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Friday, April 23, 2010

EDITORIAL 23.04.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya



month april 23, edition 000489, 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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It would appear that the sky is literally falling on the world of Indian cricket. What started with l'affaire Shashi Tharoor has now snowballed into a massive controversy that has brought the credibility of the world's most powerful cricket board under the scanner. Allegations are flying thick and fast with the Indian Premier League being accused of everything from match-fixing and betting to kickbacks and black money. Spicing up this heady concoction is factionalism within the BCCI that is slowly taking the ugly form of political mud-slinging. Thus, Indian cricket, of late, has been attracting a lot of bad vibes, not to mention negative publicity. But the question to be asked is: If the IPL is truly guilty of all that it is being accused of, what were the authorities doing all this while? If at all the allegation is true, dubious funds could not have been channelised into the marquee cricketing event overnight. Similarly, illegal betting over IPL matches and kickbacks in awarding broadcast rights could not have cropped up all of a sudden. Therefore, it would not be unfair to say that those in charge of monitoring such wrongdoings were either sleeping on the job or have been activated by some outside force. For, there is no denying the fact that the IPL is a fantastic product. It has literally revolutionised the cricketing experience and significantly added to the BCCI's weight as a cricket powerhouse. And for this the credit has to go to IPL commissioner Lalit Kumar Modi. He is the one who recognised the potential that lay in a professional Indian cricket league and converted that vision into reality. Notwithstanding the complications that have come to plague the Kochi franchise, what better testimony can there be of the IPL's success than the fact that the two new franchises that were recently auctioned were sold for a combined value that far surpasses that of the eight existing franchises put together at the beginning of the league's first edition?

Besides, the IPL has done what no sports body in India has managed to do — create a platform to give budding cricketers a chance to prove themselves. It is no secret that almost all sports federations in the country have come to be highly politicised. As a result, sports in India have come to depend on a system of political patronage rather than merit. But with the advent of the IPL and its corporate-style business model, for the first time in the history of Indian sports, a performance-based sports platform has been created. And the positive spin-offs of this for Indian cricket are there for all to see. We now have an amazing pool of young cricketers who can easily make it to the national eleven, and who otherwise would never have got the opportunity to even make themselves known.

Hence, we should be wary of throwing the baby out with the bath water. If there have been questionable dealings within the IPL they should definitely be investigated. But this does not mean that the time has come for the Government to take over the management of Indian cricket, something that is being suggested by some of our MPs in Parliament who don't have the faintest idea about professional sports. We must realise that issues like betting on sports have not been created by the IPL and, hence, need to be seen in a larger context and appropriate responses formulated. Let us refrain from demonising the IPL.






The US Administration simply refuses to admit that no matter how hard it tries to appease the monster called the Pakistani establishment it will continue to be abused and accused of dark and sinister misdeeds. This explains why the US State Department claims to have been taken aback by former ISI chief Hamid Gul's accusation that Americans were involved in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister and PPP leader Benazir Bhutto. Mr Hamid Gul, who continues to wield considerable influence over the ISI and is a Rawalpindi insider, is not known for being either polite or discrete in his utterances. His ideological affinity with Islamists of various shades is no secret, nor has he ever bothered about his linkages with terrorist organisations both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. On the contrary, he openly flaunts his 'connections' with jihadis and unabashedly promotes a hate-India agenda. He is known to have used terrorist organisations to mount attacks on Indian soil; he remains unrepentant for the bloodshed that has resulted from his cross-border terror campaign and endorsement of mass murder by jihadis. Similarly, he is among the chief proponents of Pakistan's 'strategic depth' theory: Islamabad must have its own puppet Government, preferably a ruthless Taliban regime, in Kabul and thereby control access to Afghanistan as well as play overlord of that benighted country. His hatred for America is as visceral as his hatred for India; he believes freedom, democracy and open society are inimical to Pakistan's interests, though he cloaks his opposition to enlightenment with the veil of Islamic fanaticism.

