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Monday, April 19, 2010

EDITORIAL 20.04.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month april 20, edition 000486, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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MAIL TODAY

  1. THAROOR HAS ONLY HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DOWNFALL
  2. JESSICA WILL REST IN PEACE
  3. DELHI POLICE AT IT AGAIN
  4. US IGNORES CORE OF NUKE TERROR - BY KANWAL SIBAL
  5. PATNA DURBAR - GIRIDHAR JHA

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. HOME TRUTHS
  2. DON'T WITCH HUNT
  3. CHIMERA OF CHIMERICA -
  4. IT'S A PERSONAL CHOICE
  5. BEAUTY ISN'T SKIN-DEEP -
  6. IF YOU START BELIEVING THEM... -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. THE DOCTOR NOSE BEST
  2. IT'S A GAMBLE WORTH TAKING
  3. WHEN PLAN A FAILED - ASHISH CHADHA

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. TURN THE PAGE
  2. STEP BY STEP
  3. ASH DAYS
  4. NOTES ON A SCANDAL - DHIRAJ NAYYAR
  5. NAMING AND ADDRESSING - RAHIMULLAHYUSUFZAI
  6. GOLDMAN SACHS, SALARIED LOOTERS
  7. TIPTOE THROUGH THE ULIPS - ABHISHEKTRIPATHI
  8. BOOTH CAPTURING - ADITYASINGH
  9. DAVID CAMERON, THE AMERICAN FROM ETON

 THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. SHEEN OFF GOLDMAN
  2. TOLL ON COAL
  3. BOTH GROWTH & INFLATION ARE CONCERNS - INDRANIL PAN
  4. RIGHT TO EDUCATION: THE NEXT ACT
  5. JESSICA SEDDON WALLACK
  6. UP IN ASH - NIKHILA GILL

 THE HINDU

  1. BEHIND AND BEYOND THAROOR
  2. GOING AFTER GOLDMAN SACHS
  3. MEMORIES OF ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER AGE - M.S. PRABHAKARA
  4. THE SOURCE OF EUROPE'S CONSTERNATION - KIRK SEMPLE
  5. INDIAN ART GOES GLOBAL

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. THAROOR'S EXIT WAS INEVITABLE
  2. THAILAND IN CRISIS
  3. THE WAR GAME
  4. THE POWER OF THOUGHT

DNA

  1. THAROOR'S EXIT
  2. TOP OF THE PYRAMID
  3. FARCICAL ARMS CONTROL - HARSH V PANT
  4. THE BUSINESS OF CRICKET COULD KILL CRICKET - PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. IGNOMINIOUS EXIT
  2. SC SEALS MANU'S FATE
  3. CYBER ATTACK
  4. STRATEGY TO TAME THE MAOISTS - BY LT-GEN VIJAY OBEROI (RETD) 
  5. KOCHI KOCHI HOTA HAI - BY CHETNA KEER BANERJEE
  6. PSEB CORPORATIZATION - BY UPINDER SAWHNEY
  7. A MAESTRO OR A POP STAR? - BY BHUPINDER BRAR
  8. MUMBAI DIARY - SHIV KUMAR

MUMBAI MERROR

  1. THE QUESTION NO ONE WANTS TO ASK

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. NOW COMPLETE THE JOB
  2. TIP OF AN ICEBERG?
  3. THE RETURN OF INDUSTRIAL POLICY - DANI RODRIK
  4. INDIA'S NEXT BIG SCAM... - AJAI SHUKLA
  5. AMAZING MAIZE - SURINDER SUD
  6. CREATING A CLASSICAL INDIAN CANON - NILANJANA S ROY

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. LOO-SE LOGIC
  2. EXIT THAROOR
  3. LEGALISE BETTING
  4. THROUGH THE THIRD EYE
  5. THE SWEAT OVER EQUITY - SATVIK VARMA
  6. SERIOUS SHORTCOMINGS IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY - ABHEEK BARMAN
  7. WILL STEVE JOBS COME TO GOAFEST?
  8. HAVING A GLOCAL MINDSET IS CRUCIAL: VIJAY SUBRAMANIAM, CEO, MARICO IBG - RATNA BHUSHAN
  9. WE CAN HELP INDIA DEVELOP ITS PAYMENT INFRASTRUCTURE: AJAY BANGA
  10. CLARITY ABOUT OMCS SOON: PETROLEUM SECY

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. THAROOR'S EXIT WAS INEVITABLE
  2. THE WAR GAME - BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY
  3. WALL STREET LOOTERS IN GUCCI LOAFERS - BY PAUL KRUGMAN
  4. TRAILING SOME RESERVOIR DOGS - BY HARRY MOUNT
  5. THAILAND IN CRISIS - BY JAYATI GHOSH
  6. THE POWER OF THOUGHT - BY YOGI ASHWINI

THE STATESMAN

  1. COOKIES CRUMBLE
  2. HAWKER MENACE
  3. STRATEGIC SHIFT
  4. AFTERMATH OF 6/4~I - SHYAMAL DATTA
  5. ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN'T GOLDMAN - RAJINDER PURI 
  6. FORGET TABLE MANNERS - AC TULI
  7. 'PAK GOVERNMENT FAILED TO PROTECT BHUTTO' - ANJALI SHARMA

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. TOO LATE
  2. BLOOD LINE
  3. IDEALIST ENTREPRENEUR - ASHOK V. DESAI
  4. THE LONG MARCH FROM FIGHTING TO FREEDOM

DECCAN HERALD

  1. THAROOR LOGS OUT
  2. SERIOUS LAPSE
  3. UN REPORT ON BENAZIR ASSASSINATION - BY B G VERGHESE
  4. SILENCE IS GOLDEN - BY DINESH KUMAR
  5. RTE: WILL IT LEAD TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION? - BY BHAMY V SHENOY

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. VERDICT ON LONG ISLAND
  2. THE COURT, MONEY AND POLITICS
  3. DO THE MATH
  4. IRAN, SANCTIONS AND THE MEMO
  5. GAMBLING WITH THE ECONOMY  - BY ROGER LOWENSTEIN
  6. ESCAPE FROM THE JET AGE
  7. RIDERS ON THE STORM - BY DAVID BROOKS

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON INVESTMENT BANKING: GOLDMAN CASE SHOWS WHAT'S WRONG WITH WALL STREET
  2. UP IN THE ASH
  3. OUR VIEW ON COAL MINING: LAX OPERATORS GAME SYSTEM, KEEP UNSAFE MINES RUNNING
  4. DO FOOD STAMPS FEED OBESITY? - BY LAURA VANDERKAM
  5. I KNEW OPRAH; KITTY KELLEY'S 'FACTS' NEED SOME CHECKING - BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM
  6. WHAT'S NEXT FOR SARAH PALIN? - BY CHUCK RAASCH
  7. ANY FAITH CAN BECOME VIOLENT -  BY PHILIP JENKINS
  8. THIS IS NOT JAMES MADISON'S CENSUS -  BY ROB SCHWARZWALDER
  9. OBAMA DOESN'T GET IT; SPACE IS LAST FRONTIER PLAIN TALK - BY AL NEUHARTH, USA TODAY FOUNDER

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. GLOBAL DISARMAMENT CHALLENGES

I.THE NEWS

  1. FAIR OR FOUL?
  2. POWER BATTLE
  3. DESERT SONGS
  4. WILL THEY DO IT? - RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI
  5. BABY IN BACK SEAT - S KHALID HUSAIN
  6. ON BRINGING INFLATION DOWN - DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN
  7. COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN SRA VELLA - MOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  8. TALKS WITH NO SOLUTIONS - DR MALEEHA LODHI
  9. SARHADI GANDHI - MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. IF WE MAY SUBMIT MR CJP
  2. REAL DEFENCE IS STRENGTH OF NATION, ECONOMY
  3. SUDANESE REPOSE CONFIDENCE IN PRESIDENT OMAR AL BASHIR
  4. STOP MISCONSTRUING UN COMMISSION'S REPORT - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. TEHRAN CONFERENCE: A PATHFINDER - AIR CDRE KHALID IQBAL (R)
  6. LET'S TALK 'CORRUPTION' AND 'ACCOUNTABILITY' - KHALID SALEEM
  7. TALIBAN'S SUPREME LEADER WILLING TO TALK PEACE - STEPHEN GREY

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. DEMOLITION DRIVE
  2. UN PANEL'S FINDINGS
  3. THE ASH FACTOR..!
  4. EFFICACY OF THE UN PROBE - DR M S HAQ
  5. ENDING THE ENERGY CRISIS - FORREST COOKSON
  6. HOW TO SAVE THE EURO - DANIEL GROS

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. VOLCANIC ANGER IS OUT OF ORDER
  2. THAILAND NEEDS NATIONAL UNITY
  3. DON'T PANIC, IT'S A WALL STREET PROBLEM

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. DISAPPEARING RIGHT OF BAIL
  2. CLOUD STARTS TO OBSCURE SAFETY
  3. THE HABIT OF ART IS RIGHT FOR US ALL
  4. PRISON DEATH REVIVES FEARS OF NEW GANG WAR

THE GUARDIAN

  1. GENERAL ELECTION 2010: ALL CHANGE FOR NEW POLITICS
  2. MEASURING RISK: AS THE DUST SETTLES
  3. IN PRAISE OF … AEROBICS

THE KOREA TIMES

  1. UNFINISHED REVOLUTION
  2. LET'S MAKE A DIFFERENCE
  3. CHAGOS: PERFIDIOUS ALBION AGAIN - BY GWYNNE DYER
  4. MIGHTY DISRUPTION FROM SMALL ISLAND - BY DALE MCFEATTERS
  5. NEW START ON ROAD TO ZERO - BY JOHN M. CRISP
  6. EXCHANGE RATE DISORDER - BY JOSE ANTONIO OCAMPO

THE KOREA HERALD

  1. PRUDENCE AND PATIENCE
  2. TIP OF THE ICEBERG
  3. HUNTER, GATHERER, SHOPPER
  4. CHINA AS A MAJOR U.S. MARKET - BY DANIEL GRISWOLD

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. AUTO-INDUSTRY FORCES COMBINE
  2. SLACK AIR SAFETY INEXCUSABLE
  3. BETWEEN THE LINES OF U.S. NUCLEAR POLICY  - BY RALPH COSSA
  4. METHANE HAS SCENT OF POTENTIAL – BY MICHAEL RICHARDSON
  5. NUKE BAN MUST APPLY TO ALL - BY AKIRA KAWASAKI

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. NO MONEY, NO MEDALS?
  2. ISRAEL AT 62: A NEED FOR COMPROMISE NOW - EMANUEL SHAHAF
  3. REALIZING KARTINI'S DREAMS - LYNDA K. WARDHANI
  4. FINANCIAL REGIONALISM AND THE REBALANCING OF GLOBAL ECONOMY - JOHN A. PRASETIO
  5. A BROADER ASSESSMENT INTO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S VIEW ON ISLAM AND INDONESIA - NURROHMAN

CHINA DAILY

  1. MUTUAL TRUST DEFIES CRITICS
  2. GROWING TRADE POWER
  3. SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM
  4. BLAZING NEW TECHNOLOGY TRAILS - BY HU SHAOWEI (CHINA DAILY)
  5. QINGHAI QUAKE SPARED MEDIA CIRCUS - BY PHILIP J CUNNINGHAM (CHINA DAILY)
  6. IS CHINA REPEATING JAPAN'S MISTAKES? - BY TAKATOSHI ITO (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. APOCALYPSE – IN ICELAND AND NAWALAPITIYA
  2. GOOD GOVERNANCE BY A CABINET OF COMMITTED MINISTERS
  3. WHAT IS IMPORTANT - ECONOMIC GROWTH OR HIGHER LEVEL OF LIFE SATISFACTION?
  4. ICELAND VOLCANO'S UNCERTAIN TIMESCALE - BY VICTORIA GILLSCIENCE REPORTER
  5. A WORLD WITHOUT PLANES - BY ALAIN DE BOTTON 

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. UNITED INCOMPETENCE
  2. BY NIKOLAI PETROV
  3. FLASHY SAPSAN DOESN'T COUNT AS MODERNIZATION - BY VLADIMIR RYZHKOV
  4. THE CRUELTY OF CHANCE  - BY NINA KHRUSHCHEVA

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. DECISIVE WAR' AGAIN?
  2. LOAD SHEDDING DEBACLE:A CASE OF POOR GOVERNANCE - AJIT N S THAPA
  3. TOPICS: NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS - RAJAN RAJ ACHARYA
  4. BLOG SURF: ACAI BERRIES
  5. CREDOS: I AND YOU — VIII - MARTIN BUBER 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

THAROOR HAS ONLY HIMSELF TO BLAME FOR HIS DOWNFALL

 

WE would not be human if we did not feel a twinge of sympathy for Shashi Tharoor, the erstwhile Minister of State for External Affairs. It is not every day you witness, within the space of a year, the phenomenal rise of a political star, and then its decline, all played out in excruciating detail before the media.

 

As a lateral entry into Indian politics, Mr Tharoor needed to work hard to fit himself into the exalted niche in which he had been placed. Instead, he seemed to go out of his way to tell his new colleagues in the Congress party and the government that they were oldfashioned fuddy- duddies who were simply not up to the standards of Super Shashi, the successful novelist, international civil servant and a leader of opinion in the arcane world of Twitter. So when he had his back to the wall, he found little comfort from his senior minister S. M. Krishna, or his senior and influential colleagues, Pranab Mukherjee and A. K. Antony.

 

The Prime Minister merely delivered the coup de grâce . Had Mr Tharoor been upfront and said at the outset that he had indeed " mentored" the Kochi IPL team, had a relationship with Sunanda Pushkar, but would quit office till an inquiry cleared him, perhaps he could have even turned the tables on his detractors. In the world of Indian politics the institution of an inquiry is the equivalent of putting an issue on the back- burner.

 

However, where he miscalculated was in pressing on with his fight and that, too, before the TV. Ruling party ministers don't like a colleague who tries to take the whole team down with him on what appears to be a personal issue, especially when Parliament is in session and a lot more is at stake than the vicissitudes of a junior minister.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

JESSICA WILL REST IN PEACE

 

THE Supreme Court's decision to uphold the life sentence imposed by the Delhi High Court on Manu Sharma for the murder of Jessica Lal in 1999 sends out the message that the judicial system, flawed as it may be, still works in this country. The verdict comes as a relief not just for members of the Lal family, but also society at large. Besides being shocked at the wanton killing of a young woman by a man drunk on alcohol and power there had been outrage over the prospects of the accused getting away with their crime.

 

It wasn't easy to get justice for Jessica.

 

Though she was murdered in public view, which should have made it an open and shut case, the system was almost subverted by Manu Sharma's powerful kin, as also those of the other accused — among whom was the son of a notorious criminal- turned politician of Uttar Pradesh. So we saw eyewitnesses turning hostile, crucial pieces of evidence being tampered with and even the trial court acquitting the accused.

 

Civil society and the media played a substantial role in justice being done in the Jessica Lal murder case. Highlighting the ordinary citizen's fight for justice against criminals armed with wealth, power and influence is something that a healthy media culture must nurture.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

DELHI POLICE AT IT AGAIN

 

THE video of policemen drinking and dancing at gangster Anup Juneja's party can be mistaken for an unedited part of Prakash Jha's Gangajal . But the video is real as is the location in Delhi. Like the murder of ACP Rajbir Singh in 2008, it reveals the dubious nexus between the police and the land mafia in Delhi. The modus operandi was simple.

 

Mr Juneja assisted by his uniformed cronies slapped false cases to compel property owners to abandon their own property. A vigilance inquiry conducted in 2006 let the officers off with a warning.

 

Their defence was that Mr Juneja was a police informer and attending the party was to develop criminal intelligence. It seems instead to have developed the criminal's intelligence, as Mr Juneja grew from a petty thief to one of the most notorious land- grabbers in Delhi. The Union Home Ministry which is responsible for the supervision of the Delhi Police needs to do something urgently to stem the rot in the capital's police force. Not a day passes when we don't hear one story or the other of the criminal activities of the police.

 

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

US IGNORES CORE OF NUKE TERROR

BY KANWAL SIBAL

 

THE US mustered 47 world leaders at Washington on April 12/ 13 for a Nuclear Security Summit to address the grave issue of nuclear terrorism. The summit communique seeks to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in 4 years and an accompanying Work Plan contains specific steps for this. Countries will take on the responsibility voluntarily and in accordance with their national laws, with reference to the provisions of UN Security Resolution 1540, the Convention on Protection of Nuclear Materials and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

 

Given the freedom of action countries have retained in implementing the summit outcome, and the fact that the US itself has not as yet ratified the two Conventions, and merely 8 of the participating countries, including India but not Pakistan, have ratified both, any dramatic progress by the time of the next summit in South Korea in 2012 is unlikely.

 

Threat

 

Many questions arise. To begin with, is nuclear terrorism as dramatic a danger as the US initiative would suggest? If terrorists manage to stage an attack with nuclear materials it would indeed be catastrophic.

 

But what are the chances of this happening? After the Soviet Union collapsed, fears about loose Russian nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists were expressed, but nothing untoward has happened in the last 20 years. Beyond that, successfully denuclearising the erstwhile Soviet states and bringing them within the NPT fold plugged a source of leakage of nuclear materials potentially much more vulnerable.

 

That only the P- 5 possess weapons grade material circumscribes the scope of the problem significantly. All others, barring India, Pakistan and Israel who have such material too, are NPT members. Their civilian programmes are under strict IAEA safeguards. The problem is further narrowed down by the ground reality that Islamic countries do not as yet have civilian nuclear reactors— though this will change in the future— and only an odd country or two has research reactors.

 

Iraq's nuclear capability has been eliminated by force and that of Libya squeezed out through sanctions.

 

Israel's nuclear programme can hardly be the source of nuclear terrorism, given the country's own extraordinary vulnerability.

 

India's nuclear assets are secure beyond doubt. North Korea poses a serious problem because of its withdrawal from the NPT— and hence IAEA's supervision— and more especially, its involvement in clandestine proliferation of nuclear and missile technologies. Iran's nuclear activity is under IAEA safeguards, but there is a crisis of confidence between it and the West as its future intentions are unclear.

 

However, there is no reason to believe a priori that whatever be the egregiousness of some Iranian pronouncements on Israel, Iran would be lax enough to allow would- be terrorists to gain access to its undeclared nuclear materials to cause international mayhem.

 

China is culpable of highly irresponsible behaviour in transferring nuclear materials and technology to Pakistan. Through Pakistan centrifuge technology has been transferred to Iran and Chinese weapons designs have surfaced in Libya. China continues to engage in nuclear cooperation with Pakistan despite the A. Q. Khan affair, the established reports about contacts between some Pakistani nuclear scientists and the Al Qaeda leadership, the rise of religious extremism in the country and the uncertainty with regard to the degree to which elements in the Pakistan army— which controls the country's nuclear facilities— have been infected by radical Islamic beliefs. The spread of terrorist activity in Pakistan, with Taliban cadres attempting to target Pakistani nuclear installations, has not deterred China from cooperating. Pakistan is unique in being a nuclear weapon state where political instability, Islamic radicalism, terrorism and nuclear proliferation intersect.

 

How to reconcile US's mobilisation of the international community at Washington to address the looming threat of nuclear terrorism and its reluctance to fully expose the most glaring instance of an actual clandestine network trafficking in nuclear technology and materials— the A. Q. Khan affair? Barring a number of developed industrial democracies where nuclear technology and fissionable material are also in the hands of the private sector, in other countries fissionable material is only in the state sector. Non- state actors, as a proposition, can get access to nuclear materials only with the connivance of state actors, unless the state itself collapses.

 

Pakistan

 

The US has consciously protected Pakistani state actors from being directly implicated for the A. Q. Khan affair, contrary to common sense and Khan's subsequent assertions about the involvement of Pakistani political and military actors in his activities. It is not enough that the US is satisfied with the closure of the Khan network; others too, especially India, are entitled to know the extent of damage caused as we are in the region and Pakistan's unending hostility and its record of using terrorism as an instrument of state policy towards us, makes us particularly vulnerable. In a collective fight the legitimate interests and concerns of all have to be taken into account. US's soft handling of Pakistan in the context of nuclear terrorism conflicts with its goal of containing this menace internationally in the future.

 

Forces that can conceivably resort to nuclear terrorism against the US in particular, whether the Al Qaeda or the Taliban, are operating from safe havens in Pakistan. Both these and related extremist groups are fighting the Americans in Afghanistan. Worse, the extremist infection has moved from Pakistan's periphery to its heartland in the Panjab. The Pakistan Army is unwilling to uproot the Panjab based jihadi groups as their linkages to mainstream Pakistani politics are strong, besides their utility as instruments of terror against India.

 

Obama

 

Is the US justified in overlooking the danger of nuclear terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil because it sorely needs Pakistan's cooperation in dealing with Afghanistan? Not if one takes at face value the depth of its concern about nuclear terrorism as signified by its decision to host a huge gathering of world leaders at Washington.

 

Pakistan's posture on nuclear issues is not only not defensive, it is positively self- assured because of the dichotomy in the US attitude towards Pakistan's nuclear conduct and its links with terrorism. Pakistan is acting with the confidence that the A. Q. Khan affair has been buried by the West.

 

It has single- handedly blocked negotiations on the FMCT at Geneva, a major nuclear non- proliferation milestone for the US. Pakistan is aggressively demanding, including at the Washington summit, parity with India with regard to international civilian nuclear cooperation. Adept at political blackmail, it is linking concerns about the security of its nuclear assets, aggravated by the expansion of its nuclear programme even as its internal instability mounts, to not only the threat posed by India, but also the India- US nuclear deal, which it claims is fuelling an arms race as it permits India to expand its nuclear arsenal to Pakistan's peril.

 

Indeed, Prime Minister Gilani had the gall, at the summit, to offer to host an international nuclear fuel cycle services facility in Pakistan, for the benefit of the international community!! That President Obama is " very fond of Pakistan", as the summit participants were informed through a White House statement, perhaps explains why Pakistan is so audacious and the US so confused about the core of the problem relating to nuclear terrorism that the world faces.

 

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary ( sibalkanwal@gmail.com)

 

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

PATNA DURBAR

GIRIDHAR JHA

 

CALAMITY FINDS GOVT WANTING ONCE AGAIN

BIHAR has been no stranger to calamities – natural as well as man- made.

 

Over the years, scores of people have died in floods, droughts, fires and other calamities which have become recurring phenomena in the state.

 

Every year, the state government has a difficult job at hand to deal with the situation arising out of one catastrophe or the other. But it has often been found to be unequal to the task of meeting this daunting challenge with professionalism and preparedness.

 

Every time a calamity strikes, the state administration is caught unawares and is found woefully short of resources to provide timely help to the people.

 

More often than not, the affected populace is left to fend for itself in the wake of any tragedy.

 

This is in spite of the fact that a full- time disaster management department, headed by a minister, is functioning in the state. Given the past experiences, one would expect that a proper disaster management mechanism would be in place in the state, with its officials always ready to rise to the occasion.

 

But as the aftermath of last week's " killer" storm in the four north- eastern districts of the state showed, the officials were once again ill- prepared to come to the rescue of the people who lost their kin and belongings in the calamity. The storm, which barely lasted 40 minutes, left more than 80 people dead and property worth lakhs in ruins.

 

Apart from causing deaths, the storm blew away the houses of thousands of poor people, forcing them to spend the nights out in the open. But no helping hand to rebuild their houses was extended to them by the administration.

 

It seems that in the beginning, the officials in Purnia, Araria and other districts could not even comprehend magnitude of the tragedy. It was only after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar decided to visit the storm- hit region that they pulled up their socks.

 

True, the distribution of ex gratia cheques of Rs 1.5 lakh to the kin of each of those killed in the storm within two or three days of the chief minister's decision, is a remarkable achievement.

 

But that was all in the name of succour to the stormhit families.

 

People in many places complained that the district administration did not deem it fit to engage its personnel or equipment to help them reconstruct their houses or come to terms

 

with their trauma. They said that they were left with the task of building their hutments on their own. From removing the debris of their demolished homes to carrying the materials for constructing the new houses, they had to do everything on their own. In many villages, the locals even had to remove the huge trees which were uprooted and were blocking the roads.

 

These efforts of the villagers, bear testimony to their resilience to come back to normal life quickly even after such a huge tragedy with or without government help. But the officials would have done well to extend them a little more help and stand by them in their hour of crisis.

 

It is doubtless an achievement that the families of the calamity victims got the relief money quickly. In the past, it used to take months. It is also under the present regime that the disaster management department got some importance. The Kosi floods in 2008 had underlined the need for a well- oiled official machinery to deal with any disaster in the future. But, as the recent storm has demonstrated, much more is required to be done on how to respond to the crisis quickly and effectively.

 

BIHAR POLICE'S LAUGHTER CHALLENGE

THE poor health of constables has been a matter of concern for the Bihar police. At a recent health check- up camp at Khagaul, most of the men- in- khaki were found to be suffering from hypertension, diabetes and other health problems. But the Bihar police mandarins have now hit upon a novel idea to de- stress their personnel. They will be organising a ' Laughter Contest' . As per reports, the competition will be divided into two sections. In one event, the contestants will have to laugh aloud in different ways while the duration of their laughter will be the sole criterion in another contest. The first three winners will get cash awards of Rs 1,000, Rs 500 and Rs 300 in each event. The idea behind this contest for the cops, is the belief that laughter is the best antidote to tension and stressrelated ailments. For Bihar cops, this contest is certainly no laughing matter!

 

ENVOY VISIT LEAVES RABRI DEVI SULKING

THE Nitish Kumar government received a pat for its work from yet another visiting dignitary.

 

British High Commissioner Sir Richard Stagg, who visited Bihar last week, lauded the performance of the state government in different sectors.

 

But guess who is unhappy after the envoy's visit? It is none other than Rabri Devi. The reason for her sulk, however, is not the envoy's effusive praise of the government but because she was not able to meet him. According to her party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the scheduled meeting between Stagg and the Leader of the Opposition in the Bihar Assembly was cancelled at the last minute. They allege that this was at the behest of the Nitish government. The party leaders claim that Rabri was scheduled to meet the envoy on Friday and kept waiting for him in the assembly premises for an hour before she was told that the appointment had been cancelled. The officials have denied that there was any such meeting scheduled on Friday. Sources say that the Cabinet Coordination Department had sought time from Rabri for the meeting on Thursday but she did not respond in time. And when she did have time on Friday, Stagg had other engagements.

 

But the RJD leaders allege that this was a deliberate act on the part of the government to humiliate her. Stagg is said to have been keen on meeting Rabri among others during his visit.

 

Rabri will now have to wait for the British high commissioner's next visit to Patna.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

HOME TRUTHS

 

New Delhi has been complaining for years, and especially after 26/11, about a shadowy and unaccountable establishment in Islamabad a 'state within a state' that has a nexus with jihadis and thwarts investigation into violent acts emanating from Pakistani soil. Now a three-member UN investigation panel invited by the Pakistani government is saying exactly the same thing, albeit in a different context: the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. With its stinging indictment of the Pakistani military-intelligence complex's sins, both of omission and commission, and by putting it into a historical context, the UN report offers the first external, objective assessment of the damage being done to Pakistan by its power elite.


The report doesn't establish exactly who was responsible for Bhutto's assassination, but its implications are clear enough. With her support for constitutional reform, her push to have the military retreat from the civilian democratic space and her broad base of support, Bhutto was a clear threat to the established order under then president Pervez Musharraf. And the report pulls no punches in stating that the establishment that amorphous conglomeration of military and intelligence top brass, high-level bureaucrats and politicians pushed back hard. The security provided to Bhutto was grossly lacking, the investigation following her murder inadequate. And both of these happened because of deliberate inaction or obstruction by the establishment.


The implications are troubling in the context of both Pakistan's continued instability and its relations with India. The amendments recently passed by the Pakistani legislature repealing the changes Zia ul-Haq made to the 1973 constitution are a welcome step towards restoring the primacy of civilian authorities. But the ground reality is that the establishment is firmly in control of the power infrastructure.


From New Delhi's point of view, the conclusions the report draws about the Islamisation of the military-intelligence complex and its links with jihadist organisations used against India are hardly surprising. The importance of the report lies in the fact that this time, such doubts are not being voiced by New Delhi but by a UN-appointed body. The report has put its finger on the principal obstacle to peace between India and Pakistan today: the opacity of governing institutions in Pakistan. New Delhi could do a deal with those who formally run affairs in Pakistan, except that the latter can't deliver because real decisions get made somewhere else. What's needed is a strategic shift on the part of the Pakistani establishment, that peace with India (and in Afghanistan) serves everybody's interests well.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

DON'T WITCH HUNT

 

The IPL claimed its first high-profile victim on Sunday when the prime minister asked Shashi Tharoor to resign. Tharoor is likely to have company if the government and the BCCI keep their word on cleansing the cricket establishment. Such cleansing, however, shouldn't aim at discrediting and scapegoating individuals but rather at bringing transparency to the system. Witch hunts aren't the point, fixing responsibility is. The media shouldn't rush to establish guilt by association or entertain lengthy and salacious disquisitions regarding the psychological profiles of the principals involved, learned punditry about what made them go astray, and the like.


There's little point, for example, raking up drug charges against Lalit Modi filed in the US a quarter of a century ago. They have little bearing on the case at hand. If current charges of insider information for IPL franchise bids or other financial misdemeanours can be proved, steps need to be taken against him. The Union finance minister has promised Parliament that all the franchisees and their financial transactions will be probed. These steps are welcome and, hopefully, will help the IPL survive the present storm. The approach should be business-like, and a comprehensive investigation of the IPL is in order. The results of such an investigation should be made public, and IPL procedures reformed to usher in transparency and prevent abuse. Some MPs have demanded a ban on the IPL itself. Such displays of moral indignation reek of hypocrisy and are beside the point. The IPL may need an overhaul, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

CHIMERA OF CHIMERICA

 

The US president and his Chinese counterpart seem to have kissed and made up, at least for the time being. Much is being made of the Chinese president's decision to attend the nuclear security summit in Washington last week and the signals emanating from Beijing that it is considering allowing the yuan's value to gradually increase this year. In anticipation, the US Treasury department has postponed its report on foreign exchange rates that was to label China a currency manipulator. Notwithstanding these developments, the faultlines between the world's pre-eminent power and its most likely challenger are becoming clearer by the day.


The idea of "Chimerica" was always too good to be true. But the rapidity with which US-China ties have unravelled over the past few months has even surprised those cynical about Barack Obama's overtures to China. While the Chinese commerce minister has openly warned the US that it would suffer more if it decided to levy punitive tariffs on Chinese imports, Chinese military leaders have been contemplating the possibility of an all-out war with the US to gain the status of global superpower.


The West, meanwhile, is souring on China. Gone is the talk of China as a responsible stakeholder in the international system. Instead, Google's withdrawal from China is being seen as symptomatic of the problems China's rise continues to generate for global norms set by the West. China's undervalued renminbi is no longer a problem solely for the US but the Chinese behaviour is questioning the very foundations of the global trade regime. China has failed to play a constructive role in finding a solution to the North Korean and Iranian nuclear issues much and has made it impossible for the international community to resolve these dangerous flashpoints. There is a growing fear China might soon become the pre-eminent world power without even the patina of democracy with grave consequences for the global order.


China's rise was always going to be a challenge. But for long it was deemed the West's responsibility to ensure China did not get alienated from the international system. Such assumptions have fallen by the wayside as China's ascent has continued unabated and the Obama administration seems to have signalled that it is more interested in managing America's decline than in preserving its pre-eminence in the global order.


China's growing economic and political clout forced the Obama administration in early days to toy with the idea of G2, a global US-China condominium whereby China was expected to look after and 'manage' the Asia-Pacific. This was enough to shake up US allies in the region. Realising their security concerns were being sidelined, Tokyo, Seoul and Canberra made a concerted effort to make the new administration realise that such an arrangement would permanently marginalise the US in the Asia-Pacific. Moreover, major players in the region started re-evaluating their own security doctrines.


The chimera of "Chimerica" however soon faced its inevitable demise. After the Obama administration notified the US Congress that it planned to sell weapons systems to Taiwan worth $6.4 billion, China was markedly aggressive. Not only was the US ambassador to China warned of serious repercussions if the deal went through, China also cancelled some military exchange programmes with the US and announced sanctions against American companies supplying weapons systems to Taiwan. This announcement was a sign of a new assertiveness that China had been displaying on the international scene for sometime.


In its attempt to court China, the Obama administration was quick to downgrade the burgeoning strategic partnership with India forged during the Bush period. If there is a meta-narrative in Obama's foreign policy approach, it is defined by a desire to court America's adversaries while ignoring friends and potential allies. After rejecting the balance of power politics as a relic of the past, the Obama administration no longer has a strategic framework with which to view and organise its Asia policy. In any case, it has been much too preoccupied with domestic issues to give any serious thought to Asia's rapidly evolving strategic landscape.


China's growing economic and military capabilities and assertive diplomatic posture are a source of worry for India at a time Washington has little clarity about the kind of strategic role it wants to play in the region. Given the heavy US economic dependence on Beijing, a G2 made some sense for the US but it left American allies in the region marginalised in the strategic scheme of things. India was perhaps the worst hit. From being viewed as a rising power and a balancer in the Asia-Pacific, it was back to being seen as a regional South Asian actor whose only relevance for the US is in making sure Pakistan fights the Taliban without getting preoccupied in Kashmir.

The smaller countries of East and South East Asia, not to mention India's immediate neighbours being wooed by China, cannot but note the shifting balance of power that Washington's manoeuvring signals and adjust their own policies. The Obama administration's failure to reaffirm the US-India strategic partnership will not only have consequences for the region but also for the US's own global standing. It is to be hoped that the emerging problems in its relations with Beijing will convince Washington that it needs to take its friends and allies in Asia more seriously.


The writer teaches at King's College, London.

 

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TIMES OF INDIA

IT'S A PERSONAL CHOICE

 

How far would you go to achieve the dream look? Some, it appears, would not mind spending millions to get what they consider a billion-dollar look. A British woman has reportedly spent 85,000 pounds in an attempt to look like her role model reality TV star Katie Price a.k.a Jordan. And now, she rues the fact and is spending some more to reverse what she has done to herself. Predictably, she is being roundly ridiculed as well as getting many a lesson on the downfalls of being obsessed with both one's own looks and with celebrities. Just leave the woman alone!


The desire to look good is a primal human urge. Those going under the knife need to be fairly informed about the risks associated with cosmetic surgery. After that it is an individual choice. When things go wrong, as they sometimes unfortunately do, it is the individual and not society that bears the brunt of the consequences. So what gives us the right to be morally indignant about cosmetic surgery and pan those who choose to go under the knife? There are other individual habits that put society at risk let's focus on them, not boob jobs or tummy tucks.

Let's face it: people aspire to look their best and exercise a host of options to get there. The use of fairness and anti-ageing creams, botox shots, liposuctions, beauty salon appointments etc are just some of the many ways in which people try to alter their appearance. Some others decide to go much further and take the assistance of the surgical knife to get a makeover. Why should anyone have a problem with that, as long as it is not being paid for by taxpayer-funded healthcare programmes?


Many people have one sort of obsession or another that they nurture. The obsession with one's looks is just one such in the long list of human foibles. Let's just live and let live, shall we?

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

BEAUTY ISN'T SKIN-DEEP

 

With buxom Jordan's popularity dipping, a British fan now rues having augmented her cleavage. Others haven't got away that lightly. Last year, a Mexican rock star was hospitalised and an ex-Miss Argentina died of pulmonary embolism following buttocks enhancement shots. This year, a New York spa owner's client nearly died after similar procedures. Bleeding, infection, nerve damage and scarring are just some standard risks of cosmetic surgery. Yet growing numbers are turning to plastic. This isn't a healthy trend.


Many use the 'consenting adults' argument to justify unregulated access to cosmetic surgery, which should ideally be reserved for emergencies involving burns, injuries or disability. If going under the knife for trivial reasons is "free choice", why not apply the same plea to popping pills? Many smoke and don't die of it. Why discourage smoking? Unqualified cosmetic surgeons are popping up everywhere to cash in on the beauty craze. Rookie professionals and quacks offer services and use dodgy products like industrial silicone that cause abscesses and worse. Recently, 40,000 British women were warned about possible rupture of breast implants made of non-approved silicone gel.


Permissive attitudes exacerbate such problems, nudging people towards risky invasive surgery simply because "everybody else is doing it". In our appearance-driven society, plastic can be a dangerous addiction much like substance abuse. This is a big reason to combat the creeping banalisation of cosmetic surgery as just another 'harmless' service offered by the booming beauty industry. Let's help people see that beauty isn't skin-deep, for their own good and society's.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

IF YOU START BELIEVING THEM...

 

I admit that like many others, i take what ads say for the gospel truth if ads say something, or rather my favourite stars or players trust a particular brand, i follow them with the faith of a sheep in her shepherd. When the fairness cremes refuse to do much for my complexion, i promptly put myself in the doubtful 'dusky beauty' category, refusing to mistrust my favourite actress's brand even for a minute.


Ads are so educational. I, for example, was one of those who had learnt about one nose, two eyes and two ears like any studious girl in my LKG and would never have believed that we actually had 2,000 body parts if not for an informative ad. Whew! And apparently this was the only soap that refreshed all those 2,000 parts! I rued all those wasted years of half-baths where the other brands of soaps had apparently refreshed me selectively.

But the other day, i found my son with a nicked chin and a long face. On enquiring, he announced in a doomsday voice like Cassandra, "Never believe in advertisements", challenging my trust. It turned out that he had felt cheated. Not only none of those ravishing girls who seem almost to tumble out of the razor-pack to caress the clean-shaven chin seductively had fallen out of his razor pack, but in an effort to get a 'close shave' the poor boy had nicked himself real bad. "Never mind," i consoled him, my faith refusing to budge with what just might have been a packaging error, "buy X brand next time, their size-zero girl seems thin enough to fit the razor pack!" He looked doubtful.


However, when his friend too had a similar fiasco, my faith wobbled slightly. The boy had bought this deo with the X factor, but did he get all those girls who fawn around the boy in the ads? "Not one, aunty!" he said in small voice. You get a young boy to expect the world and then what comes out of the shiny new bottle? Just a whiff of a fragrance? Piffle! And then we complain about our youth becoming cynical.


Then i myself burnt my hands with another effective ad; this had my favourite actress in a super chef avatar. This X brand of microwave would be my fairy godmother and at last transform me into the wonderful cook who has the entire world eating out of her hands. Burning a hole in my pocket i got it but found to my dismay that it did nothing for my ambitious cannelloni. Since then my culinary star ratings have dropped lower than the Sensex and forex in recession.


Maybe, just maybe, we are being taken for a ride? Take that detergent, guaranteed to promote your husband directly to CEO by making his clothes whiter than his competitor's. I won't go into the sordid details of my friend's husband but they've just found to their utter amazement that no matter how white your shirt is, it is the annual report that still counts, maybe just a little less than correct contacts.


However, my heart goes out to the mother who had, as any sensible mother in the world would, put her complete trust in the health drink which is the only foolproof way to transform your super-brat into a super-brain or the unstoppable pen, which is shown filling the answer-sheets rapidly, without smudging it. Nobody, she had thought fondly, could now stop the apple of her eye from beating his competition hollow! She fed the child the health drink twice a day, all through his academic year and bought the pen in bulk. But, "Do you know what the teacher said?" she sobbed convulsively, "she said junior hadn't studied a word the whole term and gave him an F!" "They never mentioned the study part in those ads," she hiccupped

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

THE DOCTOR NOSE BEST

 

If you've been agonising over your looks as most of humanity does and are thinking of a bit of a nip and tuck, do so at your own peril. And we don't mean that you'll go under the plastic surgeon's scalpel to look more like Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and come out looking like Akshay Kumar. What we are trying to warn you of is that if you were hoping to fool people into thinking that you were born with a nose like Audrey Hepburn and lips like Angelina Jolie, this may prove difficult if your surgeon decides to put your worst face forward.

Sunanda Pushkar of the now notorious Indian Premier League Kochi fame is one such victim. Her doctor, a Padma Shri recipient no less, has apparently told the media that the winsome Ms Pushkar was a bit of a pushover thanks to anatomical flaws. Having got things into shape, the doc seems to have let on a little more than Ms Pushkar would have liked by way of the origins of several fetching bits of her personage. And we thought that like a lawyer, the doctor is bound by the Hippocratic oath to keep the confidence of the patient. The less-than-stable Ayesha Siddiqui, the alleged first wife of Shoaib Mirza, sorry Malik, had details of her miscarriage laid out to the public by her doctor. So the lines of the song, 'doctor, I'm in trouble…' have become quite apt today.

Now we editorial writers don't have to worry about anyone catching us in case we have a little work done here and there. You see, hardly anyone knows what we look like, unlike say the stars of the electronic media. So it is quite easy for us to look like dogs one day and after a stint at an appropriate facility emerge looking like Jessica Alba or Tom Cruise. Now people in the public eye can't do that. Every line and wrinkle would be scrutinised. So, since no relationship is sacred anymore, not even that with doctors, the best way to keep up the façade that you were born beautiful is to remain in the shadows like us.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

IT'S A GAMBLE WORTH TAKING

 

Nail-biting action off the field does not seem to have deterred cricket fans from their infatuation with the Indian Premier League (IPL). The IPL is an idea whose time has come although its managers appear hell-bent on wrecking it. Accusations of sweetheart deals have cost Shashi Tharoor his job and IPL tsar Lalit Modi finds himself in the unwelcome gaze of the taxman. Any tournament would have buckled under such pressure in its third year of existence, but India's obsession with cricket keeps the IPL going. Which is why it is imperative all IPL stakeholders put out a gentleman's version of the game, not thinly-veiled casino cricket.

Foremost, the IPL and its parent , the Board of Control for Cricket in India, need to introspect on the rules of the tournament they have laid out. If there is scope — as has been alleged — of conflicts of interest in club ownership and match outcomes, they are exposing the tournament to a lethal loss of credibility. More due diligence is needed on the money chasing the city-specific franchises, if need be with assistance from state apparatus that is equipped to unearth round-tripping and laundered money. Critically, all deals struck by the IPL's managers must satisfy the public scrutiny associated with a concentrated media event. If the IPL cannot shake off the taint of dirty money and dirty tricks, it risks losing the substantial legitimate business interest that is invested in the game.

Also, clean money has an interest in keeping the funny variety out. Corporate interest in cricket before the IPL was restricted to advertising and sponsorship. The IPL offered India Inc the next level of engagement through club ownership. Shadowy owners and unsavoury sleeping partners take some shine off the owners' club. India Inc too needs to keep an eye out for who is trying to gatecrash its cricketing party.

One IPL club owner has made a voluntary disclosure about shareholdings to the Bombay Stock Exchange after the Kochi incident. Another club is reportedly considering a public float of its shares. Both these moves are welcome and can help weed out slush money in the IPL franchises. Finally, the government must realise that club sports usually accompany regulated betting. With a ban in place that is impossible to enforce, India forces gambling on sports into dark pools of untraceable money. The IPL offers a good opportunity to reassess the nation's attitude towards a sporting flutter.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

WHEN PLAN A FAILED

ASHISH CHADHA

It was during the Manibeli satyagraha of August 1991 that I met People's War Group (PWG) activists in the Narmada Valley for the first time. The river was flowing above the danger mark thanks to incessant rain. Manibeli, a small tribal hamlet on the Maharashtra side of the river, was threatened with imminent submergence — the first victim of the Sardar Sarovar Project. But it was not going to go down with a whimper. The Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) had announced a jal-samarpan, a radical form of Gandhian non-violent protest that captured the imagination of the nation.

Medha Patkar along with a motley group of driven NBA activists and adivasis had decided to 'sacrifice' themselves in the sacred river. The largest non-violent movement in India after Mahatma Gandhi was challenging the might of the nation by sacrificing itself at the altar of development. Not a mere symbolic gesture or naïve defiance, but a visceral end to a peaceful struggle.

The NBA feared that the State would violently suppress the protest. Many grassroots activists, intellectuals, journalists and students from all across India had come to show solidarity with this group of satyagrahis as they fought a battle of survival and ideology. We were camping next to the medieval Shoolpaneswar temple, secretly hoping that the Narmada river would not rise further.

Other than waiting for police action to happen, attending strategy meetings, and singing andolan songs, we would usually sit in the ancient corridors of the eroded temple chatting about the state of the world. It was during one of these engrossing conversations that one of the PWG activists, in his halting, Telugu-accented Hindi, informed us: "We told Medha-tai to let us lead the moment for just one day. We will see to it that this dam is never made. Gandhian non-violence will not do you any good. You don't know this government. It will trample you. It will mercilessly crush you." I remember vigorously justifying the non-violent ideological basis for NBA.

Today, nearly 20 years later, sitting in an American university campus, reading daily about the growing crisis in Dantewada, I am forced to eat my words.

"This is different from the Naxalite violence of the 60s and the 70s," I was explaining to a Pakistani friend — a card-carrying communist who fled Pakistan 30 years ago when Zia ul-Haq's regime brutally crushed trade unions and the communist party there. "This is not our battle, it is theirs. It is actually a people's movement. It is a movement of the oppressed people, by the oppressed people, for the oppressed people." On a long-distance telephone conversation, from the East coast to the West coast of America, I was explaining to him the recent slaughter of security personnel in Dantewada by the Maoists. "This is different because this time there is no Brahmin, no intellectual, no middle-class activists leading them.

This time there is no one from Calcutta, Bombay or Jawaharlal Nehru University. This is their war of survival. And they are fighting their way. The rage is inevitable." He was troubled. We are all troubled by the ferocity of the violence.

The core issue of the Maoist movement resonates with that of the NBA. Today's Maoist movement in central India is unique.

For the first time in the history of the communist movement in India, it's not just the foundational questions of class and agrarian relations that are being raised, but also those of key issues of development, environmental destruction, post-colonial ideology of progress — problems the NBA fought for 20 years. Ours was a non-violent struggle, and today the movement is finished, the dam is complete, waters have not reached the most needy in Kutch and the displaced are devastated. A movement in shambles, its people lost, tired and hopeless. It is in the anguish of the NBA's collapse that the Maoists have emerged.

The Indian government mocked the NBA's quest. It humiliated it. It suppressed it. Today in the jungles of Dantewada, it is paying the price for its follies. The Maoist movement is not a law-and-order problem as Home Minister P. Chidambaram would want us to believe. It is not a political problem. It is a social problem. It is an ethical problem. It is a moral problem. The Indian State has to own up to the responsibility of its systemic failure — the failure to govern.

In an early morning sweep on August 3, 1991, a few hundred policemen from Dhule district raided Manibeli and arrested Medha Patkar and the satyagrahis along with 63 people. The PWG activists and I evaded arrest and escaped to Baroda. As the rickety Gujarat State Transport bus navigated the potholed highway lined with babul trees, one of the PWG activists ponderously whispered in my ear, almost like a solemn dialogue from a Hindi film: "This Gandhi-wadi will not get you anywhere. Government ko baandook ki hi gunje sonaye deti hai (The government only recognises the sound of the gun)".

Ashish Chadha teaches anthropology at Yale University

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TURN THE PAGE

 

Once Shashi Tharoor's fate as minister of state at the Centre was sealed at a Congress Core Group meeting late Sunday evening, the system hummed like clockwork. The agenda was clear and right: government and party wanted to begin the new week in Parliament on a new page. Crucial business, especially related to the Budget, needs to be transacted in Lok Sabha — and UPA-II knows it's skating on thinning ice in the House. And the space given by the Congress and the UPA government to Tharoor to sustain his last defence has depleted their political capital — especially amidst the kind of opposition unity by which the BJP and the Left, and all those in between, are echoing each other on cut motions to test the government's margin of majority in the House.

 

Were the UPA to muster the heart to look within, it would be found that its edginess draws not from the composition of the 15th Lok Sabha, but the Congress's loss of its centre of gravity. UPA-II managed to moot and begin implementing an ambitious agenda of rights not just because of the Congress's more than 200 MPs in Lok Sabha — but also because the general election last summer gave the party the appearance of gathering the political momentum. If less than a year later that unqualified optimism seems past, the party must inquire how its political capital got so rapidly depleted, how it's giving signs of drift, and how it's being taken apart by an airing of that old Congressmen's tendency for each to watch out for himself. For a telling instance, one need just look back a few days. In a newspaper article, Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh perverted the common-sense case for looking at the welfare of India's poorest into a critique of Home Minister P. Chidambaram, positing the government resolve to take on the security threat posed by Maoists as a construct of the minister's "intellectual arrogance". The consequent impression can so easily be of the party's tolerance for such attempts to undermine government cohesiveness — an opening the opposition would eagerly grab. To truly turn the page, the party needs to clamp down on this one-upmanship for the sake of personal positioning.

