestic production through open pit mining: Lots of coal and relatively cheap. With existing royalties the cost is about $50-55 per mt; another dollar is needed to move the coal to the power plant assuming that the plant is near the mine. The open pit method in the one case that is carefully studied displaces about 8,000 households; the total cost of resettlement, rehabilitation, repair of damage to infrastructure, etc. is included in the cost of the project. Of the three ways to use coal for power, large open pit mines are the most efficient and provide the lowest cost fuel for the power system.


Nuclear: Nuclear plants for generating electricity are a tricky option for Bangladesh, given the high population density and the elaborate safety concerns that go with. Nuclear power electricity is rather expensive as the process of approvals and clearances is so slow that money is tied up in structures and fuel agreements for a long time. Electricity from a nuclear plant is not particularly cheap. While the fuel is cheap, the cost of the plant and all of the associated safety aspects lead to nuclear plants being perhaps twice the cost of a gas or coal plant per unit of capacity. Nuclear plants are probably needed in Bangladesh, starting in fifteen years with a build up in their number during years 25-50. After 30 years the coal will be largely used or committed to existing coal fired plants. The natural gas supply will be uncertain and it will be necessary to use nuclear as the base load unless the hydro can be developed. Bangladesh cannot take the chance on the hydro developments actually going forward. Starting to develop nuclear plants, learning the engineering and management skills that go with that, and developing the safety related skills is an important step forward. But the use of nuclear energy will not solve the problems of providing power over the next ten years.


Regional energy sharing: Small steps have been taken to obtain electricity from India. This is a good idea but one would like to know the price before building transmission lines! In any event South Asia is a power deficit area. It will take time to build up the generating capacity for a regional grid and long negotiation over prices. Significant supply from a regional grid is far away. While there is progress now, Governments come and go. Over the past six decades no significant cooperation has been achieved until the last few months. It is too early to conclude how this will work out.


Renewable energies: Solar driven electrical energy is certainly the rage. There is no doubt greater use of solar energy is an important step forward. However, the full costs are yet to be known. For example battery lifetime in Bangladesh climatic condition is not fully documented. Losses from hailstorms and other violent storms unknown. Of course the basic investment is still rather high for the amount of energy that is produced. The large amounts of electricity needed in Bangladesh cannot come from renewable sources. In my calculations energy requirements call for adding [including replacement] 11-12,000 MWs of capacity over the next decade. We cannot count on renewable sources for more than 1,000 MWs. Costs for renewable will remain high unless battery costs can be reduced.


How might 14,000 MWs be fueled? Here are my rough estimates:


1. Natural gas—5-6,000 MWs; 2. Coal—6-7,000 MWs; 3. Regional—.5-1,000 MWs; 4. Renewable, hydro—.5-1,000 MWs


During the next four years the only available fuels are gas, diesel, and heavy fuel oil. The country is stuck. Starting in the 4th year coal can be available in sufficient volume to provide a secure baseline electricity supply with gas used partly for base load and partly for peaking. Coal is probably cheaper than gas even after allowing for the environmental costs. After ten years new sources - nuclear, hydro, and renewable will be needed in large amounts.

 

(The writer is an economist.)

 

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

THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

ON HIGHER EDUCATION

GOPAL SENGUPTA

 

It is an irony that after self-rule of 40 years, the average lifespan of Bangladeshis, we are told that the best is yet to come. More than poverty, what pains the people is the gross indifference and insensitivity of the ruling classes and politicians to their needs. Governance does not end with rhetoric on occasions. We need strong political will and determination to achieve sustainable development.


There has been much recent comment across the country by university leaders and journalists about the roles and the contributions of universities in improving performance vis à vis innovation and competitiveness in the world.


Public engagement on the importance of universities is always necessary, and no time more so than now, when post-secondary education, research and scholarship are central contributors to societal health, well-being and economic success. Some of the propositions reported from several editorials, seminars and consultations from various institutions have understandably provoked controversy; but those reports present an incomplete and much distorted view of the purpose of the meeting.


Let me state here my views on the issues mentioned above as we have heard them before and will again. If Bangladesh is to compete effectively with other leading countries, universities, all levels of governments, the private sector and community organizations must collectively accelerate our efforts to encourage innovation, harness and grow our brainpower, and turn research and scholarship into applications that can be developed and promoted for societal benefit. This is not solely the task of universities; they are key players, but government at all levels and, importantly, business sectors must also work in concert to achieve a climate where research and advanced education are encouraged, risks and success are celebrated and rewarded, and politics do not get in the way of optimising the capacity of Bangladesh and Bangladeshis to succeed.


As I have read many articles and discussed with many others have done previously, both individually and collectively, to discuss the necessity for a coherent Bangladeshi vision for advancing the cause of post-secondary education and research, the role that education plays, and to make the case for excellence and sustained effective investment (competitive with peer countries) to support education and research. The dominant theme presented by the group in a lengthy exchange, was the importance of science, scholarship, research and university education to our country, each of our provinces, our regions and metropolitan areas. Ultimately, these are critically important issues for all.