Given his evil mind and evil ways, it is not surprising that Mr Gul should accuse America of plotting Benazir Bhutto's assassination. It is more than likely that he has been repeating this diabolical lie on various Pakistani television programmes in the hope it will stick after a while. There are many Pakistanis who subscribe to the perverse ideology of Islamic jihad; they are eager to lap up whatever preachers of hate like Mr Hamid Gul say from public platforms. All this and more is known to the Americans, yet they are reluctant to so much as rap his knuckles and admonish his patrons in the Pakistani Government, the Army and the criminal enterprise known as the ISI. With the Obama Administration bending over backwards to accommodate each and every demand of the Pakistanis, it is in the fitness of things that it should be accused of masterminding the gruesome murder of Benazir Bhutto. Nor should it surprise anybody that the Jamaat-e-Islami has made the preposterous claim that Americans are to blame for the bombing of their rally in Peshawar on Monday. Birds of a feather tend to flock together. That the US is perceived to be helpless in the face of such accusations levelled by influential individuals and organisations tells its own story and underscores the inherent weakness of the Obama Administration.








The British joked that Calcutta (then India's capital) and London were "mervous" when the Russians captured the town of Merv on Afghanistan's borders. That was in 1884 when Kipling's Great Game was at its height. It's a moot point whether India need be so sensitive to Afghanistan 126 years later.

Of course, regional stability matters. Access to Iranian and Central Asian energy would be important if possible. But Afghan heroin is more a Western problem. As for terrorism, the assumption that Afghanistan's 'strategic depth' (a much bandied about phrase) enables Pakistan to send jihadis into Kashmir and otherwise harass India recalls Singapore's Mr Lee Kuan Yew vigorously denying that China was responsible for Pakistani mischief. Pakistanis didn't need China, he argued, to attack India. It's "inherent in their Muslim fundamentalism"; it's "something visceral in them".

The Poonch and Gilgit revolts and Kashmir invasion made that evident long before Pakistan gained a foothold in Afghanistan. India was stronger in Afghanistan then. Pakistanis accused it of instigating Pashtun separatism.

Mr Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's National Security Adviser, disclosed in 1998 that far from invading Afghanistan for territory, oil or warm waters, the Soviets actually walked into an American trap to bog them down in a Vietnam-like war. That revelation should have convinced everyone that rocky landlocked Afghanistan is of little value in itself. But the Great Game's demonic image of horns, forked tail and cloven hoof, revived in 1979 and rampant since 9/11 (caves bursting with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden) dies hard. Taliban-controlled Afghanistan had to be bombed back into the stone age.

Officers of the American-led coalition and their brave Pakistani jawans are trying to do that. But there is confusion between the country and people or, at least, its politicos. The US did not want Afghanistan; it wanted to exterminate Afghanistan's then rulers. But distinctions are difficult. A 'normal' Afghan by day might be a Taliban by night.

The 1,610-mile Durand Line is equally elusive. Pashtuns, whose homeland it divides arbitrarily, complain they were not consulted when it was drawn in 1893. The treaty enshrining it was in English which Amir Abdur Rehman Khan, the Afghan signatory, could not read. Only 800 miles of the line were surveyed. Despite official contradictions, there were persistent reports that the treaty was valid for only 100 years. If so, it expired in 1993 and was not renewed. The Taliban refused to recognise any artificial division of Muslim lands. Even Afghan President Hamid Karzai calls it "a line of hatred that raised a wall between two brothers".

Pakistan has repeatedly breached (and probably still does) the treaty's Article 2 reading, "The Government of India will at no time exercise interference in the territories lying beyond the line on the side of Afghanistan." Formally, India accepts that "Government of India" has been replaced by "Government of Pakistan". To leave no doubt on that score, the British clarified in 1950 "that Pakistan is in international law the inheritor of the rights and duties of the old Government of India" and of the UK "in these territories, and that the Durand Line is the international frontier".

That rules India out juridically. But being housed in the old imperial capital's North and South Blocks as well as the renamed viceregal lodge, and retaining some of the panoply of the Raj, it is not difficult to take for granted that the "successor state" (a legal position India insists on) has also inherited all the rights and duties of the old regime.
That complex may have explained Jawaharlal Nehru's unhappiness at the time of independence at Britain pressuring the Sultan of Muscat to transfer Gwadar, then a sleepy little harbour on the Balochistan coast, to Pakistan. It could be compared to Goa or Pondicherry in the sense of being a foreign possession in a newly independent country. There was never any doubt in any Indian's mind that the Portuguese and French enclaves should be restored without delay to India. Why then should the same principle not have applied to Gwadar?