 

Even in Parliament, the drift is visible — take the non-introduction of the Civil Nuclear Liability Bill and errors in aligning the draft to the International Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage. The drift is compounded by the government's coyness on reaching out to the opposition on legislative business. That is not a question of numbers, but of attitude.

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

 

STEP BY STEP

 

Of the many obstacles in fighting Maoists, the most ironical is the law itself. While "law and order" is a state subject, Maoists are spread out across a host of states, and move easily from one jurisdiction to another. Their intimidation tactics to dominate territorially and destroy the infrastructure of local administration too makes them difficult to handle for the local police. Equally, Central paramilitaries deployed in combat zones cannot operate on their own. They must report to the local police, and since they don't have an intelligence wing, they must rely on the state for this too. Their role, as the CRPF's commander of anti-Naxal operations, Vijay Raman, says, is of "a force multiplier, not contractors to have been given the job of exclusively rooting out Naxals." The recent killing of 76 security personnel, including 74 CRPF personnel, in Dantewada on April 5 further underlines the criticality of coordination between the state police and Central paramilitaries.

 

That lesson, it seems, is being heeded. Reports suggest that anti-Naxal operations all over the eastern corridor are drawing on tactics employed in Maharashtra's eastern district of Gadchiroli. The so-called "Gadchiroli pattern" has two features. At one level, CRPF troops always move in tandem with the Maharashtra police; reports suggest that all operations have at least 30 per cent from the state police. At another level, there is increased intelligence-sharing and verification between the CRPF and the local police. As a result, Gadchiroli has suffered the least damage since Operation Green Hunt began.

 

There is perhaps another reason why Gadchiroli has fewer casualties. A state official attributes this to Maharashtra's 700-strong local unit, called C-60, tasked with tackling Naxalites. Andhra Pradesh's proven success in reducing the Naxal presence within its boundaries is in no small measure due to a state commando force, the Greyhounds, whose local knowledge and structure are an invaluable resource. As Home Minister P. Chidambaram said in Lok Sabha on April 15, states have an equal, if not greater, responsibility to counter Naxalites. Locally trained units and closer coordination between the CRPF and state police are

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ASH DAYS

 

Cancelled: crucial talks in Greece on how to bail out its crashing economy. On a bus: FC Barcelona, struggling to northern Italy for the Champions League. Ignored: the state funeral for Poland's president, left without big-name international attendees. Losing millions every day: airlines; Kenyan flower growers; Israeli tech companies. Bereft: the UK's Labour Party, whose intense election campaign continues without former PM Tony Blair, still stuck in the Middle East. And, of course, millions of travellers are stranded away from home. (Britannia may be uncomfortable with the skies, but it clearly still rules the waves: Gordon Brown announced plans to send an aircraft carrier for some stranded Britons.)

 

The cumulative effect of the disruption caused by the giant ash plume over western Europe that follows the eruption that made of the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull a household name might well, even, set back European recovery efforts. A lot of the concern is, say travel experts, overblown, another symptom of European paranoia about any perturbations of their precisely-ordered world, another product of the nanny state.

 

Many airlines carried out test flights that faced no trouble whatsoever. The director-general, of the International Air Transport Association, called it "a European embarrassment" that "Europeans are still using a system that's based on a theoretical model, instead of taking a decision based on facts and risk assessment." Perhaps the only happy person in Europe? German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Returning from North America, she flew as far as Lisbon, and then decided to make her way back to Germany through Spain, Italy and Switzerland, in gentle stages, surviving a flat tyre in the Alps on the way. Observers say she appears rested and relaxed.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NOTES ON A SCANDAL

DHIRAJ NAYYAR

 

There is something terribly pre-liberalisation, India of the '70s, about the now considerably exposed, and almost certain to be further investigated, business dealings of the Indian Premier League. The improper involvement of a minister of state in a business venture which eventually led to his resignation, the extensive involvement of, and conflicts of interest in, families and friends being handed out freebies, income tax raids, allegedly benami shareholders; we thought we had left much of that behind starting 1991.

 

And yet, the IPL is very much a product of the post-liberalisation era. It is an example of the spirit of entrepreneurship unleashed by liberalisation. Who would have thought that the IPL, starting from scratch, would be valued at over $4 billion in just its third year? But its success isn't just about the valuations that would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

 

Its real success, and this is what will determine its fate in the long run, is the creation of a high quality product which consumers in India and elsewhere are embracing. Before 1991, entrepreneurs had little incentive to create quality products. Now they do. The IPL may offend the traditionalists who believe that it's simply not cricket. And they may be right. But successful entrepreneurship doesn't seek to conform, but to break the traditional mould.

 

And so, the IPL is a curious creature that combines the best and worst of Indian capitalism — fabulous enterprise and outcomes on the one side, riddled with cronyism, patronage and power politics on the other. In many ways the IPL is a confirmation of what India really is: an emerging economy. Liberalisation created the conditions for India to move from being an under-developed or developing country to a powerful emerging economy, a country which along with a few others like China and Brazil had left other developing countries behind. But the unleashing of entrepreneurship was not accompanied immediately by the strong institutions and norms of propriety that usually characterise more advanced economies. These take longer to evolve and, interestingly, it often needs a big scandal or two for things to correct.

 

For Indian cricket, this may be the scandal that begins to set right the opaque governance structures of the BCCI and IPL. The BCCI and IPL have without doubt transformed India to a cricketing superpower. But scandal of the kind that has now broken out threatens to dent not just the IPL brand but the larger edifice of Indian cricket.

 

Of course, the business of cricket is not the only example of the disconnect between clever entrepreneurship and the underlying institutions and propriety.

 

Think back to the late '80s and early '90s when the stock market first came to prominence as both an avenue for investment and an important source of corporate finance. Among the emerging economies, India was perhaps the first to realise the importance of stock markets as a means to efficiently channel savings and investment. And we are bearing the fruits of that even two decades on. But the evolution of stock markets was not smooth. Some entrepreneurs chose to manipulate the markets. It took two major scandals — Harshad Mehta in the early '90s and Ketan Parekh in the late '90s — to put in place the necessary structures of regulation to prevent manipulation of the markets. Since then it's undoubtedly been much cleaner.

 

Another good example is films. The industry transformed its quality and scope in the post-liberalisation years, largely because consumers, particularly those in urban areas exposed to productions from Hollywood on cable television, began to demand better quality. In fact, and this is unlike many other regional film industries, the Indian film industry not only transformed its product but successfully held back competition from Hollywood. But even as this transformation of product was taking place, there was little change in the business side. There were numerous allegations, and the occasional evidence, of the involvement of the underworld.

 

Things finally broke out into the open with the arrest of film financier Bharat Shah and the scandal around the underworld financing of Chori Chori Chupke Chupke in 2000. The film industry has undergone significant changes since then. Many of the old producer families have tried to corporatise. Financial institutional funding has been liberalised. And there is little doubt that the business is cleaner now than it was in 2000.

 

Of course, it is perfectly reasonable to argue that films, stock markets, cricket and even other regular business enterprises will never be entirely clean and transparent. Because the fact is that there will always be bad eggs who will try to manipulate free markets. But it's still worth making every effort to increase transparency in the way business, in whatever sphere, is run. A scandal provides an opportunity to reform, and it should not be missed.

 

What is also important in an evolved capitalist system, in addition to structural reform, is the ability of the system to punish the bad eggs. In the US, perhaps the most evolved capitalist system, those who play crooked, usually end up in prison — think Enron, Arthur Anderson, Bernie Madoff and S. Rajaratnam.

 

In India, the record for punishment is not great. Harshad Mehta, for example, was rounded up but died in prison before most of the cases against him could be concluded. On Satyam, a scandal which came out of the blue in what was considered to be India's best run industry, however, the record is more encouraging. The government of India moved deftly to rescue the Satyam brand, its employees and clients after its promoter Ramalinga Raju confessed to fraud. That proved that it is possible for brands tainted by scandal to recover. The government also initiated key reforms to corporate governance norms in the aftermath of Satyam. However, proper punishment still needs to be handed out to the guilty. And for this, the government still needs to successfully prosecute all those involved in the fraud.

 

In the end, the success of Indian capitalism, and the microcosm of the IPL, will crucially depend on getting both regulation and punishment right.

 

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

 

dhiraj.nayyar@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

NAMING AND ADDRESSING

RAHIMULLAHYUSUFZAI

 

Pakistan's militancy-hit North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) has become Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after the adoption of the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill by the country's parliament. On the demand of the governing Pakhtun nationalists and the support of major political parties, the 109-year-old name given to it by the British rulers of undivided India was changed to reflect the identity of the Pakhtuns, also known as Pashtuns or Pathans and constituting almost 75 per cent of its population.

 

The name change became possible as a result of a deal between former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N, which rules Pakistan's biggest province, Punjab, and the nationalist Awami National Party now in power in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The former was opposed to Pakhtunkhwa while the latter insisted on this name. Finally, the word Khyber was prefixed to Pakhtunkhwa on the demand of the PML-N and a compound name, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was coined to rename the NWFP.

 

However, both parties failed to satisfy some of their most committed supporters on the renaming issue. The ultra-Pakhtun nationalists charged the ANP leadership with betrayal — they felt that the addition of Khyber to the new name diluted the importance of Pakhtunkhwa. Besides, many nationalists and certain anti-ANP Pakhtun politicians, including former federal interior minister Aftab Sherpao's PPP-S, argued that the ruling ANP had no right to bypass the provincial assembly's past resolutions recommending Pakhtunkhwa as the new name of the NWFP.

 

The PML-N's voters in Hazara region, where the majority speaks Hindko language and not Pashto spoken by the Pakhtuns everywhere else in the province, argued that the new name obliterated their identity. Khyber, the name of a mountain pass linking Pakistan to Afghanistan, didn't reflect their identity while Pakhtunkhwa specifically identified the Pakhtuns. It was clear the PML-N was losing ground in Hazara to PML-Q, which General Pervez Musharraf had created to give a civilian facade to his military rule. The PML-Q took a firm stand against Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and suggested that the province simply be renamed Sarhad, meaning "frontier". Split into two factions and in decline since Musharraf's departure, the PML-Q saw a golden opportunity to revive its fortunes not only in Hazara, where it had lost to the PML-N in the February 2008 general elections, but also elsewhere among voters opposed to the regional and ethnicity-based politics of the ANP and other nationalist parties. PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain accused Nawaz Sharif of bowing to the demand of the regional ANP, and harming the integrity of the country.

 

Though several other names, some funny and bizarre, were proposed for the NWFP, the few given serious consideration included Pakhtunkhwa, Pakhtunistan, Afghania, Khyber and Abaseen. The ANP, presently led by late freedom-fighter Abdul Ghaffar Khan's grandson Asfandyar Wali Khan, had offered to accept Pakhtunistan and Afghania also if a consensus could be built. Pakhtunistan was a controversial reminder of the past when successive Afghan governments supported it as a separate homeland for the Pakhtuns in Pakistan. Afghania had some appeal for many people. The first "a" in Pakistan's name as coined by Chaudhry Rahmat Ali was supposed to identify Afghania, which reflected the identity of the Afghans, the race to which all Pakhtuns belong and most of whom live in Pakistan.

 

Hazarawal, or the people of Hazara, would have agreed to a compound name that included the term Hazara. It is felt Hazara-Pakhtunkhwa would have found acceptance and Afghania could have faced less opposition. But Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provoked spontaneous protests in Abbottabad, Haripur and Mansehra, three of the five districts in Hazara division. There were no protests in the Pakhtun-majority Battagram district and in Kohistan, where the population speaks a Kohistani dialect rather than Hindko. The protests were peaceful for the first 10 days, but imposition of Section 144 by the ANP-PPP provincial coalition government banning gatherings of five or more people led to violence as the police resorted to firing. The death of nine protesters enraged the people and mobs in Abbottabad attacked police stations, seizing and torturing cops, ransacking government offices and looting shops. The situation improved only after the provincial government replaced two top civil and police officers in Hazara and freed the detained protesters. However, the action committee leading the protests and headed by a former minister

 

Sardar Haider Zaman has made it clear that it now wanted a separate Hazara province instead of merely protesting renaming of the province as Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

 

Having realised the popularity of the demand for Hazara province, the PML-N is now supporting the idea and President Asif Ali Zardari's PPP is willing to consider it. There has been talk of moving the 19th amendment in the constitution to make provision for Hazara and possibly other provinces. A Pandora's box has been opened as demands are being made for a Seraiki province in Punjab, one for the Pakhtun tribes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and another for the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs in Sindh. Despite ANP's opposition to the division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, the PML-N backing for Hazara province could push the PPP-led federal government to seriously consider the demand.

 

The writer is the Peshawar resident editor of 'The News'

 

express@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

GOLDMAN SACHS, SALARIED LOOTERS

 

Last October, I saw a cartoon by Mike Peters in which a teacher asks a student to create a sentence that uses the verb "sacks," as in looting and pillaging. The student replies, "Goldman Sachs."

 

Sure enough, last week the Securities and Exchange Commission accused the Gucci-loafer guys at Goldman of engaging in what amounts to white-collar looting.

 

I'm using the term looting in the sense defined by the economists George Akerlof and Paul Romer in a 1993 paper titled "Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit." That paper, written in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan crisis of the Reagan years, argued that many of the losses in that crisis were the result of deliberate fraud.

 

Was the same true of the current financial crisis?

 

Most discussion of the role of fraud in the crisis has focused on two forms of deception: predatory lending and misrepresentation of risks. Clearly, some borrowers were lured into taking out complex, expensive loans they didn't understand — a process facilitated by Bush-era federal regulators, who both failed to curb abusive lending and prevented states from taking action on their own. And for the most part, subprime lenders didn't hold on to the loans they made. Instead, they sold off the loans to investors, in some cases surely knowing that the potential for future losses was greater than the people buying those loans (or securities backed by the loans) realised.

 

What we're now seeing are accusations of a third form of fraud.

 

We've known for some time that Goldman Sachs and other firms marketed mortgage-backed securities even as they sought to make profits by betting that such securities would plunge in value. This practice, however, while arguably reprehensible, wasn't illegal. But now the SEC is charging that Goldman created and marketed securities that were deliberately designed to fail, so that an important client could make money off that failure. That's what I would call looting.

 

And Goldman isn't the only financial firm accused of doing this. According to the Pulitzer-winning investigative journalism website ProPublica, several banks helped market designed-to-fail investments on behalf of the hedge fund Magnetar, which was betting on that failure.

 

So what role did fraud play in the financial crisis? Neither predatory lending nor the selling of mortgages on false pretenses caused the crisis. But they surely made it worse, both by helping to inflate the housing bubble and by creating a pool of assets guaranteed to turn into toxic waste once the bubble burst. As for the alleged creation of investments designed to fail, these may have magnified losses at the banks that were on the losing side of these deals, deepening the banking crisis that turned the burst housing bubble into an economy-wide catastrophe.

 

The obvious question is whether financial reform of the kind now being contemplated would have prevented some or all of the fraud that now seems to have flourished over the past decade. And the answer is yes.

 

For one thing, an independent consumer protection bureau could have helped limit predatory lending. Another provision in the proposed Senate bill, requiring that lenders retain five per cent of the value of loans they make, would have limited the practice of making bad loans and quickly selling them off to unwary investors.

 

It's less clear whether proposals for derivatives reform — which mainly involve requiring that financial instruments like credit default swaps be traded openly and transparently, like ordinary stocks and bonds — would have prevented the alleged abuses by Goldman (although they probably would have prevented the insurer AIG from running wild and requiring a federal bailout). What we can say is that the final draft of financial reform had better include language that would prevent this kind of looting — in particular, it should block the creation of "synthetic CDOs," cocktails of credit default swaps that let investors take big bets on assets without actually owning them.

 

The main moral you should draw from the charges against Goldman, though, doesn't involve the fine print of reform; it involves the urgent need to change Wall Street. Listening to financial-industry lobbyists and the Republican politicians who have been huddling with them, you'd think that everything will be fine as long as the federal government promises not to do any more bailouts. But that's totally wrong — and not just because no such promise would be credible.

 

For the fact is that much of the financial industry has become a racket — a game in which a handful of people are lavishly paid to mislead and exploit consumers and investors. And if we don't lower the boom on these practices, the racket will just go on.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TIPTOE THROUGH THE ULIPS

ABHISHEKTRIPATHI

 

Unit-linked insurance products, or ULIPs, have become the new battleground between financial regulator Sebi and insurance regulator IRDA. Sebi's move on ULIPs has many sympathisers, and it has rightly triggered a debate on the unethical practices that are rampant in ULIP distribution. However, the claim that Sebi has made does, in fact, lack the necessary legal basis.

 

In its recent order, Sebi assumed jurisdiction by holding that ULIP schemes are "in the nature" of mutual fund schemes, which makes them "securities" as defined by the Securities and Exchange Board of India Act, 1996. Claiming to act on behalf of investors, Sebi contends that under the Act it is duty-bound to intervene to protect the interests of the holders of securities. Accordingly, the sponsors of ULIPs have been directed to register themselves as mutual funds before offering ULIPs.

 

Collective investment schemes, or CISes, were introduced as a distinct category of investment products under the Sebi Act in 2000. Sebi was expected to regulate CISes, in addition to the mutual funds (which it was already regulating). Several categories of investment products — NBFCs, chit funds, and insurance contracts — that are regulated under independent regulatory regimes were excluded from the definition of a CIS. "Contributions to mutual funds" were also excluded, probably because they were already being regulated by Sebi under mutual fund regulations. Very clearly CISes were meant to cover whatever was not already part of the ambit of mutual fund regulations.

 

Both under Sebi's regulations and in common usage, mutual funds have a distinct meaning and structure. The structure— consisting of a trust, trustee(s), an asset management company and a sponsor—is inherent to the understanding of what constitutes a mutual fund. Any investment vehicle does not become a mutual fund merely because of the similarity in products offered; there are other regimes (envisaged under the Sebi Act itself) that take care of such products. A logical conclusion should be that the prohibition under the Sebi Act on operating mutual funds without Sebi's license should apply only where a mutual fund structure is being followed. All other categories of CIS are expected to be regulated as such by Sebi or other regulators, as the case may be, and not as mutual funds.

 

An expansive interpretation of the term "mutual funds" along the lines suggested by Sebi will make the exceptions from CIS redundant. Sebi can claim all such categories as mutual funds — which is clear from its stand that structure is immaterial if there is an investment component. But the categories excluded from CIS have been excluded to maintain the sanctity of the enactments under which they are regulated, and the independence of their regulators. This intent of the legislature needs to be respected. It is a settled position of statutory interpretation that every provision in a statute should be given some meaning, which in here can be done only if the exceptions are given their true meaning and are not appropriated under the category of mutual funds.

 

ULIPs are neither distributed, nor managed by mutual funds registered with Sebi. Even investors are aware of this distinction with mutual funds. They do, however, fall under the category of life insurance contracts under the Insurance Act, which recognises "contracts whereby payment of money is assured on death (except death by accident only), or the happening of any contingency depending on human life", as life insurance contracts.

 

In several common law jurisdictions, investments have been recognised as an integral part of insurance, as long as there is an element of insurance. In Fuji Finance Inc. v. Aetna Life Insurance Co in 1996, the UK's court of appeal held "capital investment bonds" to be contracts of insurance as the contract offered both death benefits and surrender benefits, though both benefits were same. "Capital investment bonds" were products identical to ULIPs.

 

Some common law courts have even rejected the test of primary or dominant purpose on the ground that any such determination will depend on the emphasis that the parties to the contract, i.e. the insurer and the insured, placed on the policy. In life insurance, most often both insurer and the insured know that the policy is also an investment product.

 

The judgments reflect the realities of the insurance industry. Sebi needs to take that into account. Pure life insurance products form an insignificant component of the insurance business — too insignificant to require a distinct regulator. Requiring ULIPs to be regulated by Sebi is a retrogade step that is legally untenable. Instead, IRDA should address Sebi's concerns of mis-selling of ULIPs. Else the court may be convinced to pass orders directing the IRDA to fix the malaise in selling of ULIPs. That may be Sebi's best shot.

 

The writer is a Delhi-based insurance lawyer

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

BOOTH CAPTURING

ADITYASINGH

 

The Gujarat governor has returned the Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009 reportedly citing objections to the clause punishing non-voters. As per the Bill, if an eligible voter fails to vote in elections to local self government bodies, he/she may be declared a "defaulter voter." Default voters shall face consequences that are to be detailed in the rules framed under this legislation. When the Gujarat Assembly passed the Bill last year, the Opposition called it an infringement of individual rights. In other quarters, it was hailed as a path-breaking legislation to strengthen Indian democracy.

 

This is not the first time such a law has been contemplated. In 2009, BJP leader L.K. Advani argued in favour of compulsory voting and subsequently, a member of the Congress party introduced the Compulsory Voting Bill, 2009 in the Lok Sabha. This Bill also intended to increase voter turnout to strengthen the democratic process and provided for monetary fines, imprisonment for two days or forfeiture of ration cards as penalties for eligible voters who fail to participate in an election. In 2005, the Lok Sabha rejected a similar private member's legislation seeking to make voting compulsory. The Supreme Court has also considered this issue. During the general elections last year, it rejected a plea for making voting compulsory for elections to legislative bodies on procedural and practical grounds after taking into account the rising voter turnout in certain states. The diamond jubilee celebration of the Election Commission of India earlier this year also saw the Chief Election Commissioner speak of the impossibility of enforcing such a law.

 

Internationally, close to 25 countries currently practice some form of compulsory voting. However, a much smaller number, including Australia, Belgium, Greece and Luxembourg, have shown a serious commitment to enforce it strictly. Empirical scholarship has established that compulsory voting legislation enhances voter turnout, which is at least 10 to 15 per cent higher in those countries where voting is compulsory as compared to those which follow the system of voluntary voting. In India, a low level of citizen involvement in elections has been a cause of concern for decades. In the last general elections, the national average turnout was around 59 per cent, very close to the turnout in the 2004 general elections. Gujarat has recorded a significantly lower voter turnout as compared to the national average. If cross-country comparisons are considered, the introduction of such a law in India would increase voter turnout by making abstention costly to voters. Belgium and Austria, for instance, have had an average turnout of over 90 per cent in elections since the introduction of compulsory voting legislation. Italy, where voting used to be mandatory but no longer is, provides an interesting example of the creation of a social norm of voting that has continued after the legal compulsion has ended.

 

Other than the obvious consequence of increase in voter turnout, the introduction of compulsory voting legislation raises several legal, political and practical questions.

 

Compulsory voting is often termed as undemocratic because it coerces people who may not want to vote to participate in elections. However, "best practices" in countries that make voting mandatory compel voters to the polling booth but do not force them to vote for a particular candidate. This is where a distinction between compulsory voting and compulsory participation must be appreciated. Compulsory participation or compulsory attendance allows a citizen to vote for one of the candidates, cast a negative vote, leave the ballot blank or even spoil the ballot. Hence, it is not voting which is mandatory but attendance at the polling station. This also gives people an incentive to be more informed about the candidates and their proposed policies and bridges the gap between people and politics.

 

On the other hand, there are management and enforceability difficulties. Any government seeking to make voting compulsory must make voting easy and accessible. Such laws must accommodate people who cannot be reasonably expected to participate, and elections must be conducted in convenient locations at appropriate times. The Dinesh Goswami Committee on Electoral Reforms considered the idea of compulsory voting in 1990 and rejected it due to "practical difficulties." Almost two decades later, we have still not fully addressed the concerns of inaccurate voter I-cards, incomplete and erroneous electoral lists, and other security concerns. In this context, it would be impossible to enforce a law making voting mandatory.

 

There are various challenges for the introduction of compulsory voting laws at the national and the state level in India. Critics of compulsory voting will surely bring a challenge based upon the Constitution. If the Gujarat government wants compulsory voting to work, it must first reduce the effort required in voting, tackle the problems of incomplete electoral rolls, and fix inaccurate voter identification methods. Practices such as e-voting, postal voting and giving voters a choice of where to vote must be seriously considered. Compulsory participation laws may help to reduce our democratic deficit. But they will be worthwhile only if we make voting more accessible and less exclusive.

 

The writer is studying law at NALSAR, Hyderabad

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

DAVID CAMERON, THE AMERICAN FROM ETON

 

American conservatives don't think terribly highly of the British Tories — if, that is, they think of them at all. With the exception of the sainted Margaret Thatcher, the Conservatives have acquired a reputation among their more populist American cousins for being aristocratic squishes: part Bertie Wooster and part Arlen Specter.

 

David Cameron, the Tory leader campaigning to become Britain's next prime minister, fits this stereotype all too neatly. He's an Eton man, an alumnus of Oxford's posh and rowdy Bullingdon Club, and a direct descendant of King William IV. His early career as Tory leader was devoted to "modernising" the Conservative Party after a decade of defeat. This meant riding a bicycle, appearing regularly without a tie, and talking as much as possible about the environment and other liberal-sounding issues.

 

Yet the American right — and Americans in general — should be paying close attention to how Cameron's Tories fare in Britain's election on May 6, and how well they govern if they win. That's because for all his leftward feints and politically correct gestures, Cameron is campaigning on a vision of government that owes a great deal to the American conservative tradition.

 

The Tories' election manifesto, released early last week, promises "a sweeping redistribution of power" — from London to local institutions, and "from the state to citizens." In one of the most centralised countries in the Western world, Cameron is championing a dramatic transfer of responsibility — for schools, hospitals, police forces — to local governments and communities. In a nation with a vast and creaking welfare state, he's urging people to put more faith in voluntarism, charity and the beleaguered two-parent family. (This last plank has attracted the ire of none other than J. K. Rowling, who recently attacked the Tories for stigmatising single motherhood.) His emphasis, again and again, has been on a smaller, leaner, less intrusive government — and in its place, a "big society" that can bear the burden currently shouldered by social workers and bureaucracies.

 

Nobody would mistake the Cameron Tories for Tea Partiers. By the statist standards of British politics, though, their manifesto's emphasis on localism and limited government is quite daring. The Tories may sit to the left of American conservatives on a host of issues, but Cameron is offering a more detailed and specific vision of what conservative reform might mean than almost any English-speaking politician since the Reagan-Thatcher era.

 

Essentially, the Tories are gambling that the fiscal crisis facing every Western government will create an opportunity for decentralisation on an unprecedented scale. If that gamble succeeds, Cameron's government will offer an example to right-of-centre parties everywhere — and Britain will offer a model, in an era of tight budgets and diminished expectations, for how nations can succeed (to borrow a Cameron catchphrase) at "doing more with less."

 

But first Cameron's party has to actually win the election, which is hardly a sure thing. The Tories are asking for a mandate to transform the British state at a time when the British public is mainly concerned about how to kick-start economic growth. This may explain why the Tories have been clinging to a narrow lead over the incumbent, Gordon Brown, despite the Labour Party's epic mismanagement of the economy. Many disillusioned Britons seem tempted to cast a vote for the Liberal Democrats, the perpetual bridesmaids of British politics. The LibDem leader, Nick Clegg, was the clear winner in last week's television debate, and his party's poll numbers are soaring while Conservative support is flatlining.

 

Even if they manage to pull out a win, the Tories will have to actually execute the transformation that they've promised. Here the American experience is not encouraging. From Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, almost every modern Republican president has pledged to decentralise government and empower local communities. But their successes have tended to be partial, and their failures glaring. Cameron's decentralising vision is much better thought out than Nixon's "new federalism" or Bush's promise of an "ownership society." But it's easy to imagine it meeting the same unhappy fate.

 

Finally, even if Cameronism could work, there may simply not be time to implement the kind of ambitious, long-term transformation he has in mind. Britain's debt burden is worse even than that of the United States, and the fiscal crunch is looming. The window for big ideas may be closing, on both sides of the Atlantic and for right and left alike. In this election season, Cameron has tried to advance an idealistic politics of conservative reform. But he may find himself governing amid the grim politics of a permanent fiscal crisis.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

SHEEN OFF GOLDMAN

 

Goldman Sachs declared a tidy $13.4 billion in net profit last year. Today, it is expected to declare first quarter results for this year that may be double what Goldman made in the same period last year. It is also expected to declare millions worth of bonuses for some of its staff, with the total reward money running into more than $5 billion. The 130-year-old giant that survived and thrived through the Wall Street meltdown would have the world believe that this has been because of its superior—more informed and more ethical—business practices. But that claim has taken two big hits this year. First came the Greece episode, wherein Goldman has emerged as a leader among banks that helped the country evade strict Euro membership caps on the size of government deficits. How? By way of derivative deals that never showed up in official statistics. Nothing illegal, just something shady. Now comes the charge by US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that, at the urging of hedge-fund manager John Paulson, Goldman structured and sold subprime securities that Paulson had bet would fail. Again, SEC will find it hard to prove that there was anything illegal going on here. Goldman's defence: "In trades of this kind, there is always an investor going short. It is just common practice." The bank says it was common practice for banks to devise securities products—including bundled mortgages—in partnership with hedge funds whose identities were not disclosed to buyers. As in Greece's case, things are murky here and SEC will find it hard to actually prove illegality.

 

But there is a broader regulatory narrative at work in the US, within which the SEC-Goldman mêlée may end up playing a key role. Democrats and President Barack Obama are trying to add to their healthcare legislation triumph with one involving financial regulation reform. The night before SEC charged at Goldman, Obama was telling a fundraiser that financial institutions profiting from the status quo were like piranha that simply tore upon reforms if they could. He would make sure that they couldn't. Next day, Goldman was in trouble, its stock had dropped almost 13% and other big bank stocks had also taken a hit. Republicans hardly want to be seen as helping bail out big banks as long as the US voter is still convinced that the big boys have rigged the financial game. All that the President now needs to do is make a persuasive case that his financial reforms will thwart the creation of investments designed to fail, without hobbling the financial sector as a whole.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TOLL ON COAL


Coal India Limited (CIL) may be one of the most profitable PSUs in the country but that hasn't stopped it from landing in a mess created by the government. For a company planning a mega public issue, this is most unfortunate. The navratna company with a net worth of Rs 24,541 crore as on March 31, 2010, is a crucial player in India's race for energy security. Yet it has to reckon with an ongoing tiff with the railways over how many wagons they need to transport the coal it produces. In 2009-10, CIL produced only 415.9 MT of coal, a growth rate of less than 4% as the railways could provide, on a daily basis, only two rakes more than the year before. The railways have fiercely contested the accusation but have not denied it. The position is the equivalent of not having the pipeline to evacuate the natural gas produced at the KG basin. Privately, railway officials acknowledge that they are in a gridlock, which is unlikely to dissolve soon. Because even if the wagons are made available, they face a shortage of drivers to run those rakes. Coal India has hardly ever held any glamour for political leaders. But in the next few years, as the demand for coal mounts to meet the needs of energy to power GDP growth, this mismatch will prove costly.

 

The other problem that has cropped up is in coal imports. The public sector company plans to import coal from fields in Africa, Australia and elsewhere. But the coal ministry has put in a clause that says CIL can acquire coal assets abroad in joint ventures only with listed companies. There is just no rationale for the restriction. How does it matter whether the company with which CIL or anybody, for that matter, plans a tie-up is listed or not? First of all, several of the large entities abroad in the coal sector are unlisted and so are immediately made off-limits by this restriction. If it was assumed the ministry wanted to ensure compliance with corporate governance, surely that is something a navratna should be able to sort out itself. That it has not been given complete freedom suggests the interests of the company and the nation on the one hand and sections of the policymakers on the other are not the same.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

BOTH GROWTH & INFLATION ARE CONCERNS

INDRANIL PAN

 

The rapidity with which the Indian economy has rebounded has surprised many. Consumer and producer sentiments are upbeat and most estimates indicate that we are headed for 8% growth in the new financial year. Industrial production has been above the 15% mark for the last few months. But this rapid recovery in the economy has also brought forth the challenge of higher inflation. The inflation was mostly supply-driven from the food side but RBI had been consistently echoing a worry that this may soon lead to broader, higher inflationary expectations. Over the last few months, RBI had been placing increasing emphasis on the trends in the ex-food manufactured products inflation to gauge the demand side pressures building up in the economy. And the inflation in this segment has been on the rise over the past few months. In March, after the inflation reading of this group was at 4.22%, RBI lost patience and hiked the reverse repo and repo rates by 25 bps in an intra-policy move, following up on a phased 75 bps increase in the CRR on January 29.

 

The inflation for the ex-food manufactured category has now moved up to 4.72% and is expected to climb higher as domestic steel manufacturers hike prices and economic conditions remain strong. The CPI inflation for industrial workers is even higher, at around 13-14%. And it has been clearly laid out by RBI that the current monetary policy parameters are more akin to a crisis-struck economy than an economy that has rebounded sharply. The real policy interest rate in the Indian economy is also a very high negative of around 6.5-9% depending upon the measure of inflation chosen.

 

Thus, there is unanimity amongst observers of the Indian economy that RBI will continue to adjust policy rates

upwards with headline WPI inflation expected to average at around 7-7.5% in 2010-11. The real debate is on the pace of the adjustment. In my opinion, RBI is already behind the curve, judging by the extent of the negative real interest rate and also the historical pace of adjustments that were employed when headline WPI inflation was as high as it is today. However, it is improper to blame RBI for this as it would have been difficult to justify monetary tightening in an atmosphere of uneven economic growth that was broadly led by fiscal stimulus.

 

Even though the latest IIP growth and headline WPI releases indicate some softening, RBI is unlikely to stop in its tracks. The strategy of RBI is to continue to anchor inflationary expectations and move closer to the neutral zone of monetary policy. I expect RBI to front-load the monetary policy actions in the first-half of the financial year. After reaching the neutral zone of around 4.0-5% on the reverse repo rate, RBI might be seen pausing to assess the implications of its past actions. In my opinion, the global economic dynamics, the dynamics of the foreign capital flows and inflation-growth combine for India will determine the future pace of tightening.

 

However, even as RBI might appear to be behind the curve, it will be difficult to see them hurry too much to play catch-up for the fear of hurting growth, especially in an atmosphere of continuing global uncertainties. Globally risks pertaining to sovereign debt levels exist as do threats to the sustainability of the ongoing growth momentum. Should any of these risks materialise, domestic growth could once again come under pressure. Further, even as broad indications point to a normal monsoon, RBI may be hesitant to push forward aggressive policy rate hikes before a confirmation is obtained on this. Further, growth dynamics from the consumer side indicate that there could still be some hesitation in calling the revival in consumption demand as fully sustainable, especially if interest rates were to be raised aggressively. Private expenditure demand is yet to revive in any significant manner, evident from the still muted growth in non-durable consumer goods and any sharp policy tightening at this juncture may dampen the nascent private expenditure demand.

 

Further, any sharp increase in policy rates could complicate policymaking, especially because it may conflict with RBI's current objective of containing surplus liquidity. Aggressive rate hikes by RBI could attract larger amounts of interest sensitive debt flows, and push for a greater appreciation of the rupee. This is not desirable as the rupee is already overvalued by around 12% and any further appreciation pressure might hurt exports. But, if RBI intervenes to contain the appreciation pressure it will lead to challenges in managing the excess rupee liquidity generated. This is especially as MSS issuances may not be an option with a large supply pressure on central government borrowing.

 

RBI can only afford to take small steps in its attempt to push the policy interest rates to the neutral zone. A gradual tightening of monetary policy is likely to be the best bet at the moment in order to anchor inflation expectations and also provide the needed push to sustain economic growth.

 

The author is chief economist, Kotak Mahindra Bank. These are his personal views

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

RIGHT TO EDUCATION: THE NEXT ACT

JESSICA SEDDON WALLACK


A friend from the US—a teacher, not an India-watcher—wrote to me asking what I thought about the 'exciting' new Right to Education Act. "Well..." I said, not wanting to deflate the enthusiasm, "It's a Right to Go to School and Have a Trained Teacher."

 

Which is nothing to criticise. The act's directive to states to deliver a school and a teacher and for parents to avail of it is important. Access to education infrastructure is a big part of access to knowledge that can transform lives, enable social mobility and ensure that a demographic bulge becomes a demographic dividend. However, the act does not yet guarantee an education, and challenges go beyond the current headline debates about where the rupees will come from. Whether states can afford to provide the infrastructure needed is typical federal jockeying for funding—inevitable and resolvable. States' ability to convert funds to seats, supplies and teacher time may be a constraint, but the act steps up the mandate to solve the problem. Ensuring that children from poor families can afford to be students is also an important challenge that will require innovative ways to identify and target funds to the children and families who are least likely to have formal identification or addresses and may seek to actively evade anti-truancy enforcement. But nothing in the act restrains this innovation and there are numerous examples around the world of ways to lure children into school.

 

The bigger challenge ahead is that the act does little to motivate real returns on these rupees. It includes top-down and bottom-up oversight without fully exploiting the power of either approach to motivate quality education. Although there are opportunities to strengthen the act through some of the 'to-be-notified' policies, it also rules out some of the most powerful motivators for schools and teachers to actually deliver education.

 

The advantage of bottom-up management by parents and local officials is that these groups are likely to be the best able and most motivated to monitor educational quality. The act effectively rules out a major possibility for enabling these stakeholders to act on their knowledge, however, by ruling out voucher-type programmes that could enable poorer parents to vote with their feet. It states that parents who choose 'non-aided' schools shall not be eligible to make a claim for reimbursement and notes that the right to go to school does not extend to the right to go to private schools.

 

There are perfectly good reasons to be cautious in committing public funds to private schools, especially in a context with limited quality control on private education, potential for choice to result in income or caste-based segregation of schools and tricky questions about how to ensure that education remains secular without stifling good schools that happen to have a religious affiliation. But eliminating the possibility rather than leaving it open for consideration and state experimentation (as happens in many other federations) may have been an overkill.

 

The second provision for bottom-up monitoring has no teeth, but some potential. School management committees of local representatives and parents are directed to 'monitor' performance and define school development plans "that shall be the basis for the plans and grants." Short of recommending no grants for low-performing schools (which might, if 'the basis of' is serious, provoke closure and allow transfer to other schools), it is hard to see how these committees have any power to correct schools. The option to have these management committees perform 'any other function that shall be notified' is an opportunity to provide some teeth and must be taken.

 

The act also handicaps top-down monitoring by eliminating ruling out exams for primary school students and barring schools from holding students back or recommending that they go elsewhere for remedial education. These provisions could be rationalised as ways to protect students from stress, inane 'teaching to the test', and retaliatory expulsion, but they also remove the two most commonly used quality-checks on school performance.

 

So, yes, the Right to Education Act is exciting. But more for the next steps that it suggests than for the explicit promises it contains today.

 

The author is director, Centre for Development Finance at the Institute for Financial and Management Research, Chennai

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

UP IN ASH

NIKHILA GILL

 

For the airline industry, emerging from a severe economic downturn, the eruption of a volcano in Iceland and the subsequent disruption caused by it could not have come at a worse time. With only about a third of the transatlantic flights coming into Europe arriving at their destinations, the revival of business on this busy route has come to a halt.

 

In February, the number of passengers for European airlines was up 4.3% over the previous year according to IATA, following which the industry body cut its forecast losses by half to $2.8 billion. However, these projections will need to be reassessed after accounting for losses in excess of $200 million a day and bring to the surface worries about several struggling airlines going under. This situation resonates with the damage wreaked after 9/11 to US carriers that were forced to file for bankruptcy in spite of a $15-billion bailout. The 'ash attack', as it is popularly referred to, has already affected 8 million passengers around the world, resulting in the loss of over $1 billion for airlines. Add to this the costs of airlines, airports, suppliers, freight operators and so on and the losses are projected to be $2 billion, and counting with each day of stoppage of services.

 

The European Commission is already talking about the possibility of a bailout of struggling airlines. It has set up an ad-hoc committee with a view to discuss the waiving of European state aid, allowing EU member states to channel emergency funding to airlines like Ryanair and Aer Lingus that have lost 120 million euro, with their share prices falling 2.4% in an otherwise healthy European stock market. Aeroflot lost 2.1%, while British Airways and Lufthansa fell 3.1% and 4.1%, respectively. In view of this beating taken by airlines, it is important that they devise a contingency plan for natural calamities, barring prospects of government bailouts, by building in safety nets in their account books.

 

Interestingly, the losses incurred by the airline industry have overshadowed the troubles facing airports. They have lost $208 million so far and continue to deal with the chaos, while bearing fixed costs of operation and minimal revenues. Airports also face the additional costs of coping with and making comfortable the estimated 8 million stranded passengers. After successful flight trials with no apparent risk, by Lufthansa, Air Berlin and KLM, airlines' hopes of re-establishing regular business now lie with the powers that be at various national aviation authorities.

 

feedit@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

BEHIND AND BEYOND THAROOR

 

The resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor ends an unsavoury chapter in the politico-cricket scandal set off by his lobbying for the Kochi franchise in the Indian Premier League. Although belated and coming after much false protestation, the resignation may help the Congress and the United Progressive Alliance government blunt some of the Opposition's attacks in Parliament. But it does little to address popular misgivings about misuse of public office by Ministers in search of private advantage. That Mr. Tharoor's "mentoring" of the bid for the franchise ended in a windfall for his partner, Sunanda Pushkar, is not in dispute. Mr. Tharoor allegedly went much further: he is even accused of negotiating the percentage of her 'sweat equity' in the consortium that successfully bid for the franchise, Rendezvous Sports World. Although Ms Pushkar has now offered to surrender her windfall, this does not undo what constitutes, prima facie, a corrupt practice by a public servant prosecutable under Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. Actually, the assignment of free equity to Ms Pushkar suffers from more than one legal infirmity. Under the Companies Act, sweat equity shares are equity shares issued only to employees or directors of a company for consideration other than cash for providing know-how or making available rights in the nature of intellectual property rights or value additions. Further, at the date of the issue of sweat equity shares, not less than one year should have elapsed from the date on which the company was entitled to commence business.

 

But the rot clearly goes beyond Mr. Tharoor and Ms Pushkar to the very core of the IPL. Allegations have been made that the process of bidding for franchises suffered from something like insider trading. There are also conflicts of interest among those serving on the IPL's Governing Council. Chairman and commissioner Lalit Modi certainly did enough to provoke the Income Tax department to carry out a survey on the IPL's funding. The murky practices go hand in hand with a lack of transparency about franchise ownership and sources of funding. With franchise agreements incorporating confidentiality clauses, truth, as happened in the case of the Kochi franchise, is in the open only when a vested interest outs it. There is need for an immediate enquiry or investigation, if necessary by the Central Bureau of Investigation, into Mr. Tharoor's egregious acts of ministerial misconduct. But the interests of justice will be served only if this goes beyond the Kochi franchise into the layers of corrupt and questionable practices involving big business and powerful politicians in Indian cricket's money-spinning, iconic show.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

GOING AFTER GOLDMAN SACHS

 

On April 16, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil suit against the world-renowned investment bank Goldman Sachs, alleging fraud; if intentional fraud emerges, the case could be sent to criminal prosecutors. This is the first time the regulator has taken action against a Wall Street institution for capitalising on the collapse of the U.S. housing market, which triggered the global economic crisis in 2008. Specifically, the SEC accuses Goldman Sachs of failing to tell customers that investments offered by the bank were supported by very risky mortgages in an already overpriced U.S. housing market. Its officials also contend that the investor John Paulson had influenced the bank's selection of these investments because he knew they were bad risks, and that the bank had failed to tell customers of this. Mr. Paulson, who is not being sued, made billions of dollars himself by betting that the loans in question would fail. Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs is alleged to have profited from bets on those loans and marketed the same packages aggressively. The entities that bought into the scheme, named Abacus 2007-AC1, were mainly foreign banks and pension funds; they lost about a billion dollars.

 

By current Wall Street standards, the sums involved are small. The SEC will also have to prove their case in the courts against what will surely be a fierce defence. The repercussions, however, are very extensive. The regulators may now investigate the packages other Wall Street institutions are offering. Public money is involved too. The American International Group, AIG, insured Goldman Sachs over some of the Abacus deals, and received a $180 billion taxpayer bailout when the investments crashed. Moral questions will arise over the fact that Mr. Paulson, and possibly the banks involved, saw nothing wrong in selling financial packages which they knew were unsafe and against which they and others could then bet. Furthermore, in 2000, the U.S. Congress eliminated, with the Commodities Futures Modernization Act, key protections against the kinds of things alleged in the Goldman case. Some liken this to allowing the unscrupulous to buy fire insurance on other people's houses. There is no doubting the rising public anger against Wall Street, but it is still not certain that Congress will pass stronger regulatory laws. As Nobel laureate Paul Krugman points out, many Republican members of Congress claim to be against taxpayer bailouts, but are actually colluding with Wall Street lobbyists to block regulation that would prevent future collapses.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

MEMORIES OF ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER AGE

AN ACCOUNT OF HOW THE HINDU'S COVERAGE OF THE SHARPEVILLE AND LANGA MASSACRES IN 1960 INSPIRED A YOUNG MAN IN A DISTANT INDIAN TOWN TO BECOME THE NEWSPAPER'S SOUTH AFRICAN CORRESPONDENT YEARS LATER.

M.S. PRABHAKARA

 

Some snippets of news and comments that appeared 50 years ago in this newspaper and reproduced in the column, This Day That Age, stirred up the dim memories of a man who, in his early twenties and working in Dharwad, Mysore State (as Karnataka was then known), was affected by the events in a distant land. The paper was not readily available in Dharwad those days. One bought a day-old copy at the Railway station bookstall.

 

The impact also rekindled older memories of listening some time in 1952 to A.K. Gopalan speak on preventive detention and the Telangana uprising at the intermediate college at Kolara town — then even smaller than it is now — which experience drew the lad of 16 away from the cesspit of rank reaction into which he would have irretrievably tumbled. Further spurred by the somewhat confused reading of serious political literature in the university library as part of research work, there began a process of political education that is still going on.

 

Those initial stirrings also marked the beginning of an involvement that eventually led, in a manner never anticipated or even imagined half-a-century ago, to a stay of eight years in the distant land, reporting for this newspaper. I refer to my stint as the correspondent of The Hindu in South Africa, based in Johannesburg and Cape Town, between 1994 and 2001 — the culmination of my career as a working journalist.

 

The events recalled in these brief extracts are the Sharpeville massacres of March 21, 1960. Sixty-nine black Africans were shot dead that morning in the black township, 35 miles south of Johannesburg, in just two minutes of sustained firing on unarmed marchers protesting against the oppressive Pass Laws that restricted them from moving freely within the country of their birth. Unlike the Soweto massacres that began on June 16, 1976 as a protest by schoolchildren against the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction and became an uprising that persisted for over a year, with over 600 killed, the Sharpeville massacres were of a briefer duration. However, they were not limited to that particular day or township. While 69 persons were shot dead in Sharpeville, similar protests leading to police firing and death took place in Langa in Cape Town, and other black townships.

 

The reporting in this newspaper covered, to the extent one can recall what one read 50 years ago and from the snippets reproduced over 10 issues of the paper (March 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30 and April 1, 3 and 9), most of these issues and their aftermath, domestically and internationally. The first item appeared in the issue of March 23, 1960, two days after the massacre, under the headline, "Riots in S. Africa." It reported that the police had fired on the Africans who had gathered in the "riot-torn streets of Langa Township near Cape Town on March 22…" The report referred primarily to the violence in Langa.

 

The March 21 killings at Sharpeville (the name is not mentioned) were reported as the result of "clashes" in which "the police said 66 Africans were killed and 186 injured." The report also noted that the demonstrations against the Pass Law had been called by the Pan-Africanist Congress. However, it does not mention that the PAC tried to upstage and pre-empt the call by the African National Congress to launch protest demonstrations against the Pass laws on March 31. The PAC, which emerged from within the ranks of the ANC, was seen as a more 'radical' and 'Africanist' alternative to the ANC, which, in the PAC's view, had been taken over by the "Communists and Indians" — often one and the same in its perspective then. Nelson Mandela, who, after Sharpeville, left the country 'illegally' and was travelling in many African countries, was surprised to see that most of their leaders had unquestioningly bought into the PAC rhetoric.