Bangladesh is blessed with a strong, distributed system of universities with various missions, cultures and histories. After a disabling period of constraint in the early 1990s, Bangladesh has seen a burst of innovative new government and university programmes that encourage universities to reflect on and develop their institutional strengths and priorities. Many, if not most, Bangladeshi universities have done just this and done it successfully. They have assessed where their distinctive contributions to teaching, research, scholarship and the communities we serve can best be strengthened by developing student enrolment targets and faculty recruitment and research plans strategically targeted to play to their distinctive missions, strengths, and community needs. This emphasis on strategic planning puts us ahead of many nations and is all to the good of Bangladesh and other countries.


All of the above elements contribute to the development of a coherent Bangladesh and Bangladeshi vision with respect to the role of universities.  The main thrust for achieving excellence and distinctiveness is, and must remain, the central role for Bangladesh's highly regarded peer review system in appraising excellence as the basis for the allocation of direct support to research. It serves all of us well and rewards universities not on size or location, but on their expression of excellence as measured by high national and international standards.  Now, we must find as well common cause in harnessing and celebrating this excellence and achievement within and across Bangladesh while striving for leadership in the provision of high-quality and accessible education at all levels - primary, secondary, post-secondary at the national and international levels. This leadership will depend on bringing government together with educational institutions, industry and prominent members of the community to encourage innovation and the advancement of knowledge. These are the elements that are required to build a socially just and economically successful civil society. Those are moral agents and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions. There is no reason to accept the doctrines crafted to sustain power and privilege, or to believe that we are constrained by mysterious and unknown social laws. These are simply decisions made within institutions that are subject to human will and that must face the test of legitimacy. And if they do not meet the test, they can be replaced by other institutions that are more free and more just, as has happened often in the past. One person with a strong promise and achieving progress is equal to a force of 99 who have only interests. 

 

(The writer is a Canada-based commentator)

 

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


THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

WILL CHINA LEAD?

JAMIE F. METZL

 

China's willingness to join negotiations on potential sanctions against Iran and to send President Hu Jintao to a nuclear security summit in Washington this month are important preliminary steps towards taking more responsibility in managing international affairs. But merely joining conversations or showing up for meetings is not enough. Given its growing profile, China must do far more to demonstrate its bona fides as a responsible global leader or risk undermining the system that has enabled its own miraculous rise.


China has emerged as a world power far more quickly than most observers and China's own leaders might have predicted as little as a decade ago. China's rapid economic growth, juxtaposed against America's problems in Iraq and Afghanistan, monumental debt, and role in sparking the global financial crisis, have changed global power realities and global perceptions of those realities even more. China's current international influence likely outstrips its desire or capacity.


This puts China in a difficult position in relation to the so-called international system of the structures and rules created by the United States and others after the Second World War to check national sovereignty through a system of overlapping jurisdictions, transnational obligations, and fundamental rights. China has been an enormous beneficiary of this system, and its rise would have been unthinkable without the US-led free-trade system and globalization process, access to US markets, and global shipping lanes secured by the US Navy. But China's history of humiliation at the hands of European colonial powers has made its leaders ardent supporters of inviolable national rights and suspicious of any sacrifice of sovereignty.


Because China's leaders are not popularly elected, their legitimacy stems largely from two sources - their connection to the Chinese revolution and their ability to deliver national security and economic growth. Although Mao Zedong is widely implicated in the unnecessary death of millions and is officially designated by the current regime as having been 30% wrong, his photograph still adorns Tiananmen Square, because the regime's legitimacy depends in part on its connection to the restoration of national sovereignty that Mao represents.The economic foundation of the Chinese government's legitimacy also places an enormous burden on China's leaders to make decisions that foster domestic economic growth at the expense of virtually everything else including, some say, the viability of the international currency regime, nuclear non-proliferation, and basic rights in resource-rich countries.


This dichotomy creates a difficult situation as China emerges as the world's second largest economy. If China, in the name of national sovereignty, does not buy into the international system, it becomes hard to argue that this system exists.


China's unwillingness, for example, to join other members of the international community in pressuring Iran and North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons programmes foreshadows the potential collapse of the nuclear non-proliferation regime. China's active courtship of countries that violate human rights on a massive scale, such as Sudan, North Korea, and Burma, similarly represents a preliminary decapitation of the international human rights regime. Given its size and importance, and regardless of its intentions, China will, perhaps inadvertently, destroy the international system if it does not either actively endorse and work to maintain it, or reframe it for the greater common good. If it does neither, the world is in trouble.
If China sees itself as the heir and beneficiary of the US-led post-war international system, it must do much more to prevent and roll back nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea, pay a much greater percentage of costs for the United Nations, and curtail its mercantilist policies. It must also end its alleged corrupt practices in resource-rich parts of the developing world, al