It is too far-fetched to suggest that in 1947 Nehru foresaw Gwadar's geopolitical importance half-a-century later or the role a China that was very different from the one he knew would play in that transformation. Nor would it be fair to accuse Nehru of disregarding that what was sauce for the Hindu goose was sauce for the Muslim gander only because he sought to diminish Pakistani sovereignty just that little bit through a foreign outpost on its territory. Nehru's reasoning might be simpler. First, all accretions of territory should be to the successor state. And second, he could not emotionally bring himself to regard another Asian presence as colonial. It would have been different if Gwadar were Dutch instead of Arab. After the Suez and Hungary crises, Taya Zinkin, the Guardian writer, took this a stage further to argue that Nehru saw no colonialism without a conflict of colour.

At a recent meeting in London's Chatham House a senior British diplomatist asked why India needed 26 — his figure — consulates in Afghanistan. The strategic value of an entrenched position on Pakistan's other flank may seem to more than justify the $1.3 billion aid budget. But gratuitous offence is not always the most effective defence. Scope to squeeze Pakistan through a pincer movement may not enhance India's security.

Apart from the continual loss of Indian lives in Afghanistan, that tactic could alienate the US which now reportedly welcomes Indian activities there. But having outsourced a large chunk of the problem to Pakistan (as in 1979), President Barack Obama probably believes Pakistan can be persuaded to share the franchise and cooperate with India once the peace dialogue is revived. American optimism falls short of Asian reality. When it comes to the crunch, the US President is likely to back Pakistan and its perhaps by then reconstructed Taliban allies.

The time may have come to take a hard look at geopolitical reality, assess modern security needs and calculate what is possible in Afghanistan. India might stand to gain more by cutting its losses and consolidating economic, technological and strategic ties with the US. If domestic growth is sustained and Americans find India an attractive market, the partnership might be a more effective firewall against depredations than continuing to risk AfPak reprisals. Afghanistan could be unwinnable for India too.






On April 17, a refugee camp at Kohat in Pakistan was struck by two suicide bombers who disguised themselves in burqas. The attack, which killed 41 people and injured 62, is sure to heighten the debate in Europe about whether wearing burqas and niqabs in public should be banned. A parliamentary committee in Belgium has unanimously approved such a ban, with the final vote in the House of Representatives on April 22 expected to pass it. Movements to ban the burqa in Europe are growing due to concern that the Islamic veil can be used to disguise the identities of terrorists planning attacks like those that just took place in Pakistan and over the lack of assimilation of Muslim immigrants.

These concerns are not unfounded. Even though Islam frowns upon cross-dressing, male terrorists dressing up as burqa-clad women in order to carry out attacks is becoming more and more part of their modus operandi. This tactic has even been used by bank robbers and other criminals on many occasions, including in the US.

Terrorists have repeatedly donned burqas in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as in the UK, Iraq, the Gaza Strip, India, Somalia and Mauritania. In the UK, one man who tried to set off a bomb in July 2005 in London was able to escape by wearing a burqa. The use of this clothing makes counter-terrorism difficult because female police, who are in short supply, must be used to search those wearing burqas. The police chief of Iraq's Babil Province in August 2008 complained about this after two burqa-wearing females attacked Shiite pilgrims.

Daniel Bacquelaine of the Reformist Movement party in Belgium says that he supports the ban because it contradicts liberal democratic values. "There is nothing in Islam or the Quran about the burqa. It has become an instrument of intimidation, and is a sign of submission of women. And a civilised society cannot accept the imprisonment of women," he told Time Magazine. The argument follows that the ban, therefore, does not violate freedom of religion since wearing burqas is more of a cultural practice than something mandated by Islam.