 

Jawaharlal Nehru's speech in Parliament on March 23, "Nehru condemns massacres (March 24)," reads truly prophetic. He described Sharpeville (the name still missing in the newspaper's report) as an event that "affected the course of history," an episode that reminded him powerfully of what happened in Jalianwala Bagh 41 years ago. "I do not imagine that this large-scale killing and even more so the spirit behind it, the spirit of racial mastery, authoritarianism [one of the earliest instances of this usage in Indian political vocabulary], spirit of segregation, and treating the great majority of the people as an inferior race and sub-human species, can ever be accepted not only by them but by hundreds of millions in Africa and therefore this seems to be on the verge of more serious happenings, if not now, in the immediate future." The report next day, still referring to "serious anti-pass riots" and still not mentioning Sharpeville, refers to the day of mourning called by the ANC, though a major part of the report deals with Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd's warning of "serious measures" against the protesters.

 

The warning of impending "serious measures" was an event foretold, for the very next day (March 26), as The Hindu reported under the heading "S. Africa Govt. ban," came the apartheid regime's steps that would enable it to ban the ANC, the PAC and other organisations. Interestingly, the fig leaf of 'legality' was still maintained. What was contemplated was the introduction of a Bill in Parliament that would empower the Governor-General to proclaim such a ban in the Government Gazette, not a ban by an executive fiat. This too was a prophecy foretold, for on April 1 ("Emergency in S. Africa," April 3) the apartheid regime extended the state of emergency that was imposed immediately in the wake of Sharpeville to 31 more magisterial districts. The newspaper reported in two subsequent issues (March 27 and 29) the mobilisation of international opinion against the apartheid regime by the "Afro-Asian group in the U.N." (the word 'Afro' then carried a political meaning, unlike now) and much larger protest demonstrations in the Trafalgar Square, London, then as now housing the South African mission in Britain. The report on March 29 referred specifically to both Sharpeville and Langa for the first time. The demonstrations were to grow bigger, and also get confrontational, as the "hard apartheid" became the norm. Not surprisingly, the people were not cowed down by this prospect, for there was another report, "Violence in S. Africa," the following day (March 30) that spoke of the persistence of violence in several parts of the country. In Cape Town, the paper reported, the police used teargas and batons, and burst warning shots against a crowd of Africans stoning buses and cars.Another forum where international opinion was sought to be mobilised against the apartheid regime was the U.N. and its structures. The newspaper reported on April 1 ("S. Africa situation") the speech by India's Permanent Representative at the U.N. Security Council, C.S. Jha, seeking urgent action by the Security Council. Jha told the UNSC that it owed it to itself and to humanity to "act decisively and save the world from the grave danger of a conflagration," not the first instance where in the UNSC words never broke bones. The report noted that although India was not a member of the Security Council, it was allowed to speak on request as one of the 29 African and Asian countries that had signed the letter to the UNSC President. The pattern of Indian involvement in U.N. debates on the South African situation that began when India had not even formally attained freedom was to continue till South Africa became free, though a certain tepidness marked the Indian interest between Mr. Mandela's release and his becoming President of South Africa.In these times of instant wisdom, it is difficult to imagine the impact these reports had on a young man in a small town hungering for something without a clear idea of what he wanted. These reports, one recalls, gave one a sense of some direction; but the search was to involve studying harder texts, and a hands-on experience of the grimy social reality. That story belongs to other realms, other times. And yet, one is grateful to the newspaper and its nameless reporters who provided a glimpse of a world and a society that remain even now a primary intellectual and political preoccupation.

 

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THE HINDU

THE SOURCE OF EUROPE'S CONSTERNATION

KIRK SEMPLE

 

Like the volcano that erupted last week, Iceland seems to have awoken from centuries of quietude with a determination to spread its fallout all over Europe.

 

In the fall of 2008, it suffered an economic implosion so spectacular that the noise somehow rose above the worldwide din of financial calamity, leaving Icelanders with $5.4 billion in IOUs to British and Dutch depositors. Now, of course, the large continent to the east is once again feeling this underpopulated island's outsized effect in the form of the enormous volcanic ash cloud that has snarled air traffic throughout Europe and beyond.

 

"It seems we're getting pretty good at exporting our disasters," said Egill Helgason, a political commentator and host of a well-respected political talk show. "I think people might get funny ideas about Iceland." But, he quickly added, "We're not to blame for an eruption."

 

While they are careful not to appear to take pleasure in this latest bout of troubles, Icelanders have met the volcanic eruption mostly with a collective sigh of relief. The financial meltdown may have shattered Iceland's reputation as a place of Nordic rectitude and caused deep soul-searching among its leadership and citizens, but this crisis — they gladly point out — was not one of their own making.

 

Iceland has been largely spared the worst effects of the eruption, at the Eyjafjallajokull glacier on the island's southern coast, with the prevailing winds carrying most of the ash abroad. And except for farmers in the sparsely populated area around the glacier, whose land was flooded by melting glacier water, or blanketed with ash, the direct impacts have been minimal.

 

In Reykjavik, the air has been clear, the sea breezes clean and life has gone on more or less as normal. "They picked a clever spot for the capital," Helgason said wryly.

 

While air traffic from Reykjavik to Europe was curtailed most of the week, flights between Iceland and the rest of the world remained on schedule. "It's interesting: We haven't felt any ash," said Ossur Skarphedinsson, the foreign minister, during a late-afternoon drive around the capital on Saturday. He grinned and then, taking his hands off the wheel and turning his palms upward in a mock-dramatic gesture of appeal, he blurted: "What should I say, 'I'm sorry'?"

 

Skarphedinsson and other Icelandic politicians do not try to conceal their resentment toward the British government for its use of terrorism laws to freeze the Icelandic banks' assets during the financial crisis in 2008. But if they are feeling any schadenfreude in Britain's suffering, it has been well concealed, cropping up only in jokes that have been making the rounds here.

 

One, perhaps told with more glee by Icelanders than by mainland Europeans, has Iceland misunderstanding what Europe was requesting: "We wanted cash," Europe says, "not ash."

 

Another: It was the last wish of the Icelandic economy that its ashes be spread over Europe.

 

The volcanic eruption has been such a nonfactor for most Icelanders that, after a day or two, attention quickly shifted back to the other prevailing domestic topic du jour: the continuing political fallout from the financial crisis.

Last Monday, a special investigative committee released a much-anticipated report that analysed events in the nation's public and private sectors that led to the bank failures. The report, which ran more than 2,300 pages, accused seven government officials, including the former prime minister and the former head of the central bank, of acting with "negligence" in their oversight of the financial sector.

 

The findings prompted three members of parliament to take leaves of absence pending the outcome of a parliamentary review of the report. More are expected.

 

"We thought we were living in this well-ordered society, a respected member of the Nordic countries, stable, well-organised, well-behaved, deeply democratic and certainly not corrupt," Jon Baldvin Hannibalsson, a former foreign affairs minister and ambassador to Washington said in an interview on Sunday. "This investigation showed a totally different picture."

 

It may seem to outsiders that Iceland has leapt on to the world stage, but Icelanders say otherwise. Sparsely populated with about 310,000 residents, they say it has long had a streak of influence elsewhere far out of proportion to its economic power or population. Settled in the ninth century by Norsemen, it was, for several centuries thereafter, a zone of experimentation in radical free market economics known as the Icelandic Free State, with no taxes, no police or army and certainly no bureaucrats.

 

It was those settlers' descendants — spiritually, at least, and known, unflatteringly, as "the Vikings" — who ran all over the globe in the last decade brokering wild, overleveraged deals that led to the crash in 2008.

 

And this latest volcanic cloud is not the first to settle over Europe. In 1783, volcanic activity in Iceland cast a persistent haze over western Europe and is believed by some historians to have contributed to conditions that helped incite the French Revolution six years later.

 

But Icelanders, wise after centuries of living among exploding volcanoes, say that Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced EY-ya-fyat-lah-YO-kut) could be thrust front and centre in their lives and become a far bigger problem with a slight shift in the wind toward the west and Reykjavik, where most of the country's people live.

 

Many conversations here about the volcano and its import eventually seem to migrate to Katla, a far more powerful volcano on Iceland's southern coast just east of Eyjafjallajokull. Scientists fear that the recent volcanic activity at Eyjafjallajokull could set off Katla, which erupts on average about twice a century, the last time in 1918 when it set off dangerous glacial floods.

 

Hallgrimur Helgason, a novelist and artist, said that with the recent political and geological events, the true character of the nation and its land has been on full display.

 

Nature in Iceland, he said, is "harsh" and "full of surprises" and the national psyche has been moulded by that.

 

"You never know what's going to happen," he said. "There's never a dull moment in Iceland." — ©2010 New York Times News Service

 

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THE HINDU

INDIAN ART GOES GLOBAL

THERE IS A STRONG DEMAND FOR NEW ART FROM YOUNG AND ESTABLISHED INDIAN ARTISTS ALIKE, SAYS PETER SUMNER, INDIAN ART SPECIALIST AT PHILLIPS DE PURY.

 

On April 23, new works of Indian contemporary art will be auctioned at London's prestigious Saatchi Gallery with those from other BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia and China — in what has been billed as a "celebration" of a renewed phase of creativity in these countries in the wake of their economic success. The event, it is claimed, confirms the increasing globalisation of Indian art which is seeing a surge in sales in the international market. While critics say it is a marketing-driven bubble prompted by the hype over India's new global status, Peter Sumner , Indian art specialist at Phillips de Pury, the auction house behind the sales, insists that the interest is "real" and here to stay.

 

He talks to Hasan Suroor about the event and where Indian art is headed globally.

 

Western auction houses and art galleries appear to have become suddenly interested in contemporary Indian art in the past few years. How much of this interest is real and how much does it have to do with aggressive marketing that has followed the opening of Indian markets and the hype over the country's new economic status?

The interest from collectors, galleries and institutions is very real. With the increasing globalisation of contemporary art market, collectors, curators and auction houses have over the last few years turned their attentions to art from 'emerging economies.' It is undoubtedly true that creative output goes hand in hand with a strong economic upturn in a region. Lately, there have been major Indian shows in London and their success indicates that this interest is here to stay.

 

How big is the international market for Indian art today, especially in Europe? How much has it expanded over the past ten years and who are the main buyers? Is it confined mostly to rich Indian expatriates?

The buyers for Indian contemporary art are becoming increasingly global. Without question, there is always a strong trend among collectors to buy art from their own country as this art is often most relevant to their background, society and context. However, top Indian contemporary artists such as T.V Santhosh, Atil Dodiya, Thukral and Thagra and Jitish Kallat employ techniques and explore themes that appeal to the global western audience, whilst maintaining an inherent Indian quality. In the past ten years, contemporary Indian art market has changed beyond recognition. International galleries are now operating out of Mumbai, Delhi, Berlin, London and New York while auction houses regularly offer Indian art within the context of western contemporary art sales. This has undoubtedly helped to internationalise the collector- base.

 

There is a view that Indian art is riding a market-driven bubble and would not long last. This happened with Indian writing in English which became hugely popular in the west in the late 1980s and mid-1990s but the honeymoon is now over.

The Indian contemporary art market experienced remarkable growth in 2007 and 2008. Indian art became available on the international stage and was offered in auctions in London and New York. Buyers were a mix of collectors — those looking for the latest in Indian art, and speculators buying it as investment. With the global recession also affecting the art market in 2009 there were substantial downward price corrections. Some could argue that the price bubble did burst in 2009. However, these price corrections helped to stabilise the market and have now allowed investors and collectors alike to re-enter the market at affordable and sustainable levels. At Phillips de Pury we have continued to experience strong demand for the most interesting fresh and exciting new art from young and established Indian artists alike.

 

Where does the Indian art sell more?

Indian art is collected mainly locally and by western art collectors and institutions.

 

Is there a certain kind of Indian art that sells more? Who are the biggest selling Indian artists today?

There is a stable of young contemporary artists who have truly established themselves as a force to reckon with on the international art scene. The appeal of these artists comes in my experience from their ability to accurately document the massive, social and economic changes associated with the modern 'globalised' India. In Kallat's 'Untitled Eclipse' (a part of our BRIC sales), the artist creates a billboard sized canvas reminiscent of the many advertising billboards that have sprung up in the major Indian cities. The orange sunrays provide the backdrop to four smiling children, pointing the way to a bright new Indian future for India's youngest generation. Although malnourished and dressed in rags, their smiles betray an altogether darker, more unsettling existence, a reality in which these dispossessed youths are unlikely to benefit from the widening social and economic gap between the rich and poor. Similarly, Subodh Gupta, in 'Idol Thief,' is able to transform everyday objects, pots, pans, milk buckets into recognisable trademarks that reflect the great changes that are happening in India today. It is this social commentary that collectors and buyers relate to and recognise.

 

How much has the global market for Indian art grown since economic liberalisation? Has it lived up to expectations?

In 2008, auction sales of Indian art raised nearly $24 million globally with Subodh Gupta breaking the $1 million barrier for the first time. This was the culmination of rapid growth of the global market for Indian art market following economic liberalisation in India. After large adjustments in the market place during 2009 India is once again becoming a focus point for the international art market — and is continuing to live up to the expectations. Confidence in long-term sustained growth is the dominant sentiment in the contemporary Indian art market. Buying is from India, U.K,, Europe and the U.S. with corporate institutions also playing their part within the context of contemporary Indian art sales.

 

What does the future look like for Indian art globally?

With prices returned to attractive levels and with the Indian economy predicted to grow at a faster rate than the more established western economies, now is an ideal time to buy Indian contemporary art. Despite the recession, contemporary Indian art has continued to capture the imagination of the International collecting audience. Major exhibitions in London and the inclusion of some of the leading Indian contemporary artists in western gallery shows prove that Indian art is now able to stand shoulder to shoulder with its more established western counterparts on the global stage. Indian contemporary art market should see sensible sustainable growth in the years to come.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THAROOR'S EXIT WAS INEVITABLE

 

What started off with a bang ended, ingloriously, with a tweet. Shashi Tharoor, acclaimed writer, longtime international civil servant, India's candidate for UN Secretary-General, and suave new-age Internet-savvy politician, finally had to depart under a cloud after a rocky 10 months, lurching from one crisis to another, as India's junior foreign minister.


It was perhaps his needless dabbling in efforts to cobble up an IPL team for Kochi that finally sealed his fate. Without doubt, as Thiruvananthapuram's representative in the Lok Sabha, Mr Tharoor had every right to take more than a passing interest in getting a cricket franchise for his home state. But mentoring appears too inadequate a description of what he allegedly did. The disclosure that his friend Sunanda Pushkar was given free "sweat" equity worth around Rs 70 crores by the franchise owners created a cloud of suspicion, which soon darkened into a storm rattling the government and the Congress Party. Mr Tharoor's considerable communication skills weren't much help in his efforts to prove there was no hanky panky: the facts were too stark for the novelist to be able to obfuscate with a play of words, and carry conviction. The Opposition, unsurprisingly, smelt blood, while all that the Congress could smell was trouble. Ms Pushkar's ill-advised last-minute damage control — sacrificing her free equity, and dissociating from the franchise at the eleventh hour — made things worse for Mr Tharoor. It only appeared to lend credence to the Opposition's allegations.
By the time the Congress core committee met on Sunday evening, it was evident that Mr Tharoor was on the way out. It was evident that Congress president Sonia Gandhi did not want the party to exert itself in defending a minister mired in a controversy, which might get even worse in the days ahead. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had allowed Mr Tharoor a lot of leeway when he got into earlier scrapes, had no choice but to ask him to go.


Mr Tharoor's exit signals the souring of a great promise — of a well-educated new-age politician giving a wide berth to sleaze. Mr Tharoor, who was to exemplify the New India and show others the way, instead invited trouble almost from the start. Soon after taking over, he embarrassed the government then in the middle of an austerity drive by staying at a five-star hotel suite costing Rs 40,000 a day. After that, it was one controversy after another — from ridiculing the austerity measures with his "cattle class" remark, mocking the policies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to openly criticising the government's new visa guidelines. It almost seemed he could not let go of any issue without a foot-in-the-mouth comment. Worse, many of these smacked of elitism, something that politicians in any democracy should avoid like the plague for their own good. He also appeared to exude an air of contempt for the khadi-clad brigade, so it was really no surprise that when IPL commissioner Lalit Modi set a trap for him through a tweet (could there be a greater irony?), he found himself virtually friendless in the Congress, both at the national level and in his home state. The MP who won the Thiruvananthapuram seat with a one lakh-plus majority less than a year ago could not generate even a single demonstration in his favour in his constituency in the past one week.


Mr Tharoor held out great promise when he joined the government in 2009; but today hardly a tear will be shed over his departure. In Machiavellian terms, his downfall holds practical survival lessons for other new-age politicians — don't act too smart, and remember that those who project themselves as a cut above the rest will surely be cut to size.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THAILAND IN CRISIS

 

The ongoing political crisis in Thailand has been capturing headlines for some time now, and now it appears to be heading towards some kind of climax. This political instability reflects more than the resistance of the existing establishment to the increasingly vociferous demands of those who have been marginalised from most of the benefits. It also reinforces the significance of (and the need for) democratic legitimacy in a developing country such as Thailand, despite all the known problems with its electoral process.


But the purely political is not all that underlies this current crisis. Indeed, it could be argued that the economic underpinnings of this political crisis are the more significant forces propelling the actions of the anti-government protesters. This reflects the socio-political results of more than a decade in which the neo-liberal economic model, which still drives the policy-making of the elite, has been fundamentally exposed among the people.


The conflict between the current Thai government (as well as those elements of the establishment that directly and indirectly enabled this particular political grouping to rule) and the wide spectrum of anti-government protesters is not simply about certain political processes or about individuals like Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former Prime Minister. Rather, it is substantially about economic policy. As Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker have shown in their excellent book on Thaksin (Thaksin: The Business Of Politics In Thailand), he was (and remains) a larger-than-life figure with only too lifelike faults, which have ranged from blatant nepotism to megalomaniac attempts at stifling democracy. So the support for his return is not only (or even necessarily) because of the craving for a strong leader, but much more due to the perception that the economic strategies followed by his government brought at least some relief to the people.


The continued popularity of Thaksin among the peasants and otherwise unorganised workers is largely because of what the Thai elite sniffs away as "populist policies". This term is a favourite among chattering classes across the developing world, used to denigrate any economic policies with minimally redistributive impact from the rich and middle classes to the poor. In Thaksin's case, these included providing peasants and small businesses with access to institutional finance, increasing the share of rural Thailand in public expenditure, providing fiscal transfers down to the village level in the form of untied funds to be used according to the preferences of local communities, and such like. While these did not contradict or even challenge the basic neo-liberal framework within which corporate industry continued to be favoured, they share some of the spoils of economic growth with those who had hitherto been excluded. They were certainly popular policies, and they played a role in giving to Thaksin and his various political formations a degree of legitimacy among ordinary people that is still unmatched in Thailand.


While many of Thaksin's actions in power (and his own undemocratic tendencies) certainly sowed the seeds of his decline and fall from grace, the coup and various other actions of the Thai establishment could also be seen as the empire striking back. The subsequent inability of the government to capture the political imagination of the masses, or even to achieve basic legitimacy despite trying to continue with some of Thaksin's economic policies, may be due to the growing evidence that even such "populism" is no longer economically sustainable in Thailand.


To understand this, and also to begin to comprehend the extent of general dissatisfaction with the economic regime, it is useful to examine the relationship between economic growth and employment (which determines the material conditions of the bulk of the Thai population, even the peasantry). Thailand, in common with many developing countries, is generally a labour surplus economy engaged in an uneven and unbalanced process of industrialisation. Yet aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates have run far ahead of aggregate employment growth, even when the measure of employment includes all form of self-employment, casual work and even part-time work.


The period of the Asian crisis occasioned a drop in GDP as well as in aggregate employment, but the subsequent sharp recovery in GDP did not translate in more rapid employment growth, which has tended to stagnate. Employment growth has been volatile around a declining trend, and was negative in several years even when aggregate output did not fall. While open unemployment rates may appear low, they are part of an institutional structure that offers no social protection to the unemployed, where the inability to find paid work is therefore reflected in more disguised unemployment in agriculture and petty services.


The pattern is a recognisable one. Many developing countries, including those perceived to be the most successful in terms of output growth rates, exhibit this form of jobless growth. This reflects two general tendencies: a shift in production structure across and within sectors, whereby income expansion is associated for demand for goods and services produced in more capital-intensive conditions without generating demand for labour-intensive goods and services; and the associated technological and organisational changes that improve labour productivity.


Overall, this means a labour market in which workers are clearly worse off, since both external competitiveness issues and internal dynamics have dictated that demand for labour does not keep up with supply. This reduced bargaining power is indicated by the fact that real wages — which were drastically affected during the crisis of 1997-98 — continued to fall even during the recovery, and then have recovered only slightly. In 2008, real wages were only five per cent higher than their level of 2000, while labour productivity had increased by 22 per cent.


So the distribution of national income has shifted away from workers (and peasants) to those who receive profit, rent and interest. The anger of the anti-government protesters is fundamentally related to this process, and Thaksin is appreciated by this group only because he showed that it is still possible at the margins to improve the lot of the poor using fiscal and monetary policies. Therefore, to a significant extent, this particular political struggle has gone beyond Thaksin and specific parties to address basic issues of economic and political democratisation. If such a tendency increases in other countries where similar economic patterns are in evidence, such upheavals may become widespread.

 

By Jayati Ghosh

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE WAR GAME

 

Way back in 1945, US President Harry S. Truman could not possibly have imagined the furore his home-spun slogan in working American-English would cause almost 70 years later, half a world away in India. But that is exactly what was sparked off by the Union home minister P. Chidambaram's press statements using the imagery of President Truman to convey his dissatisfaction at the prevailing situation in Maoist-infested Lalgarh and the western districts of the state after his recent meeting with the chief minister of West Bengal in Kolkata. The visit, ostensibly for the purpose of mutual consultations at the highest level between Central and state governments, predictably developed into counter-battery salvos of accusatory media bytes, highlighting yet again the faultlines of competitive politics even during a time of a growing emergency, when Central and state governments are ranged against each other during a pre-election year.


A war of words can turn extremely lethal at very short notice, and Mr Chidambaram's intemperate rhetoric about the "cowards in the jungle" drew an immediate response from the Naxalites the very next day. Eleven personnel of the Special Operations Group of the Orissa Police were killed in a landmine explosion enroute to Malkangiri, followed within a short span by the annihilation of an entire company of 62 CRPF  (Central Reserve Police Force) in an immaculately planned and executed ambush in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, eerily reminiscent in many ways of the Viet Minh described in The Street Without Joy, Bernard B. Fall's classic portrayal of the twilight years of the French colonial presence in Indo-China in the 1950s. In fact, it may perhaps even be time to speculate uneasily whether India has acquired its own home-grown Vo Nguyen Giap from the ranks of Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in the jungles of Abujmarh?


Mr Chidambaram accepted full responsibility for the debacle at Dantewada and the 76 dead of the ill-fated CRPF company, by declaring that this time around "the buck stops here", with him, and offered to resign, reviving a tradition of governance long forgotten in this country. But the question nevertheless arises — what should he have resigned over, operational failure of the CRPF or his own overblown rhetoric?
Mr Chidambaram is said to be personally involved with the campaign against the Maoists, but the policy being executed by his ministry is totally indirect and passive, with no place for high-profile individual flourishes. Anti-Maoist operations have been decentralised to state governments, with the Union home ministry opting for the stand-off role of a supporting agency, mainly concerned with allocating additional resources of Central paramilitary forces.


It is overall a hugely flawed, unviable and visibly failing strategy to cope with a massive politico- and socio-military problem extending over seven to 10 states and 200-odd districts across the country, which demands coordinated Central planning and execution, including a large administrative and developmental component. The situation calls for a far more pro-active and coordinated strategy led by the Centre, which must assume the direct responsibility for "stopping the buck" instead of passing it entirely to the chief ministers of states, who have been generally unsuccessful so far in meeting the challenge of insurgency on their respective home turfs.
Assessing the report of the Kargil Committee way back in 1999, the Group of Ministers had recommended the CRPF to be the lead internal security force in the country, something on the lines of the French National Gendarmerie. This has not been achieved to the requisite extent so far, because besides training, equipment, logistics support and human resources, the heart of any putative "army" is its corporate ethos and tradition of combatant leadership, at the cutting-edge level of its units and subunits, something which cannot be plucked fully grown off the nearest tree, but has to be assiduously nurtured and developed over years by a long and intensive process of personal example and leadership. This has failed to catch on adequately in the CRPF, whose command structure has adopted a police ethos of remaining detached and uninvolved with their commands, after parceling them out to the state police.


Does the killing ground of Dantewada indicate that the main force companies of the Maoist People's Liberation Guerilla Army (PLGA) have become a match for the CRPF? Also the inevitable $64 million question — is it time to call in the Indian Army for anti-Naxalite operations? To the first question — the possibility is too grim to even contemplate. The CRPF is a well organised and well-equipped constabulary, far superior in this respect to any of its possible adversaries, but it will remain less than fully effective unless allowed to be professionally trained, led, handled and deployed under its own commanders, in its own "main force" tactical groupings and not parcelled out in penny-packets as is generally the case at present.


To the second question, embedding the Indian Army in anti-Naxalite operations in the heartland of the country for an indefinite period, far from its projected operational locations against the external threat is a very bad idea indeed, an act of strategic self-immolation that would cause great joy to our enemies.


It should be noted that throughout the entire counter-insurgency against the Taliban, Pakistan has never allowed its overall strategic focus on India as the main enemy to be diluted, and has committed its resources accordingly, primarily utilising the paramilitary Frontier Corps (supported by tanks, artillery, and air power) for the task, leaving the Pakistan Army free to focus on its operational role against India.
Deployment of the Rashtriya Rifles, which is part of the Indian Army, or the Assam Rifles, which has Army leadership, could be considered, provided they can be relieved of their operational commitments in an increasingly restive Kashmir and the Northeast, and the many associated issues of operations, logistics, and particularly command and control resolved satisfactorily.


By Shankar RoychowdhuryGen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE POWER OF THOUGHT

Yoga is a subject of energy, or prana, which manifests in various permutations and combinations to form every aspect of creation. Many thousand years ago the Vedic rishis had harnessed this energy to decipher the mysteries of this creation, only to be rediscovered and reinvented by modern science.

In 1905, Albert Einstein revealed to the world E = mc2, or that everything in this creation is nothing but energy. The law of conservation of energy, the basis of thermodynamics, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it can only be transformed from one form to the other. In this sense, everything in the creation is energy, and since energy cannot be created, everything is pre-created. The only dynamics thus is transformation.

What spurs this transformation? Our ancestors identified this as the thought. Energy follows thought. The atom bomb was first a thought, a desire to create a device for mass destruction. Similarly, an aeroplane too was first conceived as a desire to be able to fly. In fact, the entire creation is nothing but a manifestation of a single thought — the desire to experience. This thought led to the emergence of Mata Adi Shakti from whom emerged the Tridev and their three consorts. Such is the power of thought.

A thought is an action unleashed, what manifests thereupon is an equal and opposite reaction. Each one of us through our thoughts, actions and deeds constantly creates ripples and gets tied into the reactions of those ripples into more ripples. This was realised by the Vedic masters as the Law of Karma. Newton's law of action and reaction is no different.

Interestingly, however, thoughts too are not created. They exist in space and we just happen to catch them depending on our individual frequencies, our state of being. One cannot expect a hungry man to think about restoring peace on earth! His thoughts would be driven by the desire to procure food. Our thoughts, thus, are governed by desire. The purpose of Yoga is to still the thoughts from desires, chitt vritti nirodh, through certain purifications as prescribed in the Sanatan Kriya.

It is the thoughts and desires that tie one to the individual consciousness. Once these disturbances are removed, the being becomes one with the supreme consciousness. A yogi is then able to channelise the energy of the Divine through self. However, a yogi does not use this energy for personal gains, his purpose becomes that of higher creation. Have you ever seen the sun asking for remuneration for its services? Conversely, if the sun starts rationing its energy according to individual capacity, would it exude the same brilliance? So is true for a yogi. If he is in yog, he will radiate the same attraction and glow, and not put a fee on spreading the light of gyan.
By Yogi Ashwini

Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting. Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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DNA

EDITORIAL

THAROOR'S EXIT

 

The exit of Shashi Tharoor from the government as minister of state for external affairs may not be the end of his little dalliance with politics.

 

But it could provide him an interlude to reflect on the weird demands of public life.

 

An accomplished writer and former diplomat, Tharoor came into politics carrying the hopes and dreams of many middle class Indians who want to see "people like us" enter the murky cesspool of politics.

 

According to some accounts, Tharoor was a competent minister — he did the work assigned to him and he did not keep files pending.

 

But from the beginning, he seemed obsessed with informing the world how clever he was — with both thoughts and words.

 

Not for him the "intellectual arrogance" which his colleague Union home minister P Chidambaram has been accused of.

 

Tharoor found his metier in little witticisms, aimed at his adoring fans.

 

But when he entered the fascinating world of running and financing the Indian Premier League (IPL), Tharoor seemed to have been let down by both his ignorance about the cesspool of politics as well as by his own cleverness.

 

It is one thing to send out tweets about holy cows and admonish those who do not have a sense of humour. It is quite another to help your friends and relatives make a few bucks in a blatant manner without employing all the cover-up mechanisms available to politicians in India.

 

If Tharoor was serious about encouraging cricket in Kerala, perhaps he should have concentrated on the state's cricket association — as everyone else from Sharad Pawar to Narendra Modi has done — before he ventured into the IPL and Lalit Modi's fiefdom.

 

It would be naive on anyone's part to assume that the running of cricket in India is not a minefield of politics

and murky dealings.

 

But that is another story.

 

For Tharoor, this episode is something of an object lesson on how not to operate as a minister.

 

He has embarrassed his party and his government and he has handed a handy little stick to the opposition with which to beat him and his party. Obviously, under the circumstances, he had to go.

 

Some may rue the fact that an intelligent, well-spoken and capable man has been removed from his job. But those attributes are clearly not enough.

 

To survive you have to know the rules of the game and Tharoor, it seems, just did not bother to learn them.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

TOP OF THE PYRAMID

 

Management gurus are known to dish out models and theories by the busload. Very rarely do these find a mention outside the academic community.

 

And even more rarely are they put to use.

 

Coimbatore Krishnarao Prahalad, who died last Saturday, was an exception that proved this rule.

 

In May, 1990, along with Gary Hamel, he wrote his path-breaking article 'The Core Competence of a Corporation' in the Harvard Business Review.

 

The basic insight was that a company cannot to do too many things at the same time successfully.Now that might seem rather obvious.

 

But those were the days when the Japanese conglomerates were handling everything from electronics to banking under one umbrella.

 

They were ruling the world, and giving corporate America a ride for its money.

 

Of course, the Japanese bubble burst in the early 1990s and Prahalad was right about doing the few basic things right rather than being all over the place.

 

Within the US, the only big surviving conglomerate now is General Electric and even here a major portion of the profits used to come from the finance division till the financial crisis struck.

 

But Prahalad was not a one-trick pony. At the turn of the century, he started to talk about the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid.

 

The prevailing assumption till then was that people in the emerging markets who earned as less as $2 a day did not have the purchasing power like individuals in developed countries.

 

Fair point.However, what these people lacked in per capita income they more than made up in their numbers, felt Prahalad.

 

To prove his point he compared prices in Dharavi, a Mumbai slum, to prices in the upmarket Warden Road (now known as Bhulabhai Desai road).

 

And he concluded that the "poverty penalty in Dharavi can be as high as 5 to 25 times what the rich pay for the same services." He pointed out: "… the poor in Dharavi pay 600 to 1,000% interest for credit from local moneylenders." If banks were to enter this market and even charge 25% per year interest people would be happy to pay.

 

Indian corporates like Nirma, with its low-price detergent, and Cavin Care, which first started selling shampoo in Re1 sachets, had already proved that such a market existed.

 

What Prahalad did was give what was already happening the respectability of a theory which big business could learn from.

 

When it came to cutting-edge ideas, Prahalad clearly was at the top of the pyramid.

 

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DNA

FARCICAL ARMS CONTROL

HARSH V PANT

 

US president Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitri Medvedev signed their new arms control pact — the new the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (Start) — in Prague earlier this month.

 

The pact cut the limits on deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each from the 2,200 permitted as of 2012.

 

Furthermore, the limit on launchers has been lowered to 800 while there is a cap on nuclear-armed missiles and heavy bombers at 200 each.

 

The pact is being heralded as one of the most far-reaching foreign policy accomplishments of Obama.

 

It's nothing of the kind.

 

After the initial hoopla, it seems clear that the new 10-year Start will be making lower-than-advertised changes in the arsenals of the US and Russia, leading to an actual decline of only about 100-200 weapons.

 

Obama has accomplished only half the reduction announced by George W Bush in his 2002 treaty with Vladimir Putin.

 

Meanwhile, the Obama administration will be spending billions of dollars more on updating America's weapons laboratories to assure the reliability of a smaller arsenal.

 

The Obama administration has also announced its Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), which ostensibly narrows the circumstances under which America will use its arsenal.

 

The strategy suggests that the "fundamental role" of nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attacks on the US and its allies and rules out the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries, even if they attack the US with unconventional weapons.

 

These developments come at a time when Obama is staking out a new agenda.

 

Earlier this month, the US hosted one of the largest summits aimed at securing loose nuclear material.

 

Next month, the US will seek a strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) at a review conference.

 

Obama wants to use the new treaty with Moscow to encourage the US Senate to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and get the international community to enter into a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

 

Obama is trying to privilege arms control in its relationship with Russia in the hope that the latter will be of help on issues of global concern. So far there is little evidence for this.

 

There is little likelihood of the US and Russia moving beyond the currently agreed limits as the Russian military views a strong nuclear arsenal as essential to counter American conventional superiority.

 

America remains concerned about the Russian advantage in short-range nuclear missiles. It is no surprise,

therefore, that the new Start does not touch the issue of tactical nuclear weapons and stored nuclear warheads. Tactical weapons are more likely to get used, so an agreement on them would have actually meant something.

 

At a time when the US has found it difficult to deal with real threats like North Korea and Iran, the rhetoric of arms control is unlikely to help the Obama administration achieve anything at the upcoming NPT review.

 

The scaling down of the American nuclear arsenal might just prompt those states under the US nuclear umbrella to question the credibility of US guarantees. Faced with a resurgent Iran, the countries in the Gulf are unlikely to rely on the waning prowess of the US.

 

The new Start will have very little impact on the trajectory of global nuclear discourse. The new NPR is also essentially more of the same. For all the rhetoric, the US has retained the right to use nuclear weapons against "rogue" states. By calling for substantial investments in the national laboratories and weapons storage facilities, Obama is making it clear that nuclear weapons will retain their centrality in the foreseeable future.

 

And yet the US will use these cosmetic changes to pressure countries like India on the nuclear issue.

 

The NPT review conference will see renewed pressure on India to join the treaty as a non-nuclear weapons state despite the acceptance of India's de facto nuclear status by the Nuclear Suppliers' Group (NSG).

 

There have already been calls that the exception granted to India goes against the spirit of the NPT. Surrounded by the nuclear partnership of China and Pakistan, Indian national security interests demand that the government should focus single-mindedly on strengthening its deterrent posture.

 

If a weaker India could resist global pressures on the nuclear issue for so long, there is no reason why a rising, more confident India should fear engaging with the global nuclear regime and underlining its fundamental flaws.

 

If the major powers are serious about global nuclear disarmament, they should get India's support, but if they continue to use arms control provisions to constrain the strategic autonomy of other states, India should have no reticence in making its voice heard.

 

For better or worse, it is this dilemma that will define the upcoming NPT review conference.

 

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DNA

THE BUSINESS OF CRICKET COULD KILL CRICKET

PARSA VENKATESHWAR RAO JR

 

An affable cricket pundit has put forward the argument that every game needs a business model to sustain itself, and Indian Premier League (IPL), despite its flaws which need to be corrected, provides that.

 

There was also the implied caveat that Twenty20 is the best form of cricket that provides the perfect match for IPL.

 

He has also argued rather persuasively that the Twenty20 format is refining and defining the game in its own unpredictable and brilliant ways.

 

Another sports-lover has argued that every game evolves according to the needs of the times, and it is rather silly of cricket-lovers to talk in nostalgic terms of the five-day Test cricket format for which there are no takers these days.

 

The two arguments seem quite formidable and it would seem quite impossible to counter them.

 

We have to question the assumption that games need a business model in order to survive in the present times. This goes against the very concept of a game. It is not essentially a business venture though it can be turned into one. There is a need to guard against the danger that the game like the proverbial goose that lay the golden eggs is killed off in the process.

 

The way IPL is going, it looks like that it could kill the game itself and not because there is too much money, too much glamour and quite a lot of corruption.

 

IPL could kill cricket in its attempts to make it more amenable to advertisements, telecasts, team ownership and team management. The game could change and disappear without anyone noticing it.

 

Twenty20 is not really cricket and it is not because it offends the aesthetic sensibilities of some people caught in a time warp.

 

Cricket is not tennis or football or even baseball. It is one game that allows in its Test format the possibility of a draw, rather a unique feature. It is this aspect of the game that irritates many people, including many of cricket's friends. What is a game if there is no winner and no loser?

 

Both the 50-over one-day game and the Twenty20 format have made it a winning game. So, if you are not much of a cricket-lover, you can still make out which of the two teams won. This has indeed greatly increased the numbers of cricket-watchers, and that made it an attractive business proposition. But there will be demands to make it shorter and quicker than even the 50- and 20-over formats to make it a better fit for the business model.

 

The changes can be rationalised as the inexorable logic of evolution. But evolution enthusiasts overlook the fact that in the natural world evolution produces monsters at the extreme ends of size and functionality. Twenty20 is at the tipping point where cricket is becoming a caricature of itself, a veritable monster. It is turning ugly because it is moving away from the inherent logic of the game which is one of grace and intelligence, where winning is not the only thing. It is good to let it remain that way.

 

So those who blithely and bravely move with the times and flow with the tide should look at the rapids ahead. They should not delude themselves that they are going into an adventurous future when all that they may be doing is going down, dangerously, ignorantly and sometimes in ignominy.

 

Those who are hell-bent on making cricket a business and a lucrative one at that will have no hesitation in killing the game and when it does not any more generate profits they will abandon it without any compunction.

 

So, the arguments that games need a business model to survive and that games evolve inexorably are not as hip or as flawless as they sound in the first place. It may be foolish to resist the tide of change but it is not foolish to condemn change for the worse.

 

Cricket cannot return to its bucolic beginnings but at least we should record the loss of innocence and the signs of its decline.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

IGNOMINIOUS EXIT

KOCHI ROW PROVED THE LAST STRAW

 

What a fall from grace it has been for Shashi Tharoor! About a decade ago, he was named a "Global Leader of Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. And on Monday, he was unceremoniously ejected from the Council of Ministers. The former Minister of State for External Affairs – the word "former" is yet to fully sink in – was skating on thin ice ever since he paradropped into Indian politics from the cosy comfort of a UN assignment.

 

 But he never really heeded the warning signs, and remained in a self-destruct mode all along. To that extent, the Kochi controversy has been only the proverbial last straw. He had lost friends steadily even in his own party, whether it was by staying in a five-star hotel after being appointed minister or twittering irresponsibly. To make matters worse for himself, he criticised the visa restrictions imposed by his own government on foreign nationals, and even mocked Nehruvian foreign policy.

 

The first-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram was carrying on all this while because of the indulgence shown both by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi. But the financial impropriety involved in his "mentoring" the IPL team for Kochi was too much to digest and it was obvious that he had become an embarrassment for the ruling party. He denied any hand in arranging a Rs 70-crore bonanza for his friend Sunanda Pushkar in the form of "sweat equity" but no one was convinced.

 

It is really weird that the income tax authorities got into action only after IPL commissioner Lalit Modi fell foul of Shashi Tharoor. That does not show the sleuths in very positive light. But whatever the motivation, now that the investigations have started, it is necessary to go to the bottom of the entire IPL functioning and its accountability. It appears that the Kochi tip has a huge iceberg under the surface. The most shocking are the allegations of betting – and may be even match-fixing – in the IPL, particularly on games featuring Kings XI Punjab, of which Modi's son-in-law Gaurav Burman is the co-promoter. Why is it that wherever we have mega bucks, mega scandals lurk in the shadows?

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

SC SEALS MANU'S FATE

NO RELIEF FOR JESSICA LALL'S KILLER

 

MONDAY'S Supreme Court ruling upholding the conviction and life imprisonment awarded to Manu Sharma by the Delhi High Court in the Jessica Lall murder case will help reinforce people's faith in the higher judiciary. A Bench consisting of Justice P. Sathasivam and Justice Swatanter Kumar sealed Manu's fate when it ruled that the prosecution has proved "beyond reasonable doubt" his presence at the crime spot — New Delhi's Qutub Colennade on the night of April 29, 1999.

 

Manu shot dead ramp model Jessica Lall after she refused to serve him a drink at a party organised by socialite Bina Ramani. Manu is the son of Haryana's senior Congress leader Venod Sharma. Significantly, the Bench dismissed senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani's contention that the Delhi High Court had convicted Manu, his client, under "media pressure". Factors like Manu's flight from the crime spot and the recovery of a similar bullet from his vehicle proved his involvement in the crime, it said. Two others whose four-year jail sentence — for destruction of evidence — have been upheld are Vikas Yadav, son of controversial former MP D.P. Yadav and Amardeep Singh Gill, an MNC executive.

 

The 11-year-old case had engaged national attention for its many twists and turns. There was a public outcry when the trial court, after almost seven years of trial during which several witnesses turned hostile, had acquitted all the accused for lack of evidence. It was a classic example of how the police, the prosecution, the witnesses and the trial court made a mockery of the criminal justice system. However, the media, including The Tribune, campaigned against the miscarriage of justice and stepped up pressure for bringing the guilty to book. The Delhi Police filed an appeal against the ruling. The reversal of acquittals by the Delhi High Court was hailed as triumph of justice. The apex court has now ruled that the High Court had given "cogent and adequate reasons" for reversing the trial court order.

 

The judgement must serve as a warning to the high and mighty to behave and not to attempt to scuttle justice. As hostile witnesses are playing havoc with the criminal justice system, there is a need to tighten laws and evolve a comprehensive programme for witness protection.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

CYBER ATTACK

CHINESE HACKERS STRIKE AGAIN

 

An Indian Embassy is again under cyber attack, its website compromised. This is the latest in what seems to be an unending spate of attacks on Indian cyber entities. The public website of the Indian embassy in Moscow was attacked, some e-mail accounts were cloned and later used for spreading malware. The embassy has firmly denied that any sensitive information was compromised, or that its firewall was breached. The finger of suspicion, in this case, too, points towards Chinese hackers, since at least two cyber attacks were traced to Chinese servers.

 

The embassy acted promptly in warning people on their mailing list, asking them not to open any messages with attachments, which limited the damage.

 

China is being frequently cited as the source of many significant cyber attacks, including the ones that were exposed by the Shadowserver Foundation, just a few weeks ago. Earlier, Google decided to move its search operations outside China after facing sustained and sophisticated attacks on its servers. Last year, a ring called Ghostnet infiltrated networks in 103 countries, India included. Chinese hackers attack a world without boundaries, but it is hard to imagine that they are stateless players. In fact, both the nature of these intrusions and their targets point towards the Chinese government as a beneficiary, a charge Beijing denies.

 

In the cyber world, like in the real world, the weakest link is enough to break a chain, and hackers specialise in finding out that very target. There is, thus, need for adequate provision of security and training of the staff so that proper vigilance is exercised, both online and offline. India simply must shake off its lackadaisical attitude towards cyber security. No modern nation can afford to have insecure computer networks. Government business, military communication, banking, regular business, all depend increasingly on computers and thus, it is imperative that more attention be devoted to securing the computers and networks where sensitive information is processed. The latest attack is yet another wake-up call, and we must come alive to the threat posed by such hackers. 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

STRATEGY TO TAME THE MAOISTS

NEED FOR SYSTEMIC CHANGES

BY LT-GEN VIJAY OBEROI (RETD) 

 

The massacre at Dantewada is a wake-up call for the entire nation and not just for the police forces that are involved in conducting counter-Maoist operations in Chhattisgarh and other affected states. This is the time for soul-searching, introspection and coming up with a strategy that can effectively deal with this major challenge to the nation.

 

The various tactical aspects of the unfortunate incident and the motivations of the Maoists have been well debated. The focus unfortunately is on equipment upgrades, whereas the essential requirement is to change the ethos, training and leadership of the police forces and make them more capable. By focusing on high technology weaponry, we seem to forget the old adage – "it is the man behind the gun and not the gun that matters". Current weaponry with some technical upgrades is adequate, as in such operation skills are more important than firepower.

 

There are six states that are in the grip of militancy. I am intentionally using the word militant (s), as opposed to insurgents or terrorists, for the Maoists are very much part of our polity and have resorted to taking up arms when other methods have not succeeded. They are not in the same category as insurgents and terrorists in J&K and hence need to be treated differently, especially in the case of quantum of force and the manner in which it is applied.

 

There has been some talk of deploying the Army to deal with the Maoist militants. This may seem an attractive option, but in actuality it is not. In principle, the Army should not be committed to tackling internal militancy. The Army is meant to fight external aggression, which includes tackling external insurgency. If at all it is to be employed to tackle internal militancy, it should be as the last resort when the police forces of all types have failed. It should also be withdrawn at the earliest opportunity.

 

In our country, the instrument of choice for tackling internal militancy and insurgency is the civil police, assisted by the CRPF, which is a component of the Central Police Organisations (CPOs). The police have enormous advantages over the military. They have legitimacy, close knowledge of local conditions, an extensive bank of local intelligence and means of acquiring fresh intelligence, close familiarity with the law and expertise in criminal investigations. Consequently, the use of the state police with the CRPF units superimposed, as at present, needs to continue.

 

Over a period of time the country has raised vast numbers of CPO units, but they have unfortunately not been trained well for their primary tasks and there is little bonding among the personnel (including officers) in sub-units and units. The senior hierarchy of the CPOs comprises solely of IPS officers, who have never commanded platoons, companies and battalions. Resultantly, they are unable to appreciate the ground situation and plan operations correctly. As opposed to this, all senior Army officers have risen in rank after serving extensively at the levels of platoons, companies and battalions.

 

The major drawbacks of both the state police and the CRPF include the typical police culture of delayed and lethargic responses, lack of adequate training for executing the assigned tasks, lack of competent leadership, lack of some items of technical equipment and not the least their thinking that the Army is always there to take over, as it has done in the past! This attitude needs to be disabused, as it is fraught with a very large number of negatives. The Maoist militancy has not suddenly appeared; it has been a festering concern for decades and yet we have not been able to make these CPO units fit to tackle internal militancy and insurgency. The Central government must take early and active measures to enhance the capabilities of the CPOs while the state governments must do the same for their respective police forces, especially their armed police units.

 

For decades now, the Army has repeatedly suggested that both the CPOs and the Army will benefit by lateral induction of trained Army personnel to the CPO units and their headquarters. This has also featured as a strong recommendation by the Sixth Pay Commission. All such recommendations have, however, been summarily rejected by the Home Ministry mainly on account of preserving their turf. Short Service Commissioned Officers, who cannot be retained in the Army after their mandatory service of five years, extendable to 10 in selected cases, are ideal material to be inducted into the CPOs. They are excellent officers, highly competent and well versed in conducting counter-militancy operations.

 

Such lateral shifts will give the CPOs ready and well-trained young officers, who with their Army ethos, excellent leadership qualities and professional outlook would change the CPO units from complacent to competent and would make them capable of fighting not just the Maoists but even other insurgents in future.

 

There is urgent need to do away with the current compartmentalised existence and take much broader views. Otherwise, we will continue to wallow in the usual copious reports of committees, demands for raising more units, import of sophisticated weapons that are really not needed, the continuing blame-game and so on, but nothing will be done to remove the systemic deficiencies and weaknesses!

 

There is also a political aspect that needs to change. The Centre cites the Constitution and says that security is a state subject, thus throwing the ball directly in the state's court. The states deftly parry with the logic of lack of resources! In some states, the Maoists are even looked at as assets for elections and their violence gets subtly condoned! In addition, when militancy is active in six states, how can each state fight it on its own? Unless there is a joint and concerted attempt simultaneously in all the affected states, nothing is likely to be achieved. The time has come for setting aside the political baggage and getting together for the common cause. Let political expediency be kept aside while the full weight of the nation is used to confront the Maoists.

 

The need of the hour is to quickly set up two sets of structures, one for addressing the genuine concerns of the Maoists and the other for the conduct of police operations. The former is the concern of each state government and to varying extent it is already being done, but the latter needs a well-thought-out centralised structure under an overall force headquarters, headed by a DGP-level officer. This headquarters, while maintaining liaison and coordination with each state government, must have autonomy to plan and conduct all counter-militant operations in the entire Maoist-affected areas. The staff must report only to the Force Commander and not to their parent organisations, as is the current practice.