As the Congress-led UPA Government prepares to complete the first year of its second term, its managers are busy calculating the strength of the coalition to survive in Parliament. Next week is very crucial as the Government is jittery about the smooth passage of the Finance Bill. This is in contrast with the UPA 1.0's first year when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave six on 10 for his Government's performance.

While the UPA 2.0 began with full confidence that it would complete a full five-year term, the Government is on shaky ground just after 11 months as the SP and the RJD withdrew support to the Government on the issue of the Women's Reservation Bill. The Government is reduced to a thin majority now and is finding it tough to get its Bills passed smoothly.

It was because of the Finance Bill that the Government had decided to let Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor resign on the IPL controversy.

The first half of the Budget session saw the Government committing some mistakes like trying to bring the two controversial Bills - the Food Security Bill and the Nuclear Civil Liability Bill -which would have ensured a united Opposition blocking them. The second half of the session began with the IPL controversy which resulted in the ouster of Mr Tharoor. Apparently, the Opposition was pleased that it won the first round.

However, the question arises: Why are the Congress managers worried about the number? After the announcement of withdrawal by the SP and the RJD the Congress managers claim that it has 271, one short of the majority, this would mean that the voting would be very dicey and the Government cannot be complacent.

For the past few days the Congress strategists are working overtime to run the business in Parliament smoothly. The Congress's strategy is two-pronged. The first is to keep the flock together. The presence of each member is crucial for voting. With several Congress members playing truant and not coming to the House, their attendance has become crucial. That is why the party has cracked the whip and directed all the members to be present in Delhi and to be present in the House until the Finance Bill is passed. They are given roaster duty and the whips are asked to make sure that the members abide by the directive.

Second, the Prime Minister has asked his Ministers not to go abroad or leave Delhi even for official work. Labour Minister Mallikarjun Kharge wanted to participate in an international conference but has been denied permission. Even Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has cancelled his foreign visit scheduled for later this month. All others Ministers are asked to remain in Delhi and also attend Parliament.

Third, the allies will also be asked to ensure the presence of their members. The absence of Drugs and Chemicals Minister MK Azhagiri, who is presently on a holiday in the Maldives without even taking permission from the Prime Minister, is a little embarrassing for the Government. However, the Prime Minister will ask DMK chief M Karunanidhi to ensure the presence of his son during voting.

Moreover, the IPL controversy has brought the Congress-NCP differences in the open. The two partners have been embarrassing each other quite frequently. After Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is also the president-elect of the International Cricket Council, publicly ruled out the sacking of IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, two senior Ministers Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram showed him incriminating documents forcing him to take a U-turn. Mr Pawar's daughter Supriya Sule and Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel have refuted allegations of their involvement in the IPL bid. Both the NCP chief and Congress leaders know that they need each other and would not go beyond a limit to needle each other.

Moreover, the Opposition appears to be divided. It was the divided Opposition which helped secure the Women's Reservation Bill in the Rajya Sabha. But it is going to be difficult in the Lok Sabha on other issues like the price rise or the food security. The BJP is mobilsing a nation-wide support by organising rallies against price rise while the Left has planned a nationwide hartal on April 27. The SP and the RJD are up in arms against the Women's Reservation Bill. With the Left leading a loose Third Front to take on the Congress, it is going to be difficult to divide the Opposition but the Congress strategists are trying hard to do so.

The ultimate hope of the Congress is that these Opposition parties are not interested in bringing down the Government because no one wants to go for polls now. With this as the bottom line, the Congress hopes that the Opposition will either walk out or in the last minute indirectly help it to pass the Bills. Once the Finance Bill is passed the Government can heave a sigh of relief.








The Haridwar skyline has changed noticeably in the years since economic liberalisation became Government policy. Plush apartment complexes, hotels and markets have mushroomed, transforming a favourite stopover of sadhus and pilgrims, en route to Himalayan shrines, into a tourist resort. These, however, recede into the background as the swelling pilgrims engulf the town and spill into the river environs. Haridwar is hosting the Purn Kumbh Mela, and the sadhu is king, having precedence over others in his right to bathe first in the Ganga, and go where the laity is forbidden access.

The pilgrimage, where seven people died this time, has a poor safety record with past events having been marked by a rampaging elephant crushing people and then being tamed through a great sage's intercession; stampedes; clashes between rival groups of mendicants; and even an outbreak of cholera. As the festival draws to a close, one remembers how it commenced, with ill-informed reportage harping on the point that it was the millennium's first Purn Kumbh Mela. Allahabad in 2001 hosted an ever bigger Kumbh Mela, while Nasik in 2003 and Ujjain in 2004 were also venues for the mammoth religious gathering.

What catches the eye immediately are giant hoardings of female gurus, summoning believers. A few are independent heads of their own orders; and others satellites of male redeemers of people, reeling under ignorance. The hill, upon which the fabled Chandi Devi shrine is located, provides the best vantage point for such pictures as it overlooks an intersection between two roads. Whether going left or right, all traffic and pedestrians view these huge pictures. A stout, matronly woman looks down benignly, like any mother; another seems austere; and a third, youthful and attractive, adds an intriguing dimension to the renunciant's calling. Women indeed are coming into their own. And Mark Twain's 'cold whites' have visibly joined the mass of seekers in India over the years.

Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, penned at the end of the 14th century, or John Bunyon's Pilgrim's Progress, dated about the end of the 17th century, depict an England that has long passed away, with the very notion of collectively undertaking pilgrimages with such immense fervour, having become archaic. But the Kumbh Mela, in its variations, remains as relevant today as in the distant past, when the belief that the falling of four drops of nectar from a celestial pot sanctified the places where they fell. These were Haridwar, Allahabad (the erstwhile Prayag), Ujjain and Nasik. A unique measure of time evolved in relation to this belief. Every 12 years, by rotation, a religious assembly, termed the Purn (full) Kumbh Mela, and slated by planetary movements, occurs at these places; and every six years, Haridwar and Allahabad alternate in hosting an Ardh (half) Kumbh Mela. After 12 Purn Kumbhs, a Maha Kumbh Mela is held in Allahabad. The last one was in 2001, with 60 million people apparently converging there.

Essentially a river festival, it underlines the belief in the sacred power of flowing water to provide expiation as well as redemption to people, who ritually bathe in it. Haridwar has the Ganga; Allahabad is located at the confluence (Sangam) of the Ganga, Yamuna and subterranean Saraswati; Ujjain has Shipra; and Nasik, the Godavari. Interestingly, a Kumbh Mela in Vrindavan precedes the one at Haridwar. Sadhus bathe in the Yamuna before going to Haridwar. Such religious assemblies, under other names and at other sites, also occur as annual features. In January-February every year, Allahabad's Magh Mela draws lakhs of people to the Sangam. And the high point of the Sagar Mela is eager hordes immersing themselves at the point where the Ganga merges with the Bay of Bengal on January 14, Makar Sankranti, every year.

The routine frequency of religious festivals and auspicious bathing days suggests that pilgrims, a large nomadic population, consisting mainly of poor rustic folk, have a packed schedule and itinerary, moving from one place to another. Sometimes the Purn Kumbh and Ardh Kumbh coincide, as in 2004, when Ujjain hosted the big event and Haridwar the subsidiary one, which occurred first. When there is such a crush of people, mishaps are fairly common. At Nasik in 2003, 39 pilgrims were trampled to death and 57 were injured on a main bathing day. But this does not serve to dent faith. For the devout, it is merely part of the chiaroscuro of existence as they await the next event







Sejm Marshal Bronislaw Komorowski has set June 20 as the date for the early presidential election, which will determine the successor to Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash on April 10. Had he survived, Kaczynski would have faced reelection in the fall. The new President will most likely be Mr Komorowski himself, who was nominated as the presidential candidate of the centre-right Civil Platform party on March 28.

Mr Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the twin brother of the late President, seems to be the only candidate the conservative Law and Justice party has to run against Mr Bronislaw Komorowski, 57. Party leaders seem quite certain that Mr Jaroslaw will remain the sole nominee. But while the tragic plane crash outside Smolensk may garner him some sympathy votes, it won't be enough to put him over the top. Many Poles understand that being buried alongside kings and other great Poles in Krakow's Wawel Cathedral does not mean that you're their equal. Poles genuinely mourned for all the victims of the plane crash, but unity born of a shared tragedy and shared history doesn't translate into shared views on the future of Poland.