 

All counter-militancy operations are of a long duration, but if the structures are correct and adequate attention is paid to removing systemic deficiencies, it would be possible to address both the amelioration of the concerns of the Maoists and the violence unleashed by them.n

 

The writer is a former Vice-Chief of the Army Staff.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

KOCHI KOCHI HOTA HAI

BY CHETNA KEER BANERJEE

 

Hello, this is Barkha Bhogle coming to you live for "Extraa Earnings" from the stadium in Dharamsala. I have with me two key players of the IPL. One holds the key to KXIP being run out here and its under-performance this season: Yuvraj Singh. The other was the key player in certain overactive backstage IPL performers being bowled out — Lalit Modi.

 

BB (To Yuvi): There's been talk that this season you've not been in form, or you've chosen to under-perform?

 

YS: Aw, I've been bouncing back from injuries. Not been in good shape, yes.

 

BB: But what's the shape of things to come, with rumours floating about you leaving KXIP? Is Kochi on your wish list?

 

YS: Ha, ha. I may not have run well for KXIP, but Kochi has run straight into rough weather…

 

BB: Well, we have here the man who can take credit for that! So, Mr Modi, having queered the pitch for Kochi, you're having the last laugh, is it?

 

LM: Ah, wasn't it queer how much stake one particular person had got in Kochi?

 

YS: The pitch can turn in one's favour, sometimes. That's how we beat top team Mumbai Indians in Mohali…

 

BB: (To Modi) But Shashi Tharoor was not the only one on a sticky wicket. There've been allegations of your kin having parked funds in IPL franchises and your tweets amounting to breach of faith?

 

YS (buts in): What matters is having faith in oneself. I know how much sweat and blood I've given my team.

 

LM: Eh, but some people got shares without even shedding a drop of sweat.

 

YS: Umm, may be, I should claim 'sweat' equity, too.

 

BB: But with all this sweat equity having come under the IT scanner, will we have more exposures?

 

YS: O jee, we are not ashamed to show, be it sweat or cash. But KXIP would have done better to cash in more on the leadership of the sons of the soil.

 

LM: Yes, these could be taxing times for the IPL but when so much was at stake for a sleeping partner, heads had to roll.

 

YS: Yeah, the team head must play his role. Which I did last season, still… if this time we didn't get a head start, I'm not to blame.

 

BB: Well gentlemen, we have surprising news. Let's hear it straight from the studio. Over to our host…

 

In the middle of these jumbled sound bytes breaks in the "googly" from the host:

"Barkha, there're new developments in the IPL stakes. Can you hear me …"

 

"Yup, I'm on."

 

It seems that post-Sunanda there is another bidder for Kochi's 'sweat' equity, whose name has just come to light. Someone who claims his 'sweat' share has its epidermal source close to Kochi, as it's genetically funded by that state, though it flows into another state franchise.

 

BB (To Yuvi and Modi): Any guesses?

 

YS: I swear, I'm at a loss…

 

HB: Swear? Aha, you're pretty close.

 

Back to the studio …

 

Host: Well gentlemen, it's none other than the bowler with the sweat and swear. The one who builds a heavy fund of sweat on many an on-field brow every time he decides to swear: S. Sreesanth.

 

So much for tol mol ke bo(w)l.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

PSEB CORPORATIZATION

A STEP TOWARDS POWER REFORMS

BY UPINDER SAWHNEY

 

The issue of unbundling the Punjab State Electricity Board was unnecessarily blown out of proportion by the media and the government. The procrastination by the government since the enactment of the Electricity Act, 2003, which mandates the state governments to convert the state electricity boards into companies in order to separate generation from transmission and distribution and infuse competition among all the independent entities has created some misgivings about the issue in the minds of the employees as well as the citizens.

 

All that was required was a structured process of unbundling along with the creation of awareness among all the stake-holders regarding its impact and boldly implementing it as soon as the government was ready with all the institutions in place.

 

Instead, the government chose to mark time by seeking extensions ( 13 in all) and not making any effort to educate the masses about the possible outcomes of bringing the most required but unreasonably delayed power sector reforms.

 

The successive governments, irrespective of the party in power, never paid any heed to the fact reiterated by the World Bank, the Planning Commission and academia that it is the power sector reforms which are likely to improve the lives of farmers by providing quality electricity rather than "free", "interrupted" and more often unreliable power supply.

 

Also a terribly indebted PSEB has been a major burden on the state's finances and a cause of undermining the capacity of the state to carry on socio-economic development activities , of course, in case the government was inclined to

 

do so. The industrialists of Punjab realise this and have backed the government on unbundling the PSEB .

 

The corporatisation has led to the creation of two separate companies — the Punjab State Transmission Corporation Ltd (TRANSCO) to look after the transmission of power and the Punjab State Power Corporation Ltd (POWERCOM) to manage generation and distribution with 3,500 and 65,000 employees, respectively. The full ownership and management of the companies lies in the hands of the government of Punjab.

 

The benefits of corporatisation claimed by the government include beginning the working of the two new companies with a clean balance sheet and enabling the state to purchase power from anywhere in the country. The government has assured the employees that their service conditions as well as the benefits will remain unchanged and there will consequently be no risk to their jobs. Tariff will be determined by the Punjab State Electricity Regulatory Commission as is done at present. Subsidies to all sections of society, including farmers, will continue.

 

The move to corporatise the PSEB seems to be the first step towards the much-needed power sector reforms in the state. But the statements issued by the government indicate that the structural change has been brought about merely to fulfill the obligations laid out in the Electricity Act , 2003, and may not lead towards any "radical power sector reforms" that require the following:

 

Infusing real corporate culture by appointing professionals at the helm of affairs with the powers to take independent decisions and not allowing any political interference.

 

Rightsizing the two companies.

 

Relating remuneration to performance and better accountability of the staff and workers and not letting each organisation reduced to just another government department.

 

Pricing issues may be based on economic logic rather than short-sighted populism – which earlier has been the bane of the PSEB. The cross subsidy to a section of the consumers, which has been responsible for most ills of the board, must be stopped.

 

Ensuring free flow of power to the farm sector instead of effective unavailability of so-called free power. The alternative could be to meter power supply to farmers and the government could provide upfront subsidies for the purpose .

 

Ensuring quality power supply and legalising all power connections, ultimately ending power thefts, which are rampant.

 

Allowing the new companies to raise capital on their own so that they are more responsible in its usage. The two companies then will be accountable for their performance and not build unmanageable liabilities and later pass them on to the consumers.

 

A very important issue which must be understood by all the stake-holders, including the government and the employees, is that privatisation does not merely mean a change of ownership; it also means that the government could create a competitive power market by allowing the private sector to enter it. This will allow the consumer a choice to buy from the seller who can offer a better quality or price and the employees will gain more in the long run if employed in profitable organisations.

 

The power sector must be developed on the lines of the telecommunication services where BSNL, after corporatisation, is offering good services at competitive prices and is no longer in deep slumber and arrogant as it was as a state monopoly.

 

Though power reforms in some states are not very successful, Punjab can emulate the best practices in the matter ,e.g., the Gujarat model may be looked into and replicated with modifications suitable to Punjab. The hope of every Punjabi, who feels strongly about the revival of the state economy, hinges on effective economic and governance reforms in Punjab.

 

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

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

A MAESTRO OR A POP STAR?

BY BHUPINDER BRAR

 

This has to do with the musical recital by one of the most illustrious maestros of Indian classical music on the evening of April 14. His is a revered name, more than deservedly so. One has grown up listening to him and adoring him.

 

He drew the largest crowd one has seen in decades here in Chandigarh. Tagore theatre was jam-packed, and overflowing. People arrived early, and those who came at the appointed time, had to sit in the aisles.

 

I had no doubt that the city pages of the next day's local papers would have glowing reports. Every time a celebrated classical singer performs in Chandigarh, there are glowing reports. I am a little tired of the same adjectives used each time: enthralling, captivating, and the synonyms thereof you can find in the dictionary.

 

To be bluntly honest, I have also watched some of these reporters for decades. That means I have watched them asking somebody more knowledgeable questions: What raga was it the singer sang, and what tala was it set to, and so on. But that is another story.

 

So we had this huge, overflowing, reverent audience. They all clapped every time the Master did something clever and artful. Forgive them, for they know not that even the most appreciative audience ought not to clap in the middle of a performance.

 

We know that pauses and silences are an essential part of recital. Their sanctity deserves a quieter way of appreciation. That is the difference, one imagines, between a classical performance and a rock concert.

 

So the audience clapped madly, but that is not even half as tragic as the fact that the Maestro began to do clever and artful things to elicit such claps. One was appalled at this. A maestro, one thought, was a maestro. He need not play to the gallery. He need not cater to the lowest common denominator in the audience.

 

Having been accorded all the Padma awards and all else that you count as honours, and more importantly having enjoyed the adoration of cultivated audience, you would imagine a maestro would actually do all that he can to preserve the sanctity of his high art.

 

He must gently guide the less cultivated audience to feel and appreciate the finer nuances. An acrobatic but thoroughly unnecessary glide across octaves is dramatic, but it is certainly not the finest specimen of the art of classical music. Nor is letting percussionists go into episodic frenzy as if doing in a solo performance.

 

At the end of it all, one felt cheated. Many said he would perform differently in Kolkata or Delhi or wherever people understand the finer nuances of music. They said he was quick in gauging the less-than-mediocre quality of his audience and as a professional adjusted to it.

 

That leaves one wondering: how does one differentiate between a maestro and a pop star?

 

Finally, a word to my fellow citizens of Chandigarh. Let us as audience learn some of the basic etiquette and decorum when it comes to classical arts. And a word to the VVIPs and VIPs of the town: Don't look so crestfallen when you don't find a seat waiting for you in the front row.

 

The writer, a resident of Chandigarh for nearly four decades, is a Professor at Panjab University

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

MUMBAI DIARY

A SEASONED PLAYER AND A NOVICE

SHIV KUMAR

 

During his long innings a certain heavyweight politician from Maharashtra has faced as many bouncers as the number of yorkers he has tossed at opponents. So insinuations that he personally did some arm-twisting to get the winning bidder of an IPL franchise to back out in favour of a business house threatened to snowball into a major controversy.

 

Veteran political observers in Mumbai, who were hoping to see the portly strongman on his back foot defending his reputation like he did more than a decade ago were, however, left disappointed. Like a seasoned batsman who does not get surprised twice by the same delivery dismissively hit the bouncer for a big six.

 

Suddenly the accusers who were hoping to pin him down were running for cover. The hapless man at the other end left defenceless happens to be diplomat-turned-politician Shashi Tharoor, who naively agreed to pitch at the pinch hitter. The Minister of State for External Affairs, still new to the ways of Indian politicians, was forced to resign on Sunday.

 

BIYANI HITS BULLSEYE

Another street-smart player, this time in the field of business, is Kishore Biyani, who is behind the Big Bazaar chain of shopping malls. In a major comeback from a recession that nearly crippled his empire built on debt, Biyani has unveiled new strategies to grab a larger slice of the customer's mind space — and her wallet.

 

The latest among Biyani's audacious moves is to rope in Sachin Tendulkar to launch a new range of toothpastes named after the cricketer. The new launch coinciding with the master blaster's return to form promises huge dividends for Biyani's company.

 

The initial word of mouth response indicates that the product has grabbed the interest of customers. Soon there will be brand extensions and dental products made available across different formats.

 

BOLLYWOOD EYES IRAN

Film makers from Bollywood are notorious for getting their 'inspiration' from the hits of Hollywood. The unabashed lifting of plot and characters of the past has given way to official remakes though the end products rarely resemble the original.

 

So it is refreshing to note that at least one film-maker is looking Eastwards for his raw material. Award-winning Malayalam film director Priyadarshan, known for his latest outing Kanchivaram, is remaking Iranian film-maker Majid Majidi's cult-film "Children of Heaven", which is a big hit in the DVD circuit.

 

The Hindi remake titled "Bum Bum Bole" will feature Taare Zameen Par star Darsheel Safary in the lead. Bollywood enthusiasts, who only know Priyadarshan's whacky comedies mostly starring funster Paresh Rawal, will hopefully see the serious side of the talented director.

 

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MUMBAI MERROR

EDITORIAL

THE QUESTION NO ONE WANTS TO ASK


 Now that the sleaze has hit the fan, it's time to pop the question: Will there be an IPL next year?


I know that some of you, high on the tournament's flurry of sixes, might find the very thought preposterous. But the way the Indian Premier League is being exposed, day after day, layer by layer, as a giant house of cards with wafer-thin walls, the possibility of it falling down in a heap is no longer as absurd as it was last week.


 Two years and almost three 'seasons' ago, the IPL had started as a marriage between cricket and entertainment. It wanted to be seen like the NBA, the EPL, the Superbowl. But with the quality of sport not of the same standard as those events, it ended up emerging as an aspirational, irresistible cornucopia of cricket, money, parties, celebrities, sex, drugs and made-for-TV rivalries. The stadiums were full and the TAM ratings were high every IPL evening, and nothing else mattered, definitely not its poor aesthetics. Outside of all the frenzy, however, the IPL was still a business venture. Envisaged by Lalit Modi, its lofty chairman who managed to convince the biggest captains of industry, the hottest movie stars, and fly-by-night conglomerates to come together and buy a slice of his dream, it was seen a game-changer. It was "recession-proof"; a model that "couldn't fail". What made these claims bigger was that its success was against the run of play at a time when two other such private cricket enterprises were struggling. The Zee Group's Indian Cricket League (ICL), which preceded the IPL, fell flat on its face despite a bevy of stars, principally because it couldn't offset infrastructure and running costs with what it was making through sponsorship, TV rights and gate money. In West Indies, financier Allen Stanford started a multimillion-dollar league involving the finest cricketers from the islands, and from overseas, in what was described as the most lucrative cricket tournament possible. He was in the news for a couple of months as a flamboyant, Richard Branson prototype who paid the cricketers truckloads of money and flirted with their wives while they were playing. But, soon enough, an American investigation exposed gross financial regularities in his dealings, sending him to prison and his business to the brink of bankruptcy.

Those two ventures – one that failed, another that was highly successful until it was exposed – seemed to indicate that a big-budget cricket project requiring thousands of crores of rupees was not sustainable in the global market. Some even suggested that a team's income vs expenditure sheet would always be in the red if everything was above board.

 

The IPL claimed to buck the trend, and experts wondered how the league was growing despite team owners privately confessing to making losses every season. This week, when allegations surfaced that the IPL was rife with unexplained funding, hawala transactions and an inappropriate bidding system, our outrage was somehow coupled with a feeling that we knew something was amiss all along.


But even as these serious charges were being investigated, a more dangerous can of worms opened simultaneously – of alleged widespread betting on matches, some of it involving top IPL officials. And when betting is being discussed, can match-fixing be far behind, especially with a clear-cut conflict of interest?
   The future of the IPL now depends on political will; on what the probe will reveal about financial irregularities, and particularly, about whether what happens on the field is scripted. While one may put a few people in jail, the second could put an end to everything.


However, for those to believe in Modi, solace can be drawn from the fact that he hasn't flinched once in the face of the allegations, damning all comers with the twitterific bravado of an honest man. The optimistic view for his supporters, of course, is that nothing will be found against the IPL. The cynical, perhaps even realistic, view is that nothing will be revealed to protect the interests of the captains of industry, movie stars, fly-bynight conglomerates, and sundry politicians whose interests are now being talked about in whispers.

The image of the IPL has been tarnished, perhaps even irreparably, by the events of the last week that have already consumed former minister Shashi Tharoor and, I suspect, will take at least a few more prisoners. But in the middle of all these ifs, buts and half-truths, will there be an IPL next year? Whatever the answer, it has become a tantalising question.

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******************************************************************************************BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

NOW COMPLETE THE JOB

LOOK AT MODI AND THE POLITICIANS IN IPL-BCCI

 

Better late than never. After having sat on the files for so long, the government has finally ordered investigations into the finances of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian Premier League (IPL). The IPL chief, Lalit Modi, may also have his wings clipped soon — certainly the income tax investigations that are currently on will mean it will be a while before Mr Modi regains his trademark swagger. To stop here, however, would be unfortunate. The Shashi Tharoor affair shows that the rot in Indian cricket runs a lot deeper. News reports suggest that other politicians may also be involved in the emerging IPL scam. At the meeting where Mr Modi is supposed to have offered $50 million to the Kochi franchisees to back off, the daughter of a Cabinet minister was reportedly present. The meeting was followed by one at the Mumbai residence of the minister. No cleaning up of the IPL can be complete unless it addresses this political link. It is true, as many in the BCCI point out, that there is no rule that prevents them from holding a share in various IPL franchises, indeed that is why the BCCI secretary is also the owner of the Chennai Super Kings franchise. The reason why the link matters, and that is why it is important to know if Mr Modi or others hold benami shares in various franchises, is the favours that can be extended to the teams. If the Mumbai minister, for instance, is able to ensure the state government waives off entertainment taxes on IPL matches, this will benefit the teams whose home grounds are in Mumbai. Ditto for broadcast and other rights signed by the BCCI-IPL — were these given away by Mr Modi to a chosen few or were there genuine bids? The fact that so many of his relatives are involved, does suggest that all is not well.

 

It is true that, currently, the investigation seems to be centring around Mr Modi, and so it should given that he was issuing orders for most things. But it is surely surprising that the entire BCCI-IPL should have just given in to the whims of one man. Surely, this would point to others within the set-up being party to Mr Modi's decisions. The illegal betting that is being talked of is something that is difficult to prove at the best of times, but there are signs that it could become much bigger if not checked right now. Ravindra Jadeja was banned from the IPL since he was negotiating with another franchise while his contract didn't allow this, but what is to prevent players from falling ill on the eve of important matches or simply performing poorly? Another top player, it is well-known, asked his franchise owner if he could be given a relieving letter around the same time his performance started looking lacklustre. This may be a coincidence, but it is clear that unless strong measures are taken to clean up the BCCI-IPL, one of India's best new global brands may well become a thing of the past.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

TIP OF AN ICEBERG?

THE THAROOR EPISODE IS A WAKE-UP CALL FOR THE UPA

 

A chain always snaps at its weakest link. Shashi Tharoor was the weakest link in a chain of mounting misdemeanour in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). His exit became inevitable for a variety of reasons, ranging from the manner in which he defended himself to the government's concern about managing its narrow majority in Parliament. Mr Tharoor became, in a manner of speaking, the Bangaru Laxman of the UPA. Just as Mr Laxman's misdemeanours paled in significance compared to the humongous corruption of some members of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government, so may Mr Tharoor's, even though the "sweat equity" snapped up by his companion is not exactly a paltry sum. Mr Tharoor's misdemeanours became amplified by his own attempt to differentiate himself from the run-of-the-mill politician. For all his learning, erudition and sophistication, he fell for the same kind of temptations that lesser mortals do and then claimed, pompously, that he was doing this for Kerala! The Tharoor episode should put the constituent parties of the UPA on alert and ensure that there is a scaling down of corruption at higher levels of government. The mix between politics, business, entertainment and sport has become a lucrative cocktail of cronyism, nepotism and corruption. Indeed, the belated tax raids and other investigations into the functioning of the organisations managing the game of cricket come after months of delay, raising questions about why the delay. Even as charges of corruption have gone up, so too have tax raids and phone taps. It is not clear if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be able to secure control of this leviathan in the remainder of his term, having largely failed to do so in the past six years. However, if Dr Singh is serious about improving the reputation of his government for probity in public life, then he must stop taking a lenient view of ministerial misdemeanours even at this late stage in his tenure.

 

The second UPA government has got itself embroiled in far too many avoidable controversies. Ministers working at cross purposes, senior party leaders criticising their party colleagues in government, prime ministerial directives happily flouted, parallel centres of advice and power making a mockery of governmental priorities. At a time when far more important issues of national development and national security ought to engage the time and energy of senior functionaries of the government, so much effort is put into managing sports and the private businesses of public servants. Some blame it all on the weakness of a divided and moribund Opposition, others on the ruling coalition's own weak leadership, with the infamous division of powers between "party" and "government" having gone awry. It is also clear that there is a power struggle of sorts within the Congress party that now runs parallel to the on-going ideological battles within. The waywardness of UPA-II brings to mind the famous lines of William Yeats poem, The Second Coming, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, …The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity."

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

DANI RODRIK: THE RETURN OF INDUSTRIAL POLICY

SUCCESSFUL ECONOMIES, INCLUDING THE US, HAVE ALWAYS RELIED ON GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT PROMOTE GROWTH

DANI RODRIK

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown promotes it as a vehicle for creating high-skill jobs. French President Nicolas Sarkozy talks about using it to keep industrial jobs in France. The World Bank's chief economist, Justin Lin, openly supports it to speed up structural change in developing nations. McKinsey is advising governments on how to do it right.

Industrial policy is back.

In fact, industrial policy never went out of fashion. Economists enamoured of the neo-liberal Washington Consensus may have written it off, but successful economies have always relied on government policies that promote growth by accelerating structural transformation.

China is a case in point. Its phenomenal manufacturing prowess rests in large part on public assistance to new industries. State-owned enterprises have acted as incubators for technical skills and managerial talent. Local-content requirements have spawned productive supplier industries in automotive and electronics products. Generous export incentives have helped firms break into competitive global markets.

Chile, which is often portrayed as a free-market paradise, is another example. The government has played a crucial role in developing every significant new export that the country produces. Chilean grapes broke into world markets, thanks to publicly financed R&D. Forest products were heavily subsidised by none other than General Augusto Pinochet. And the highly successful salmon industry is the creation of Fundacion Chile, a quasi-public venture fund.

But when it comes to industrial policy, it is the United States that takes the cake. This is ironic, because the term "industrial policy" is anathema in American political discourse. It is used almost exclusively to browbeat political opponents with accusations of Stalinist economic designs.

Yet the US owes much of its innovative prowess to government support. As Harvard Business School professor Josh Lerner explains in his book Boulevard of Broken Dreams, US Department of Defence contracts played a crucial role in accelerating the early growth of Silicon Valley. The Internet, possibly the most significant innovation of our time, grew out of a Defence Department project initiated in 1969.

Nor is America's embrace of industrial policy a matter of historical interest only. Today the US federal government is the world's biggest venture capitalist by far. According to The Wall Street Journal, the US Department of Energy (DoE) alone is planning to spend more than $40 billion in loans and grants to encourage private firms to develop green technologies, such as electric cars, new batteries, wind turbines, and solar panels. During the first three quarters on 2009, private venture capital firms invested less than $3 billion combined in this sector. The DoE invested $13 billion.

The shift towards embracing industrial policy is, therefore, a welcome acknowledgement of what sensible analysts of economic growth have always known: developing new industries often requires a nudge from government. The nudge can take the form of subsidies, loans, infrastructure, and other kinds of support. But scratch the surface of any new successful industry anywhere, and more likely than not you will find government assistance lurking beneath.

The real question about industrial policy is not whether it should be practised, but how. Here are three important principles to keep in mind.

First, industrial policy is a state of mind rather than a list of specific policies. Its successful practitioners understand that it is more important to create a climate of collaboration between government and the private sector than to provide financial incentives. Through deliberation councils, supplier development forums, investment advisory councils, sectoral round-tables, or private-public venture funds, collaboration aims to elicit information about investment opportunities and bottlenecks. This requires a government that is "embedded" in the private sector, but not in bed with it.

Second, industrial policy needs to rely on both carrots and sticks. Given its risks and the gap between its social and private benefits, innovation requires rents — returns above what competitive markets provide. That is why all countries have a patent system. But open-ended incentives have their own costs: they can raise consumer prices and bottle up resources in unproductive activities. That is why patents expire. The same principle needs to apply to all government efforts to spawn new industries. Government incentives need to be temporary and based on performance.

Third, industrial policy's practitioners need to bear in mind that it aims to serve society at large, not the bureaucrats who administer it or the businesses that receive the incentives. To guard against abuse and capture, industrial policy needs to be carried out in a transparent and accountable manner, and its processes must be open to new entrants as well as incumbents.

The standard rap against industrial policy is that governments cannot pick winners. Of course they can't, but that is largely irrelevant. What determines success in industrial policy is not the ability to pick winners, but the capacity to let the losers go — a much less demanding requirement. Uncertainty ensures that even optimal policies will lead to mistakes. The trick is for governments to recognise those mistakes and withdraw support before they become too costly.

Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM, once said, "If you want to succeed, raise your error rate." A government that makes no mistakes when promoting industry is one that makes the bigger mistake of not trying hard enough.

The author is professor of political economy at Harvard University's John F Kennedy School of Government, and the first recipient of the Social Science Research Council's Albert O Hirschman Prize. His latest book is One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

INDIA'S NEXT BIG SCAM...

INDIA'S PINNACLE OF SUBTERFUGE WILL SOON BELONG TO A NEW HUSTLE CALLED OFFSETS ON WHICH PLIANT INDIAN DEFENCE MANUFACTURERS ARE SET TO RIDE TO RICHES

AJAI SHUKLA

Move over artillery gun deals… stamp paper… fodder and other scams! India's pinnacle of subterfuge will soon belong to a new hustle called offsets on which pliant Indian defence manufacturers are set to ride to riches. Setting the stage for this shakedown is a disinterested Ministry of Defence (MoD), which has artlessly authored a scamster's delight called the Defence Offset Procedure.

To recapitulate, the MoD's procurement regulations (currently the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2008, or DPP-2008) impose a minimum offset of 30 per cent in all contracts worth Rs 300 crore or more. Foreign arms vendors must discharge this liability through the purchase of products or services from Indian defence companies; or through investments into the infrastructure of joint ventures they set up in India; or through investment into Indian R&D organisations. In all cases, the essential first step is for foreign vendors to identify an Indian partner through which offset obligations will be discharged.

 Viewing this through a more cynical and realistic prism, unscrupulous foreign vendors (most of whom regard offsets as state-legitimised extortion) are starting by identifying pliable Indian partners that will happily partner them in neutering the offset requirement. The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion confirms that rafts of small companies, many without a track record in defence, are applying for licences.

To get an idea of the money at stake here, a recently released CII-KPMG report estimates that India will buy foreign weaponry worth some US $100 billion (Rs 4,50,000 crore) over the next 12 years. Going by this extremely conservative estimate (actual figures could be 50 per cent higher), Indian defence companies will have to anchor at least $30 billion (Rs 1,35,000 crore) in the offsets business by 2022. That averages out to about Rs 11,000 crore every year.

So, how will the skulduggery be structured? Let's look at a hypothetical offsets tie-up between a hypothetical foreign company — let's call it Shipping, Communications and Munitions International, or SCAM International — and an equally hypothetical small Indian company called 15 Per Cent Partners. Each year, SCAM International will hand the MoD an offsets compliance certificate, along with a copy of an invoice from 15 Per Cent Partners, as proof that goods worth $100 million were manufactured and shipped by the Indian company. Actually, the goods were worth only $35 million, but both companies had quietly agreed that 15 Per Cent Partners would hold the excess amount on behalf of SCAM International. The Indian company is entitled to a fee of — you guessed it — 15 per cent for its services. That means 15 Per Cent Partners now has effective custody of $50 million on behalf of SCAM International.

"The implications of this are frightening," a senior defence ministry official apprehends. "A few years down the line, all defence kickbacks will be coming through the route of offsets. Currently, there is tight control over the money that foreign companies can bring in. Now Indian offset partners will become the agents who pay out bribes. That is why so many offset deals are being tied up with small and medium companies."

Other ingenious stings are being fashioned out of offset partnerships. One foreign company has already asked its Indian offsets partner to start paying all the expenses for its executives visiting India. The costs of tickets, hotels, meals and entertainment will all be adjusted through over-invoicing offset supplies.

Making all this feasible is the MoD's inertia in setting up the systems needed for tightly monitoring offset transactions. Currently a small, undermanned section — the Defence Offsets Facilitation Agency (DOFA) — handles everything relating to offsets. A section of the MoD argues for setting up an expanded, high-power, multi-agency Defence Offsets Management Agency (DOMA) that is equipped to minutely evaluate the impending flood of offsets proposals; keep a running account of banked offsets; and interpret and clarify offsets policy. But South Block continues to shy away from framing a holistic offsets policy.

"Are you surprised that they are leaving open loopholes," asks a senior executive from a global arms corporation. "Who do you think will benefit from the kickbacks when they pick up momentum?"

Keeping a track of offsets is even more difficult when they are executed in Information Technology and services. But the MoD has not set up any specialist organisation, or even obtained specialist advice, for monitoring these fields.

Four years after offsets were announced, their purpose remains a matter of speculation. The MoD has never declared whether offsets are meant to generate employment in the defence sector through mass manufacture; or to encourage high-tech R&D through collaborative ventures; or to bring foreign direct investment (FDI) into the defence sector. South Block will probably avow that it wants all three. In this policy vacuum, vendors will naturally structure offsets to suit themselves rather than the Indian defence industry.

Within the MoD there is disquiet; many bureaucrats fear that offset scams will have the potential to end promising careers. But there is little expectation that Defence Minister A K Antony, with his unblemished record of policy paralysis, will allow clarity to creep in unnoticed. And so, bureaucrats are passing the buck. The Department of Defence and the Department of Defence Production are each trying to make the other responsible for offsets, hoping that, when the music stops, they will not be holding the parcel.

ajaishukla.blogspot.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SURINDER SUD: AMAZING MAIZE

THE GRAIN IS ALL SET TO BRING ABOUT THE MUCH-NEEDED SECOND GREEN REVOLUTION

SURINDER SUD

 

If wheat and rice were the harbingers of the first green revolution, maize might play a similar role in bringing about the much-needed second green revolution. In fact, indications to this effect are already there. While the productivity of wheat and rice has plateaued, that of maize has grown by a whopping 27 per cent between 2003-04 and 2008-09. The maize plant is inherently a more efficient converter of energy and nutrition into biomass, including grain. This crop, therefore, is capable of delivering higher tonnage per hectare than wheat and rice even with lower inputs.

 Interestingly, while the breakthrough in the productivity of wheat and rice was the result chiefly of the introduction of exotic varieties, the maize revolution was being spearheaded by the locally developed single-cross hybrids (first generation seeds obtained by crossbreeding two distinctly different parents). Such hybrids are being promoted aggressively by the Directorate of Maize Research of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) to boost maize production as well as farmers' income.

Maize directorate head Sain Dass is quite upbeat about the prospects of an early maize revolution in India. "The country's maize output can be doubled in two years through single-cross hybrids," he maintains. This will turn India into a net exporter of maize, after meeting its fast-growing domestic demand for human food, livestock feed and industrial raw material. At present, less than 25 per cent of the total maize output is consumed as human food, over 60 per cent is used as cattle and poultry feed and the rest goes to industry for the production of starch, pharmaceuticals, biofuels, potable alcohol, packing materials and the like.

Single-cross hybrids — which help produce maize cobs of uniform shape, size, colour and grain quality — have fairly high yield potential and wider adaptability to different agro-climatic conditions. This allows maize to be grown in summer as well as winter seasons. More significantly, they have the capacity to cope with factors related to climate change. In areas where water is becoming scarce due to indiscriminate use, maize can easily replace the traditional crops.

A large number of good, single-cross maize hybrids have been evolved in public and private sectors. The seeds of even public sector hybrids are being produced by the private seed producers under commercial arrangements with the institutions that have developed them. Farmers do not mind paying for hybrid seeds, which have to be bought afresh for every sowing because of their higher productivity and better prices of the produce.

Andhra Pradesh, where the cultivation of single-cross maize hybrids has already caught on, has witnessed a spectacular spurt in maize productivity. The state's average yield of 5.24 tonnes a hectare is more than double the national average of merely 2.4 tonnes. Maize yields in the Guntur district are the highest, between 7.2 and 8.8 tonnes a hectare. Some progressive farmers are harvesting even up to 10 tonnes per hectare as well. This compares quite favourably with the world's highest maize productivity of 9.67 tonnes a hectare in the US. However, that level is obtained from a crop which occupies the field for a much longer duration (120 to 240 days) than that in India (80 days and a little beyond). Also, to achieve that level, the land has to be wholly irrigated and the crop well-fed with fertilisers. "The productivity of Indian single-cross hybrids, on a per-day output basis, is higher than that in the US," claims Sain Dass.

Hilly states, including the north-eastern states, are believed to have good potential to emerge as the maize production hubs because of their favourable agro-climatic conditions. Scientists of the maize directorate have already held workshops and meetings with officials in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern states to promote single-cross hybrids there. The directorate has offered to hold maize cultivation demonstrations in these states, besides helping them source seeds for distribution among farmers. Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) are also being involved in this effort.

Since most of the hill states get large number of tourists, the demand for specialty maize types like baby corn and sweet corn is rising fast there. In north-eastern states, most people being meat-eaters, the demand for maize as livestock feed is growing. An increased maize cultivation in such states will help cater to such needs. Besides, the maize produced there can be exported to other states and can even be shipped abroad as grain after value-addition through processing.

surinder.sud@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CREATING A CLASSICAL INDIAN CANON

NILANJANA S ROY

In the library sales from the crumbling houses of Calcutta, or Delhi, or the hill-station homes, the keen-eyed book-buyer would often come across sets of bound classics. These were usually in the printer's binding — vellum, blue leather and gold — or occasionally bound in red with the owner's initials stamped on the spine or on the frontispiece.

Over the decades, the contents of these classics changed. Everyman's Library of classic works was a favourite, as was the Modern Library set; but depending on the owner's tastes, you might have complete sets of histories, or the World's Greatest Short Stories, or Masterpieces of World Literature, or a complete set of Greek mythology. You would very rarely find a similar set of Indian classics — individual books, almost always the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and perhaps the great poets or favourite Hindi, Gujarati and Bengali writers.

But complete sets were hard to find, even in the most literate of households, because the concept of a classics shelf for Indian literature didn't sit comfortably in our imaginations. There were exceptions: Oxford University Press and Penguin India have both produced excellent translations and classics sets, but there has been no authoritative equivalent of the Loeb Classical Library. As of this week, a handsome donation by Infosys' Narayan Murthy to the Harvard University Press might change that. The project he has in mind would be the Murthy Classical Library of India — with dual-language editions of Indian classics in several languages, from Hindi to Punjabi to Malayalam.

Just a few years ago, the Clay Library project, funded by the philanthropist John Clay, began publishing the beautifully produced Clay Sanskrit Library. It's one of the very few series I actively regretted not being able to publish — it went to Random House instead of my nascent publishing house — and I remember how beautiful the Clay volumes of Kalidasa and Dandin looked, bound in eggshell blue, the acid-free paper turning smoothly to the touch of your fingers.

Gurcharan Das, as formidable a reader as he is a writer, speaks with affection of the "battle books" (Books Six to Nine of the Mahabharata) in "beautiful, parallel texts in English and Sanskrit". But the Clay project has been disrupted by the illness of John Clay, and there's some uncertainty about its future. And the Murthy Classical Library, by spreading its net wider than Sanskrit, promises to deliver something we've never really had — a comprehensive look at our literary heritage, even if it might take decades to complete.

What do we currently read in the way of our own classics? We don't have an easy equivalent of the Classical Canon — in the sense of a list of classic literary works that would be considered essential reading for any thinking Indian. Most of us imbibe the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, almost by osmosis, whether it's through the great authoritative translations or through your grandmother's retellings, or via a more popular comic-book or TV serial version. After this, it splinters according to individual preference — there are very few outside the academic world who would read, simultaneously, the Rajatarangini and the Cilappatikaram, Shakuntala and the Buddhist song-cycle of the Charyapada.

Back in my university days, there was an unconscious acceptance of the idea that you could read in translation — we read Chaucher and Homer without questioning the difficult medieval English of one or the translation from Greek of the other. It rarely occurred to even enthusiastic readers to wonder why we couldn't similarly study the Mahabharata. This isn't an argument for cultural representation; just a way to underline the fact that we have a large blank shelf in our households where the Indian classics should be. Where this space is filled with classics selected at random, it's often limited by the language we know best — we'll read our own region's greatest authors, but not roam too far abroad. Murthy's donation is a way of acknowledging that this is a country where we often read, and think, in translation. It's just not reflected on our book shelves.

Tailpiece: Years ago, critics in Calcutta dissed Shankar's writings: he wrote for the masses, and his bestselling books were too populist to be considered serious literature. The Bengali writer makes no claims himself to literary greatness, but I think it's going to please him tremendously that Chowringhee is on the shortlist for this year's Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The other shortlisted fiction includes two books in German, two in French and one in Italian — Chowringhee, translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha, is the only Asian contender this year.

nilanjanasroy@gmail.com

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LOO-SE LOGIC

 

WOT an idea, Sirji — as many toilets in India as there are cellphones! No, this is not the dream of an NGO but the prescription of the UN University's Institute for Water, Environment and Health.


Admittedly, the pot is a good place to think, and tanks are pretty necessary for the entire exercise, but it is hard to imagine India sinking in trillions of rupees to provide 563.73 million toilets, to match the UN body's estimate of the number of mobile phones.


While it may be true that only 366 million Indians had access to 'proper sanitation' compared to the numbers who were 'mobile' , it would perhaps come as a surprise to the UN worthies that India has its own variant of mobile toilets. Maybe they do not conform to western norms, but they do the job. Moreover , the Indian variant is emphatically, eco-friendly , as it involves no inorganic materials and is entirely bio-degradable , needs little or no water, requires no fabrication or costly plumbing materials, and can be set down at short notice on any spot.

Unlike cellphones, it has no built-in obsolescence, needs no batteries or electricity to operate and recharge, and has no need for reprocessing as it has a lifetime warranty. Best of all, each one has its proprietary technology and the operating manual comes naturally to all Indians, rural and urban. There is a minor design glitch in terms of odoriferous fumes, but if properly positioned — an adequate distance away from dwellings — prevailing winds can do the needful.


So far, this ingenious subcontinental invention has not caught the imagination of the west, which is why ablutions there remain slaves to place and plumbing, commodes and cisterns, and of course, tree-unfriendly paper rolls.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

EXIT THAROOR

 

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi is unlikely to share this view, but his initial tweet on Shashi Tharoor is well poised to go down in history as the beginning of the clean-up Indian cricket badly requires. Neither the call raised in Parliament to nationalise the cricket league nor the one to ban it makes sense.


What such exhortations show is the sense of betrayal that cricket lovers feel over the illicit personal enrichment, or an attempt thereof, that has been made out of their passion for the game. Indians deserve better. They deserve good, clean fun when it comes to organised, professional sport. IPL represents the first attempt at creating a commercial sporting event on a large scale in India. It has met with wild success, as far as entertaining viewers, discovering new talent and rewarding players are concerned.


It has also met with equally stunning failure, when it comes to keeping sleaze out of organised sport. The present investigations into IPL franchises lifting the corporate veil to find out who exactly has been making money from Indian cricket should begin the cleansing the sport requires. Mr Tharoor can count himself a martyr to the cause.


Mr Modi, too, is well placed to lay claim to similar martyrdom in due course. A public scandalised at the brazen manner in which the former minister lobbied for a financial transaction that benefited his associate and the imperious manner in which Mr Modi has used the cricket league to enrich himself and his close associates might balk at 'martyr' as a description for either protagonist. But without their googlies and sixers, the investigation would never have acquired momentum. Only political skulduggery can now block the probe all the way to those who supervise the IPL in the Board for Control of Cricket in India and allowed IPL to go the way it has.


Mr Tharoor has reason to feel aggrieved. Compared to the achievements of some ministerial colleagues, his IPL feat is a misdemeanour. As of now, his exit reflects political expedience rather than principle. But brilliant outsiders, he must learn, cannot be effective if they show traits of the system they proudly hold in contempt.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

LEGALISE BETTING

 

It is time India legalised betting. Gambling, like prostitution and drugs, is a subject on which views span the entire spectrum: from outright ban in some Islamic countries to complete freedom in the Scandinavia. Most others, including the US, tend to be somewhere in-between.


The US, where online gambling is big business, allows individual states to regulate it, much like India in the context of prohibition. In India, in keeping with our hypocrisy on many moral issues, gambling is illegal. But as reports of the unholy nexus between gambling and underworld money show, the ban is only on paper, and serves, as with all bans that are impossible to enforce, to push the activity underground. With all its concomitant ills — crime, unaccounted money and lost taxes.


In this scenario, it is best to look at the ban afresh. There would be multiple benefits. Legalisation and regulation with know-your-client norms would curb the use of betting for money laundering and terror/crime funding. The government could levy a sin tax and its tax revenues would boom. At the very least, the betting gains would cease to be black money and legalising betting would bring down the level of black money in the system. More tourists and money from countries where gambling is banned would come to India.


By removing the ban, India would be following the lead of a country like France that last year proposed new laws to regulate and tax internet gambling, to adapt to 'internet reality.' Rather than ban (ineffectively) more than 25,000 websites reportedly engaged in online gambling, the French government argued it is better to license and regulate gambling, though betting exchanges remain illegal.


'Choose the lesser of the two evils' is usually sane advice. Given the choice between legalising gambling, with the possibility that people, men in particular, might gamble away their money leaving their families destitute, and continuing with an ineffective ban that brings in its wake organised crime on a much larger scale, the former seems to be the lesser evil. If the experience with prohibition is anything to go by, banning is a sub-optimal answer.

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

THROUGH THE THIRD EYE

 

OPENING THE CLOSET

The IPL isn't the only thing the Tharoor-Modi spat has put the focus on. Apart from the underbelly of the cricket carnival, politicians are worried about the implications for their 'special friends'. And quite a few are cursing Tharoor for bringing this delicate side of life under the searchlights. With Tharoor's friend, Sunanda Pushkar arousing so much media attention, many political big shots, who also have their special friends' kept tucked away from the public eye, are worried about these alliances coming out into the open. It has been a tribute to their grip on the system that any peep into their colorful personal lives invites politicians' ire at the "intrusion into the personal domain of public figures". But Tharoor has smashed that rule. Having seen how highlighting the Tharoor-Sunanda link could send TRP ratings soaring, TV cameras may well start invading the forbidden territory for many leaders. Tharoor really has scared some holy cows!


Reel life retreat

Whether the government will use Tharoor as bait to catch the sharks from the IPL waters will soon be clear. But the minister's fall in Delhi has divided the Kerala political class. While some state Congress leaders are privately celebrating his exit as he was becoming a political competitor, the party as a whole is still debating whether the saga could actually give Tharoor a sort tragic hero image. Notwithstanding their "IPL Vs BPL" sound-bytes the communists are also making it a point to say their opposition to Tharoor's ways should not be seen as opposition to the IPL coming to Kerala. But, two Malayali reel-life heroes who have lost out in popular perception are superstar Mohanlal and director Priyadarshan. The talk of the town is that the duo rolled back their plans to bid for an IPL team after a cricket czar asked them to stay put. Now, the pro-Tharoor Malayali camp avers it took Sashi's guts and reach to tread where reel life couldn't.


Out of touch

Congress leaders are increasingly worried about J&K CM Omar Abdullah's shaky innings on a bouncy political pitch. More than a year after he took over, many leaders here feel Abdullah Jr is showing no grip on handling the sensitive state. They think the CM's inability to deal with the frequent street protests has marred the post-poll optimism. While a section of the NC has distanced itself from the young CM, he has also rubbed the Congress ally the wrong way, resulting in a coalition chill. The PDP's rising aggression is also being seen as the sign of the opposition seeing an opening as the CM dithers. So, last week Omar visited Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad's Delhi residence in a bid to end the tension between the two. Time for political reinforcements in J&K , it seems.


In a limbo

Uma Bharti and Govindacharya are not the only people left in a limbo courtesy Nitin Gadkari's ill-timed moves. The entire new BJP team which Gadkari set up a month ago is now in a state of suspended animation because the party president, shuttling between Delhi and Nagpur, is not finding time to allocate work for his office bearers. So, it's total confusion at the party HQ with new office bearers finding it difficult to function without formal assignments and the outgoing team members finding it awkward to take decisions as their terms have effectively ended. Everybody is hoping for Gadkari to get his timing right, finally.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

THE SWEAT OVER EQUITY

SATVIK VARMA

 

The unusual April heat is definitely being felt by the players on the cricket ground. But surprisingly, there are some who are sweating it even in the airconditioned box stands. The recent debate relating to the issuance of 'sweat equity' has drawn attention to the legislation regulating such issuance and the procedure that needs to be followed.

The Companies Act, (the 'Act' ) provides that equity shares can be issued only to employees or directors of a company, at a discounted rate, or for consideration other than cash, in recognition of their contribution for providing know-how or intellectual property or for value additions for the benefit of the company. Such contributions may be in any form, which increases the value of the company in economic terms and is attributable to the efforts of the concerned employee or director. The equity shares so issued are termed as 'sweat equity' shares.


Further, the Act stipulates that sweat equity shares must be of the same class of equity shares as are already issued by the company and all the limitations, restrictions, and provisions relating to equity shares are also applicable to sweat equity shares. The issuance of sweat equity is required to be authorised by a special resolution passed by the company in the general meeting. The special resolution must inter-alia specify the number of shares, current market price, and the class or classes of directors or employees to whom such equity shares are being issued . The Act also states that, as on the date of the issuance of the sweat equity shares, one year should have elapsed since the company was entitled to commence its business.


Where sweat equity is issued by a company whose equity shares are not listed on any recognised stock exchange, the sweat equity shares are required to be issued in accordance with prescribed guidelines. In 2003, the Unlisted Companies (Issue of Sweat Equity Shares) Rules, 2003 (' MCA rules' ) were issued by the ministry of corporate affairs. Under the MCA rules a company cannot issue sweat equity shares in a year for more than 15% of the total paid up equity share capital of the company or shares in excess of the value of Rs 5 crore, whichever is higher. In the event the number of shares exceeds the foregoing cap, prior approval from the central government has to be obtained.


Further, in the case of a non-cash consideration for issuing sweat equity, the consideration needs to be valued by a valuer who is expected to submit a valuation report giving justification for the valuation. It should be noted that such valuation report is also required to be sent to the shareholders with the notice of the general meeting and the company has to give justification for the issue of sweat equity shares, which has to form part of the notice sent for the general meeting.


It may also be relevant to note that where sweat equity is issued for non-cash consideration, then, if it takes the form of a depreciable or amortisable asset, it has to be carried to the balance sheet of the company in accordance with the relevant accounting standards. Of equal relevance is the fact that any sweat equity issued is subject to a mandatory three year lock-in from the date of its allotment.


Additionally, under rules issued by the Institute of Companies Secretaries of India the issuance of sweat equity must be permitted by the articles of association of the company and stipulates that the company must make the requisite filings with the registrar of companies within 30 days from the date of the special resolution permitting such issuance of sweat equity, together with a copy of the resolution.


Whether or not the procedures, detailed above, were followed by the company which recently won the franchise for a cricket league is a matter that can only be determined after a detailed review. But what this controversy once again brings to the fore is the need for better enforceability and policing of the laws. Presumably, there are numerous other private companies that issue sweat equity without following the above procedures. Not all of these make it to the front page for their breach. And it may be impractical to expect the government to monitor all of these diligently.


Thus, and as a matter of public policy, what is perhaps required is that the consequences for breach of any law must visit the delinquent with an iron hand. Punishments need to be stringent, which they currently are not, so as to be a deterrent. Of equal importance to enforceability is the concept of retribution. While the question about what restraints on actions of other people should exist has been the subject of a long standing legal, moral and political debate, the real issue is how the restraints are enforced. In the final analysis, enforceability is not only a matter of command-and control. Some amount of self-regulation is also required on the part of the seven lakh plus registered private companies to demonstrate their acceptance of the rule of law.


(The author is an advocate based in New Delhi. Views are personal.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

SERIOUS SHORTCOMINGS IN THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY

ABHEEK BARMAN

 

India's market and insurance watchdogs are at each others' throats, growling and snarling. It's said that this is a struggle for one upmanship between two independent and headstrong regulators, a battle for turf in financial markets. That's only part of the story. Early this month market regulator Sebi barred 14 private sector insurers from issuing instruments — popularly known as Ulips — without asking its permission.


This effectively meant that no insurer would get to issue new Ulips, insurance vehicles that use the premiums gathered from people to invest in equity and debt markets. The order infuriated insurance regulator Irda, which asked insurers to ignore Sebi's instructions and go ahead and sell Ulips anyway. Soon, the spat escalated and the battling regulators were summoned to North Block in Delhi and told to take their spat to court.


Till the Bombay High Court takes a call, insurers won't know whether they can issue new Ulips, so that hangs in limbo. People who've already bought into Ulips have been told that their investments won't go belly up. But that's about all the light that's come out of so much heat. The real issues have been buried in the din.


Whenever you invest in a Ulip, you're offered some insurance cover and some returns that are based on how, say, equity markets perform. In other words the insurer offering you the Ulip put your money to work betting on stocks and the returns you get, if any, will depend on whether those stocks go up or down.

But apart from the insurance cover, isn't that what a mutual fund, which invests in equities does? It is, with a very major difference. When you buy a mutual fund you pay nothing to the company running the fund to buy in. When you buy a Ulip, you pay the insurer a huge amount of money, in some cases around 70% of your first premium for the privilege of allowing it to accept your money. Till recently insurers were also allowed to gouge you with slightly lower fees up to four times over the life of the policy.


Since your money will chase stocks (and sometimes debt) in both cases, there's absolutely no reason for a company issuing Ulips to charge you more than a company running a mutual fund. Sometime ago, market regulator Sebi made sure that MFs wouldn't charge you anything when you buy a fund, by scrapping the so called entry load. It also banned funds from paying commission to agents who sold those funds. Today you can still buy funds from agents, but you have to pay them a small fee, typically around 1% of your investment, as an advisory charge.

 

Given that, Sebi wonders, why would Ulips charge so much from investors? I wonder about the same thing. I also wonder why people would invest in Ulips when they could pay much less — and therefore make higher returns on investment — by going the mutual fund way.


The answer to that riddle is something called 'mis-selling' : the way agents who sell Ulips hound their marks, make outlandish promises that they know they can't deliver, to gouge those first few premiums out of you. The fees that you'll pay on those first few premiums are the real killing for insurers and their agents. Most people who're reading this could be way too smart to fall for this type of thing, but a surprisingly large number of people do get sucked in.


Mis-selling investment instruments isn't just limited to India or Ulips. Across the US, so called 'smart' investors bought instruments called CDOs till 2008, when they realised that these things were actually packages of housing mortgages taken by folks who couldn't afford to pay after the first instalment. And America's market watchdog SEC has indicted Goldman Sachs, supposedly the smartest investment banker in the US, of fraud because it mis-sold at least one CDO to a gullible mark three years ago.


Insurance regulator Irda recently woke up to the charges of hidden costs and misselling of Ulips. It asked insurers to cap the charges at 3% of total returns for all policies up to 10 years. That's still 3% higher than the cost of buying a mutual fund, but nevertheless it was a sign that the watchdog wasn't totally comatose.
But despite Irda's cap on upfront charges, insurers can still goose you with other charges with fancy names that mean nothing but are designed to make you poorer. They'll also be written in very small print in some corner of the documents that the agents will not bother to open for you.


This is the can of worms that Sebi has opened up. Instead of referring the dispute to a court, the government should have taken a position on the dispute between the two regulators. The government should have asked the insurance watchdog to do exactly what Sebi has done for mutual funds: no insurer should be able to pay its agents any commission to sell Ulips. And no investor should pay any entry load on these instruments.


These would have made one very important difference: it would have eliminated the difference in incentives offered to agents selling Ulips and mutual funds. That would have taken most of the misselling out of the Ulip market. Without higher commissions, agents would be indifferent between pushing a Ulip or a mutual fund. Would it make it tougher for insurers to sell plain vanilla insurance schemes, ones that aren't linked to market investments? Not at all. Those things, called term policies, could have the same incentives that exist today.
Would these measures suck out liquidity from the equity markets? After all Ulips do manage to collect a lot of money from gullible people and pump them into stocks. Will that flow turn into a trickle?


To answer that one, remember that mutual fund investments didn't dry up after Sebi scrapped agent commissions and entry loads. Investors were happy when the entry load went to zero. Agents can, and do, charge investors for advice and help. Fears that Ulips with lower costs will bring markets crashing down are overstated. Instead, Ulips with lower costs might actually attract more customers.


There are times when regulators crack down too hard or miss the real point or over-regulate. But this time it's hard to disagree with Sebi's position. Instead of slugging it out in court, Irda should crack down on the incentives offered to sell Ulips and make them the same as mutual funds. The longer this state of things continues in the insurance industry, the longer Irda will be seen as a toothless watchdog.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WILL STEVE JOBS COME TO GOAFEST?

 

We had a wonderful time at Goafest. Thank you AAAI and the Ad Club of Mumbai for putting up a great show in such a short time given the last minute change in venue. It was a giant party where laughter and optimism mixed well with prawn balchao. Time was measured in pints. You met beautiful people, creative people, powerful people and desperate metal hunters and they all washed down well once you knocked back your fifth drink.

But after the buzz, after the fizz, and after the captains and youth left the sun-drenched beaches, you were left with some splitting questions, and no hangover. The issues are relevant to both the advertisers and the marketing communication partners.


What's the role of the festival? Why are clients not attending? It's the biggest show on Indian advertising and only a handful of advertisers hiding in the shadows? What value are international speakers adding to the festival? Did we learn anything new? Why is credit not shared equally? Everybody wants to win, but in a collaborative world, how come nobody wants to share!


Take the personal issue of collaboration. At the media evening, we saw our friends and partners walk away with awards without a thought or even a mention about us in their victories. Our activation partners were dancing up the stage, receiving awards and credit for work that was conceptualized and created by us. We were thrilled that our combined work was being recognized by the best in the field. But we felt broken that the code of creation was forgotten in the mad rush to pick up a metal.


What do you do? Drink more Feni? Please don't get us wrong. All our partners deserve every bit of the drum beating adulation they receive. Their execution and amplification of the idea is what makes all the difference. It's what creates renewed energy and future for the brand. But why should partnership end where fame begins? We must bring about a system -- or find a way -- of sharing the credit amongst all the partners involved in the creation and execution of the idea.


Everybody is creative, including the consumer. We know that ideas that create social movements and mass change can't be done alone. Campaigns like 'Lemon Patallam', 'Women Against Lazy Stubble' and 'Mission To Make India Heart Healthy' are giant commitments by the brand and advertiser! These are not one-offs. They require active and mature collaboration. The live installation 'Wall of Education' in Delhi for our insurance client took more than 12 partners to create, including a tear jerking speech by Kapil Sibal. It also created history. The future belongs to the inter-dependent. Let's give credit at every occasion.


Take the other issue that is doing the rounds post-Goafest. As you listen to the delegates from the media and creative agencies, one senses a rising tide of unease about the proliferation of scams at Goafest. Piyush Pandey was trying to say something about these "pieces of art" every time he went up on stage as jury chairman. Are we listening?

The majority of the work that won in press, outdoor and poster were great craft. But they showcased the artist, not the brand. Is this an orgy of the impotent? How much sun, sand, meeting of minds and fried fish will it take before we realize that we are in the business of rewarding real transformational ideas that are brilliantly executed. We are social artists. Our canvas is people and society.


Goafest has shown us it's possible to win on real work for big brands -- even if it represents just a minority of the metals handed out at the award show. So the answer does not lie in banning scams, but in leading by example. Industry chiefs and members of the jury, including myself, need to raise the sights of the collective. It's about providing perspective, with action. It's far more rewarding when our ideas create change. Metals are the icing on the cake of great brand work.


This is not a crib and cry session. Nor is this about the organizers or the event managers. This concerns the whole industry, including the advertiser who stands at the centre of the festival. No one is saying that the festival should stop. What they are asking is where is the festival going? What are its ideals? Will it get every major Indian and international client including Steve Jobs attend the show next year?

(The writer is the Chairman & Chief Creative Officer, BBDO India)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HAVING A GLOCAL MINDSET IS CRUCIAL: VIJAY SUBRAMANIAM, CEO, MARICO IBG

RATNA BHUSHAN

 

With six global acquisitions in the last five years and another likely soon, the Rs 2,300-crore Marico group's global arm, International Business group (IBG), contributes to more than 20% of the group's overall turnover, growing about 40% a year for the past four years. Vijay Subramaniam, CEO of Marico IBG, attributes its international success to the 'glocal' mindset that the company has adopted. Marico IBG, which international hair care brands such as Code 10, Hair Code and Fiancee, will continue to focus on Africa, Middle East and South Asia rather than going West, he told ET in an interview. Excerpts:


How critical international operations are for local companies and why Africa, South East Asia and Middle East seem to be the favourite markets for almost all FMCG companies?

Going international is critical not only in order to create multiple growth engines but also to create reverse learning for the home market. Also, the emerging economies in Asia and Africa have low-to-medium penetrations in some of the FMCG categories. This signifies considerable headroom for growth in the mid-term. Favourable macros, changing attitudes of the consumers and progressive policies of the governments also make these markets attractive destinations. Some of them also offer inorganic entry possibilities that can create access to mainstream distribution, manufacturing and talent. This can speed up one's learning curve as long as there is a strategic fit with the target.

How different are strategies you follow in African or South Asian countries compared to India?

Operating from a 'glocal' mindset is crucial. You need to stop thinking of an India-forward mindset and start playing by the rules of that market. In the Middle East, we reformulated Parachute hair cream to work effectively under high chlorine conditions prevalent in the region. And in Egypt, where soccer is almost a religion, we run programmes to leverage the soccer fever. The key is to participate in formats relevant to that market as opposed to transporting the India portfolio on an 'as is' basis.


It is also important to signal long-term commitment to the market. We recently listed our wholly owned subsidiary in Bangladesh on the local stock exchange. In Egypt, where we acquired family-run organisations, we sent professional managers. In South Africa, where we acquired the FMCG subsidiary of a major pharmaceutical company, the existing team continues with us. Critical success factors in a post-acquisition integration include pace, philosophy, people, physical execution and providence; five Ps.


Is it true that valuations of FMCG companies on the block are relatively cheaper in overseas markets compared to India?

While one cannot generalise, this is often true. Moreover, there are only limited opportunities available locally. That probably has a bearing on the valuations.


Any specific brands Marico has launched/ tweaked only for global markets?

Since our growth internationally has been a mix of organic and inorganic growth we do have brands like Hair code, Fiancee, Code 10, Caivil and Hercules that are unique to international operations. We have examples of brand extensions that have been tweaked on the basis of consumer insights for a particular region.

Parachute hair cream is an example of a format we launched internationally first and brought to India later. It is a leading brand in Bangladesh and the Middle East. Men's styling brand Hair Code is the market leader in Egypt, while Caivil operates in the ethnic African hair care space. We have also recently acquired the Code 10 brand from Colgate Palmolive in Malaysia.


Are gestation periods in overseas markets longer compared to those in India?

Typically, gestation periods tend to be longer as one needs to go up the learning curve in a new market. Speed of environment tends to be different in different markets; your plan needs to take cognizance of this fact. One way of reducing the gestation period is to interact with non-competing Indian companies that have established themselves in that market and learn from their experiences. We do this whenever we enter a new geography.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WE CAN HELP INDIA DEVELOP ITS PAYMENT INFRASTRUCTURE: AJAY BANGA

 

Last week, Ajay Banga was appointed president and chief executive officer of MasterCard, the global payment solution provider, effective July 1. He was also elevated to the board with immediate effect. The 50-year-old former Citi banker joined MasterCard last year and is currently the company's president and chief operating officer. In an exclusive interview with ET, Mr Banga speaks about the importance of India, emerging markets and challenges for him.


How important is India and other emerging markets for MasterCard?

The demographic dividend of India, combined with its enormous potential, makes it one of the most attractive growth possibilities for our company over the next few years. After all, the secular migration of cash and checks to much more efficient forms of payments, along with the relatively high proportion of cash usage in the economy today, demonstrates the potential for growth.


Innovation is at the core of our company and we are now seeing that, emerging markets are more often than not the early adapters of new technology. These markets are highly receptive to innovation and technology, with populations that are rapidly evolving in their payment needs and preferences. In India, for example, one of the fastest growing mobile phone markets in the world, we've led the pilots to drive transformation of mobile phones into secure contactless payment devices.


Some countries in Asia like China and Malaysia have their own proprietary network and now even India is looking to start its own network. How would this affect companies like MasterCard as these are supposed to be the new growing markets?

For financial institutions, the payment network they choose makes a world of difference in their ability to survive and thrive in an ever-changing payment environment. In a number of markets around the world, where domestic proprietary networks were set up, these networks are now turning to companies like ours to ensure that the latest technologies and capabilities are available to the banks. This ranges from fraud management to sophisticated scoring to speeding of transaction approvals and so on. If each country were to do that on its own, it would be very expensive as well as inefficient. We believe, therefore, that we bring value to the table and can help India develop its payments infrastructure and capabilities in a form that is respectful of local considerations.

Where do you see growth coming from — there is a feeling that Western markets are saturated and customers are overleveraged?

The payments industry is still very much a growth industry — not just in emerging markets where there is obvious potential for growth all around, but in developed markets where there are clear opportunities for growth by market segment and in new and alternative payment platforms, like contactless payments, mobile phone payments, remittances and other person-to-person transfers. Innovation remains key to capitalising on these opportunities. Additionally, even in developed countries, a relatively large portion of personal consumption expenditure is still done by cash, which is inefficient and expensive for the economy. So there is plenty of opportunity in developed markets as well.


Post-crisis, both customers and banks are cutting down on the number of credit cards. How will you tackle this issue?

MasterCard is a payment solutions provider, not just a card company. Our product portfolio includes a wide range of payment cards, including credit, debit, pre-paid, gift cards, as well as corporate solutions, including fleet, purchasing, salary cards. Through our innovative payments products, we are changing the way people pay and driving the future of payments around the world. By developing applications and solutions such as mobile payments, we help our customers create differentiated and profitable programmes to grow their business as well as our business.


As a processor, our global network allows our customers — card issuers and merchants — to enter new markets, access new customers or launch new offerings virtually anywhere in the world.


Post the crisis, there seems to be a furore that credit card interest rates are high, even though policy rates have been low. Do you think there is a scope for credit card rates to be lowered?

As a payment solutions provider, we do not issue cards directly to the end user and are not involved in setting interest rates for cards. This is determined by card-issuing banks' decision based on their customer segmentation and market profiling.


Visa is looking to get into other services and diversifying from their core business like POS management in India. Does MasterCard also plan to make such moves in emerging markets like India?

MasterCard is focused on growth, diversification and building through innovation. A good example is the launch of MasterCard Labs, a new global Research & Development arm dedicated to bringing innovative payment solutions to market with greater speed than ever before. This division will be staffed by MasterCard payment experts and technologists worldwide. With products such as PayPass (contactless payments), MoneySend (which enables card-to-card or person-to-person money transfer via ATM, Internet and mobile phones), and inControl (which gives card users more of a say in how their payments are made) — or even our most recent partnership with Next Jump (an internet data tracking company, which will create an online shopping mall tailored to cardholders' likely shopping habits), MasterCard is known as a major contributor to the modern payments landscape. As the world continues to migrate toward a cashless society, we will be focused on delivering what's next, faster and more efficient than ever before.


Personally, what do you think would be the challenges in the near and medium term?

Providing an environment which encourages growth but manages to avoid overregulation is the key challenge for many markets across the world. How we manage the growth by creating an environment for steady, sustainable growth, allow markets to open up and provide an environment for market forces to work effectively, and protect the consumer, will determine success or failure in the near and medium term.


What are your learning's from Citi?

Citi is a terrific global commercial banking franchise with excellent people. I thoroughly enjoyed my 13 years there. It gave me opportunities to grow and develop skills to handle that kind of global business, for which I am forever grateful. I wouldn't be here today if it were not for my time at Citi. I was an outsider to banking when I joined them, so I guess you could say that I learnt commercial banking at Citi.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CLARITY ABOUT OMCS SOON: PETROLEUM SECY

 

Petroleum secretary S Sundareshan is confident that state-owned oil marketing companies (OMCs) will be adequately compensated for shielding consumers from rising global fuel prices. He feels the government has only two options: to shift from price control to a market-determined pricing regime or allow fiscal deficit to rise. Excerpts from an interview with ET's Rajeev Jayaswal:


Ensuring better health of oil marketing companies (OMCs) was one of the three main objectives you had stated on February 1 after assuming the top office in the oil ministry. But the financial performance of OMCs has not been up to the mark...

Start with 2009-10. There is an accepted formula in place. Under-recoveries (Revenue OMCs lose on selling fuel below cost at government-determined rates) on petrol and diesel was to be compensated through upstream discounts and the government would pay for under-recoveries on kerosene and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). Out of Rs 31,000 crore under-recoveries on account of kerosene and LPG, the government has already paid Rs 12,000 crore cash compensation to OMCs. The balance of about Rs 19,000 crore is to be made good by the government. So speculation with respect to the financial performance of OMCs for 2009-10 is premature and uncalled for.


We are at the beginning of the 2010-11 (financial) year. We have on the table the Kirit Parikh committee report, which is one solution to the problem of under-recovery. Such important decisions, which will have far-reaching consequences, take time. The timing of the decision is to be considered by the country's leadership.


The future of OMCs is uncertain. Can we expect a decision soon?

The problem of under-recovery can be tackled only in two ways. The first is the hard decision related to pricing/decontrol (of fuel prices, as suggested by the Parikh committee), the other is to change the government's admitted stance on fiscal deficit. I'm confident that in the next few weeks a formal decision will be taken and OMCs' future will be ensured.


Another of your priorities was to have uniform gas pricing. What is the progress on this?

There are two different issues. Natural gas is produced through Nelp (New Exploration Pricing Policy) and joint venture blocks and also from pre-Nelp blocks (known as administrative price mechanism or APM gas) by ONGC and OIL. The issue of price revision of the APM gas is in the final decision-making stage.


The other is pool pricing, a completely different concept, which will ensure approximately uniform gas pricing for domestically produced natural gas irrespective of source of supply. It will also include LNG (liquefied natural gas). It is very complex. We are quite a distance away from this. First, we need to have connectivity (gas pipelines).


There has been a plan to have a national gas grid. How soon will it become a reality?

I've taken a review of pipelines being constructed by Gail India and Reliance. I'm very happy to state that all projects are progressing well and will be completed by 2012.


You had stated that country's energy security is one of your top priorities. What is your perception of the progress in this direction?

We have to be lucky in exploration of oil and gas. Private companies have been lucky but it was not so with PSUs (public sector undertakings). But oil production from the Rajasthan field jointly by Cairn and ONGC has been substantial. At the peak, production will go up to 8 million tonne (per annum) or more. Natural gas production from Reliance Industries' KG-D6 has increased domestic gas production by 80%. OVL (ONGC Videsh Ltd) already concluded a contract in Venezuela which will start production in two years. Efforts are on.

In the case of ONGC, production at C-series is expected very soon. The company is facing some difficulties in the KG basin and these constraints are being removed. ONGC is seriously involved in ultra-deep exploration. Finding oil and gas is a matter of chance and I do hope ONGC and OIL would be lucky.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THAROOR'S EXIT WAS INEVITABLE

What started off with a bang ended, ingloriously, with a tweet. Mr Shashi Tharoor, acclaimed writer, longtime international civil servant, India's candidate for UN Secretary-General, and suave new-age Internet-savvy politician, finally had to depart under a cloud after a rocky 10 months, lurching from one crisis to another, as India's junior foreign minister. It was perhaps his needless dabbling in efforts to cobble up an IPL team for Kochi that finally sealed his fate. Without doubt, as Thiruvananthapuram's representative in the Lok Sabha, Mr Tharoor had every right to take more than a passing interest in getting a cricket franchise for his home state. But mentoring appears too inadequate a description of what he allegedly did. The disclosure that his friend Sunanda Pushkar was given free "sweat" equity worth around Rs 70 crore by the franchise owners created a cloud of suspicion, which soon darkened into a storm rattling the government and the Congress Party. Mr Tharoor's considerable communication skills weren't much help in his efforts to prove there was no hanky panky: the facts were too stark for the novelist to be able to obfuscate with a play of words, and carry conviction. The Opposition, unsurprisingly, smelt blood, while all that the Congress could smell was trouble. Ms Pushkar's ill-advised last-minute damage control — sacrificing her free equity, and dissociating from the franchise at the eleventh hour — made things worse for Mr Tharoor. It only appeared to lend credence to the Opposition's allegations. By the time the Congress core committee met on Sunday evening, it was evident that Mr Tharoor was on the way out. It was evident that the Congress president, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, did not want the party to exert itself in defending a minister mired in a controversy, which might get even worse in the days ahead. The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, who had allowed Mr Tharoor a lot of leeway when he got into earlier scrapes, had no choice but to ask him to go. Mr Tharoor's exit signals the souring of a great promise — of a well-educated new-age politician giving a wide berth to sleaze. Mr Tharoor, who was to exemplify the New India and show others the way, instead invited trouble almost from the start. Soon after taking over, he embarrassed the government then in the middle of an austerity drive by staying at a five-star hotel suite costing Rs 40,000 a day. After that, it was one controversy after another — from ridiculing the austerity measures with his "cattle class" remark, mocking the policies of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, to openly criticising the government's new visa guidelines. It almost seemed he could not let go of any issue without a foot-in-the-mouth comment. Worse, many of these smacked of elitism, something that politicians in any democracy should avoid like the plague for their own good. He also appeared to exude an air of contempt for the khadi-clad brigade, so it was really no surprise that when IPL commissioner Mr Lalit Modi set a trap for him through a tweet (could there be a greater irony?), he found himself virtually friendless in the Congress. The MP who won the Thiruvananthapuram seat with a one lakh-plus majority could not generate even a single demonstration in his favour in his constituency in the past one week.


Mr Tharoor held out great promise when he joined the government in 2009; but today hardly a tear will be shed over his departure. In Machiavellian terms, his downfall holds practical survival lessons for other new-age politicians — don't act too smart, and remember that those who project themselves as a cut above the rest will surely be cut to size.

 

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE WAR GAME

BY SHANKAR ROYCHOWDHURY

 

Way back in 1945, US President Harry S. Truman could not possibly have imagined the furore his home-spun slogan in working American-English would cause almost 70 years later, half a world away in India. But that is exactly what was sparked off by the Union home minister, Mr P. Chidambaram's press statements using the imagery of President Truman to convey his dissatisfaction at the prevailing situation in Maoist-infested Lalgarh and the western districts of the state after his recent meeting with the chief minister of West Bengal in Kolkata. The visit, ostensibly for the purpose of mutual consultations at the highest level between Central and state governments, predictably developed into counter-battery salvos of accusatory media bytes, highlighting yet again the faultlines of competitive politics even during a time of a growing emergency, when Central and state governments are ranged against each other during a pre-election year.

A war of words can turn extremely lethal at very short notice, and Mr Chidambaram's intemperate rhetoric about the "cowards in the jungle" drew an immediate response from the Naxalites the very next day. Eleven personnel of the Special Operations Group of the Orissa Police were killed in a landmine explosion enroute to Malkangiri, followed within a short span by the annihilation of an entire company of 62 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) in an immaculately planned and executed ambush in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, eerily reminiscent in many ways of the Viet Minh described in The Street Without Joy, Bernard B. Fall's classic portrayal of the twilight years of the French colonial presence in Indo-China in the 1950s. In fact, it may perhaps even be time to speculate uneasily whether India has acquired its own home-grown Vo Nguyen Giap from the ranks of Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) in the jungles of Abujmarh?

Mr Chidambaram accepted full responsibility for the debacle at Dantewada and the 76 dead of the ill-fated CRPF company, by declaring that this time around "the buck stops here", with him, and offered to resign, reviving a tradition of governance long forgotten in this country. But the question nevertheless arises — what should he have resigned over, operational failure of the CRPF or his own overblown rhetoric?

Mr Chidambaram is said to be personally involved with the campaign against the Maoists, but the policy being executed by his ministry is totally indirect and passive, with no place for high-profile individual flourishes. Anti-Maoist operations have been decentralised to state governments, with the Union home ministry opting for the stand-off role of a supporting agency, mainly concerned with allocating additional resources of Central paramilitary forces.

It is overall a hugely flawed, unviable and visibly failing strategy to cope with a massive politico- and socio-military problem extending over seven to 10 states and 200-odd districts across the country, which demands coordinated Central planning and execution, including a large administrative and developmental component. The situation calls for a far more pro-active and coordinated strategy led by the Centre, which must assume the direct responsibility for "stopping the buck" instead of passing it entirely to the chief ministers of states, who have been generally unsuccessful so far in meeting the challenge of insurgency on their respective home turfs.

Assessing the report of the Kargil Committee way back in 1999, the Group of Ministers had recommended the CRPF to be the lead internal security force in the country, something on the lines of the French National Gendarmerie. This has not been achieved to the requisite extent so far, because besides training, equipment, logistics support and human resources, the heart of any putative "army" is its corporate ethos and tradition of combatant leadership, at the cutting-edge level of its units and subunits, something which cannot be plucked fully grown off the nearest tree, but has to be assiduously nurtured and developed over years by a long and intensive process of personal example and leadership. This has failed to catch on adequately in the CRPF, whose command structure has adopted a police ethos of remaining detached and uninvolved with their commands, after parceling them out to the state police.

Does the killing ground of Dantewada indicate that the main force companies of the Maoist People's Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) have become a match for the CRPF? Also the inevitable $64 million question — is it time to call in the Indian Army for anti-Naxalite operations? To the first question — the possibility is too grim to even contemplate. The CRPF is a well organised and well-equipped constabulary, far superior in this respect to any of its possible adversaries, but it will remain less than fully effective unless allowed to be professionally trained, led, handled and deployed under its own commanders, in its own "main force" tactical groupings and not parcelled out in penny-packets as is generally the case at present.

To the second question, embedding the Indian Army in anti-Naxalite operations in the heartland of the country for an indefinite period, far from its projected operational locations against the external threat is a very bad idea indeed, an act of strategic self-immolation that would cause great joy to our enemies.

It should be noted that throughout the entire counter-insurgency against the Taliban, Pakistan has never allowed its overall strategic focus on India as the main enemy to be diluted, and has committed its resources accordingly, primarily utilising the paramilitary Frontier Corps (supported by tanks, artillery, and air power) for the task, leaving the Pakistan Army free to focus on its operational role against India.

Deployment of the Rashtriya Rifles, which is part of the Indian Army, or the Assam Rifles, which has Army leadership, could be considered, provided they can be relieved of their operational commitments in an increasingly restive Kashmir and the Northeast, and the many associated issues of operations, logistics, and particularly command and control resolved satisfactorily.

- Gen. Shankar Roychowdhury is a former Chief of Army Staff and a former Member of Parliament

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

WALL STREET LOOTERS IN GUCCI LOAFERS

BY PAUL KRUGMAN

 

 

Last October, I saw a cartoon by Mike Peters in which a teacher asks a student to create a sentence that uses the verb "sacks", as in looting and pillaging. The student replies, "Goldman Sachs".

Sure enough, last week the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) accused the Gucci-loafer guys at Goldman of engaging in what amounts to white-collar looting.

I'm using the term looting in the sense defined by the economists George Akerlof and Paul Romer in a 1993 paper titled "Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit". That paper, written in the aftermath of the savings-and-loan crisis of the Reagan years, argued that many of the losses in that crisis were the result of deliberate fraud.

Was the same true of the current financial crisis?

Most discussion of the role of fraud in the crisis has focused on two forms of deception: predatory lending and misrepresentation of risks. Clearly, some borrowers were lured into taking out complex, expensive loans they didn't understand — a process facilitated by Bush-era federal regulators, who both failed to curb abusive lending and prevented states from taking action on their own. And for the most part, sub-prime lenders didn't hold on to the loans they made. Instead, they sold off the loans to investors, in some cases surely knowing that the potential for future losses was greater than the people buying those loans (or securities backed by the loans) realised.

What we're now seeing are accusations of a third form of fraud.

We've known for some time that Goldman Sachs and other firms marketed mortgage-backed securities even as they sought to make profits by betting that such securities would plunge in value. This practice, however, while arguably reprehensible, wasn't illegal. But now the SEC is charging that Goldman created and marketed securities that were deliberately designed to fail, so that an important client could make money off that failure. That's what I would call looting.

And Goldman isn't the only financial firm accused of doing this. According to the Pulitzer-winning investigative journalism website ProPublica, several banks helped market designed-to-fail investments on behalf of the hedge-fund Magnetar, which was betting on that failure.

So what role did fraud play in the financial crisis? Neither predatory lending nor the selling of mortgages on false pretences caused the crisis. But they surely made it worse, both by helping to inflate the housing bubble and by creating a pool of assets guaranteed to turn into toxic waste once the bubble burst.

As for the alleged creation of investments designed to fail, these may have magnified losses at the banks that were on the losing side of these deals, deepening the banking crisis that turned the burst housing bubble into an economy-wide catastrophe.

The obvious question is whether financial reform of the kind now being contemplated would have prevented some or all of the fraud that now seems to have flourished over the past decade. And the answer is yes.

For one thing, an independent consumer protection bureau could have helped limit predatory lending. Another provision in the proposed Senate bill, requiring that lenders retain five per cent of the value of loans they make, would have limited the practice of making bad loans and quickly selling them off to unwary investors.

It's less clear whether proposals for derivatives reform — which mainly involve requiring that financial instruments like credit default swaps be traded openly and transparently, like ordinary stocks and bonds — would have prevented the alleged abuses by Goldman (although they probably would have prevented the insurer AIG (American International Group) from running wild and requiring a federal bailout). What we can say is that the final draft of financial reform had better include language that would prevent this kind of looting — in particular, it should block the creation of "synthetic CDO's", cocktails of credit default swaps that let investors take big bets on assets without actually owning them.

The main moral you should draw from the charges against Goldman, though, doesn't involve the fine print of reform; it involves the urgent need to change Wall Street. Listening to financial-industry lobbyists and the Republican politicians who have been huddling with them, you'd think that everything will be fine as long as the federal government promises not to do any more bailouts. But that's totally wrong — and not just because no such promise would be credible.

For the fact is that much of the financial industry has become a racket — a game in which a handful of people are lavishly paid to mislead and exploit consumers and investors. And if we don't lower the boom on these practices, the racket will just go on.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

TRAILING SOME RESERVOIR DOGS

BY HARRY MOUNT

As always, P.G. Wodehouse got it right. Far-right groups are unlikely to take off in Britain because, for all their nastiness, they always come across as just a little too ridiculous. That's certainly the impression I got after spending last Saturday in Barking, east London, at the British National Party (BNP) campaign launch.

In The Code of the Woosters (1938), Wodehouse neatly took care of Sir Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts (often described as fascist), by casting him as Sir Roderick Spode in his black shorts; by the time Spode had set up his fascist group, there were no shirts left, according to Gussie Fink-Nottle.

Bertie Wooster gives the brilliant speech that does for Spode. "The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone.

You hear them shouting 'Heil, Spode!' and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: 'Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?'"

Nick Griffin is not just a perfect perisher — he's an awkward one, too. He has none of Mosley's Olympian self-confidence. Younger-looking than his 51 years, he has a fidgety, inexperienced manner. He speaks too quickly, in stuttering machine-gun bursts, nervously playing with the lower right-hand leading edge of his blue suit jacket as he canvassed in Barking, Essex, where he is trying to unseat the Labour MP and culture minister, Margaret Hodge. Barking has been Labour since the war, Hodge has a near-9,000 majority, and it would take a massive swing to dislodge her. But that's not really Griffin's game. He wants to take Barking and Dagenham Council — the BNP already has 12 out of 13 Council seats it contested and it's likely to get more on May 6.

Margaret Hodge acknowledges that, if the BNP had proposed more candidates at the last election, it would have many more councillors. This time, 34 BNP candidates are standing for 51 seats. Another watchword of the BNP campaign, alongside ridiculousness, is incompetence. Not only have they not found enough candidates for all the seats, but at least three of them don't live in the area; and so they have been given Barking "front addresses" to get round the electoral requirement that candidates must live locally.

This amateurish air continued throughout the day. Wherever Griffin went, he stationed a man in Army fatigues behind him, to be caught in any camera shot. The strong impression was that this man was a serving soldier — to dovetail with pictures of servicemen fighting in Afghanistan on the BNP advertising lorry ("The Truth Truck"), with the slogan "Bring Our Boys Home" printed underneath.

He wasn't a soldier; he was Adam Walker, 41, BNP candidate in Bishop Auckland and a former teacher, struck off by the General Teaching Council for posting messages on far-right websites on school premises.

Using a pretend soldier to improve your image is unethical enough. Even dodgier were the shaven-headed security men, with squiggly telephone wires coming out of one ear, dark glasses and, in one case, a black suit with a black tie. I tried to talk to them, but only certain BNP representatives are cleared to talk to the press.

The general impression was one of thinly disguised looming danger — part Reservoir Dogs, part imitation presidential security men.

Also in Griffin's raggle-taggle band was Pastor James Gitau, a black man in a straw hat with an "I Love Jesus" badge, originally Kenyan and now a British citizen. "I wouldn't have to leave the UK under a BNP government", he says breezily. "That is an old policy; this is the new BNP — it cares for the interests of all races and religions, but it doesn't support perversion and the teaching of sodomy in our schools".

Nearby was the self-proclaimed "Reverend" Robert West, founder of the Christian Council of Britain and BNP candidate for Lincoln, dressed in dog collar, green moleskin trousers, red waistcoat and watch-chain. "There is nothing in the Bible against intermarriage — I'd be happy to marry a mixed-race couple — but it does say that a multicultural society is wrong", he says, quoting chapter and verse. "You shouldn't move people from one country to another".

Difficult to marry them in that case, then, I'd have thought. For all their oddness, the BNP band is well-received in Barking: a 75 per cent white, working-class constituency, based around the 1920s Becontree estate, 3,000 acres containing 24,000 terraced houses, built in classic inter-war style: a mixture of brick and tile, weatherboards, bow windows, pantiles, and a few Fred and Ginger Hollywood art deco touches.

Becontree was originally a beacon "Homes for Heroes" development by the London County Council, aimed at refugees from the East End slum clearances. With more than 100,000 residents, Becontree remains the single biggest public housing development in the world.

Then, in October 1931, the first Ford rolled off the production line at the nearby Dagenham car factory. Nicknamed Fordsville, it was the biggest car manufacturing plant in Europe, with its own coke ovens, gas plant, foundry, power station, dedicated railway and private wharf on the Thames.

Eleven million cars were built there, most of them by workers from the Becontree estate. And then came the old story of industrial decline: car production stopped in 2002, leaving Dagenham with a shell business producing gearboxes and diesel engines. A 50,000-strong workforce shrunk to 2,000. The vast Becontree estate alongside the 300-acre Ford Motor Works once made for the ideal combination of well-paid industrial work and decent social housing. With the collapse of Ford, Becontree had the stuffing knocked out of it.

Unemployment is up to eight per cent, and jobs are hard to come by. Most of the pretty front gardens in Becontree, originally sheltered from the street by neat privet hedges, have been paved over for parking spaces. But the place still has an air of quiet tidiness. "They were beautifully built", says Mick Gorman, 63, who worked at Ford for 40 years, and has since renovated the council houses. "And solid. Double walls filled with concrete — impossible to knock down".

"I used to vote Labour", he continues, "but now it's BNP. It's not to do with keeping Britain white.

Go down the supermarket and the place is full of Russians and Poles who are whiter than me.

It's just that parts of Barking have become a no-go area — it's a dumping ground for immigrants. We've been abandoned by local government, and abandoned by national government. I've got friends who are desperate for council houses and they don't stand a chance".

Throughout the day, Becontree residents echoed him: dejected former Labour voters who are turning to the BNP out of desperation. It's lucky that Nick Griffin isn't a little more media-savvy. If he got his campaign team to dump the squiggly earpieces, the combat fatigues and the oddballs, Margaret Hodge might be in real trouble.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THAILAND IN CRISIS

BY JAYATI GHOSH

 

The ongoing political crisis in Thailand has been capturing headlines for some time now, and now it appears to be heading towards some kind of climax. This political instability reflects more than the resistance of the existing establishment to the increasingly vociferous demands of those who have been marginalised from most of the benefits. It also reinforces the significance of (and the need for) democratic legitimacy in a developing country such as Thailand, despite all the known problems with its electoral process.

But the purely political is not all that underlies this current crisis. Indeed, it could be argued that the economic underpinnings of this political crisis are the more significant forces propelling the actions of the anti-government protesters. This reflects the socio-political results of more than a decade in which the neo-liberal economic model, which still drives the policy-making of the elite, has been fundamentally exposed among the people.

The conflict between the current Thai government (as well as those elements of the establishment that directly and indirectly enabled this particular political grouping to rule) and the wide spectrum of anti-government protesters is not simply about certain political processes or about individuals like Thaksin Shinawatra, the exiled former Prime Minister. Rather, it is substantially about economic policy. As Pasuk Phongpaichit and Chris Baker have shown in their excellent book on Thaksin (Thaksin: The Business Of Politics In Thailand), he was (and remains) a larger-than-life figure with only too lifelike faults, which have ranged from blatant nepotism to megalomaniac attempts at stifling democracy. So the support for his return is not only (or even necessarily) because of the craving for a strong leader, but much more due to the perception that the economic strategies followed by his government brought at least some relief to the people.

The continued popularity of Thaksin among the peasants and otherwise unorganised workers is largely because of what the Thai elite sniffs away as "populist policies". This term is a favourite among chattering classes across the developing world, used to denigrate any economic policies with minimally redistributive impact from the rich and middle classes to the poor. In Thaksin's case, these included providing peasants and small businesses with access to institutional finance, increasing the share of rural Thailand in public expenditure, providing fiscal transfers down to the village level in the form of untied funds to be used according to the preferences of local communities, and such like. While these did not contradict or even challenge the basic neo-liberal framework within which corporate industry continued to be favoured, they share some of the spoils of economic growth with those who had hitherto been excluded. They were certainly popular policies, and they played a role in giving to Thaksin and his various political formations a degree of legitimacy among ordinary people that is still unmatched in Thailand.

While many of Thaksin's actions in power (and his own undemocratic tendencies) certainly sowed the seeds of his decline and fall from grace, the coup and various other actions of the Thai establishment could also be seen as the empire striking back.

The subsequent inability of the government to capture the political imagination of the masses, or even to achieve basic legitimacy despite trying to continue with some of Thaksin's economic policies, may be due to the growing evidence that even such "populism" is no longer economically sustainable in Thailand.

To understand this, and also to begin to comprehend the extent of general dissatisfaction with the economic regime, it is useful to examine the relationship between economic growth and employment (which determines the material conditions of the bulk of the Thai population, even the peasantry).

Thailand, in common with many developing countries, is generally a labour surplus economy engaged in an uneven and unbalanced process of industrialisation. Yet aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates have run far ahead of aggregate employment growth, even when the measure of employment includes all form of self-employment, casual work and even part-time work.

The period of the Asian crisis occasioned a drop in GDP as well as in aggregate employment, but the subsequent sharp recovery in GDP did not translate in more rapid employment growth, which has tended to stagnate.

Employment growth has been volatile around a declining trend, and was negative in several years even when aggregate output did not fall.

While open unemployment rates may appear low, they are part of an institutional structure that offers no social protection to the unemployed, where the inability to find paid work is therefore reflected in more disguised unemployment in agriculture and petty services.

The pattern is a recognisable one. Many developing countries, including those perceived to be the most successful in terms of output growth rates, exhibit this form of jobless growth. This reflects two general tendencies: a shift in production structure across and within sectors, whereby income expansion is associated for demand for goods and services produced in more capital-intensive conditions without generating demand for labour-intensive goods and services; and the associated technological and organisational changes that improve labour productivity.

Overall, this means a labour market in which workers are clearly worse off, since both external competitiveness issues and internal dynamics have dictated that demand for labour does not keep up with supply. This reduced bargaining power is indicated by the fact that real wages — which were drastically affected during the crisis of 1997-98 — continued to fall even during the recovery, and then have recovered only slightly. In 2008, real wages were only five per cent higher than their level of 2000, while labour productivity had increased by 22 per cent.

So the distribution of national income has shifted away from workers (and peasants) to those who receive profit, rent and interest. The anger of the anti-government protesters is fundamentally related to this process, and Thaksin is appreciated by this group only because he showed that it is still possible at the margins to improve the lot of the poor using fiscal and monetary policies.

Therefore, to a significant extent, this particular political struggle has gone beyond Thaksin and specific parties to address basic issues of economic and political democratisation.

If such a tendency increases in other countries where similar economic patterns are in evidence, such upheavals may become widespread.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE POWER OF THOUGHT

BY YOGI ASHWINI

Yoga is a subject of energy, or prana, which manifests in various permutations and combinations to form every aspect of creation.

Many thousand years ago the Vedic rishis had harnessed this energy to decipher the mysteries of this creation, only to be rediscovered and reinvented by modern science.

In 1905, Albert Einstein revealed to the world E = mc2, or that everything in this creation is nothing but energy. The law of conservation of energy, the basis of thermodynamics, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed — it can only be transformed from one form to the other. In this sense, everything in the creation is energy, and since energy cannot be created, everything is pre-created. The only dynamics thus is transformation.

What spurs this transformation? Our ancestors identified this as the thought. Energy follows thought. The atom bomb was first a thought, a desire to create a device for mass destruction. Similarly, an aeroplane too was first conceived as a desire to be able to fly.

In fact, the entire creation is nothing but a manifestation of a single thought — the desire to experience. This thought led to the emergence of Mata Adi Shakti from whom emerged the Tridev and their three consorts. Such is the power of thought.

A thought is an action unleashed, what manifests thereupon is an equal and opposite reaction.

Each one of us through our thoughts, actions and deeds constantly creates ripples and gets tied into the reactions of those ripples into more ripples. This was realised by the Vedic masters as the Law of Karma. Newton's law of action and reaction is no different.

Interestingly, however, thoughts too are not created. They exist in space and we just happen to catch them depending on our individual frequencies, our state of being.

One cannot expect a hungry man to think about restoring peace on earth! His thoughts would be driven by the desire to procure food. Our thoughts, thus, are governed by desire. The purpose of Yoga is to still the thoughts from desires, chitt vritti nirodh, through certain purifications as prescribed in the Sanatan Kriya.

It is the thoughts and desires that tie one to the individual consciousness. Once these disturbances are removed, the being becomes one with the supreme consciousness. A yogi is then able to channelise the energy of the Divine through self.

However, a yogi does not use this energy for personal gains, his purpose becomes that of higher creation. Have you ever seen the sun asking for remuneration for its services? Conversely, if the sun starts rationing its energy according to individual capacity, would it exude the same brilliance? So is true for a yogi. If he is in yog, he will radiate the same attraction and glow, and not put a fee on spreading the light of gyan.

— Yogi Ashwini is an authority on yoga, tantra and the Vedic sciences. He is the guiding light of Dhyan Foundation. He has recently written a book, Sanatan Kriya: 51 Miracles... And a Haunting.

Contact him at dhyan@dhyanfoundation.com [1]

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

COOKIES CRUMBLE

THE SMARTER THE FASTER 


SHASHI Tharoor is a victim of his own cockiness. From day-one of his brief, "eventful" but hardly impressive ministerial tenure he set about painting himself into a corner by functioning as if he was above rules and conventions. Even if we accept, not many do, his contention that he had no financial interests in the Kochi IPL franchise; and if momentarily (which is difficult) we exclude his "friend" from the equation; he breached the code of ministerial conduct when he made "inquiries" during the bidding process at which his no-less arrogant Officer on Special(?) Duty was present. The "mentor" became the manipulator. Bring the sweetheart deal for Sunanda Pushkar into the picture and Tharoor winds up as a huge embarrassment to the government and party, which found little in his political track record to render him worthy of defending. More so since it has critical business to transact in Parliament where its majority is slender. That the lady pulled out, rather than be dragged through dirt her advocates insist, was hardly a lifeline for the floundering minister: it was actually seen as confirmation of wrongdoing. The lady does have cause for grievance over being projected in sleazy light, but who threw the first foul punch? That "special duty" officer who tried to muckrake Lalit Modi's past, only to bring his boss' present under the scanner. Sow the wind, reap a whirlwind. Blown away by a corruption-charged cyclone were previous misdemeanours like staying in a luxury hotel till his house was renovated, his "cattle class" tweet (among others), maintaining that the Sharm-el-Sheikh agreement was not "legally binding" and his according Saudi Arabia an "interlocutor" role in contentious Indo-Pak relations. Both the mild Prime Minister, and the UPA chief who confuses the articulate with the accomplished, found Tharoor expendable. That he should join the list of politicians ejected by scandal and corruption was something that few of his many detractors ~ in both political and official circles ~ would have imagined. That's the way the cookie crumbles. At least some of those with whom he is now bracketed had political clout. As the MoS for external affairs, Tharoor did answer one nagging question: why his bid to head the UN proved such a miserable flop. 


Some might contend that Tharoor's forced-exit proves how difficult it is for intelligent, modern professionals to adapt to Indian politics which has its own stereotypes, at times seemingly hypocritical norms. That is not quite accurate: every "system" has its benchmarks and many others have adapted, not pushed the non-conformist thing beyond limits. It is, of course, an ill wind that blows no good and in bringing the IPL's obscenely huge finances under the taxman's focus the Tharoor-Lalit Modi punch-up may have a salutary effect, though the league's luring the masses back to cricket cannot be slighted. There is a degree of commonality to Tharoor and Lalit Modi ~ both are too "clever" to be wise!

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

HAWKER MENACE

THE MALAISE NOW RUNS DEEPER 


THE Kolkata Police Commissioner's somewhat helpless reaction that he "will look into the situation" confirms that the hawker malaise is deeper today than what it was in the mid-Nineties when Operation Sunshine was launched. It bears recall that the  bulldozers that dismantled the stalls at Shyambazar, Gariahat and elsewhere in 1996 were stalled in downtown Kolkata where the hawkers' unions and the administration jointly ensured the roadside enterprises were untouched. The Citu is to blame; so too are the other unions. Yet it might be less than accurate to blame the CPI-M's front unit entirely for the almost violent lawlessness around New Market. The political label, that can't be denied, is as much a convenient handle to airbrush a decidedly more sensitive issue. And it would be no disrespect to religious sentiment to assert that it is the communal factor that impedes action against the robust defiance of the law, verging on sexual harassment as suffered by Mrs Rima Chowdhury-Hawkins, a British citizen of Indian origin. The pretty much helpless Mr Gautam Mohan Chakraborty ought to face up to reality: it was the communal factor that deterred action in 1996; over time, the defiance of the predominantly "stranded Pakistanis" from Bangladesh has virtually rendered the situation beyond hope, beyond despair. Blocking the pavements has been obstructive enough. Even the KMC's directive to leave a certain portion vacant has been trashed. The menace has now assumed proportions unimaginable in any civilised set-up. The camera doesn't lie. The visuals in this newspaper confirm that parked cars are being used as extensions of the pavement. That the police may be in cahoots with this nonsense is reaffirmed when the red vehicle, used by OCs and pilot cars, lends its bonnet space to display the wares. The spuriously enterprising marketing operations have made a travesty of the parkomat. Well and truly can the Police Commissioner only "look into the situation". He may not be in a position to act, unless he is ready to face up to a flare-up. Ergo, let peace prevail on the eve of the civic elections.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STRATEGIC SHIFT

WELCOME CHANGE IN APPROACH TO TRIBALS 


THE review being made by a centrally appointed task force of development programmes in the 33 districts worst affected by Maoist violence suggests a belated recognition of the need to change the strategy in dealing with extremism. Getting a consensus is almost impossible in the present context when none of the sides can claim a clear conscience. Till now the most difficult question was who would take the initiative and what that initiative would be. The Maoists are seen to be stalling development work so as not to dilute the influence they have on tribals. Yet there are acknowledged human rights activists like Arundhati Roy who confirm that tribals are in no position to be sympathetic to ideological causes and instead are primarily concerned about finding a livelihood. In other words, the link between the Maoists and tribals needed to be snapped. It is surprising that the government has taken so long to discover what ought to have been the crux of its development strategy. If the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme has found enthusiastic takers, it is because tribals have the assurance of a livelihood that they had always sought. Instead, the government had engaged in the game of selling the dream of massive industrial growth by signing MOUs that would enable companies to extract minerals after having displaced  tribals. If the employment scheme seeks to undo the damage that has been done, there is also the need to follow it up with measures that would directly benefit tribals without trying to enforce a change in their pattern of life. This is also the sum and substance of an extraordinary swipe that Digvijay Singh has taken against the Union home minister ~ that too after the Prime Minister had directed ministers not to criticise Mr Chidambaram's handling of the Maoist issue. As party general secretary, he can hardly claim exemption from the PM's order. Nor can another general secretary, Janardhan Dwivedi, convincingly dismiss Singh's views as "purely personal''. It would confirm that there are conflicting positions within the establishment which have resulted in what looks like a revised strategy of quietly weaning the tribals away from the clutches of the Maoists. There is a long road ahead. The welcome sign is that change is now being sought through a mixture of firmness, result-oriented welfare programmes and sensitivity to basic human needs.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

AFTERMATH OF 6/4~I

MR CHIDAMBARAM HAS SUCCEEDED TO A DEPLETED INHERITANCE

SHYAMAL DATTA


THE union home minister, Mr P Chidambaram, had tendered his resignation, owning moral responsibility for the massacre of securitymen by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district on 6 April. His action was in keeping with the best traditions of parliamentary democracy. Mr Chidambaram listened to the "inner voice" of his conscience, and preferred to walk the talk given to a Chief Minister of a problem state a few days ago.
 In sharp contrast, his predecessor, Shivraj Patil, did not show any remorse over 26/11 which took a toll of nearly 200 lives in Mumbai. Whereas Patil was removed by the Prime Minister under the pressure of public outrage, Chidambaram has been asked to continue in office. The divergence in the response of two senior politicians belonging to the same party, and holding the same post is of some relevance in the context of Left-wing extremist violence. During his tenure as home minister for more than four years, Patil's perception of the spread and magnitude of Maoism and other forms of extremism was at variance with that of the security agencies and the police. In his reckoning, Maoist violence had not spread to over 150 districts in more than 15 states ~ from mere 55 districts and 10 states in 2003. According to him, only certain villages in some districts were affected, and, therefore, it would be a travesty of ground reality to paint the entire district and the state as having turned red.