According to the latest public opinion polls, if the elections were held today, Mr Komorowski would either win in the first round by 20 per cent to 25 per cent or defeat Mr Jaroslaw Kaczynski soundly in the run-off. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes in the first round, the run-off will be held on July 4.

Both to east of Poland and to the west, the presidential election is the subject of much attention. Under the Kaczynski twins (Mr Jaroslaw was once the Prime Minister while Lech was President), Poland picked fights with Germany and Russia, and their rampant, almost paranoid nationalism perplexed the West. They led Poland into bizarre anti-Russian alliances with other eastern Europeans, which were based solely on a shared hostility to a Kremlin that 'has not changed one bit on the inside'.

Russia's response to the April tragedy was a wake-up call both for Poles and Russians, which isn't to say there was anything remarkable about it. Rather, the Russian leaders and the Russian people reacted as any nation would have to a tragic accident in their country that killed the President and a considerable part of the political, military and cultural elite of another country.

At Lech Kaczynski's funeral, Mr Komorowski said, "The bells of Krakow are ringing in the name of Poles' reconciliation with other Poles... and with the Russian nation in the name of the unspeakable tragedy at Katyn." The reconciliation with Russia actually began a few days before the accident, when Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin attended the Katyn memorial ceremony.

Poland is a parliamentary republic, and although the President does not wield as much power as the Prime Minister, he and Parliament are responsible for foreign policy and defence. The President can exert a great deal of influence over both if he so chooses. Lech Kaczynski's presidency bears this out. Kaczynski vetoed many of Mr Tusk's initiatives as President. Mr Tusk wanted to implement badly needed reforms, but he essentially reconciled himself to the fact that he would have to wait for a new President before he could overhaul of the country's healthcare, economy, finances and laws.

Since Mr Tusk and Mr Komorowski are party allies, if the latter becomes President, Poland will have the strongest, most consolidated Government in its post-Communist history.

Improving relations with Russia would be a natural step in Poland's foreign policy. Poland is a bridge between the east and west of Europe, and as such, it will have to normalise relations with both sides sooner or later. This will boost its regional importance, not to mention the economic benefits of being a transit country.

There is a popular saying in Warsaw's political quarters: "Poles can do a lot with Germans but nothing without them." Mr Tusk has already established a professional relationship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is moving toward the same with his Russian partners. If he continues this policy, Europe should really start worrying. As The Economist put it the other day, "Poles-Germans-Russians; that is the axis that will shape the next decade in Europe." That may be a bit overblown, but there is some truth to it.


The writer is a Moscow-based commentator on current affairs.








The last 10 days have been exciting as only matters related to IPL can be. The general euphoria in the media is symptomatic of the times. It is symptomatic because it shows the issues which capture the imagination of the media-savvy public and how the trivial can whip up attention while the real violations go unchecked and the perpetrators can even wallow in the spoils.

Since much of this gets rooted in financial transactions, it will be useful to understand how there are so many enclaves of operations in international finance. It is important to realise that there are legal ways of handling a lot of situation which perhaps make it an unnecessary to go crooked.

An illustration would help to go beyond the obsession with the Hundi and Havala system. While it is recognised that Hundi and Havala system are complex processes to track in the absence of the verifiable documents; there are other caveats.

At an estimate, there are about 42 countries globally that have laws to provide off-shore services. Operationally it means that these nations have nil corporate, capital games, personnel, inheritance or wealth taxes. There is a near total confidentiality ensured by laws that make it a criminal offence by the off-shore services providers to disclose client information. Audit of accounts are not required. Minimum equity capital can be $ 1. These off-shore centres can be set up and operated through e-mail and courier services. Off-shore companies can have nominee director and shareholders. Even with conditions applying, it can hardly get much better!

The facilities do not end there. One can carry an international ATM card and facility of internet banking with a confidential international off-shore bank account. The international financial system has yet to come to grips with the concern of integrating all this with other sovereign regulatory framework.