Denial syndrome

IN the process, a denial syndrome stalked the corridors of the Home Ministry. The ground situation started turning from bad to worse with as many as 195 districts in 16 states reportedly coming under the grip of the Left  radicals. The Prime Minster had to intervene and assert that Maoist violence posed the gravest threat to the country's internal security, in effect contradicting his previous Home Minister.
This is the legacy that Chidambaram inherited. Within days of assuming charge of the most important office, after that of the Prime Minister in the present scenario, the seasoned politician with a stint at Home in the late Eighties, realised the flaws in the ministry's perception and course of action. He promptly started gearing up the machinery at different levels and step up the campaigns on the twin fronts of terrorism and the Left-wing  extremist violence. He galvanised the Central Para Military Forces (CPMF) and tried to bring the Chief Ministers of the affected states on board. Bihar's Nitish Kumar and to an extent Jharkhand's Sibu Soren were exceptions. He impressed upon them the most imperative need to go all out in a coordinated manner to fight the Maoists to  the finish, keeping the door of dialogue open. Simultaneously, he emphasised the dire need of speeding up the development process to address the grievances of the tribals and other people living in the affected areas. He  started visiting the Maoist belt to see for himself the state of administration and the outcome of the security operations in progress.

 

Despite his initiative, more than 110 members of the security forces and the police perished in Maoist operations since 15 February at Silda in West Bengal's West Midnapore district. Ten security men were killed in Koraput, Orissa, and 76 in Dantewada.  Indeed, the targeting of the police has escalated over the past fifty days. The target and places of attack clearly indicate that Operation Green Hunt has placed the Maoists under pressure and kept them on the run without respite. The micro management at the level of the Home Minister himself has  imparted a sense of urgency to the Central Para Military Forces to show results and bring about an improvement in the situation. The Maoists were also concerned over the arrest and neutralisation of some of its important functionaries and the increase in the flow of information about its activities and movements to the security forces. The injuries sustained by a leader of the stature of Kishanji  in an encounter in Junglemahal on 25 March has led to a sense of disquiet. 

In the circumstances, the Maoists perhaps decided to teach the security forces a lesson by mounting an assault on the   operational hub in Dantewada. The objective was to ensure that the loss of lives and weapons would be enormous and both the security forces and the government would be  seriously demoralised, unnerved and embarrassed. The large cache of sophisticated weapons taken away from the  slain members of the paramilitary will considerably augment the extremist firepower. It will also boost the morale of the "Red Guards" and the leadership to carry forward the 'People's War' still more ferociously.


Meticulous precision

HowevER bizarre, the unprecedented number of casualties in a single operation may be touted as an achievement of sorts by those who planned and executed the operation with such meticulous precision and speed. The operation reaffirmed their military skills, marksmanship and finesse. The theatre of assault was  chosen to give the Red Guards an excellent cover, and also a vantage position to encircle the jawans  from all sides and  heavily mine the possible escape routes. A clear objective was to overrun the contingent, leaving none alive. The topography also ensured a total absence of  collateral damage with no human habitation nearby. It is providential that six jawans survived. The Maoists have admitted having suffered eight casualties on their side.  India's 6/4  has exposed the chinks in the armour of the security forces. The very presence of a single havildar constable from the district police with a force of company strength confirms that the coordination between the paramilitary and the state police was at best symbolic. The Intelligence feedback that was reportedly available from more than one source, was not properly processed and finetuned to act as a force multiplier. There was little or no evidence of strategic planning, tactics and execution of the operation in the citadel of the Maoists. Nor for that matter did the operation bear the stamp of a go-ahead from the higher echelons. Perhaps, the content and implications of the intelligence input were not duly followed through.  The 'shock and awe' that the Maosits were able to deliver in their surgical strike was facilitated by the counter- intelligence available with them from their own sources. To that can be added the fatigue associated with the two nights and one morning patrol by the jawans. 

(To be concluded)

 

The writer is former Director, Intelligence Bureau, Government of India, and former Governor of Nagaland 

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ALL THAT GLITTERS ISN'T GOLDMAN

ECONOMIC ANALYSTS HAVE IDENTIFIED GOLDMAN SACHS AS THE ONE INSTITUTION MOST RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING THE GLOBAL ECONOMIC MELTDOWN, SAYS RAJINDER PURI 

 

 

The influence of finance capital on global politics is much greater than that of industrial capital. Finance capital is opaque. It pulls levers from behind the curtain. It enjoys invisible power that reaches all corners of the world. Goldman Sachs is a key player in the world of finance. Economic analysts have identified Goldman Sachs as

the one institution most responsible for creating the global economic meltdown.


 Goldman Sachs was the crucial fund raiser for President Obama's election campaign that made America's first Black President the richest presidential candidate in US history. Credible political analysts have opined that had the economic meltdown not occurred when it did Obama may not have won the election. Goldman Sachs has been identified as the biggest profiteer of the economic meltdown. Last week Goldman Sachs was prosecuted by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for committing fraud.


China has already displayed how beholden it is to American finance capital. US multinationals diverted investment from the US domestic market to China which provides unusually cheap labour. The diversion of US investment increased unemployment. In other words, American finance capital is selling for its own profit goods produced cheaply in China to Americans rendered unemployed by denying them due investment. Sixty per cent of the Chinese exports to America are owned by US firms. Chinese political leaders happily exploit Chinese labour while their own sons and grandsons settle down in America. Deng Xiaoping's grandson, Jiang Zemin's son, and the children of a vast number of China's top leaders are ensconced in the US to provide a safety exit for politicians in case it is required.  


Indian Marxists never tire of criticising Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of behaving like a lackey of American capitalists. They could be right. But why are they silent about the equally pathetic conduct of their Chinese and Russian mentors? Consider the establishment of BRIC comprising Brazil, Russia, India and China to function as an economic bloc. Apart from the size of economy, what commonality do these four nations enjoy to justify the creation of such a bloc? The only rationale for its establishment is the huge potential global investment markets it will create to satisfy the hunger of rapacious global finance capital. And who created BRIC? Its author was none other than Goldman Sachs.


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told media that BRIC was the result of a report of Goldman Sachs into which the four-member nations were trying to put life. He said: "The Goldman Sachs report suggested that over the next 50 years Brazil, Russia, India and China – the BRIC economies – could become a larger force in the world economy." Oh, really? Goldman Sachs takes a long-term view of fifty years, cracks its whip, and the governments of Brazil, Russia, India and China jump like performing monkeys! Dr Manmohan Singh's alacrity is not surprising. But what do Comrade Prakash Karat and his colleagues have to say about the pathetic compliance of Prime Minister Putin and President Hu Jintao? Speak up comrades! Do tell us what you think about the Left lackeys of evil American capitalism!


It is shameful that the Indian government should chase the mirage of BRIC at the bidding of Goldman Sachs while it ignores areas of vital concern to India. Two glaring instances immediately come to mind. London's latest Sunday Times reported an interview suggesting that Mullah Omar was ready for peace talks with the West and was prepared to stay out of the government. This scribe has been urging India to take an initiative to help President Karzai and the Taliban to cooperate for forming a national consensus in Afghanistan. Why does not the government act?


Also during the weekend, President Ahmadinejad unfolded his plan for nuclear security. He suggested the formation of a new international group excluding the big five nuclear powers to supervise disarmament and non-proliferation under the aegis of the UN General Assembly. This proposal is not dissimilar to what this scribe had suggested in his letter to President Ahmadinejad. India is the logical choice to help Iran implement this proposal. Why is the government impotent? Or is it that Goldman Sachs has not yet given the nod?                
The writer is a veteran journalist and cartoonist

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

FORGET TABLE MANNERS

AC TULI


When it comes to eating mangoes, I am always reminded of Mirza Ghalib's classic observation regarding this palatable fruit ~ Aam meethe hon aur hahut se hon! That is, mangoes should be sweet and in plenty. However, there are many people, yours truly being one of them, who do not relish mangoes the way these are served at sophisticated lunch or dinner parties.


The other day, at one such party hosted by a corporate executive, mangoes were peeled and cut into slices, of all shapes and sizes, with the stones of course left out. Each one of the guests slipped a slice or two of this fruit onto his or her plate, and then began to eat tiny bits with a spoon!


To me it seemed a wholly artificial way of eating mangoes. Social etiquette demands that when you are at a party, you eat mango slowly, bit by bit, with your lips barely making any movement. It would of course be an outrageous breach of table manners if you were to lick or smack your lips! I think if you were to feed mangoes to a sparrow that way, even she would feel insulted and fly away twittering angry curses at your meanness.
I have my own code when it comes to mango eating. Desi or Dussehri, Alphonso or Benarsi, I like my mango whole. To me the most natural, and also the most enjoyable, way of eating a ripe dussehri mango is to suck it after removing the tiny wart from the top. If the fruit is a trifle hard and unyielding, I first gently press it all over with my fingertips. Ah! There is hardly anything half as delicious as a mouthful of thick, juicy pulp sucked straight from a ripe mango. And then, it need not be said that a true connoisseur of mangoes always enjoys licking and smacking his lips to show his true appreciation of this sumptuous fruit. To hell with your table manners, he would say with a snap of his fingers, as he licks with his tongue the tiny bits of the fruit sticking to the corners of his mouth and lips!


Another fruit that I have always liked to take in its fresh virginal form is the guava ~ the smooth round Allahabadi variety that has very few seeds in it. A guava is indeed a very companionable fruit. You can eat a guava and also watch your favourite TV serial at the same time. Or, if it is a bright sunny day in winter, you can have a couple of guavas as you sit on the verandah of your house with the day's newspaper spread out across your knees.


There was, however, a time when I liked guavas sliced and salted, with a few drops of lemon juice sprinkled over them. But I think one learns as one grows old. The spicy "chaat" of guavas may be relished once in a while, but in the long run one learns to bite into guavas as they come fresh from the tree.
One more fruit that I like to sink my teeth into as often as I can is the apple. But, alas, the meddling hand of man has not spared even this King of Fruits. There are numerous ways of robbing an apple of its natural grace and stunning good looks. One of them is peeling it. A peeled apple, it goes without saying, is not unlike a king who has lost both his crown and majestic attire. The peeled apple, in short, loses its identity and comes down to the plebeian level of a peeled turnip in appearance, if not in taste.


Though the Old Testament does not mention it by name, it has been taken for granted that it was indeed an apple with which Satan tempted the innocent Eve in the Garden of Eden. Whatever the tragic consequences of her eating it, it is fairly safe to assume that Eve must have eaten the apple heartily, tearing out mouthfuls of it with her strong, healthy teeth.


Now just imagine what would have happened if Satan, bitten by the bug of table manners, had persuaded Eve to pluck an apple from the Tree Of Knowledge, peel and slice it with a knife, and then eat it off a platter sitting in some cozy corner of the Garden of Eden. It is very likely that, while peeling and slicing the apple that was to bring about a cataclysmic change in her life, Eve would have grown suspicious of Satan's wily plan. And maybe she would have changed her mind by the time the peeled and sliced apple had been ready for her to eat

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

'PAK GOVERNMENT FAILED TO PROTECT BHUTTO'

ANJALI SHARMA

 

Chairman of the Bhutto commission report, Chilean Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, delivered the inquiry report to the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and reported that the security arrangements by Pakistan's federal and local authorities to protect the late Benazir Bhutto were "fatally insufficient and ineffective" and investigations into her death were prejudiced and involved a whitewash.


The UN Commission of Inquiry, set up last year by Mr Ban at the request of the Pakistani government, reached no conclusion as to the perpetrators behind the 15-year-old suicide bomber who blew up Ms Bhutto's vehicle in Rawalpindi on 27 December 2007, the report stated.


Mr Muñoz said that the commission took more than 250 interviews with Pakistanis and others both inside and outside Pakistan, reviewed hundreds of documents, videos, photographs and other documentary material provided by federal and provincial authorities in Pakistan and others.


The commission found that the government of Pakistan was quick to blame local Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud and Al-Qaida although Ms Bhutto's foes potentially included elements from the establishment itself. "A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms Bhutto and second to investigate with vigour all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing," the Commission said.


"Particularly inexcusable was the government's failure to direct provincial authorities to provide Ms Bhutto the same stringent and specific security measures it ordered on 22 October 2007 for two other former prime ministers who belonged to the main political party supporting General Musharraf," the commission stated.
"This discriminatory treatment is profoundly troubling given the devastating attempt on her life only three days earlier and the specific threats against her which were being tracked by the ISI," it added.


Nuclear security: The Secretary-General said that he would urge world leaders to rein in nuclear proliferation and prevent extremists from acquiring atomic weapons. "Nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats we face today," he told reporters in New York before heading for the summit hosted by President Barack Obama. "That is why, in Washington, I will call on all world leaders to come together, perhaps at the United Nations in September, to further advance this essential cause for humankind."


Some 50 representatives of countries and international institutions have gathered for a two-day summit to discuss ways to secure weapons-useable nuclear material.


Kyrgyzstan: Mr Ban Ki-moon welcomed the arrangement between Kyrgyzstan's Provisional Government and former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev that has enabled him to leave the country, in a statement issued by his spokesman Martin Nesirky. "The Secretary-General believes that this is an important step toward the peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic development of the country and its good governance," Mr Nesirky said.
It noted that Mr Bakiyev left the country for Kazakhstan. He had fled to the south of Kyrgyzstan as a bloody uprising against his government unfolded in Bishkek. Dozens of people died in the unrest, the statement added.
"The UN, together with its international and regional partners, is ready to work with the authorities in Bishkek for the benefit of the people of Kyrgyzstan," Mr Nesirky told reporters. "The Secretary-General underlines the importance of universal respect for the principles of international humanitarian and human rights laws and of justice and accountability," he added.

Environment: A UNDP report showed that China needs to tackle climate change and environmental degradation or risks reversing the social and economic progress that has made it the second largest economy in the world. "China is at a critical juncture when the business as usual growth model is not sufficient for the country's emerging challenges and pressures," said Khalid Malik, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in China.


"The shift to a low carbon development pathway is imperative as China balances further economic development with environmental sustainability and the need to respond to the threat of climate change," he added.
The report, "China and a Sustainable Future, towards a Low Carbon Economy and Society'', written in partnership with Renmin University of China, argues that China has had "no other choice" but to shift to a low carbon development path as it continues to urbanize. China is home to one-quarter of the world's largest cities and is predicted to see 350 million of its rural population migrate to urban areas over the next two decades.
The authors acknowledged that the low carbon model might bring temporary risks such as job losses, higher prices and fiscal revenue shortfalls.


Maternal mortality: Mr Ban Ki-moon announced steps for a multi-pronged campaign to fight maternal mortality as thousands of women die in pregnancy or childbirth every year and 15 million suffer long-lasting disabilities. He called for urgent and strategic joint action and urged all stakeholders, developed and developing countries, civil society actors, private businesses, philanthropic institutions and the multilateral system to offer new initiatives and adopt an accountability framework that would keep maternal and child health high on development agendas.


"The fact remains that one preventable maternal death is too many," Mr. Ban told key partners at a formal meeting. "It has been 10 years since the launch of the Millennium Development Goal to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters.. We are making great strides in some areas. In some countries maternal deaths are declining. That is great news. But progress on maternal health is still lagging far behind. For too long, maternal and child health has been at the back of the MDG train, but we know it can be the engine of development. So we say: women and children first. After all, a health system that delivers for mothers will deliver for the whole community."


Mr Ban recalled that he was born not in a hospital but at home in a small rural village in Korea, where hospitals and clinics were faraway luxuries.. "One of my strongest memories is the custom of women at the time as they went into labour," he said. "They would look at their shoes before entering the room and just stare at their shoes, their simple rubber shoes. I remember seeing this once and asking my mother, but why? What is she doing? And my mother said, 'she is wondering if she will ever be able to step into those shoes again,' because at that time, there was no such medical help for women.


"It was a plea, a quiet prayer: Let me walk this earth again. Always, there were doubts. Far too often, there were tragedies. Many women died. Even today, in villages, towns and cities around the world, these fears remain all too real. In our world today, too many women lose their lives giving life."

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

TOO LATE

 

Shashi Tharoor tried desperately to defer the inevitable. He could have retained his honour by resigning as soon as the scandal broke regarding the Kochi team for the Indian Premier League. He has now lost both his ministership and his honour. Mr Tharoor's attempt to give himself a clean chit by way of a statement in the Lok Sabha convinced no one, least of all anyone of consequence in his own party. Being new to politics and to the Congress, Mr Tharoor was not conscious of the simple fact that after the experience of Bofors, the Congress and its president would not touch with the proverbial bargepole any person who has been touched by the tar of corruption. Mr Tharoor obviously has delusions about his own indispensability. He thus believed that his own protestations about his innocence would be taken seriously. What was much more important was the general perception that he had been involved in a deal that was apparently shady. He could have fallen from grace more gracefully, but he chose not to and thus cut a rather pathetic figure.

 

There is another aspect to cause célèbre that demands attention. The United Progressive Alliance government allowed the matter to fester for too long. It is true that the prime minister was away from the country, but it is not as if he could not be reached on the phone by senior cabinet colleagues, like Pranab Mukherjee, or by the Congress president. Mr Tharoor's hand was forced a good 24 hours after the prime minister's return to New Delhi. The whole affair could have been nipped in the bud by making Mr Tharoor resign as soon as his impropriety was public knowledge. Instead, he was allowed to make a spectacle of himself in the Lok Sabha even after his meeting with Mr Mukherjee. The UPA government and the Congress could have saved themselves a furore, some embarrassment and needless speculation by acting with greater swiftness. There is nothing that warrants the delay that occurred in asking for Mr Tharoor's resignation. The distaste that the prime minister and the Congress president have for any individual tainted by even a hint of corruption is well known. This impression could have been strengthened with action that did not carry with it the suspicion of wavering. The UPA's commitment to a cleaner public life will stand up to scrutiny if it takes action against the IPL, which appears to be utterly rotten.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

BLOOD LINE

 

There is perhaps nothing in the United Nations inquiry commission report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto that is not known already. It has been obvious since the death of Pakistan's former prime minister on December 27, 2007, that the 15-year-old suicide bomber, who hit her cavalcade, had not acted alone, and that the Pervez Musharraf administration had failed to ensure foolproof security. But certain things needed to be written in black-and-white, and this would have been impossible, given the circumstances in Pakistan, without the pen being wielded by an independent investigating authority like the UN. The report indicts the intelligence agencies in Pakistan for not only being unable to prevent the assassination but also for thwarting the investigation. The provincial administration, the report says, did not act "independently of 'higher authorities'", prevented a post-mortem being conducted on the dead leader, and then obliterated evidence by hosing down the site of crime. The higher authorities, subsequently, "prejudiced" the investigation by putting the blame on the Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud (who was not even investigated), and conducted a separate investigation whose details were never brought to the public domain.

 

The 'higher authority' is the Pakistan army, which is in nexus with intelligence agencies and the bureaucracy to retain its overpowering presence in the Pakistani establishment. Unfortunately, the UN commission does not have the brief to go after it. That job has to be done by the Pakistan government if it wants to carry the investigation to its logical end. But there are enough doubts about its intentions already. To start with, Mr Musharraf has been given safe passage out of the country, and by none other than the government headed by the widower of Benazir Bhutto. There have also been efforts by the government to postpone the announcement of the conclusions of the report. The report obviously does not make it comfortable. Other than pointing fingers at higher authorities, it incriminates the Pakistan People's Party as well, particularly some members who hold prominent positions now. Further investigation could lead to more skeletons or reveal uglier nexuses. That is probably why such a no-holds-barred report has been greeted with so much scepticism in Pakistan. No one hopes it will lead the nation any closer to, or further from, the truth.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

IDEALIST ENTREPRENEUR

PEOPLE WITH GOOD IDEAS ARE RARE; THE CEO OF FABINDIA IS ONE

ASHOK V. DESAI

 

 

Some years ago, a young businessman dropped into a bookshop in Dehra Dun. There were also some cadets in the shop from the local Rashtriya Indian Military College (the school which had Sam Manekshaw amongst its first cadets when it opened in 1932). One of them joked that instead of Bharat Mata ki jai, they should be shouting Reliance ki jai. The joke upset the young man; he started thinking about what was wrong with his country and how it could be set right.

 

The man himself had an unusual family tree. His American grandfather had fought in World War II and passed through India on the way to the eastern front. His father joined Macy's, the New York department store, as a buyer in the 1950s. There he came across handwoven cloth and became interested in it. He took a grant from the Ford Foundation and came to study Indian handicrafts in 1958. In Delhi, he courted Bimla Nanda, the social secretary in the American embassy, and married her. Together, they set up a business to export handloom products. Later they opened retail outlets in the country, and started selling other handicraft products. Today, the son runs the business. In its pursuit he has travelled much, and seen a good deal of India. He was disturbed by the widespread cynicism about the government, and worried that in their eagerness to get rid of the corrupt politicians, the people would put their trust in a dictator. He sat down to think of reforms that could save this country.

 

He thinks that the muddled geographical hierarchy, which currently consists of villages, talukas, districts, divisions, states and Union territories, should be cleaned up. The country should be divided into 480 communities of about 25,000 people each; they would replace the present panchayats, blocks and subdivisions. The people of a community would directly elect a chairman and four members of a council. Their salaries would be a fixed multiple of the community's average income; the richer it got, the more they would earn.

 

The community would levy a one per cent property tax, and sell or lease out all community assets, like land, water, forests and rights of way. It would issue, free of cost, six targeted catalysts (TCs) to every citizen; they would entitle him to 2,000 calories of food, 4.5 litres of drinking water, 35.5 litres of water for washing in villages and 130.5 litres in cities, full-time education from kindergarten to university, basic medical insurance, and services of a lawyer for enforcing rights and preparing contracts. The citizen could take the TCs to competing service providers and exchange them for his requirements. The market in the services would minimize costs. The service providers would be able to sell the TCs to the community administration; it would pay a fixed price for each TC, plus a premium for quality. The lower their costs and higher their quality, the higher the service providers' profits would be.

 

Every citizen would also have equal habitat rights: to minimum residential space, clean water, sewage disposal, power, and access to green space within a certain distance of his habitat. Besides these inviolable habitat rights, the citizen would have limited rights to quality air, limitations on traffic, relative quiet, solid waste disposal, and ambient temperature. For these five variables there would be a national minimum, but a community could aim at higher standards.

 

In sum, the community council must ensure that the basic requirements of every one of its citizens are met out of its tax revenue. In addition, it would be required to maintain a certain minimum level of ecological assets such as forests and water bodies. Any council may build up more than its required level of assets, and sell the surplus to any other council that has a deficit.

 

Groups of 100 contiguous communities would make up an area. It would be administered by the 100 chairmen of community councils, headed by an elected member of parliament. Ten areas would make up a region, governed by 10 members of parliament headed by a governor; he would replace the present chief minister. The country of 120 crore citizens would be divided into 48 regions. It would have a parliament of 480 members — each elected by an area — who in turn would elect the government as now. Just like communities, area and regional governments would finance themselves by selling and leasing assets under their control. Public assets would be divided among the four tiers of government. In addition, the national government would levy a one per cent tax on all financial transactions done through the electronic payment system, and a one per cent inheritance tax on the death of any individual with assets exceeding 1,000 times per capita gross domestic product.

 

Cash would be abolished. All transactions would be done electronically from a national identity card issued to every citizen; possession of the card would entitle the citizen to the six TCs. All the transactions he did with the card would be centrally recorded. He would be able to use the records to prove his credit, and take loans. Abolition of cash would spell the death of the black economy.

 

The various legal business entities, such as companies and partnerships, would be replaced by a simple two-fold distinction between shareholder associations and stakeholder associations. The difference would be that shareholders might receive dividends, whereas there would be no dividends for stakeholders. Members of all associations would have four levels of rights. As an individual, a member would be entitled to information. If he then had a grievance, and if he gathered the support of 10 per cent of the members, his demand would have to be discussed by the board and the outcome conveyed to the membership. On a more serious matter, if the individual member collected the support of 25 per cent of the members, he would be able to command a referendum. If he got the support of over 50 per cent, he would be able to change the management of the association.

 

Corruption would be eliminated by four types of changes. First, arbitrary rules, which give their enforcers power that they can turn into cash, would be abolished. Second, replacing the current numerous and complicated laws by a small number of simple ones, together with the provision of a legal TC to everyone, would remove law-based corruption. Third, elimination of taxes on income would remove the incentive to conceal it. Finally, introduction of standards, and of markets to provide TC services, would eliminate corruption relating to quality debasement.

 

These are only some of the ideas to be found in Making India Work (Penguin) by William Nanda Bissell, the

CEO of Fabindia, which has now spread its shops to most major cities in India and its procurement to many areas of rural talent. I would be delighted if India's disillusioned people staged a revolution and made him their dictator. That is unlikely in the present circumstances. But at a more modest level, he would make a good minister of rural development in the national government. The number of people with good ideas is small. In Bissell we have such a rare one.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

THE LONG MARCH FROM FIGHTING TO FREEDOM

 

In order to move towards democracy, Myanmar must first come to terms with its long history of ethnic violence, writes Srinath Raghavan The author is Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, Delhi

 

The forthcoming elections in Myanmar and the accompanying political rumbles have evoked little interest in India. Weary resignation seems to be the dominant Indian response to the vagaries of Myanmarese politics. Yet, the political churning now underway could have significant implications, both for Myanmar and for the region.

 

The election laws adopted by the junta have rightly attracted widespread criticism. They call for the dissolution of the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy, if it refuses to participate in the elections. They also proscribe the candidacy of hundreds of political prisoners, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who have been convicted for spurious criminal offences. Members of religious orders cannot contest elections either — a provision aimed at keeping the Buddhist clergy at bay. With an election commission hand-picked by the junta, there is little expectation of anything like a free or fair electoral process.

 

The outcome of the elections is likely to be important just the same. For the army appears keen to use the elections to transition to a different model of political control. Twenty-five per cent of the seats in the new parliament are reserved for the military. Military officers have been engaged in hectic campaigning. In canvassing for votes, they have announced several development projects. Clearly, the military's conception of its own position and role in the polity is undergoing significant changes.

 

The leader of the junta, General Than Shwe, is going on 79, and has no earmarked successor. It appears that he would prefer not to leave behind in office any single strongman. This has resulted in increasingly sharp differences amongst the military elite about the way ahead. In this context, it might be tempting for the army to remove itself from the centre-stage of politics, whilst continuing to hold all the levers of power. After all, this seems to have worked in Bangladesh and Pakistan — at least in the short-term.

 

More importantly, the junta has set in motion a process of economic liberalization and is demonstrating increasing interest in benefiting from international experience in this area. There have been signs of change in social policy as well. For instance, private players are now being permitted to run schools and hospitals. Furthermore, the junta has begun to repair relations with the West. Branded an "outpost of tyranny" by the Bush administration, the Myanmar regime is now being engaged diplomatically by Washington. The sanctions, however, are likely to remain in place until the junta shows commitment to furthering democracy and human rights.

 

The Indian government has refrained from airing its views on these developments. This is continuous with its avowed policy of non-interference in the affairs of Myanmar. New Delhi persisted with this approach even during the popular movement against the junta in 2007. In the past decade-and-a-half, New Delhi's Myanmar policy has been shaped by economic and security considerations. The estimated 300 billion cubic metres of gas reserves in Myanmar are naturally of great interest to India. Besides, several infrastructure projects are underway, aimed at improving connectivity between the two countries. These will facilitate India's access to its own northeastern states as well as to other Southeast Asian countries.

 

From the standpoint of security, there are two key drivers of policy. In order to contain the insurgencies in the Northeast, it was essential to secure Myanmar's cooperation. Since the mid-1990s, the junta has worked with India to ensure that various northeastern insurgent groups, especially the Nagas and the United Liberation Front of Asom, do not operate out of Myanmar with impunity. The other factor is China's growing clout in Myanmar. Since the late-1980s, when the junta drew international censure for its iron-fisted approach, Beijing has been Myanmar's most dependable ally. China is its largest trading partner, supplying everything, from military equipment to food grain. China's involvement in several infrastructure projects has also been a matter of concern for India. These are regarded as enabling China to access the Indian Ocean region.

 

Notwithstanding these, India could do more to nudge the junta towards a more democratic stance. In particular, it should make the case for a fairer parliamentary election — one that will create the space for Suu Kyi and the NLD to participate in the process. But it would be facile to assume that the problem in Myanmar is merely the struggle between forces of democracy and the junta. Ensuring a democratic transition, however imperfect, will require addressing a larger set of issues. If Myanmar has seen the longest spell of uninterrupted military dictatorship anywhere in the world, it is because the country is also home to the longest-running civil war.

 

From the time it became independent in 1948, Burma was wracked by a swarm of insurgencies. Initially, it was the communist party that took up arms against the government. Simultaneously, there was also an Islamist insurgency in the north of Arakan. Soon the Karens and Kachins of the highlands turned against the central government. These groups had enjoyed considerable autonomy under the British and feared that their standing would be eroded in a self-proclaimed Buddhist Burma. Both the groups were well-armed, having played a major role in the anti-Japanese resistance during World War II. Two years into these conflicts, the premier, U Nu, was periodically retreating into meditation to cope with the situation. His friend, Jawaharlal Nehru, observed that it seemed "as good a way of governing Burma as any".

 

The situation was given a further twist in 1949 when the communists emerged victorious in the Chinese civil war. Sections of the worsted Kuomintang forces fled across the border into eastern Burma. There they created a safe haven, recruiting additional forces, imposing taxes and undercutting local political structures. These forces were subsequently joined by American and Taiwanese military 'advisors'. The Burmese military's efforts to root out these militias alienated the local population, so paving the way for an insurgency led by the Shans.

 

The presence of these forces resulted in periodic incursions by the Chinese army. By the mid-1960s, Beijing extended support to communist insurgents against the Burmese regime. Meanwhile, Thailand, too, had entered the fray, supporting the Karens and other insurgents operating along its borders with Burma, believing this would weaken its traditional enemy. Over time, many of the rebel groups splintered into factions, resulting in a bewildering array of insurgents with ever longer acronyms.

 

The upshot of this anarchical situation was that the military began to consume much the largest share of the state's financial resources and became by far the most powerful actor. This set the stage for the military coups of 1958 and 1962. Since the mid-1950s, the military also became a major stakeholder in the Burmese economy and came to control a number of key sectors. It was only in 1989 that the government began to reach ceasefire accords. These have been concluded with around 16 groups to date. But they remain armed truces and the underlying disputes are yet to be resolved. The army continues to engage in counter-insurgency operations against other important militias, though the strength of these insurgencies has dwindled over the years. But many of these groups are active players in drug trafficking from Thailand and are supported by religious networks overseas.Any attempt to minimize the role of the junta can only succeed as part of a larger process that ends these ethnic disputes and creates a new compact between the State and the peoples of Myanmar. The recent developments could provide the requisite opening for wider effort at national reconciliation. Encouraging the junta and other actors down this road would accord with India's values as well as its interests.

 

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

EDITORIAL

THAROOR LOGS OUT

''THAROOR'S CONDUCT MADE HIS POSITION UNTENABLE.''

 

Minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor, had no option but to resign when it became clear that his 'mentoring' of the Kochi IPL team was not out of love of cricket or for his constituency, but had a personal angle in it. He did not disclose his personal interest in the beginning and when IPL commissioner Lalit Modi made it public for his own reasons, Tharoor had no good defence.  There was no reason to believe that the minister's intervention had nothing to do with the allotment of stake worth Rs 70 crore in the company that won the bid to his friend, Sunanda Pushkar, especially as her background did not greatly qualify her for that nor her 'contribution' in winning the bid. The allotment was also illegal, and she got a special consideration. The decision to give up the equity made it worse. If she actually deserved it, why should she give it up? The point is that the minister's friend benefited from these improprieties because of her closeness to him.


That made Tharoor's position completely untenable. His explanatory statement in parliament, which was a bland denial full of generalities, was not convincing. He did go too far, was not completely transparent in his conduct, and even tried to suppress truth. And it was also not the first time that he was creating a flutter as a minister. But the earlier controversies had more to do with his choice of words, and he could be even excused for naivete or lack of experience. But the latest had misconduct written on it, with a tag of many crores hanging from it and a dubious, though unclear, motive at the heart of it.


Tharoor, writer, intellectual and international civil servant who once aspired to become the world's top diplomat, was  a disappointment in about a year of his political and ministerial life. The man who was once named a Global Leader of Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum has even become a comic figure. He was an outsider who came into politics, lived in a different world through his twitters and created even doubts about his sense of belonging and seriousness of purpose. There is a possibility that he did not know how the Indian system works. But that is immaterial. He acted wrongly and had to pay the price for it.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SERIOUS LAPSE

''SECURITY ARRA-NGEMENTS REFLECT POORLY ON THE POLICE.''

 

The breakdown of the security machinery that allowed twin explosions outside the Chinnaswamy stadium on Saturday evening, just a few minutes before the start of a high-profile Indian Premier League match, could have far-reaching ramifications country-wide. India is to host two mega sporting events over the next 10 months, the Commonwealth Games in the national capital in October and the cricket World Cup across various centres early next year. At a time when the world is anxiously monitoring the security situation in a country still to recover from the trauma of the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the Bangalore blasts were precisely what the doctor had not ordered. Predictably, the Bangalore city police have slammed IPL authorities for moving the two semifinals slated for Wednesday and Thursday to Navi Mumbai despite offering assurances of fool-proof security.

It is, though, naive to expect the IPL, its security consultants and, most importantly, the players involved to take their assurances at face value. It is little short of providential that there were no casualties following the blasts, which were triggered by low-intensity devices. That a third bomb was defused even as the match was on, and two further bombs were located and defused on Sunday morning, decisively tilted the scales in favour of shifting the semifinals away from Bangalore, no matter how disappointing the move might be for the thousands of die-hard fans of the Bangalore team, the Royal Challengers. Even acknowledging the fact that there is no such thing as fool-proof security, the glaring inadequacies in the security apparatus put in place for IPL matches reflect poorly on the city police.


In seeking to deflect the blame by suggesting that the cricket association and the IPL ought to be responsible for security in the immediate vicinity of the stadium, the officials concerned have merely exposed their own helplessness. The ease with which people walked in and out of the venue on match-eve, and the laxity with which entry was gained to the stadium even after the blasts, was further damning indictment of the absence of proper policing measures. The presence of over a thousand personnel is no guarantee against untoward incidents. It's in the commitment with which security issues are addressed that the success of the police force lies. Unless this realisation sinks in, Bangalore will be anything but a permanent stop on the global sporting map.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

UN REPORT ON BENAZIR ASSASSINATION

THE UN COMMISSIONERS CONCLUDED THAT A PROBABLE REASON FOR REMOVING BENAZIR WAS HER DESIRE TO IMPROVE RELATIONS WITH INDIA.

BY B G VERGHESE

 

The passage of the 18th Amendment by Pakistan's National Assembly, rolling back the authoritarian constitutional provisions imposed by Gen Musharraf during the military rule, have been hailed as a major democratic reform. All people of goodwill will wish Pakistan well. As of now, maybe, no more than two cheers are in order.


In a formal sense there is an appearance of civilian ascendancy. The president has been reduced to a figurehead, though saved from corruption hearings on account of his constitutional position. The military has, meanwhile, regained prestige at home as its Waziristan/Swat campaigns have enabled Pakistan to look the US in the eye and win greater recognition for its frontline AfPak posture.


The new amendment allows the chief of army staff a four year term which implies a year's extension in service for General Kayani. But there is no evidence as yet that the military has abandoned control over critical policies pertaining to security, nuclear issues and relations with India, the US, Afghanistan and China.


The annual defence budget, largely framed by the military, remains a mere one-line entry and is virtually charged to the exchequer without debate. The Kerry-Lugar amendment imposes conditionalities on how Pakistan utilises US military aid; but it remains to be seen how effective this safeguard proves in practice.


Even setting aside past default on this count, how auspicious are the omens even today? The latest UN report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto in December 2007 on her return to Pakistan from exile is not very reassuring. Almost a year later, the Zardari administration requested Ban Ki Moon to hold a UN inquiry as it feared the involvement of local agencies in what it felt was a staged murder.


Pakistan argued that the government of Pakistan could alone release the report. This too was rejected and the commission's 70 page findings were finally presented to the media in New York by its chair, the Chilean diplomat Heraldo Munoz, on April 15. The Pakistan ambassador boycotted the function. According to a columnist of 'Dawn,' the Pakistani authorities wished the 'establishment' to see the report before they shared its contents with the general public.


Why it might have been thought prudent to provide the 'establishment' with prior information becomes apparent from the report. It severely indicts the Musharraf regime, of which Kayani was a part, for wilful negligence and cover up, as well as the current PPP interior minister Rehman Malik, who was travelling in the stand-by bullet proof Mercedes car that was, however, found missing from the scene when it could have rushed Benazir Bhutto to hospital.


Truth commission

The military and ISI have been virtually accused by the UN commissioners of preventing an autopsy, hosing down the assassination site, thus removing vital evidence, and obstructing the commission's own inquiries. The report calls on Pakistan to set up a 'truth commission' to get to the bottom of the crime. The unfolding in Islamabad will now be watched with interest.


Of special concern to India is the UN commissioners' findings that a probable reason for removing Benazir was her "independent position on the urgent need to improve relations with India, and its implications for the Kashmir dispute, which the military regarded as its policy domain."


Further, the commissioners found evidence that the army and ISI used terrorist groups to further their strategic objectives and that "the bulk of the anti-Indian activity was and still remains the work of groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which has close links with the ISI." The LeT has morphed into the Jammat-ud-Dawa, headed by Hafeez Saeed.


Musharraf quite clearly lied about Kargil, the nuclear proliferator A Q Khan (who was no lone wolf), and the use of jihadi terror against India. Zardari  once again reiterated on April 5 that his government would not allow the soil of Pakistan to be used for cross-border terror against India. We must await evidence of that commitment. How the Bhutto case is now handled will be one test of that; else a policy of bland denial, countercharges of Indian villainy and asking India to dialogue will not wash.


There will be another test in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has been seeking 'strategic depth' and a sphere of influence. The US and Nato are up a gum tree and do not know what to do. President Karzai, whom the West sought to undermine, has called a Loya Jirga or gathering of Afghanistan's tribal elders or highest traditional council on May 2-4 to seek a cross ethno-cultural consensus on a peace process, national integration of insurgent groups and ground rules for carrying forward this process.


This initiative merits support by all regional and international players whose private, self-serving agendas should be subservient to promoting peace and harmony in a traditionally neutral Afghanistan and bringing stability and progress to the entire region. This too will be an acid test of Pakistan's sincerity in making genuinely new beginnings as a good neighbour. Moreover it will strengthen civilian supremacy and give sustenance to democratic forces in Pakistan.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

SILENCE IS GOLDEN

I WAS TOLD TO STRICTLY FOLLOW THE CREDO, NOT TO SPEAK UNLESS IT CAN IMPROVE

BY DINESH KUMAR

 

The truth is finally out in the open. My shrink, with the help of controlled medication and hypnosis, has concluded what my wife had long suspected. I suffer from 'foot-in-the-mouth' disease, which has over time become chronic. The first episode goes back to my days in the air force some 50 years back. I was a young bachelor officer living in the officers' mess. We used to have regular mess meetings presided by a senior officer. We, the officers could air our grievances or problems about food or other mess activities.
Bravado, being my middle name, I stood up and complained about the unappetising food and let go a massive tirade against the food member. "He is no good and he needs to be disciplined," was my impassioned plea. The presiding officer asked me to stand up and state my name. Believing that commendation or a big award was on my way for being for my frank statement, I got up and said with the chest expanded and with full military lung power, "My name is flying officer Kumar, sir." Pat came the order, "Flying officer Kumar, with immediate effect, you are appointed as the food member of the mess" and he closed the meeting.


The shrink said that being an obsessive compulsive personality, I have nurtured the habit with great intensity.

I am part of a group where we learn the art of making speeches before large audiences. The other evening I complained to the president that the speeches in our group were turning to big bores because most of the speakers delivered some very serious stuff or the other. The president readily agreed with me and asked me to take over the task of making humourous speeches.


When I mentioned that to my wife, hoping for some empathetic response, this is what she had to say: "I have read somewhere that with age comes wisdom but in your case, age appears to have come alone". To rub salt in my wounds she added, "I don't think you have heard the famous quote of Oscar Wilde, who said: "It was silly to give advice; but to give good advice was absolutely fatal"."


During my second visit to a psychiatrist, I asked him whether there was any remedy from the disease because I found myself landing in trouble too often for comfort. He said he did not know of any sure remedy. As I got up to take leave, he said looking very serious the way only shrinks can look, "See, if you can strictly follow the credo 'Do not speak unless it can improve upon silence'."


I am still trying to figure out his advice.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

 

RTE: WILL IT LEAD TO INCLUSIVE EDUCATION?

BY BHAMY V SHENOY


April 1, 2010, the day the Right to Education Act became operational could possibly go down in modern Indian history as a red letter day. What divisive reservation system has not been able to achieve even after 60 years of Independence may well be accomplished peacefully by RTE within the next eight years if the problems identified in the Act are intelligently addressed.

 

Portals of great schools like Doon in Dehra Dun, Aditi Mallya in Bangalore, Modern Public School in Delhi, several residential schools in Ooty and many such exclusive and not so exclusive private schools throughout India have to open their doors to the children of the weaker sections. This will hopefully give such children a chance to aim for IITs, IIMs and other professional colleges without quotas.


While it is easy to get excited about the huge potential of RTE, we should be fully aware of the myriads of problems involved in its implementation. Opposition leaders like Mayawati and Nitish Kumar have already expressed their inabilities to implement the Act due to lack of funds. Or there could be some hidden agendas.

But there are other real problems like improving qualifications of millions of teachers, training them in large numbers to meet the RTE standard of one teacher for 30 students, ensuring it is really the poor who are admitted and not politically connected to elite schools, defining neighbourhood and selecting the students to be admitted to private schools, estimating the fees to be paid to private schools, etc.


Example of SDMCs

According to RTE every government school will be transferred to the school management committee with 75 per cent of its members being parents. Such SMCs sound a great idea. But in reality, they would be a total failure based on Karnataka's experience of setting up school development and monitoring committees. More thought should be given to strengthen these SMCs. For example, a set of SMCs (if the schools are small) may have a full time executive who can be a retired educationist to help carry on with their responsibilities. Also the government should transfer 'real' power to SMCs in managing the school.


Private elite schools are unlikely to be happy to admit students from poor families. Some have already opposed such a policy. Some may even question if such students will be able to perform better just because they attend elite schools. However, we already have a shining example in a 13-year-old Shanthi Bhavan near Bangalore. It is a world class residential school started by Abraham George. It admits students only from extremely poor families. Two years in a row, all its X standard students have got distinction in ICSE public examinations.


In order to implement RTE properly, we should learn from the mistakes committed while implementing some of the path breaking Acts passed by parliament. They were also expected to bring about major reforms like RTE. But during implementation, those Acts have failed miserably either due to lack of political will or indifference by the civil society.


Consumer Protection Act was expected to usher in a consumer revolution. Right to Information Act should have improved governance and started the process of greater transparency and reducing corruption. The Environmental Protection Act should have reversed the process of destroying our habitat.


The ministries concerned, either at the Centre or the state, did not draw up a plan of action to implement any of the above Acts. At best they just went through the motion of setting up the mandatory institutions or appointing officials. No thought was given to develop a set of well thought out training programmes at different levels. No feedback mechanism was planned to monitor how these Acts were implemented. Even when NGOs gave feedback, no attempt was made to take corrective steps.


Under the chairmanship of Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal, a high level RTE implementation committee (RTEIC) should be formed at the earliest. All state education ministers should be co-opted as members. RTEIC should plan to receive feedback from different stakeholders in a formal way and take corrective steps on a war footing. It should have an advisory committee consisting of members with expertise in education, management, law, finance, and information technology to analyse the problems based on feedback received and make recommendations to RTEIC. Similar committees should be formed at state level also.


If the government and civil society work together, and apply sound management techniques to implement RTE, we can indeed usher in a social revolution in India. It in turn, may help us begin the process of unwinding divisive caste-based quota system.

 

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

EDITORIAL

VERDICT ON LONG ISLAND

 

A jury in Suffolk County, N.Y., has found Jeffrey Conroy guilty of manslaughter as a hate crime, after he fatally stabbed an Ecuadorean immigrant, Marcelo Lucero. Whatever solace the conviction brings to Mr. Lucero's family, the shame for Suffolk County's law enforcement and political leadership remains.

 

Mr. Conroy was part of a group of teenagers who rampaged through the village of Patchogue one night in November 2008. They surrounded Mr. Lucero near the train station, taunting and beating him. Mr. Lucero was not their only victim, but he was the only one who fought back, pulling off his belt and hitting Mr. Conroy in the head. Mr. Conroy stabbed Mr. Lucero in the chest, leaving him to die.

 

The case was the worst but hardly the only example of young Long Island men attacking Latinos for sport, which the police and other authorities failed for years to detect, prevent or punish.

 

Immigrants and their advocates had warned about the climate of fear, but the response from County Executive Steve Levy and the County Legislature was a series of misguided crackdowns on day-labor hiring and rental housing intended to uproot illegal immigrants, as if they were the only ones on the wrong side of the law. It took the Lucero case to refocus attention on immigrants as the victims of serious crimes, and to expose reports that the police had routinely ignored Latinos' claims of racially motivated attacks — reports that prompted an ongoing federal investigation of the Suffolk County Police.

 

This should be the case that finally shames all communities into toning down the anti-immigrant fervor and insisting on effective, evenhanded law enforcement — policing that provides equal protection to everybody in the community, reaches out to undocumented immigrants who too often are afraid to speak out when they are victims and defends the humanity of all.

 

Suffolk, which has recently stepped up police training and outreach to Latinos, came late to this realization and Mr. Lucero paid the price. The rest of the country should not make the same mistake.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE COURT, MONEY AND POLITICS

 

Advocates for unlimited campaign contributions — especially corporate contributions — are hoping the Supreme Court will blow another huge hole in the campaign finance law.

 

Earlier this year, the court struck down a longstanding ban on direct corporate spending on elections. The Republican Party and other groups now want it to take another case, Republican National Committee v. Federal Election Commission, and use it to strike down the ban on soft-money donations to national political parties.

 

Direct contributions to candidates and parties from individuals have been limited by law since the 1970s. But there was a giant loophole: contributors could give unlimited amounts of money to a political party, ostensibly for field operations and issue advertising. A flood of special-interest money swamped the system and, since one dollar is not distinguishable from another, it went right into specific elections.

 

In 2002, the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law sought to fix that problem by prohibiting national parties from accepting contributions of more than a limited amount, even if some of the money would be spent on activities not related to a federal election campaign. The law also required state parties to use only money raised in compliance with federal limits when they spent on federal elections, to prevent them from being a conduit for money raised outside of the limits.

 

The Republican National Committee, among others, is challenging this soft-money ban. It argues that it has the right to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money for a variety of activities not directly related to federal elections, including working on behalf of state candidates and keeping up its national headquarters.

 

A special three-judge court recently rejected that challenge. It noted that in 2003, the Supreme Court upheld the soft-money ban against a First Amendment challenge, and that the court's ruling earlier this year in the Citizens United case, striking down the ban on corporate expenditures, did not disturb that 2003 decision. The Republican National Committee is appealing the ruling.

 

Restrictions on contributions to parties are constitutional since they serve the government's legitimate effort to try to prevent influence-buying by big contributors and influence-selling by too willing parties and politicians.

 

The court's ruling in Citizens United will allow corporate money to play far too important a role in federal elections. It was wrong on the law, and terrible as policy. The court should not compound that mistake by using the Republican Party's lawsuit to open another major floodgate to special-interest money in elections.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

DO THE MATH

 

Last fall, Michelle Rhee, the tough-minded and creative schools chancellor in Washington, laid off 266 teachers, citing a budget crunch. She has since reported finding a budget surplus. The city's teachers' union, which challenged the layoffs unsuccessfully last fall, has now asked a judge to review them again. The atmosphere has grown increasingly toxic.

 

Some of Ms. Rhee's critics have implausibly suggested that she might have withheld information to justify the layoffs. It would be terrible for the city's children if the dispute reached a point where it upended the innovative union contract that Ms. Rhee and union leaders provisionally agreed to earlier this month.

 

The contract, which changes the terms under which teachers are paid and evaluated, could pave the way for better schools for the District of Columbia's students and could become a model for agreements between school districts and teachers' unions around the country.

 

It calls for a salary increase of 20 percent over five years, for which the union has agreed to a teacher evaluation system that takes student performance into account and a differential pay scale that will boost compensation for the most effective teachers. In addition, the city will significantly improve mentoring and professional development programs, with the clear aim of helping teachers learn and master the craft.

 

Mayor Adrian Fenty needs to get to the bottom of the budget flap as quickly as possible. The situation was further confused when the city's financial officer issued a statement saying that there is no surplus, as claimed by Ms. Rhee. She says the city is committed to finding the money to pay for the raises in the new contract — although under the law, any proposals she puts forward must be approved by that same chief financial officer.

 

One bright spot is that the union's leadership has wisely separated the two issues — last year's layoffs and the new contract. They need to keep tempers cool so their members make the right choice and ratify the agreement. And Ms. Rhee and the mayor need to quickly and fully disclose who messed up the math.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

IRAN, SANCTIONS AND THE MEMO

 

Sometime this spring, but still months later than President Obama predicted, Iran may finally face new United Nations sanctions for its illicit nuclear program.

 

Mr. Obama has done a lot to prepare the ground. He has bolstered American credibility with his — since rebuffed — offer to engage with Iran. He signed a new arms reduction treaty with Russia, improved relations with China and is personally lobbying other United Nations Security Council members to support stronger sanctions.

 

We are skeptical that even that will be enough to get Moscow and Beijing to sign on to anything with real bite. In the last four years, the Security Council has passed three far-too-modest sanctions resolutions. Tehran has shrugged them all off and kept churning out nuclear fuel.

 

The good news is that Mr. Obama is also hedging his bets, with an effort — first begun under President George W. Bush — to persuade an ever-widening circle of international corporate interests to eschew business in economically strapped Iran.

 

Total, the French energy company, and Eni of Italy claim they are planning to end new investments in Iran. Major international banks like Deutsche Bank and HSBC have said that they are withdrawing from Iran. Several oil companies have said they would no longer supply gasoline to Iran, including Royal Dutch Shell, Vitol, Russia's Lukoil and India's Reliance. Last week, Malaysia's state oil firm, Petronas, said it was cutting off shipments. Its prime minister then denied it.

 

Promises are clearly cheap. The administration will have to keep pressing these companies to live up to their commitments. And it is time for Mr. Obama's European partners to think about more formal ways to tighten their own sanctions on Iran.

 

None of this should let the Security Council off the hook. A new resolution would provide important cover for these parallel tracks. Iran is especially vulnerable now, both economically and politically. Its leaders will be watching carefully, especially to see what its longtime trading partners and enablers in Russia and China do.

 

There, the news is not good. While Russian and Chinese leaders told Mr. Obama that they will work seriously on new sanctions, diplomats say their representatives are already seeking ways to dilute any resolution. Brazil and Turkey, which currently sit on the Security Council and have a lot of international sway, also are resisting. Mr. Obama needs to keep pressing Moscow and Beijing hard. He and his European partners need to make clear that Brazil (which seeks permanent Security Council membership) and Turkey (a NATO member) must step up.

 

We don't know if there is any mixture of pressure — or inducements — that will force Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. That's what makes a memo written earlier this year by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and reported by The Times on Sunday so important.

 

Looking beyond the current maneuvering, he raises some very disturbing and difficult questions that need to be addressed. How will the world contain Iran if it actually produces a weapon? What will Washington and its allies do if Iran acquires all of the parts but decides to stop just short of that?

 

The United States and its allies need to quietly discuss and prepare for those possibilities — without giving Russia, China and others any more excuses not to act.

 

As for the military options under review, we are sure that an attack would be a disaster. We urge anyone who has doubts to listen closely to Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He told reporters on Sunday that while military "options would cause delay" to Iran's nuclear program, "that doesn't mean the problem is going to go away."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

GAMBLING WITH THE ECONOMY

BY ROGER LOWENSTEIN

 

WHILE the Securities and Exchange Commission's allegations that Goldman Sachs defrauded clients is certainly big news, the case also raises a far broader issue that goes to the heart of how Wall Street has strayed from its intended mission.

 

Wall Street's purpose, you will recall, is to raise money for industry: to finance steel mills and technology companies and, yes, even mortgages. But the collateralized debt obligations involved in the Goldman trades, like billions of dollars of similar trades sponsored by most every Wall Street firm, raised nothing for nobody. In essence, they were simply a side bet — like those in a casino — that allowed speculators to increase society's mortgage wager without financing a single house.

 

The mortgage investment that is the focus of the S.E.C.'s civil lawsuit against Goldman, Abacus 2007-AC1, didn't contain any actual mortgage bonds. Rather, it was made up of credit default swaps that "referenced" such bonds. Thus the investors weren't truly "investing" — they were gambling on the success or failure of the bonds that actually did own mortgages. Some parties bet that the mortgage bonds would pay off; others (notably the hedge fund manager John Paulson) bet that they would fail. But no actual bonds — and no actual mortgages — were created or owned by the parties involved.

 

The S.E.C. suit charges that the bonds referenced in Goldman's Abacus deal were hand-picked (by Mr. Paulson) to fail. Goldman says that Abacus merely allowed Mr. Paulson to bet one way and investors to bet the other. But either way, is this the proper function of Wall Street? Is this the sort of activity we want within regulated (and implicitly Federal Reserve-protected) banks like Goldman?

 

While such investments added nothing of value to the mortgage industry, they weren't harmless. They were one reason the housing bust turned out to be more destructive than anyone predicted. Initially, remember, the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben Bernanke, and others insisted that the damage would be confined largely to subprime loans, which made up only a small part of the mortgage market. But credit default swaps greatly multiplied the subprime bet. In some cases, a single mortgage bond was referenced in dozens of synthetic securities. The net effect: investments like Abacus raised society's risk for no productive gain.

 

In a free-market economy, we want people making considered calculations of risk. But buyers and sellers of credit default swaps often have no stake in the underlying instrument. Such swaps function like an insurance policy. One party collects a fee for promising to, in effect, insure a bond; the other party makes the premium payments, and gets a big payoff if the bond goes bad.

 

Banks that have lent money to questionable borrowers use swaps as a hedge — if their loans go bad, the bank makes up for the loss by collecting on the swap. The problem is that swaps are open to anyone — even parties with nothing to insure. Allowing speculators to bet on entities in which they have no stake is similar to letting your neighbor take out an insurance policy on your life.

 

And even when these instruments are used by banks to hedge against potential defaults, they raise a moral hazard. Banks are less likely to scrutinize mortgages and other loans they make if they know they can reduce risk using swaps. The very ease with which derivatives allow each party to "transfer" risk means that no one party worries as much about its own risk. But, irrespective of who is holding the hot potato when the music stops, the net result is a society with more risk overall.

 

As it considers its financial reform options, Congress's first priority should be to end the culture that "financializes" every economic outcome, that turns every mortgage or bond issue into a lottery — often with second- and third-order securities that amount to wagers on wagers of numbing complexity.

 

 

First, it should insist that all derivatives trade on exchanges and in standard contracts — not in customized, build-to-suit arrangements like the ones Goldman created. Wall Street might have legal grounds to fight this — after all, a derivative is a contract between private parties. But the financial bailout has demonstrated that big Wall Street banks fall firmly within Washington's regulatory authority, and regulation confers implicit bailout protection. Protected entities should not be using (potentially) public capital to run non-productive gambling tables.

 

Second, Congress should take up the question of whether parties with no stake in the underlying instrument should be allowed to buy or sell credit default swaps. If it doesn't ban the practice, it should at least mandate that regulators set stiff capital requirements on swaps for such parties so that they will not overleverage themselves again to society's detriment. Also, tax policy could be changed to skew heavily against swaps contracts that are held for short-term periods.

The government would not look fondly on Caesar's Palace if it opened a table for wagering on corporate failure. It should not give greater encouragement for Goldman Sachs to do so.

Roger Lowenstein is a contributing writer for The Times Magazine and the author of "The End of Wall Street."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

ESCAPE FROM THE JET AGE

CHICAGO

 

AFTER waiting nearly a week as an Icelandic volcano spewed turbine-mangling ash into the atmosphere — thwarting flights into, out of or through Europe — the airlines are supposed to begin flying passengers again on Tuesday.

 

Governments, businesses and most travelers, irritated by disrupted itineraries and worried about lost productivity, are delighted to see planes back in the sky. But I, for one, wish this blessedly jet-free interlude could have continued a little longer. In the eccentric, ground-level adventures of some stranded passengers — 700-mile taxi rides through Scandinavia, for instance, perhaps a horse-drawn stagecoach over the Alps if things got really desperate — I'm reminded of the romance we trade away each time we shuffle aboard an airplane.

 

In the five decades or so since jets became the dominant means of long-haul travel, the world has benefited immeasurably from the speed and convenience of air travel. But as Orson Welles intoned in "The Magnificent Ambersons," "The faster we're carried, the less time we have to spare." Indeed, airplanes' accelerated pace has infected nearly every corner of our lives. Our truncated vacation days and our crammed work schedules are predicated on the assumption that everyone will fly wherever they're going, that anyone can go great distances and back in a very short period of time.

 

So we are condemned to keep riding on airplanes. Which is not really traveling. Airplanes are a means of ignoring the spaces in between your point of origin and your destination. By contrast, a surface journey allows you to look out on those spaces — at eye level and on a human scale, not peering down through breaks in the clouds from 35,000 feet above — from the observation car of a rolling train or the deck of a gently bobbing ship. Surface transport can be contemplative, picturesque and even enchanting in a way that air travel never will be.

 

My girlfriend and I recently set out to circumnavigate the globe without the aid of any aircraft. Along the way, we took the Trans-Siberian Railway across the wilds of Russia from Moscow to Vladivostok, and drove a car through the empty doomlands of the Australian outback. These journeys take less than half a day if you go by plane. Each lasts nearly a week when you stick to the ground. But taking to the air means simply boarding, enduring the flight and getting off at another airport. Going our way meant sharing bread and cheese with kindly Russians in a shared train cabin, and drinking beers with Australian jackaroos (we'd call them cowboys) at a lonely desert roadhouse. These are warm, vivid memories that will stay with us forever.

Think of the trans-Atlantic flights you may have taken. Do you remember anything about them? (Turbulence, bad in-flight movies and screaming children don't count.) Because flying is an empty, soulless way to traverse the planet, the best flights are in fact the ones you forget immediately after hitting the tarmac.

 

Now, imagine floating across the Atlantic on a ship. Do you think you might enjoy those days of transit — the joys of a starry night in the middle of the ocean, or a round of drinks with new friends as you look out across the stern railing at the glimmering water — and hold them in your memories well after your vessel made landfall?

 

My hope is that some travelers stranded by the volcanic eruption have been able to discover the joys of slow travel for themselves. With airplanes out of the picture over the past few days, pretty much the only form of public transport between the United States and Europe has been aboard the Queen Mary II, making one of her weeklong treks between New York and Southampton, England, or on one of the select few container ships that will rent spare cabins to civilian passengers.

 

I can vouch for the container ship option, having taken a nine-day-long freighter passage from Philadelphia to Antwerp as part of my globe-circling trip. You can hang out on the navigational bridge with the officers, who will teach you to chart a course. You eat your meals with the crew in the mess room. You spot broad-winged seabirds and enormous whales and pods of dolphins.

 

Were you to see a plane flying overhead, you'd look up at its contrail and pity those poor people shrieking

through the sky in a cramped aluminum tube. They will arrive days before you, sure. But they will have missed out on the wonders of a journey where there is no choice but to sit back, relax and pleasantly ruminate, as the ship chugs steadily through the waves.

 

Seth Stevenson is the author of "Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World."

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

RIDERS ON THE STORM

BY DAVID BROOKS

 

In 2001, Cass R. Sunstein wrote an essay in The Boston Review called "The Daily We: Is the Internet really a blessing for democracy?" Sunstein, a professor at the University of Chicago who now serves in the Obama administration, raised the possibility that the Internet may be harming the public square.

 

In the mid-20th century, Americans got most of their news through a few big networks and mass-market magazines. People were forced to encounter political viewpoints different from their own. Moreover, the mass media gave Americans shared experiences. If you met strangers in a barbershop, you could be pretty sure you would have something in common to talk about from watching the same TV shows.

 

Sunstein wondered whether the Internet was undermining all this. The new media, he noted, allow you to personalize your newspapers so you only see the stories that already interest you. You can visit only those Web sites that confirm your prejudices. Instead of a public square, we could end up with a collection of information cocoons.

 

Sunstein was particularly concerned about this because he has done very important work over the years about our cognitive biases. We like hearing evidence that confirms our suppositions. We filter out evidence that challenges them.

 

Moreover, we have a natural tilt toward polarized views. People are prone to gather in like-minded groups. Once in them, they drive each other to even greater extremes. In his recent book "Going to Extremes," Sunstein shows that liberal judges get more liberal when they are on panels with other liberals. Conservative judges get more conservative.

 

Sunstein's fear was that the Internet might lead to a more ghettoized, polarized and insular electorate. Those fears were supported by some other studies, and they certainly matched my own experience. Every day I seem to meet people who live in partisan ghettoes, ignorant about the other side.

 

Yet new research complicates this picture. Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, both of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, have measured ideological segregation on the Internet. They took methodologies that have been used to identify racial segregation, and they tracked how people of different political views move around the Web.

 

The methodology is complicated, but can be summarized through a geographic metaphor. Think of the Fox News site as Casper, Wyo. If you visited and shook hands with the people reading the site, you'd be very likely to be shaking hands with a conservative. The New York Times site, they suggest, is like Manhattan. If you shook hands with other readers, you'd probably be shaking hands with liberals.

 

The study measures the people who visit sites, not the content inside.

 

According to the study, a person who visited only Fox News would have more overlap with conservatives than 99 percent of Internet news users. A person who only went to The Times's site would have more liberal overlap than 95 percent of users.

 

But the core finding is that most Internet users do not stay within their communities. Most people spend a lot of time on a few giant sites with politically integrated audiences, like Yahoo News.

 

But even when they leave these integrated sites, they often go into areas where most visitors are not like themselves. People who spend a lot of time on Glenn Beck's Web site are more likely to visit The New York Times's Web site than average Internet users. People who spend time on the most liberal sites are more likely to go to foxnews.com than average Internet users. Even white supremacists and neo-Nazis travel far and wide across the Web.

 

It is so easy to click over to another site that people travel widely. And they're not even following links most of the time; they have their own traveling patterns.

 

Gentzkow and Shapiro found that the Internet is actually more ideologically integrated than old-fashioned forms of face-to-face association — like meeting people at work, at church or through community groups. You're more likely to overlap with political opponents online than in your own neighborhood.

 

This study suggests that Internet users are a bunch of ideological Jack Kerouacs. They're not burrowing down into comforting nests. They're cruising far and wide looking for adventure, information, combat and arousal. This does not mean they are not polarized. Looking at a site says nothing about how you process it or the character of attention you bring to it. It could be people spend a lot of time at their home sites and then go off on forays looking for things to hate. But it probably does mean they are not insecure and they are not sheltered.

 

If this study is correct, the Internet will not produce a cocooned public square, but a free-wheeling multilayered Mad Max public square. The study also suggests that if there is increased polarization (and there is), it's probably not the Internet that's causing it.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON INVESTMENT BANKING: GOLDMAN CASE SHOWS WHAT'S WRONG WITH WALL STREET

One of the most interesting tales of the financial crisis is the small group of investors who saw it coming. They saw home buyers taking on too much debt and predatory lenders enabling them to do it. They saw toxic mortgages being separated from the lenders who issued them and bundled into complex financial instruments. And they saw clueless and conflicted ratings agencies bless these instruments with AAA ratings.

 

OPPOSING VIEW: SEC's case seems weak

Some of the most colorful of these iconoclastic investors are profiled in Michael Lewis' best-seller The Big Short. They include a couple of business neophytes who set up shop in a converted garage in Berkley, Calif., an abrasive Wall Street outcast, and a neurology resident who began dabbling in investments in his spare time.

 

The most notable among them was John Paulson, a wealthy hedge fund manager who figures prominently in the civil fraud case the Securities and Exchange Commission brought on Friday against Goldman Sachs, the investment banking powerhouse. The SEC alleges that Goldman deceived investors by marketing a complex product that was nothing more than a contract to be on the hook for the toxic mortgages Paulson helped pick and bet against.

 

Paulson, who was not charged, and the other "shorts" were driven by a desire to make money. But to varying degrees they were also driven by disgust and indignation. They saw their investments as bets against Wall Street and its corrupt system designed to generate undeserved bonuses.

 

The SEC's case shows how a very cynical Goldman saw these investors not as a clarion call to fix a broken mortgage finance system — but as yet another way to make money. All it had to do was find some dupe to take the other side of the bet, and it could make easy money as the middleman.

 

Depending on what evidence the SEC can bring, its case might or might not hold up in court. But in the court of public reputation, Goldman has already lost. The facts reinforce what many investors have concluded about Goldman and, to a lesser degree, many other investment banks: They are no longer in the game for their clients but for themselves.

 

To the extent that the SEC has a smoking gun, it's an e-mail from a 31-year-old Goldman Sachs vice president named Fabrice Tourre, who liked to refer to himself as the "fabulous Fab" and marketed the side bets on mortgages. "The whole building is about to collapse anytime now," Tourre wrote a friend. "Only potential survivor, the fabulous Fab ... standing in the middle of all these complex, highly leveraged, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all of the implications of those monstrosities."

 

At a minimum, Washington needs to bring these exotic investment products, known as derivatives, into the open. That would help buyers better see their risks. More important, it might help provide a means to spot and block instruments that can turn a manageable problem into an national crisis, as happened with risky mortgages.

 

Skeptics see Goldman as a huge trophy that government lawyers want to bag now to make the case for tough regulatory reform of Wall Street. Perhaps that figures into their thinking. But it's just as easy to see why the SEC might think it is on to something with the Goldman case. It is a revolting story that simply has to be told. And it's not likely to be the last.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

UP IN THE ASH

 

As airlines clamor to get back in to Europe's ash-filled skies, it's tough not to think of the scene from Jaws in which the mayor fought to keep beaches open despite threats that a Great White Shark would turn swimmers into chum.

 

Are the airlines — which, with government blessing, began limited flights Monday — blinding themselves to a serious threat? Or are those arguing for caution overrating the danger posed by an Icelandic volcano?

 

The answer is not comforting: No one knows for sure.

 

Abrasive ash can damage planes in many ways, sandblasting windshields or clogging air speed indicators. The most serious danger occurs when ash is sucked into the engine, melts or vaporizes, then coats the engine's turbine. Air flow is blocked, causing the engines to lose thrust or shut down.

 

Two commercial jetliners, one over Indonesia in 1982 and another over Alaska in 1989, have run into this.

After flying into ash clouds, they fell thousands of feet, but pilots were able to restart their engines and fly at lower altitudes.

 

The problem is that scientists can't say how much ash it takes to kill an engine. "Does anyone know what the threshold value is?" asks Michael Fabian, a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. "I have not seen a number." Which means test flights that airlines have run in recent days can only assure that those engines were not damaged — but not that no engines would be, especially because ash plumes are fluid, moving easily depending upon wind and other conditions.

 

It's clear why the airline industry has pressed to get air traffic moving and why the European Union's transport ministers finally agreed. Thousands of passengers are stranded, and national economies are being battered by the inability to move people and goods. The groundings could cost European airlines $1 billion.

 

If nothing else, this experience should finally spur research to determine how much ash can still allow safe flying.

 

In the meantime, safety should be the final arbiter. No one wants an ending reminiscent of a horror movie.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON COAL MINING: LAX OPERATORS GAME SYSTEM, KEEP UNSAFE MINES RUNNING

 

The reaction in Washington to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster was easy to predict. Outrage. Investigations. Blame. And vows of major changes in mine safety. Likely, heated congressional hearings will follow and then, after the traditional battle with industry, perhaps passage of a new, stricter law.

 

OPPOSING VIEW: We're vigilant watchdogs

 

That's what happened in 1969, after 78 men were killed in a West Virginia coal mine. And in 1977, after twin explosions killed 26 miners and rescuers in a Kentucky mine. And in 2006, after 12 died in West Virginia's Sago mine. Now, 29 more miners are dead after the blast in West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine April 5.

 

But laws work only when they're used as intended, and that's not happening. In the 33 years since Congress gave the Mine Safety Health Administration (MSHA) enhanced enforcement powers against mines with a pattern of serious violations, they have been used just once. And not at Upper Big Branch, even though common sense says the Massey Energy mine was an accident waiting to happen.

 

The mine was cited for 515 safety citations last year — 75% more than the national average for similar mines. Inspectors repeatedly found potentially lethal conditions ranging from exposed wiring to improper ventilation to water so deep it "could result in drowning." Since January 2009, inspectors have found 54 violations so dangerous that they ordered miners withdrawn until the condition was fixed, according to Ellen Smith, who runs Mine Safety and Health News.

 

By comparison, Deer Creek Mine in Utah, which does the same kind of mining and produces three times the coal tonnage, had one such violation in the past 15 years. Which only goes to show that mining need not be as dangerous as Massey made it.

 

In fact, the Upper Big Branch explosion exposes the way that the system works to the benefit of the least responsible operators.

 

Massey reflexively contested the legitimacy of violations that regulators found at Upper Big Branch, a tactic that can slow the process and prevent a finding that a mine has a "pattern of violations" — the weapon Congress bestowed so regulators could curb violations run by serial safety abusers.

 

Instead, what happens is a cat-and-mouse game controlled by the operators. Regulators can still close part of a mine for certain serious infractions — and they do. But the operators fix problems only to let them recur. An overall pattern of lax safety is never established.

 

Such operators also benefit from rules written by the regulators themselves.

 

In 1990, MSHA decided it would "warn" an operator before finding a pattern of violations and give it time to "improve." That is a reasonable way to deal with responsible operators. But the standards for rescinding a warning are so low that irresponsible operators can game the system. All they need to do is improve their record — no matter how dismal— by 30%, perhaps temporarily.

 

This helps explain why big disasters keep happening at shoddily run mines even while coal mining deaths have steadily declined to a record low of 18 last year. The last big disaster, in Utah in 2007, also occurred at a mine that had long been dangerous, and where regulators should have known it.

 

The point is that regulation can be cooperative where operators have high-quality safety records. But what works for those with good intentions never works with companies bent on cutting corners. Blame the law or blame the regulators, the result is the same: 29 miners needlessly dead. Operators such as Massey need to be reined in.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

DO FOOD STAMPS FEED OBESITY?

BY LAURA VANDERKAM

 

Like kids in a cafeteria, Congress is busy these days complaining about school lunch. Reformers want to tighten nutrition standards because, as Kevin Concannon of the Agriculture Department told reporters recently, "Getting kids started eating healthier is one of the most important long-term goals we have as a country."

 

That's true, but school lunches already have to meet reasonable nutrition standards. The real next frontier in the war on obesity should be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or "food stamps." Some 38 million people — one in eight Americans — rely on this program, up from one in 50 in the 1970s. Food stamps have done a good job fighting hunger since their 1964 roll-out, but as the program has grown, so has the percentage of Americans who are obese — from 13% in the early 1960s to about 35%. Now there's some evidence the two are related. Jay Zagorsky, a scientist at Ohio State University, has calculated that, controlling for socioeconomic status, women who received food stamps were more likely to be overweight than non-recipients. They gained weight faster while receiving assistance than when not.

 

Breaking bad habits

Correlation is not causation, and obesity has many causes, but some experts believe that the structure of SNAP deserves some of the blame. As Americans debate how we can be healthier, the food stamp program deserves as critical a look as Congress is giving school lunch.

 

The one in eight Americans who rely on food stamps are a varied crew, from urban single moms to the "hipsters on food stamps" a recent Salon article claimed to have discovered buying raw honey and shopping at organic markets. But for all the diversity, states run their programs pretty much the same way. Once a month, benefits are loaded electronically onto cards that can then be used at retailers.

 

This monthly cycle encourages certain habits. "A good chunk of people buy early in the month and store for later use," says Parke Wilde, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University who has studied shopping patterns and wrote a landmark 2000 paper on the topic. "The spending cycle is very, very sharp." In many cases, families spend most of their benefits in that first shop. They struggle to ration food evenly over a month (particularly since the average benefit is a not-so-princely $124 per person), and by week four, they are out of food and money.

 

One way or another, people make do, using food pantries, for instance. Wilde found that children's calorie consumption was even across the month. But women experienced a sharp calorie decline in week four for a simple reason: When times are tight, moms starve themselves so their kids can eat.

The result is that when the money comes through again, "you're literally shopping on an empty stomach," says Zagorsky. "We're not rational when food is in front of us." Anyone who has flipped through supermarket tabloids knows that this binge dieting cycle packs pounds onto thecelebrities who try it, before you even consider whether you're eating wholesome food or junk. Other women experience the same effect.

 

To be sure, not every SNAP recipient shops this way. Corbyn Hightower, a Sacramento-area mom of three who lost her job more than a year ago, says she shops two to three times a week at Trader Joe's, buying rice, beans and produce. Her car was a casualty of the recession, but on weekends she bikes to Whole Foods and carts home groceries in her bike trailer. She has also used food stamps to purchase seeds for a family garden, ensuring that she'll be able to harvest fresh produce daily this summer.

 

Though food stamp gardening is rare, Wilde found that people who shop frequently, like Hightower, don't experience the same deprivation cycle that could cause SNAP recipients to put on pounds. So Wilde and others have proposed a simple change: Pay SNAP money twice a month, not once.

 

Pilot programs first

It's a neat answer. Unlike mailing actual "stamps," in this electronic era, the cost to do additional transfers is low, though there could be other problems. If people without cars don't live near supermarkets, it's inconvenient to take a cab twice a month or ask for rides. Some advocates for the hungry fear this would discourage participation. That's why a few states should try pilot programs and ask clients whether they like the new cycle before rolling it out broadly (initial reactions are, admittedly, mixed).

 

But it's important to note that even with twice-monthly transfers, families could still shop once a month if they wanted by saving up their benefits. It's just that the default behavior would be to shop more often. This makes switching the cycle a classic "nudge," a term popularized by behavioral economics experts Richard Thaler, a University of Chicago professor, and Cass Sunstein, the administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. You can do whatever you want, but the program provides a gentle push toward better choices.

 

Healthy choices are always a good idea, but now that President Obama's health care reform bill is law, the American people have even more of a financial stake in questions of public health. You can argue whether programs such as food stamps should exist. If they do, though, they shouldn't make our medical woes worse. Reforming SNAP is an idea that deserves a look.

 

Laura Vanderkam, author of 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, to be published by Portfolio on May 27, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

 

I KNEW OPRAH; KITTY KELLEY'S 'FACTS' NEED SOME CHECKING

BY DEWAYNE WICKHAM

 

The last time there was such a seismic clash between a media giant and a roguish storyteller, the world was at war and television was commercial-free.

 

Back then, the antagonists were William Randolph Hearst, the ruler of a massive media empire, and Orson Welles, a young filmmaker whose first movie, Citizen Kane, was a not-so-veiled trashing of Hearst. The film premiered on May 1, 1941, but it had a short run. The media mogul used his considerable clout to keep Citizen Kane— which has been called the best movie ever made — out of most theaters.

 

The current conflict is centered on a book about Oprah Winfrey, the reigning queen of daytime television, by best-selling author Kitty Kelley. There's no indication Oprah is trying to silence Kelley, but after reading this book, I wouldn't blame her if she did.

 

Oprah: A Biography is, even for the gossip journalism genre, a bad read that has catapulted the muckraking author back into the spotlight. That's due more to the prurient interests of those who buy this book than to Kelley's "reportorial sights," which are touted on the book's jacket.

 

My critique of Kelley's work is not done at arm's length. Oprah and I were once close friends. We first met in 1976 when as a young reporter I covered the Caucus of Black Democrats in Charlotte Oprah, then a student at Tennessee State University and a reporter at WTVF-TV in Nashville, had a thirst for hard news and had finagled her way into the event.

 

Later that year, when Oprah moved to my hometown of Baltimore to co-anchor that city's top-rated newscast, our platonic friendship blossomed. We spent much time together and often talked about the things that brought joy and pain into our lives. I was backstage in Morgan State University's Murphy Auditorium with Oprah before her "one-woman" show that Kelley mentions in the book. I also headed the local journalism group Kelley says Oprah joined.

 

That's why I know the two chapters Kelley devotes to Oprah's time in Baltimore are more the product of exaggeration, insinuation and error than a search for truth.

 

For example, Kelley relays a story about Oprah devouring a huge platter of salmon, which her unnamed source described as "an amazing display of gluttony." Kelley says this happened at the home of Pat Wheeler, whom she described as the community affairs director of the station where Oprah worked. When I called Wheeler to mention this incident, her reaction was predictable.

 

"You're making this up, aren't you?" she yelled into phone. Wheeler actually had worked for a competing station where she produced a public affairs show I hosted. "That never happened. Why didn't she ask me about this?"

 

Why indeed.

 

Why did Kelley quote Al Sanders, one of Oprah's newsroom rivals who died in 1995, as if she had spoken to him herself? (In the foreword, Kelley said she had worked on the book just four years.)

 

She also wrote that there were "only two black women on television in Baltimore" when Oprah arrived in 1976. At the time, I headed the city's black journalists group. Those women, she said, were Sue Simmons and Maria Broom. She overlooked at least two others, Jaki Hall and Edith House.

 

So why should we trust anything else Kelley writes in a book she wants us to believe is the product of her drive to " penetrate the manufactured" image of Oprah Winfrey?

 

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

 

WHAT'S NEXT FOR SARAH PALIN?

BY CHUCK RAASCH

 

WASHINGTON – One of the big questions in Republican politics is what does Sarah Palin want?

 

Palin fires up conservative crowds at Republican gatherings and tea party events like no other figure. She has endorsed conservative candidates in Republican House and Senate primaries, sometimes bucking the GOP establishment.

 

Along the way, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee has earned an estimated $12 million from giving speeches and writing a best-selling book in the nine months since she resigned last July, according to ABC News.

 

Republicans like her, Democrats intensely dislike her, and independents are cool to her.

 

In short, she is both energizer and polarizer.

 

It's a condition that could be a big advantage in Republican presidential primaries in 2012, but a partisan weight after the nominating dust settles. Even Americans who like her are dubious about her as their possible president.

 

"I just wish I had a better handle on her personal motivation," said Marty Dettmer, 62, a dentist from Wheaton, Ill., who attended a tea party rally here this month. "If she is just trying to make money I am fine with that. If she just seized the brass ring that was held in front of her, wonderful, that is the American way. But if she really thinks this is going to be her path to a major politically party nomination ... I could not support that."

 

Dettmer said Palin "supports ideas that are aligned with mine," but is "too polarizing" to run for president.

 

A late March Washington Post-ABC poll supports him. In that survey, 55% had an unfavorable view of Palin and 37% had a favorable view. But 66% of Republicans were favorable, while only 15% of Democrats and 38% of independents were. Negative intensity toward Palin is greatest: 61% of Democrats said they were strongly unfavorable while only 35% of Republicans were strongly favorable.

 

The March 23-26 poll of 1,000 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

 

No matter what she decides to do, Palin should not be underestimated. If the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries again kick off the nominating process, she would start with momentum-building advantages no other candidate would have.

 

Palin's appeal to evangelicals and fiscal conservatives would be formidable in Iowa, where the caucuses tend to be heavily attended by people with those political leanings.

 

"If she got into the race, at least in terms of Iowa, she would be the person to beat," said GOP pollster Ed Goeas.

 

And Democratic pollster Celinda Lake said that New Hampshire, where Hillary Clinton won a Democratic primary in 2008, has a tradition of being more receptive to female candidates than other early nominating states.

 

Even if Palin doesn't run, her endorsement will be coveted.

 

"Whether she runs for president or does not run for president she is going to be a part of what is happening in the presidential campaign," Goeas said at a recent Christian Science Monitor breakfast.

 

But Lake and Goeas both say Palin hurt her chances to be a presidential candidate by resigning before her term as governor in Alaska ended.

 

"That governorship allowed her to define herself as presidential material," Lake said. "I think running around energizing your (Republican) base, which she is doing ... doesn't really allow her to define herself as a president."

 

Lake says surveys still show that the presidential acceptance threshold is higher for women than it is for men, which hurts an out-of-office Palin even more.

 

"We should remember the only woman that voters continue to see really qualified in either party for president ... is Hillary Clinton," Lake said. "In that case they may or may not like her, but they think that she can handle the job."

 

Some who think Palin could handle the job still think she should not run.

 

"I believe she is very knowledgeable and would make a very good president," said Bob Kahl, 58, a contractor from Baltimore County, Md., who attended the tea party rally here last week. "Unfortunately there is a lot of hate against her because of who she is and what she represents. She will never make it."

 

Others think Palin has found a niche.

 

"She has the voice of the people whether she runs for a bigger office or not," said Shirley Gibson, 67, a retired railroad accountant from Philadelphia. "Maybe this is her calling, to get people energized."

 

Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett, publisher of USA TODAY. Contact him at craasch@gannett.com, follow him at http://twitter.com/craasch or join in the conversation at http://www.facebook.com/raaschcolumn

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

ANY FAITH CAN BECOME VIOLENT

 BY PHILIP JENKINS

 

It's the sort of scene that we associate all too easily with the religious fanaticism of the Middle East. A religious leader daringly tries to revise a popular prayer to reflect his particular slant on God. A furious mob storms his house, murders him and parades his head around the streets on a pole, as they yell that he's a blasphemer. Yes, theological debate between Christians could be a ferocious and unforgiving matter in the early church. (The incident in question happened in the city that we now call Istanbul, in A.D. 511). The more we look at that era, the closer the resemblance we see between the behavior of violent Christian extremists then and that of Islamist radicals today. Change the names and the religious rhetoric, and the extremists look very much the same. The similarities are startling, and genuinely uncomfortable for anyone who is used to drawing a stark night and day contrast between the two faiths.

 

Sometimes, heretical takes on Christianity could drive a mob to violence, but on occasion, church authorities themselves orchestrated violence very deliberately. One of the intellectual superstars of fifth century Egyptwas a brilliant woman called Hypatia, a scientist and philosopher. Her religious skepticism (and her gender) angered the city's bishop, Cyril, whose political position allowed him to do more than just fume quietly in his palace. In particular, he commanded the loyalty of a turbulent army of monks who would do anything for the honor of their faith and their church. Whether or not Cyril gave the order, in 415, the monks lynched and dismembered Hypatia. Cyril, oddly, is now venerated as a saint.

 

Monks as militias

Nor was such a criminal outrage a freak or rare event. In the fifth and sixth centuries, Christian monks served as private militias, holy head-breakers whom charismatic bishops could turn out at will to sack pagan temples, to rough up or kill opponents, and to overawe rival theologians. These were not rogue monks or clergy gone bad but loyal followers of the churches, doing exactly what was expected of them. When cities or regions divided along lines of theology or faith, as they often did, rival bishops and monks literally fought for domination in the hills and on the streets. Bishops mobilized an impressive amount of muscle to promote their causes, making them powerful independent political actors. Between 450 and 650 AD, during what I have called the "Jesus Wars," inter-Christian conflicts and purges killed hundreds of thousands, and all but wrecked the Roman Empire.

 

Reading such stories of religious violence today, most of us naturally think of Islamic extremism, which finds such a convenient face in the mullahs and ayatollahs who have become so notorious in Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon. During the recent Iraqi elections, for instance, the Obama administration was dismayed to see the enormous strength of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, a celebrated cleric who uses his paramilitary Mahdi Army to control whole cities. And from there, it is not too large a jump to assume that the rampant violence of such countries, all the intolerance and fanaticism, must be deeply rooted in the faith of Islam. Perhaps, we think, Islam never has recovered from the warlike teachings of the Quran, which stands in such sharp contrast to the peaceful words of the Bible. Moreover, Islam apparently demands slavish devotion to charismatic holy men. Some observers even ask whether Islam can ever be compatible with a peaceful and democratic society.

 

'Anathemas' or 'fatwas'

But reading Christian history suggests just how wrong just an analysis would be. Out-of-control clergy, religious demagogues with their consecrated militias, religious parties usurping the functions of the state — these were the common currency of the Christian world just a few decades after the Roman Empire made Christianity its official religion. Whatever he might have thought of his theology, Cyril the Christian bishop would immediately have a strong fellow-feeling for al-Sadr the Islamic mullah. Like al-Sadr, Cyril, too, disciplined his followers with pronouncements that cast deviants beyond the protection of the church and the law: Christians then called them "anathemas"; Muslims today call them "fatwas."

 

In retelling the story of Christian atrocities, I'm not trying to blacken the reputation of the church but rather to suggest that, given the appropriate social and political circumstances, given a sufficiently weak state mechanism, any religion can be used to justify savagery and extremism. None of the violence or intolerance commonly seen in modern-day Islam is, so to speak, in the DNA of that religion, any more than of Christianity. Change the circumstances, and any religion, too, can become the basis of a sane and peaceful society.

 

Philip Jenkins is the author of Jesus Wars and The Lost History of Christianity. He has a joint appointment as the Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of the Humanities in history and religious studies at Penn State University and as Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Institute for Studies of Religion at Baylor University.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

THIS IS NOT JAMES MADISON'S CENSUS

 BY ROB SCHWARZWALDER

 

Karl Rove is appearing on Census Bureau ads assuring us that "If you've not yet mailed back your 2010 Census form, it's not too late. Please answer the 10 easy questions," Rove adds. "They're almost the same ones that Madison helped write for the first census back in 1790."

 

Well, not quite. The 1790 Census was a bit more succinct than the interpersonal inquisition of the current form. Specifically, it asked the following: the name of the "head of household," the number of "free white males 16 years and upward" and "under 16 years," the number of "free white females," the "number of all other free persons (by sex and color)" and "the number of slaves."

 

That's it. And when Mr. Madison, the "Father of the Constitution," designed the survey, he did so with the Constitution itself as his guide.

 

The Constitution (Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3, to be exact) specifies that every 10 years, America's population is to be "enumerated" for purposes of allocating congressional representation.

 

This is quite straightforward. Over the centuries, however, the Census form has become a means of collecting all manner of intrusive and irrelevant data on American citizens, from birthdates to phone numbers. The 1830 Census wanted to know information about occupations. The 1860 Census requested information about the value of one's "real estate" (property) and "personal estate" (cash on hand, possessions, etc.) and even wanted to know if anyone listed on the form was "deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict."

 

Today's America has changed. We supposedly are a colorblind society and one in which "rights" now include "broad penumbras," let alone those listed in the Declaration of Independence.

 

An anachronism

Yet the 2010 Census is a sociological anachronism. According to the Census website, "people from many walks of life use Census data to advocate for causes, rescue disaster victims, prevent diseases, research markets, locate pools of skilled workers and more. When you do the math, it's easy to see what an accurate count of residents can do for your community. Better infrastructure. More services. A brighter tomorrow for everyone."

 

Wow — a "brighter future for everyone." And just for filling out a form.

 

Apart from its embarrassing language, however, the questions asked in the Census form are unrelated to the constitutional basis for the form itself: apportionment of representation in Congress. And since when — at least, under a serious reading of the Constitution itself — did the Census Bureau become a national snoop, an insistent invader of one's identity?

 

While the courts (curiously) have upheld Congress's right to ask the kinds of questions the current form contains, they are clearly extra-constitutional. The Constitution requires that Congress count the population every decade to determine the allocation of congressional seats. Nothing more. The Census is not a sociological experiment, nor an aid to businesses to find workers or help combat floods or find the cure for cancer, the common cold or pernicious addictions to caffeinated beverages.

 

Most disturbing is the current Census form's racially obsessive questions. The Census Bureau tacitly acknowledges this by attempting to rationalize the invasive precision of its questions. For example, in explaining why the form asks, "Is Person One of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin," the Census homepage answers:

 

Asked since 1970. The data collected in this question are needed by federal agencies to monitor compliance with anti-discrimination provisions, such as under the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights Act. State and local governments may use the data to help plan and administer bilingual programs for people of Hispanic origin.

 

This is an almost hilarious study in obfuscation and evasion. First, if a person is subject to racial or ethnic discrimination, his identity will be obvious, thereby making census data irrelevant. Second, the questions about Hispanic and Asian origin are far more exhaustive than the Census Bureau, in its explanatory statement about "Questions on the Form," wishes to acknowledge. Here is the totality of the categories listed:

 

Under Asian and Pacific Islander: Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Native Hawaiian, Guamanian, Chamorro, and "other Pacific Islander." However, in case this listing is insufficiently replete, there is a space for the filer to input another Asian or Pacific Islander "race."

 

Fascinating: I hitherto had not known that Hawaiians, Hmong, et al, were separate "races."

 

But wait — there's more. Hispanics can also be "Latinos and Spanish" and are asked to inform us whether they are Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard, "and so on."

 

My limited choices

By the way: what am I, chopped Caucasian liver? My ancestry is German, Dutch, French and who knows what else thrown in. But all I get to claim is "white," even though my two "German" grandfathers came from regions of their country so disparate (far western Germany and its geographic opposite, Danzig — now Gdansk in Poland) that they were probably about as bio-ethnically related as a Neapolitan and a Bulgarian.

 

My point is that none of this matters. Ethnicity and race are, aside from possible endemic medical conditions, genealogical parlor games. They define neither humanness nor citizenship, character nor value.

 

America's charter text affirms that "all men are created equal." The Constitution is premised on this assertion, in that it assumes human dignity and the right of representative self-government. Thus, the census is needed to assure that such self-government can be expressed accurately within the context of the U.S. Congress.

 

Instead, the Census form categorizes people not by citizenship and place of residence, but fundamentally by race and ethnicity. This is un-American.

 

Human beings are made in the likeness of their Creator. This, with their citizenship and home address, is really all the Census Bureau needs to know.

 

Rob Schwarzwalder is senior vice president of the Family Research Council, a Christian organization promoting traditional conservative values.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OBAMA DOESN'T GET IT; SPACE IS LAST FRONTIER PLAIN TALK

BY AL NEUHARTH, USA TODAY FOUNDER

 

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — President Obama in effect pulled the plug on our space program in a speech here Thursday, although he masked it with some vague long-term suggestions. The late president John F. Kennedy must have turned over in his grave. JFK launched the moon landing program in the 1960s because he understood that any nation that wants to remain No.1 on Earth must also be No. 1 in space.

 

We are now No. 2 behind Russia and soon may be No. 3 behind China. Even India and Brazil are developing ambitious space programs.

 

Obama's proposal not only abandons our space shuttle, he also has no timetable or real plan for what he says ultimately will send humans to Mars. Obama doesn't seem to care that soon we will have to hitchhike rides with the Russians just to get our astronauts to the International Space Station.

 

Unfortunately, some political and business leaders in Florida are buying the Obama plan because it may provide a few jobs for some of those thousands who will be unemployed here when the shuttle program ends. That should not be the most important of our nation's concern.

 

Fortunately, some of those who pioneered our space program get it. Neil Armstrong, the first human to step on the moon, called the Obama plan "devastating".

 

Obama's proposal is all about money priorities and our inexcusable war costs, not about peaceful world leadership. His proposed budget for 2011 makes that clear:

 

•Wars: $159.3 billion.

 

•Space: $19 billion.

 

That suggests Obama thinks that wars in places like Afghanistan and Iraq are nearly 10 times more important than exploring the last frontier in space.

 

I voted for Obama for president. But.

 

Feedback: Other views on Obama space plans

 

"Today, for the first time, a U.S. president has purposefully ceded leadership on the space frontier to others. We can only hope that Congress will 'just say no'. "

 

Michael Griffin, NASA administrator, 2005-09

 

"Developing breakthrough space technologies to more quickly achieve far-reaching goals is crucial to America's leadership, but we also need focused schedules and challenging destinations."

 

 James Oberg, a veteran of Mission Control and now an author

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

GLOBAL DISARMAMENT CHALLENGES

BY TARIQ OSMAN HYDER

 

The major challenges. The objective of general and complete disarmament is indeed a most noble and desired objective for human kind and the comity of nations. Progress in disarmament towards that eventual objective is therefore also highly desirable. However, these objectives are not independent of the global realities in which countries large and small operate. Therefore to analyze what needs to be done we have to begin with an assessment of what are the major challenges that we face.

There has to be a clear recognition that the main disarmament challenges spring from the following factors:

1 - The need for equity and justice for countries and peoples, including those under occupation, within the framework of observance of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of human and humanitarian rights.

2 - The need for observing the principles of non-interference, non-aggression and non-threat in inter-state relations.

3 - Regional disputes, particularly of a long standing nature constitute a major challenge to disarmament at the regional and international levels.


4 - The need for the larger and more powerful countries to recognize that ultimately it is in their interests to develop peaceful and friendly relations with their neighbors and others whereby they can achieve more than through policies aiming to exercise hegemony and dominance.


5 - Asymmetrical conventional and strategic balances between countries with outstanding disputes, particularly when the larger country has a policy of using its larger military and other resources for political and potentially military leverage.


A need for international recognition and acceptance that the path to disarmament must be guided by the decisions of UN SSOO-1.


South Asia - A case study of regional challenges


The challenges to disarmament are clearly illustrated by the situation in South Asia. Pakistan over the years offered bilateral and other agreements and arrangements to keep South Asia free of nuclear weapons. Unfortunately these were all rejected by India and found little effective support from the international community. When India went overtly nuclear in 1998, some of its political leaders began to issue threatening and coercive statements against Pakistan. Pakistan was forced to restore the strategic balance by demonstrating a nuclear capability.


Subsequently Pakistan has been offering since that time a Strategic Restraint Regime (SRR) to India with the three interlocking elements of strategic restraint, conventional balance and dispute settlement. This would have prevented an arms race in both the conventional and strategic fields, been supportive of the global objectives for disarmament, and would have enabled both countries to devote more resources to the socio-economic development of their peoples. India has not responded positively to this proposal from Pakistan which is still on the table.


In fact India actively continues to take steps to try to de-stabilize the strategic balance between Pakistan and India on which peace and security in South Asia and beyond is dependent. The peace process which was initiated between the two countries in January 2004 has also been suspended by India.


Even during the peace process there was no substantive movement on the core issue of Kashmir to give the Kashmiri people their right of self- determination which was recognized by the UN Security Council in its resolutions. The occupation of the Kashmiri people in a large part of Jammu & Kashmir by India and the attendant human rights violations constitute a major dispute and source of tension in South Asia. There has also been no progress on Siachin and Sir Creek between the two countries although potential frameworks were in place to enable resolutions of both issues.


Furthermore there have been a number of developments assisted by actors in the international community which adversely affect the strategic balance in South Asia and thereby further retard the path away from an arms race, settlement of disputes and potentials measures for better resource concentration on development.


I will now briefly outline the factors influencing Indo-Pak nuclear and conventional stabilities which together affect strategic stability and peace and security in South Asia.


On the conventional and strategic side the differential of the force structures of the two countries is affected by the large increase in the Indian defense budget. Then there is the potentially de-stabilizing effect from the availability of technologies supplied to only one side.