This kind of a situation creates endless possibilities; the like of which can only be known to the practitioner of the art. Cleaning up any act as per what we consider appropriate in India may tantamount to building a lot of bridges over a lot of time zones — both literally and figuratively. There is another world of borrowing where companies raise money from — World Bank, ADB and the like. A flow diagram of how a corporate goes about raising funds or can raise funds needs to be in the consciousness of citizens. One understands that there are other models. Corporate routinely raise money from relatively unknown international banks of fairly open and liberal financial system. One believes Singapore, Italy, Spain and the like have several such banks.

It is also believed that all such loans are not always on the books of the corporate. The outcome in above both channels is obvious. The money flushed into the economy through the externally commercial borrowing window does not remain in the country and is invested abroad itself. There are areas, galore, needing attention. Considers the procedures for convertible bonds. For 18 months bonds, one does not get the benefit of 50 per cent that one gets in the international market. Hence indirectly companies are being encouraged to borrow from the international market, exposing them to greater exchange rate risk. For Indian corporate, this is a bigger problem than for corporate in more stable economy. This is so because on most occasions, exchange rate fluctuations do not favour India. The report from the field is obvious. Several countries that raise money through international markets, especially to fund there merger and acquisition activity today, find themselves under considerable financial strain.

The policy recommendations are clear. We need to have similar debt instruments in our markets so that companies do not have to borrow abroad. A careful reviewing and up-scaling of the regulatory system is overdue. It cannot be the case for any system to make a virtue of complicating life for the law abiding corporate and individual, limiting their choices and letting the skillful bolt .It will be useful to remember that investment will take place only if the optimal finance rules are followed and there is no over emphasis for the ideal regulatory system. It is difficult to say whether under regulation is more disastrous or over regulation. Be that as it may, it is important to remember that experiences like Satyam or IPL are not abrasions. They are the surfacing of a sub-terrainian stream which flows far and wide. The dangers are only now beginning to be brought into the public domain.







TO GO by appearances, it would seem that the only issue before the country is the mêlée over the Indian Premier League. The news is certainly full of it, and even the government and Parliament seem to be preoccupied by it.

Considering the pending money bill, women's reservation and the civil nuclear liability bills, this is somewhat strange and it would be fitting if someone explained the issues to us in explicit terms.

For example, would the various government departments that have carried out surveys and raids across a dozen businesses across the country tell us what is it that they are actually looking for? Or is this a state- sanctioned fishing expedition to see what dirt they can dredge up on a politically targeted adversary? There are thousands of businesses in the country and not a few are in violation of the tax laws of the country. To deal with the latter, there are clearly laid down procedures of survey, seizure, penalty and appeal laid out in the rules and regulations of the government. But it would seem that there is some special interest in giving the IPL- related businesses the high- voltage treatment.

Ever since l'affaire Tharoor broke, we have been demanding that the IPL and its franchisees adopt a policy of transparency and reveal the ownership pattern of the franchisees.

But by the same token, there is some need for transparency on the part of the government.

The Ministry of Finance needs to tell us why only in the third year of the operation of the IPL tournament, it has decided to unleash the combined might of its economic intelligence, tax compliance and enforcement services. Opacity here will send a bad signal not only in the country but to potential investors abroad.





THE official perquisites that the former Speaker of the Delhi Legislative Assembly, Chaudhary Prem Singh, failed to return to the government might seem trivial when compared to the Madhu Koda scale of corruption.

Nevertheless, the issue here is of tarnishing institutions which are sacrosanct in our democracy. The case of Mr. Singh, like Madhu Koda, reveals the prevalence of a culture in which public office is seen as a blank cheque, an office of ' profit' rather than public service.

How can a person, who treats official perquisites as take- away souvenirs, uphold the integrity of the Assembly? And what credibility would an assembly presided by such an official have in the eyes of the people who elect it? Furthermore, Mr. Singh's refusal to pay his hotel bills during a trip to the US is an embarrassment to the nation as a whole and not just to the Delhi Legislative Assembly.

One positive outcome of this case is that it has demonstrated the efficacy of the RTI Act by bringing a senior government functionary to account even in terms of the use of official perquisites. It is now up to the Congress party to show whether it has the political courage to do the morally right thing by insisting that he return the government property or pay for it.