On the strategic side the U.S.-Indo Nuclear Deal has increased India's strategic capabilities. This applies not only to fissile material production from its 8 unsafeguarded reactors which can produce weapons' grade plutonium for some 280 nuclear weapons annually, apart from the ambitious equally unsafeguarded 13 breeder reactors program, but also U.S. cooperation on ABMs. ABMs defense would lead to the need to increase missiles to counter. It should be recalled that the Indian Prime Minister in a statement to the Parliament declared that India had kept all aspects of its nuclear program which had a strategic impact outside the U.S.-India deal.

Furthermore, as the result of negotiations since 2002 and understandings reached between the U.S. and India, exemptions on dual use technologies have been reached. Most recently the dual use bilateral agreement to permit India to reprocess U.S. origin fuel.


In addition other countries are adding to India's strategic and conventional technologies as well. A number of countries including France, Canada and Kazakhstan are ready to supply uranium to India, freeing its 70,000 tons of proven and possible uranium reserves, which according to its own Atomic Energy Chief are inadequate for its nuclear power program expansion, for its strategic program, which has not been taken into account by the U.S. or the NSG Members.


Russian cooperation with India in the co-production of the Brahmos cruise missile is against the MTCR since a reduction in the payload would easily extend the range beyond 300km.


Russian lease of Charlie Class nuclear submarines to India over the last decade, assistance for its nuclear submarine project, acknowledged by the Indian Prime Minister on the launch of India's first of 4 planned missiles carrying nuclear submarines force, Arihant, and planned lease of 2 Akula Class missiles carrying nuclear submarines represents a violation of Russia's NPT obligations against providing unsafeguarded nuclear reactors and against assistance for nuclear weapons for which these are essential platforms.


Russia, UK and France apart from the U.S. are ready to supply nuclear technologies which are capable of dual use technological build up by India on the strategic side.


The situation of supply of conventional weapons and technologies which has been ongoing for some years and has increased through U.S., Russian, French and UK assistance has further added to a growing imbalance on the conventional side. Therefore with this growing access to strategic and conventional technologies the parameters of the differential between India and Pakistan in terms of the Air Forces, Navies, Ground Forces and Strategic Forces is fast increasing the strategic and conventional forces differentials.


While India claims that it has to build up to face China, or China and Pakistan together, the disposition of 95 percent its major force levels are targeting Pakistan. Furthermore, India's Cold Start or Pro-active military doctrine, which has been developed in the last few years is by definition "aggressive", is another disturbing factor.

Through this doctrine India seeks a capability to act in the conventional force field quickly within days against Pakistan, with the intent to gain and hold territory before the normal time given for bilateral negotiations and diffusion of tension and before efforts to this end by the international community can be exerted. The Indian Army Chief recently stated that India could wage war against Pakistan under the nuclear overhang. Such a strategy would actually in effect the nuclear threshold, which is a dangerous development/scenario the international community has to take note of.


In interstate relations there is the important aspect of intent versus capability. India professes that it has no aggressive designs against Pakistan. India's claims that is has a "no first use" nuclear policy. However India places no credence on Chinese no first use.


Intent can change at any time and statements made recently by the former Indian Army Chief on the Cold Start doctrine and ability to face both China and Pakistan demonstrate a gearing differential between India's professed intentions in regard to Pakistan which have been made at the political level and the reality of India's capabilities and their strategic options.


As long as the Kashmir dispute remains unresolved and the water disputes, through which India is attempting to use its upper riparian position to control the waters it is bound to provide to Pakistan under the Indus Waters Treaty, which are increasingly coming to the fore remain, Pakistan's defense posture perforce will remain India centric despite committing significant troops on its western border with Afghanistan. Strategy stability since 1998 has kept the peace between India and Pakistan.


At the start of the peace process of 2004-2008, both countries recognized in June 2004 in the first bilateral Nuclear CBMs meeting that the nuclear capabilities of each other, which are based on their national security imperatives, constitute a factor for stability. This was the first time such an understanding was mutually agreed upon by two nuclear countries. Conventional balance, or conventional stability, which is part of strategic stability, is also an essential requirement so that overall bilateral stability is not eroded and the nuclear threshold is not lowered.


Since peace and stability in South Asia is of great importance not only in South Asia but in the entire region and beyond the international community has to recognize this fact as well as to distinguish factors and developments which are detrimental to the maintenance of peace and security in this region.
Conventional and strategic instabilities are threatening to undermine strategic stability which has preserved the peace between the two countries since both became nuclear powers.


Three developments are crucial to move from adverse relations and potential conflict towards resolution of disputes particularly the core issue of Kashmir and the Indus Waters issues and cooperation for the benefit of the two peoples.

 

The first is for a fundamental realization by India that it has more to gain through better relations with all its neighbors rather than through a coercive and hegemonic approach. China, for example has tried its best to develop good relations with all its neighbors and to solve territorial border issues in a generous manner.


Secondly, since peace and stability in South Asia is so important in the entire region and beyond, the international community has to play its part in persuading India to pursue a policy to meaningfully engage with Pakistan and to work for the maintenance of stability in South Asia.


Thirdly the international community should avoid any step which would lead to destabilizing the strategic balance between Pakistan and India which would thus adversely affect peace and security in South Asia.

The need for a new consensus on security, non-proliferation and disarmament


Turning from the regional level to the global level I shall now in the concluding part of my paper focus on the need for a new consensus on security, non-proliferation and disarmament.


The United Nations General Assembly, at its first Special Session on Disarmament (SSOD-1), adopted a landmark Final Document. This consensus document recognized the importance and urgency for the cessation of the arms race and achievement of general and complete disarmament and laid the foundation of the international disarmament strategy. However, the consensus reflected in SSOD-I has gradually eroded and the objective of general and complete disarmament has remained elusive.


With the renewal of commitment by major powers to nuclear disarmament and the growing public opinion in favor of the total elimination of nuclear weapons, a window of opportunity is available for an international agreement on concrete disarmament and non-proliferation measures to promote international and regional peace and security. The pursuit of this objective will, however, necessitate a holistic approach encompassing equitable, non-discriminatory and balanced measures which ensure the right of each state to undiminished security.

The new global consensus on security, non-proliferation and disarmament should be based on the recognition of the fact that international peace and security and universal and non-discriminatory disarmament can only be achieved meaningfully by addressing the asymmetries both in the nuclear and conventional fields that exist at the regional and sub-regional levels. Such a consensus should reflect the contemporary realities and seek to address the complexities marking the global non-proliferation regime.


The architecture of the new consensus should be based on the principles of the UN Charter, with full recognition of the role of the United Nations and reflecting the security interests of all states. Among other things, it should be guided by the following fundamental principles:


1 - Disarmament, non-proliferation and peace and security are inextricably inter-linked. A holistic approach encompassing the simultaneous pursuit of these objectives is the only solution. Progress in anyone of these spheres has a beneficial effect on all of them; in turn, failure in one sphere has negative effect on others.
2 - Since the issues of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation affect the vital security interests of all states, all states should have the opportunity to fully participate and play an equal role in negotiations on these issues. The central role of the United Nations must be strengthened in this sphere and the tendency to bypass recognized United Nations negotiating forums should be eschewed.


3 - Solutions to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation challenges should be multilaterally negotiated, universal and non-discriminatory and exclusive regimes and arrangements should be done away with.


4 - The adoption of disarmament measures should take place in an equitable and balanced manner so as to ensure the right of each state to security and to ensure that no individual state or group of states may obtain advantages over others at any stage. At each stage the objective should be undiminished security at the lowest possible level of armaments and military forces.


5 - In pursuing the objectives of arms control and disarmament, states with the largest arsenals bear a special responsibility.

6 - International peace and security and universal and non-discriminatory disarmament can only be achieved meaningfully by addressing the asymmetries both in the nuclear and conventional fields that exist at the regional and sub-regional levels.


7 - Asymmetries in military capabilities lead to sense of insecurity among states which undermines the objectives of arms control, non-proliferation and disarmament.


8 - Discrimination, derogation from norms for political or strategic interests and disregard for any equitably applicable criteria, undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the non­proliferation regime.


9 - Non-proliferation measures should not jeopardize the full exercise of the inalienable rights of all states to apply and develop their programs for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, under appropriate safeguards, for economic and social development, in particular energy security, in conformity with national priorities, interest and needs.


10 - Regional and global approaches to disarmament and arms limitation complement each other and both should be pursued simultaneously in order to promote regional and international peace and security.


11 - For the success of arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation measures, causes of arms race and threats to peace must be reduced by effective actions for the peaceful settlement of disputes and by removing underlying security concerns of states.


Specific measures

Based on the above principles a series of following specific measures are proposed to address the challenges of security, non-proliferation and disarmament:


1 - The Conference on Disarmament (CD) in Geneva should be enabled to adopt a comprehensive and balanced Program of Work, which provides for substantive negotiations on all the four core issues on the agenda of the CD namely (i) nuclear disarmament, (ii) negative security assurances (NSAs) (iii) prevention of arms race in outer space (PAROS) and (iv) fissile material treaty. All these issues are contemporary 21st century issues with normative, legal and substantive correlation. Nothing should preclude states from conducting negotiations on these items concurrently to reach substantive outcomes in terms of legal instruments on all four issues. In fact this must be the objective and agreed to before any program of Work is accepted.

2 - The objective of any FMT must be not to freeze existing asymmetries or imbalance in fissile materials or stockpiles between regional countries particularly where disputes and tensions remain as this would be counter productive.

3 - The international community is encouraged to some extent by the renewed emphasis on nuclear disarmament by the major powers. However concrete agreements and concrete and timely action is the criteria for judging the credibility of this interest. For the realization of the objective of nuclear disarmament and complete elimination of nuclear weapons, negotiations should be pursued at the CD on a comprehensive phased program with agreed timeframes. The existing bilateral arms reduction efforts should be made more transparent and all future agreements should also follow the principles of transparency, irreversibility and verifiability.

4 - Qualitative and quantitative disarmament measures are both important for halting the arms race. In parallel with efforts on quantitative reductions, negotiations should be pursued on the limitation and cessation of the qualitative improvement of armaments, especially weapons of mass destruction and the development of new means of warfare.


5 - Pending general and complete nuclear disarmament, an agreement on universal, non­discriminatory and legally binding negative security assurances to non-nuclear Weapon states should be finalized.


6 - In order to prevent an arms race in outer space and the militarization of outer space, a new legal instrument should be negotiated.


7 - A fissile material treaty should both be a non-proliferation and disarmament instrument. It should address the existing asymmetries in fissile material stocks at the global and regional levels.

8 - The CD should also commence work on evolving a universal and non-discriminatory agreement for addressing concerns arising from development, deployment and proliferation of missiles and Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems, which are inherently destabilizing.


9 - In order to strengthen and universalize the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, non­discriminatory adjustments should be made to bring on board all states that have never been parties to the NPT.


10 - International cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy should be conducted in a non-discriminatory manner under agreed and appropriate international safeguards.


11 - For universal adherence to non-proliferation related export controls, multilaterally negotiated and non-discriminatory export control standards should be evolved to replace the existing exclusive export control regimes.

12 - A convention should be concluded prohibiting the development, production, stockpiling and use of radiological weapons.


13 - Agreements should be pursued to prevent the emergence of new types of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) based on new scientific and technological developments.


14 - All states must commit to the implementation of agreed measures to prevent terrorists from acquiring WMDs and their means of delivery. While UNSC Resolution 1540 has been a timely measure to address the proliferation of WMDs and their means of delivery to non-state actors, there is a need to make its follow-up mechanisms more inclusive, transparent and balanced in terms of the responsibilities of the states and the international cooperation available to them in this regard.


15 - Together with negotiations on nuclear disarmament measures, the limitation and gradual reduction of armed forces and conventional weapons should be resolutely pursued within the framework of progress towards general and complete disarmament. States with the largest military arsenals have a special responsibility in pursuing the process of conventional armaments reductions, not just strategic arms reductions which should also be substantial rather than cosmetic.


16 - For the success of disarmament and non-proliferation efforts and achievement of the objective of lasting peace and stability at the global and regional levels, action must be taken in parallel for peaceful settlement of disputes and addressing underlying security concerns of states The available UN mechanisms should be revitalized for this purpose.


17 - Global and regional approaches on non-proliferation and disarmament complement each other -- they should, therefore, be pursued simultaneously. While regional approaches to arms limitation, non-proliferation and disarmament should be freely agreed upon by the states of the region and should take into account the specific characteristics of each region, the Conference on Disarmament (CD) should formulate principles that can serve as a framework for regional agreements. These should inter-alia include the following:


a) The principle of undiminished security at the lowest level of armaments,

b) Correlation between strategic and conventional stability, and,

c) A mechanism for conflict resolution and confidence building.


18 - In the context of regional approaches to disarmament and arms control, extra-regional states should commit themselves to measures promoting the objectives of the regional peace and stability, non-discrimination and avoidance of steps which can undermine the regional strategic or conventional balance.


In the global context, nuclear safety and security are important and recognized objectives for all countries. At the same time, nuclear safety and security as well as safeguards are vehicles for facilitating international civil nuclear cooperation. The objectives of non-proliferation and nuclear safety and security can be promoted through a non-discriminatory approach for international cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

(This research paper was presented by former Pakistani Ambassador Tariq Osman Hyder at the Nuclear Energy For All, Nuclear Weapons for No One conference, which was held in Tehran, April 17-18, 2010)

 

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 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FAIR OR FOUL?

 

Action has started on the basis of the contents of the UN report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Six officials, among those named in the report, have been suspended. The current interior minister, though named as one of those responsible for the breach of security that led to Ms Bhutto's death, has been spared. Also a few names have been placed on the ECL. Some government members – perhaps with more enthusiasm than any realistic assessment of the situation – have said that even former president Pervez Musharraf will not be spared. At his home in exile, Musharraf appears unmoved. There is a need to stand back and take a look at all this. The UN panel has stressed that its role was not a judicial one and it had no intention of reaching a verdict as to the guilt, or otherwise, of any specific individual or individuals. Some people ask what purpose the entire exercise, conducted at taxpayers' expense, was intended to serve. The report should be seen essentially as a fact-finding exercise which possibly points the way to the direction for further investigation.


But while the government is being praised for swift measures against police and administrative officials, there must be some question as to whether this is apt. The chief police officer at the time, and one of those suspended, has indeed vowed to fight back against the charges levelled against him. The gravest of these relate to the washing of the crime scene. It will be interesting to see if the UN's assertions that orders for this came from more powerful quarters are repeated as he and others set out to defend themselves. But there are some things that are clear. To have any credibility, action of this kind must be fair and visibly so. The fact that the present interior minister has so far emerged unscathed belies this impression. As the man within the PPP responsible for Ms Bhutto's security, he must answer some questions at least. The UN report indeed asks why Ms Bhutto's vehicle was left virtually isolated as it left Liaquat Bagh. Other accounts have spoken of him departing from the scene post-haste, minutes after the bombing. We need explanations for these actions. The findings of the UN, and the rather pertinent points raised, do need to be explored. But to have any meaning, action in this respect must not be seen as being merely cosmetic, or aimed at revenge. Most important of all, it must be seen as being above board and just -- so there can be some hope of solving a crime that shook the nation.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POWER BATTLE

 

Tempers are rising in Punjab over the issue of power and the impact of cuts that last up to 20 hours a day in smaller towns and rural areas. The chief minister of the province has indicated that he is ready to do battle on the issue and take up the matter at the energy meeting called by the prime minister in Islamabad. Shahbaz Sharif has said that the loadshedding has crippled industry and agriculture. He has also suggested that Punjab is being made to face the brunt of it, perhaps for political reasons, and that facts regarding the energy situation are being kept from people.


The matter is taking on overtures that could result in a rather grave situation developing. As fears of still more riots grow, the prime minister has sought help from the chief ministers in tackling public anger. It is, however, obvious that Punjab may not be willing to cooperate. Indeed, Mr Sharif feels he has little choice but to take the part of people devastated by the power crisis. The insinuations that it is being created have the potential to steer up a great deal of havoc. A new tussle between the country's largest province and the centre is something the federal government must prevent. The potential for instability is immense if no satisfactory solution is found and the riots springing up everywhere gain momentum.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DESERT SONGS

 

There were several songs to be heard in the heat and dust of the Cholistan desert on Sunday. One was of political unity, a faint and not yet fully learned song that is still very much in rehearsal but which got a preview outing nonetheless. There is not normally very much to draw the big political animals from their air-conditioned lairs at this time of year but parliamentarians from the PPP, the PML-N, the JUI, the PML-Q and the ANP all were in attendance at the Azm-e-Nau III exercise at which the army and the air force rattled some rather impressive sabres. The song was sung very softly in the background as Prime Minister Gilani shook hands with General Kayani; and it was clear that the relationship between the military and the civilians who would like to govern a little better than they currently do was on the change. It is a subtle shift, a work in progress, but important nonetheless.


A more martial tune was played by the army which showed off its capabilities both as a stand-alone force and working with the air force. A drone, slightly suspiciously named Shahbaz, got itself blown out of the sky by a locally produced ground-to-air missile and the tanks and fighter jets, including, again, locally produced aircraft, played a noisy coda. This was a song for India to hear – and it probably could, given the proximity of the border – and it was clear in its message. Our fighting forces are ready and able to take on whatever might come at them. Whilst the average military man likes nothing better than playing with the toys that go whizz-bang and the politicians like nothing better than watching them do so, there is a wider theme that underlies the songs sung in Cholistan. It is that for all the chaos and confusion that bedevils us there are signs of a potential for political maturity in Pakistan. The signing of the 18th Amendment is a step forward that may prove historic. There is a faint whisper that the military may this time allow a civilian dispensation to make its mistakes and learn and grow by them without overt intervention. General Kayani was the right man for the job at the right time, and he has played a lead role in pulling back from the brink a sliding morale as well as renegotiating the relationship with a disillusioned populace. The songs we are beginning to hear suggest that balance may be returning, and they deserve a more frequent, louder, singing.

 

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I. THE NEWS

WILL THEY DO IT?

RAHIMULLAH YUSUFZAI


On the fifth day of the belated release of the United Nations Inquiry Commission's report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination, the government of her Pakistan People's Party began taking action against the officials responsible for her security at the time of the tragedy. Newspapers termed the move as "swift," but there was nothing quick about the measures ordered by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, because he and President Asif Ali Zardari didn't do much during their two-year rule to investigate the murder and track down the killers. They acted only after the UN Commission identified the government functionaries who failed in their duty to protect the two-time prime minister and the PPP's chairperson.


In fact, the UN Commission pointed out that the authorities responsible for the investigation slowed their activities pending the Commission's inquiry. It noted that the PPP government came into office in April 2008 but started its investigation into the incident in October 2009. In its view, the investigation by the government should have been carried out simultaneously with the work of the UN Commission, whose job was limited to determining the facts and circumstances of Benazir Bhutto's death. The Commission argued that its fact-finding mission was not a substitute for an effective official criminal investigation.


So, should we now expect the PPP-led government to undertake an effective, official criminal investigation into its leader's assassination? And to complete the investigation that had been undertaken and then slowed down?

Too much time was wasted in getting the UN to carry out its fact-finding work. As for the amount paid to the UN, it reportedly reached a hundred million dollars. Someone even calculated the per-page cost of the 64-page UN Commission report to explain the amount of the tax-payers' money spent on this inquiry. Critics pointed out that the report primarily focused on the inadequacy and collapse of Benazir Bhutto's security.


From the outset, involving the UN in this kind of work was controversial. It was rejected by many Pakistanis as unwarranted and, in effect, a betrayal of lack of trust in Pakistan's own intelligence and police network. In future, it would be difficult to trust the Pakistani agencies and officials to do credible investigation in cases of national importance.


The action ordered by the government in light of the UN report is limited to suspending five senior police officers and a civil officer of the district management group (DMG), and making them Officers on Special Duty (OSD). That is a strange term used for government employees who supposedly are undergoing punishment but still continue to draw salaries without doing any work. Their names have been put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which means they cannot travel outside the country. It is worth mentioning that persons on the ECL have in the past escaped by bribing or dodging the immigration staff at airports and on borders. Some have used unfrequented routes to cross over to Afghanistan.


Among the five suspended police officers is Chaudhry Abdul Majeed, presently an additional inspector general of the Punjab police, who headed the joint investigation team that probed the murder and came up with the controversial theory that she died from a head injury sustained from hitting the lever of the escape hatch of her vehicle.

Also suspended is Saud Aziz, the then head of the Rawalpindi police whose name is frequently mentioned in the UN report. Three of his subordinate police officers at the time and now suspended as well are Yaseen Farooq, Ashfaq Sarwar and Khurram Shahzad.

All these senior policemen earned promotions after Benazir Bhutto's assassination and are now serving in high positions. This point has been highlighted by the government's critics, but it would have been unfair to take action against them without establishing their involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate the PPP head or undermine the investigation into the incident.


Irfan Elahi, the then district coordination officer of Rawalpindi and now serving as secretary to the Punjab government, has also been suspended and his name put on the ECL. The seventh official against whom action has been taken is Brigadier (r) Javed Iqbal Cheema. At the time of the killing he was head of the National Crisis Management Cell at the ministry of interior and is now director general of Civil Defence. His contract has been cancelled, and that is probably all that the government could do against him at this stage.


Brig Cheema was the first official in General Pervez Musharraf's government to publicly announce, on Dec 28, 2007, a day after the assassination and on the date when the joint investigation team had just been formed, that Benazir Bhutto died from injuries caused to her head by her vehicle's lever. For obvious reasons, and as the Commission rightly concludes, he couldn't have held the news conference to advance this theory without approval by Gen Musharraf. This certainly prejudiced the investigation. The names of three more people were put on the ECL on April 19. One is Brig (r) Ijaz Shah, head of the Intelligence Bureau (IB) at the time who came under suspicion when Benazir Bhutto in her October 16, 2007 letter to General Musharraf mentioned him along with Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Elahi and former ISI chief Lt-Gen (r) Hamid Gul as posing a threat to her security. The other is Hamid Gul although he wasn't in the government at the time of her assassination and was, in fact, a strong critic of General Musharraf. The third former official whose name was placed on the ECL is Syed Kamal Shah, who was secretary of the interior at the time. The name of Parvaiz Elahi, now a top leader of the opposition PML-Q, hasn't been placed on the ECL. The PPP rank and file would certainly want action taken against him, but this would have to wait until investigation into the incident is completed.


By far, the most important person who needs to be investigated in the light of the UN report is Gen Musharraf. He has denied any involvement in the assassination, indeed any wrongdoing whatsoever. He blamed Baitullah Mahsud for the murder barely a day after the tragedy, before a proper investigation had been initiated. His ISI produced the intercept that was supposed to provide evidence of Baitullah Mahsud's hand in the murder. Given the mistrust of the PPP leadership in Musharraf, there was no way it could accept his claim without properly investigating the incident.It is obvious that Musharraf, as a powerful and arrogant military ruler, was responsible for all the decisions that have negatively impacted the lives of Pakistanis' since his coup in October 1999 against Nawaz Sharif's democratically elected government. He needs to be investigated not only for Benazir Bhutto's assassination, but also for pushing the country into political and security turmoil by arbitrarily sacking Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and other judges, imposing the emergency and aligning Pakistan unconditionally with the US in its invasion of Afghanistan and its suspicious "war on terror."


His deal-making with Benazir Bhutto, with blessings from the US and the UK, in a bid to prolong his unconstitutional rule enabled Washington and London to interfere in Pakistan's affairs and further mess up the situation. No inquiry would be complete without his being brought to Pakistan and made accountable.


The UN report may not have achieved anything in solving the mystery of Benazir Bhutto's assassination, but it has raised pertinent questions regarding the incompetent way this country is governed, the lack of accountability in government affairs, the pervasive role that the intelligence agencies play in politics and every other aspect of life, and the poor performance of the police.

The writer is resident editor of The News in Peshawar. Email: rahim yusufzai@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

BABY IN BACK SEAT

S KHALID HUSAIN


In his column in the New York Times (April 14), Thomas L. Friedman writes that the US would tolerate almost any 'non-jihadi' government in Iraq and Afghanistan, however corrupt and decadent, so long the government can facilitate the US exiting from these places.


Any 'non-jihadi' government means just that, and no more. The US is not pushed about the realness of democratic credentials, or the quality of governance of governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, or in Pakistan. All that matters to it is that their actions should support the US interests, and they should remain beholden to the US.

In furtherance of this objective, what the US prefers to have is a 'one-window' operation in these countries, with all the trappings of democracy. 'One-window' could mean the president, army chief, prime minister; whoever happens to be all-powerful at the time, and from whom the US can get instant decisions without having to navigate through the labyrinth of usual governance channels.

 

Since the 'one-window' facility to the US is equivalent to job security for the guy behind the window, the US has had its way in Pakistan almost always, and seldom as completely as now. If the guy behind the window helps himself to a little extra, the US is unlikely to bother, as it does not in Afghanistan, with Karzai's brother carrying on with his drugs trade under the very nose of the authorities.


Now, if there was only a 'one-window' facility for local and foreign investors where they could complete all the necessary paperwork, it would remove many a significant deterrents to new investment.


However, despite repeated presidential, prime ministerial, and ministerial statements on facilitating investment, Pakistan has failed to offer a 'one-window' facility for local and foreign investors. The cumbersome process, including pay-offs, which the investors have to go through to be able to invest, and contribute to Pakistan's economic betterment, continues to prevail.


One reason for there being a lot of talk of the 'one-window' facility for investors, but no 'one-window' in real is that it will only benefit the investors, and unlike as in the first instance, not add to the job security of the guy behind the window. More worryingly, it will hinder payoffs, which the investors have to negotiate at every stage of their file's journey. A system that nurtures corruption will attract similarly inclined investors. Hence the scams and the unsavoury wheeling and dealing, which have now become an inseparable part of the country's procedures and policies on investment.


Mr Friedman puts it nicely when he writes 'friends don't let friends drive drunk – especially when we're still in the back-seat alongside an infant named Democracy'. He means that the US should not give a carte blanche to leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, but must help them walk a democratic path, and control their tendency to turn into dictators. Similarly, perhaps, push leaders in Pakistan to make democracy work. Mr Friedman's well-intentioned piece is not likely to change the US preference for 'one-window' operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It can be argued that the president shedding his powers under the 18th Amendment is a good beginning. There is a point to that. However, parliament, by including judicial issues in the Bill has shown where sovereignty actually belongs to. There are more questions about the 18th Amendment which will only be answered when it comes into force, and when the powers of the prime minister under the said amendment are pitted and tested against the president's clout as the co-chairman of the ruling party.


The president was indirectly elected by parliament, which is how figurehead presidents in a parliamentary system are elected.


For an all-powerful president, however, like Zardari has been, the election would have had to be direct, by the people. Zardari's election as president, through a course laid down in the constitution for figurehead presidents, and his election being trumpeted as an overwhelming victory, is same as a fit athlete running an obstacle course meant for handicapped athletes, and being awarded the gold medal for winning.


Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf also became all-powerful, duly elected, presidents through much the same route, which both further sought to 'buttress' through referendums. Both, however, were not co-chairmen of political parties.


With, or without the 18th Amendment, whose merits are open to discussion, all we have is irregular democracy. Or 'my' democracy, as the president termed it during his US visit in 2009. It is in the genre of 'controlled' 'guided' or 'basic' democracy of yesteryears; nifty manipulations of democracy to serve group interest. The present version of democracy is a niftier manipulation, to serve an individual's interest.


To borrow from Mr Friedman, the nation is in the back seat alongside an infant named democracy. The 18th Amendment seems a 'bum steer', or 'poor advice', as the cowboys would put it. Our 'cowboys', who do not ride on horses but in bullet proof 4WD behemoths should have come out with a more 'genuine steer'.


Amendment 18 aside, the nation has to keep on tapping the president on the shoulder, nudging him, urging him, to align his presidency with the spirit and intent of the constitution, by not only shedding powers, but also by choosing one of the two seats that he presently occupies.


The writer is a former corporate executive. Email: husainsk@cyber.net.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

 ON BRINGING INFLATION DOWN

DR ASHFAQUE H KHAN


Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has directed his economic team headed by his advisor on finance, Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, to bring inflation down to provide relief to the common man. This is indeed an encouraging development as the prime minister has started taking briefings on the economy and issuing directions to his economic team.

 

The high double-digit inflation persisting for third year in a row has devastated the poor and the fixed income groups. Overall, inflation averaged 12 per cent and almost 21 per cent in 2007-08 and 2008-09, respectively. It has averaged 11.3 per cent in the first three quarters (July–March) of the current fiscal year. In other words, the cumulative inflation over the last three years stood at 44 per cent. The incomes of the poor and the fixed income groups on the other hand have not increased by the same percentage. Hence, these segments of society have remained under price pressure for these years.


It is well known that the poorer segments of the society spend nearly two-thirds of their total expenditure on food. A sharp increase in food inflation is bound to have a devastating impact on this segment of population. The cumulative food inflation over the last three years has been over 53 per cent. Though the cumulative increase in the prices of some essential items has been over 100 per cent, on average, the cumulative increase has been 53 per cent. The incomes of the poor have certainly not increased by the same percentage and as such they are facing real hardship.


The upward adjustment in utility charges over the last 12 months has further added to the burden of the poor and the fixed income groups. The government has hiked power tariffs by 34 per cent, gas by 30 per cent and petroleum prices by 22 per cent in the last one year. Thus, food inflation and sharp upward adjustment in utility charges have adversely affected the masses in general and the poor and fixed income groups in particular.


How can inflation be reduced? Many factors have contributed to the surge in prices over the last three years. These include excessive monetary expansion, higher domestic demand, sharp increase in government administered prices, for example the reckless and senseless increase in support price of wheat and upward adjustment in utility prices, depreciation of exchange rate at a magnitude not seen after May 1972 and poor or lack of governance. Let me dwell on these factors a bit more.


Excess monetary expansion (money supply growing at a faster pace than nominal GDP growth) is inflationary. Over the last one decade, money supply has grown at a faster pace than nominal GDP growth for five times. Excess money supply affects inflation with a lag of 12–18 months. Every effort should be made to keep the money supply growth below or at the best equal to nominal GDP growth. The ministry of finance will have to provide support to the SBP by keeping the budget deficit low. Currently, the monetary policy has become subservient to fiscal policy. This has to change in order to go forward.


Excessive monetary expansion fuels domestic demand and given the capacity constraints, the rise in price level is inevitable. Hence, the SBP must continue to pursue its tight monetary policy with a view to keeping monetary expansion in check and shaving off domestic demand pressure.


Support price of wheat is highly inflationary. Empirical evidence suggests that a 10 per cent increase in the support price of wheat would increase the overall inflation by 3 per cent. The current rise in inflation owes heavily to the criminal increase in support price in the last two years. The government has increased the price from Rs425/40 kg in 2006-07 to Rs625 in 2007-08 and further to Rs950 in 2008-09 – the cumulative increase of almost 124 per cent. The average price of flour in 2006-07 was Rs13.6 per kg which is now being sold at Rs30 per kg – an increase of 120 per cent. Was this increase justified? The answer is no.


The price of wheat serves as a trigger mechanism and any increase in it leads to the rise in the prices of other food items. In other words, the prices of other food items would rise as well in 'sympathy' with the increase in wheat price. Thus, to stabilise food prices, the price of wheat must be controlled. The government must freeze the support price of wheat for two more years at the current level. The economic team would need the support of the prime minister when the summary for raising support price of wheat would come to the ECC in late August. This will be a real test of the prime minister.


The government must pursue the policy of moderation in increasing utility charges, particularly the price of electricity. The raising price of electricity is no solution to our power crisis. Why should the people of Pakistan pay for the inefficiency and corruption of WAPDA/PEPCO? Have we ever given any target to WAPDA/PEPCO to reduce the line losses and power theft? The answer is no. If we keep on increasing electricity prices, power theft will increase. This is just like increasing tax rate in which case tax avoidance increases.

Depreciation of exchange rate is inflationary by definition. Sharp depreciation of exchange rate has played havoc for the economy. It has contributed to the surge in price level. It has forced the government to increase the prices of POL products and accordingly the power tariff. Thus, the stability in exchange rate must be maintained. Finally, the government needs to improve its governance. The lack of governance has encouraged the business sector to increase the prices of their commodities at will.


Mr Prime Minister, the economic team would require your support in taking difficult political decisions such as keeping the budget deficit low, maintaining stability in exchange rate and freezing the support price of wheat for two more years. If you support them, they will deliver.


The writer is director general and dean at NUST Business School, Islamabad. Email: ahkhan@nbs.edu.pk

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

COLLATERAL DAMAGE IN SRA VELLA

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


While Pakistan should be celebrating the passage of the 18th Amendment (once again, cementing the historical place of the PPP in the story of Pakistani democracy) innocent villagers in Tirah Valley are dealing with another mess of Pakistan's own making. If we didn't know any better it would almost seem like someone was trying to rob this country of a well-deserved celebration of its vibrant and raucous democracy.


It is now clear, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Pakistani military authorised and conducted the aerial bombardment of the Sra Vella area in Tirah Valley with Pakistan Air Force planes that led to the death of at least 61 innocent Pakistanis. Civilian casualties in the theatre of war are neither new nor surprising. What is surprising is the strange and dangerous concoction of lies, truths, emotions, and reason that simultaneously swing the narrative in this country in all directions possible.


The Sra Vella aerial bombardment was conducted as part of a larger campaign of ground and air assaults on terrorists that began in Orakzai Agency and is called Operation Khwakh Ba De Sham. The Pakistani military has expanded the theatre for the operation into Khyber because it offers an easy secondary position for terrorists to escape to. Khyber is the strategic depth that terrorists in Orakzai enjoy. From a classical counterinsurgency perspective, there is nothing controversial about the expansion of Pakistani military operations into Khyber.

What is decidedly controversial is the degree of freedom that Pakistanis have afforded to a military that only one year ago was forced to watch the chief justice of Pakistan triumphantly return to his office not far from Pakistani parliament. Since the May 8, 2009, launch of the Operation Rah-e-Haq in Swat, that was conducted to rid Swat of the scourge of Sufi Mohammad, his son-in-law Fazlullah, and their hordes of TNSM terrorists, the Pakistani military has enjoyed the most sustained and unchallenged rebirth in brand history. If they aren't already, business school students eventually will read about this rebirth in Branding 101.


The Sra Vella aerial bombardment that took place in Tirah Valley was part of a series of sorties flown by PAF aircraft that day that included targeting other areas of the valley, including Ghulam Ali, Nakai, Nangrosa, Narai Baba and Sandana. The civilian bureaucracy in-charge of the Tribal Areas (that have yet to be constitutionalised, what to say of enjoying the fruits of the 18th Amendment) is, of course, allowed to seem even more venal and incompetent than it actually is. Based clearly on nothing more than the instructions he received from the local military command, the political agent from Khyber, Mr Shafeerullah Wazir, said, "At least 45 militants of the LI were killed and two hideouts were also destroyed".


We now know that the political agent was not just slightly off the mark. It was making utterly false and, in retrospect, ludicrous statements. There were no Lashkar-e-Islami terrorists in Sra Vella that day. There were no hideouts that they could have hid in. The Sra Vella area is home in fact to a range of Pakhtun families, led by the Kukikhels, that have a sixty-three-year-old tribal tradition of standing tall and delivering for the Pakistani state.

So what are the implications of this tragic and disastrous incident in Sra Vella beyond the rhetoric of the deaths of innocent Pakistanis? There are both micro- and macro-level issues that the tragedy at Sra Vella highlights.

First, even if we are still 100 per cent supportive of total impunity for the Pakistani military, we have to ask what kind of intelligence operation ends up costing the lives of 61 innocent Pakistanis that are overtly loyal to the Pakistani state. This was not a small intelligence failure. It was epic. After nearly eight years of covertly and overtly fighting the global war on terror, it seems Pakistan's otherwise omnipresent intelligence operations have a blind spot in Khyber, the most accessible and developed of the tribal agencies. If a civilian, say a DMG officer, or worse, a politician, had committed an error that led to 61 dead Pakistanis, how would Pakistani society respond?


Second, the valuation of human life in Tirah Valley seems to be slightly behind the times. A total of less than $1,900 was paid to the victim of each of the dead of Sra Vella. That is much more generous than the two sheep that US Special Ops boss Admiral Will McRaven recently gave as compensation to the head of an Afghan family that had two pregnant woman, a teenage girl, and two adult males killed by US and Afghan special forces. But if we were to suppose that it was not 61 "tribals" from Khyber, but instead 61 Lahoris from Gulberg, or 61 Karachiites from Gulshan? What then would be the reaction of Pakistani society to a payment of under $1,900 for each innocent death?


Third, the Pakistani military's public diplomacy has to be questioned. At best, DG ISPR Gen Athar Abbas was left out to dry (at worst, he was complicit in denying what he already knew to be true). Immediately after the April 10 incident, the ISPR denied that any civilians were killed. These denials were echoed widely by military officialdom. Until of course, the BBC reported on April 17 that Chief of Army Staff Gen Kayani has apologised for the civilian deaths. Still, there is no sign of a press release at the ISPR website that acknowledges this apology. In fact, there are no quotations from the COAS at all. What is even more disconcerting is the idea in the minds of some within the military that an apology is an adequate way of addressing a problem that is clearly not a one-off incident.


This brings us to the larger, big-picture issues at play here.


First, we have some idea of how many innocent civilians, terrorists have killed in Pakistan. But we have no clue at all as to how many innocent civilians have been killed by the Pakistani military. When I spoke to Chris Rogers of the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) about this he expressed deep concern about the disparity in the national narrative between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr Rogers estimates that the total number of innocent civilians being killed in Afghanistan is about the same as in Pakistan. Yet this issue is a dominant news issue in Afghanistan. For organisations like CIVIC, concern about this is in part informed by the lack of access to credible information about innocent civilian casualties.


Of course, CIVIC is one of the few (if not only) organisations that can afford to advocate for greater access to civilian victims of the military's operations. CIVIC only does research and advocacy, and therefore does not face an operational threat in the way that the International Committee for the Red Cross, or the UN system (including agencies like the UNHCR) face. These organisations have a stake in maintaining good relations with the military. Their ability to deliver aid depends on it. After the Sra Vella bombings, journalists were denied access to the victims and their families at both Lady Reading Hospital and Hayatabad Medical Complex by armed guards. What this means is that for the foreseeable future, without the military deciding to unilaterally and voluntarily increase access for journalists to innocent victims and their families, Pakistanis will continue to remain in the dark about civilian casualties.


If you are counting dead bodies as a proxy for whether Pakistan is winning the war against terrorists, you should be careful with your math. This Pakistani war against terrorists is much more complex than the ideological one-liners that we have become so addicted to. Collateral damage in Sra Vella just made it more complex.

The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy. He can be reached through his website www.mosharrafzaidi.com

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

TALKS WITH NO SOLUTIONS

DR MALEEHA LODHI


The writer is a former envoy to the US and the UK, and a former editor of The News.


As Pakistan mulls over the next step in the diplomatic engagement with India, Delhi wants to have it both ways. It seeks third-party intercession to mount pressure on Pakistan to meet its demands but vehemently objects when Pakistan asks for international help to resolve differences between the two countries.

Indian officials declare that they are open to dialogue but resist talks aimed at finding solutions to disputes. Delhi embarks on a spending spree to continue a substantial military build-up but protests over the modest US military assistance to Pakistan.


These are some of the dilemmas that Islamabad confronts in navigating the complex shoals of diplomacy with Delhi. For now Pakistani officials await a clear response to the proposals they made during the last diplomatic encounter in February between the foreign secretaries in Delhi. Islamabad had proposed a roadmap leading to a summit-level meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) conference due to be held in Bhutan on April 28 and 29. It had also suggested that the summit meeting should announce the resumption of broad-based formal peace talks.


Although Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gilani and Manmohan Singh had a chance meeting earlier this month on the sidelines of the US-hosted Nuclear Security Summit, this was little more than a photo opportunity. Islamabad clearly wants any encounter in Bhutan to go beyond optics and pave the way for result-oriented engagement.

For its part Delhi has hinted that it expects foreign secretary Nirupama Rao to be invited to Islamabad for a return visit. But it has declined to indicate an agenda for the meeting. Pakistan's thinking on further meetings without an agenda is that rather than advance the process of normalising relations they would be reduced to platforms for Delhi to deliver homilies on terrorism.

 

This is what the previous round of talks turned out to be. Even though the Delhi parleys helped to end a 14-month diplomatic standoff the two sides were unable to agree on the timing, modalities and agenda for future talks.

It is instructive to consider what has happened since the February talks. The trajectory of developments has not been promising. They include:


* Indian complaints to the US about Pakistan's "lack of seriousness" in addressing Delhi's terrorism-related demands.

* The failure of the talks between the Permanent Indus Waters Commissions of the two countries in March. This was followed and preceded by dismissive statements from Indian officials also accusing Pakistan of using the water issue as "propaganda" along with flat denials that Delhi was diverting the Indus waters.


* The Indian foreign secretary's visit in March to Washington where she assailed Pakistan in public forums and private meetings, accusing it of using terrorism as an instrument of policy.


* Continued Indian diplomatic efforts in key capitals of the world to malign Pakistan and shift the entire onus of responsibility to Islamabad for the resumption of full-fledged talks.


The most significant recent development was the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President Barack Obama in which the former reportedly conveyed India's concerns about the lack of Pakistani movement to act against the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist incident and curb the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Mr Singh later said he hoped that the points he raised would "weigh considerably" with the US administration. These 'points' were duly passed on to Prime Minister Gilani by President Obama during their meeting.

On the water issue, a new pattern seems to have emerged in the past month of Indian officials seeking to portray the water issue as devoid of substance, implying therefore that there was nothing to settle. In a series of comments to foreign and Indian papers, unnamed Indian officials have been cited as saying that Pakistan's position on the Indus waters issue was a "political gimmick…. designed to place yet one more agenda item in (an) already complex relationship".


Elsewhere Indian officials accused Pakistan of creating a "frenzy" while dismissing the issue as a Pakistani effort to create an "Indian bogey" and divert the blame for water shortages whose causes lay within Pakistan. This is a far cry from a problem-solving approach when one side declines to even acknowledge the existence of a dispute.


As for the Indian foreign secretary's statements, at one public forum in Washington, she devoted a good part of her speech on Indo-US relations to Pakistan's 'conduct'. Among the pronouncements she made – unseemly in a third country – was that Pakistan used terrorism as a policy tool. India she said should not be expected to resume full-scale talks until Pakistan is able to "cease its encouragement of terrorist groups that were targeting India". She also claimed that Pakistan had conveyed to India that it was not in a position to guarantee that it could control terrorism.

 

Meanwhile Delhi's opposition to US military sales to Pakistan appears rather rich given India's own record of contracting multiple arms deals with several countries under a five-year $50 billion plan to modernise its military. Its defence budget in the fiscal year ending March 2010 represented a whopping 70 per cent increase from five years ago.


What does India's more strident posture in the international arena imply? The most obvious answer is that the strategy is designed to maintain western pressure on Pakistan and continue efforts to undercut its position at a time when there is an international consensus to help Pakistan address terrorism, fight militancy and establish economic stability.


Delhi's activism against Pakistan may also be a reaction to three more immediate and inter-related developments. One, the upswing in Pakistan-US ties generated by last month's strategic dialogue in Washington. The new momentum in relations seems to have evoked worry in Delhi that Washington's growing reliance on Pakistan to accomplish its regional strategy would ease pressure on Islamabad. As a consequence India has sought to ratchet up pressure on Washington to lean on Pakistan on the LeT and related issues.

Two, the Obama administration's role in seeking to defuse Pakistan-India tensions appears to have produced Indian disquiet about Washington's moves in this regard. What may have accentuated the anxiety is the leak of a secret directive President Obama issued last December calling for US diplomatic efforts to focus on easing tensions in the subcontinent, without accomplishing which US goals in Afghanistan would be jeopardised.
And three, Delhi's behaviour could also be a reflection of the uncertainties created by its own assessment that India doesn't figure as high in the Obama administration's foreign policy priorities as China and Pakistan. These concerns have been frequently aired in the Indian media and expressed in the columns of writers close to India's foreign policy establishment.


All of this complicates the challenge of finding a way forward towards a dialogue that helps improve the climate for bilateral relations. Even if a prime minister-level meeting at the Saarc summit materialises – and there is a good chance that it might – behind the anticipated smiles and handshakes will lie the more important task of engaging India in a process that involves talks to find solutions – not diplomatic theatre in which one side tries to impose a unilateral, terrorism-only agenda, that deflects from the disputes that continue to fester and bedevil relations.


There is no substitute for wider talks that can address the concerns and priorities of both sides. Ad hoc, sporadic engagement will only produce fitful and fruitless dialogue which will be susceptible to a relapse in tensions. Peace cannot be pursued by selective engagement and a patchwork process that ignores the issues that lie at the heart of Pakistan-India tensions and mistrust.


So long as agreement on the scope and framework of the dialogue remains elusive the fate of the normalisation process will remain in question. And so will the prospects for peace.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SARHADI GANDHI

MIR JAMILUR RAHMAN


Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, leader of the Pukhtuns, was given the sobriquet of "Sarhadi Gandhi" by his followers in reference to his commitment to the freedom struggle and non-violence. Ghaffar Khan was a great admirer of Mahatma Gandhi. He had built a close and spiritual friendship with Gandhi, the pioneer of the non-violent mass movement of civil disobedience. The two had a deep admiration for each other and worked together closely until 1947. In India he is still revered as "Sarhadi Gandhi."


Realising that the British Raj could not be defeated by revolts, Ghaffar Khan founded the Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) movement to create social and political awareness among the Pakhtuns. He believed that social activism and reform would be more beneficial for Pakhtuns. Unfortunately, he remained the leader of Pakhtuns and avoided mainstream politics. He remained unaware of the strength of the Pakistan movement which was gaining ground all over India. He completely misread the situation when he formed an alliance with the All-India Congress.


Ghaffar Khan was not alone in opposing the idea of Pakistan. There were many Muslim leaders who had opposed the creation of a separate homeland for Indian Muslims. However, most of them reconciled with Pakistan and stopped opposing the new country. It should be conceded that the Muslims opposing Pakistan were neither traitors nor anti-Islam. They held an opinion against Pakistan but changed it when Pakistan came into existence. Ghaffar Khan and his followers, however, gave the impression that they still held anti-Pakistan feelings. Radio Kabul created this impression by advocating Pakhtunistan, a separate state.Isfandyar Wali Khan, head of the Awami National Party and grandson of Ghaffar Khan, has a problem on his hands. Would he modify the "Sarhadi" or leave it as it is. "Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Gandhi" would sound inappropriate. The fact remains that the ANP has moved in haste to rename NWFP without taking other linguistic groups into confidence and rejecting a referendum that could have given credibility and authenticity to the new name. Name-changing is neither a big political feat ensuring an enhanced popularity of the ANP, nor will the new name Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa give economic relief to the people of the province. However, it is the first province in Pakistan which has been named on linguistic grounds. That is dangerous!


No other province of Pakistan is named linguistically. The Punjab is named after its five rivers – punj (five) and ab (water). Sindh gets its name from the River Indus and not because the people of Sindh speak Sindhi. Balochistan is a multi-linguistic province. The origins of its names are buried in ancient history.The renaming of NWFP without following constitutional and consensual path has encouraged the people of the Saraiki belt and Bahawalpur to press their demand for separation from Punjab. The strongest encouragement has come from federal Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, who has invited all and sundry to have a province of their own choice, provided they remained within the bounds of the Constitution. This open invitation offering a province or name-change will have serious consequences. Instantly, Jinnahpur comes to mind.

The change of NWFP's name so far has taken a toll of ten dead and over one hundred injured. This is the first time since the restoration of democracy that the police has fired upon and killed innocent and unarmed people who were demonstrating against the new name. The most unfortunate part of the killings is that they were carried out with the ANP ruling the province. It is unbelievable that the descendants of Ghaffar Khan, the most non-violent leader of all and a strong believer in secular politics, could have let this carnage happen.

Email: mirjrahman@hotmail.com

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

IF WE MAY SUBMIT MR CJP

 

CHIEF Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry has expressed the resolve to root out corruption from the system and said the State was obliged to ensure reasonable standards of living in the society. Addressing the concluding session of the National Judicial Conference on Sunday the CJP very rightly stated that corruption was inhuman, it was against one's honour and dignity and should be against the ego of an honourable and respectable man.


The statement of the CJP shows that he is fully cognizant and has strong feelings against the menace of corruption which has creeped into the body politics of the country and requires a surgery. But we may submit that it is not the fir