CONSIDERING the state of blissful intimacy in which he has got himself clicked with an unknown Russian woman, it might appear unfair on our part to hold against Commodore Sukhjinder Singh his peccadillo, or whatever else his liaison may amount to. This would indeed be the case had Mr Singh been a private citizen confronted with loneliness and the Russian winter.

Unfortunately, however, he happened to be the head of an observation group overseeing in a port town the repair and refit of Admiral Gorshokov , the Russian aircraft carrier the Indian Navy is buying for a humongous sum.

The manner in which the explicit photographs landed up with the Navy is good reason to suspect that the naval officer has fallen for a honeytrap — one of the oldest tricks of espionage. This may or may not have been linked to the controversial hike in the price of the refit demanded by Russia.

The Navy must not only probe the officer's misconduct but also determine if his indiscretion could have cost the country more than a billion dollars in the price escalation of the carrier.







THE taste of the pudding may be in its eating, but you've got to buy it first. That is the tough part. It hurts most when it comes to private expenditure on health and education. Money spent on these services are never covered by a " satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" scheme. Neither can one say that the cheque is in the mail when you go to a private hospital or school. You pay first and gripe later.


Obviously, the poor are the most vulnerable in this regard. The private school which an indigent village boy might attend could cost as little as Rs. 50 per month. But that is a lot of money for a family hovering around the poverty line. Yet such a household would often invest that sum in the hope that this would be a ticket to a brighter future for their young.


Sadly, after this small fortune is spent a full 31 per cent of the children in these private schools cannot read a simple paragraph. The recently released India Human Development Report tells us this story in graphic detail. That the figure is 50 per cent in government schools does not take away the fact that so many poor parents are actually gambling on private education.



But clearly this habit continues, and is getting stronger. Not that long ago, in the 1980s, only 2 per cent of India's children, rural and urban combined, went to private schools. Since then the numbers have been steadily rising. By 2010, when the Human Development Report was released, 21 per cent of rural children and 51 per cent of urban children were in private schools. In a poor state like Uttar Pradesh, 43 per cent attend private schools. Try supersizing this.


When it comes to health, the figures are more staggering. To begin with, nearly 80 per cent of all health expenditure in our country is out of pocket. This is probably the second highest in the world, after Iraq. Aren't we lucky, there is always Iraq and Pakistan! Even in America, the Disneyland of private enterprise, the state picks up 45 per cent of health expenses, and this is a Bush era cut out. It is bound to get much fatter once the recent Obama led health bill kicks in.


Given the high levels of private spending on health in India, what is it that a typical rural patient is getting in return? Surely they must hope and expect a lot more when they are paying for it from their own pocket or cashing in an invisible credit card with the local moneylender.


It is an established fact that after agricultural inputs, the next big reason for the rural population to go into debt is ill- health.


Yet, the evidence from the India Human Development Report on the state of private health providers is very discouraging.


Most private clinics in India fare poorly on several indicators when compared to public health facilities. This must be quite hard to accomplish, given the abysmal services that public hospitals and health centres provide.


Even so, compared to public health facilities, private clinics and hospitals have fewer toilets, examination tables and sterilisation equipment. Clearly, there is a whole world out there which medical tourists don't care to know about. The most numbing fact is yet to come. The percentage of doctors with a regular MBBS degree is much higher in public health facilities than in private ones. In fact, 24 per cent of private health professionals have no medical training at all; in other words, every fourth village doctor is a certifiable quack. For the time being we are not counting those whose qualifications look like a line out of an optician's chart.


Why then do poor people spend their hard earned money on private education and hospitals? There are two big reasons for this. The first is that in private schools and health centres the teacher or doctor, as the case may be, is nearly always present. This gives students or patients the feeling that they are being looked after. Human beings may or may not be selfish, may or may not be altruistic, but they nearly always need attention.



The second, and equally important, reason is the urge to emulate those who are rich and successful. If the well off patronise private schools and hospitals, then that must be the right thing to do.


Even tribal societies are not immune to this imitative reasoning. In the post World War II era, anthropologists working in Melanasia and New Guinea in the southwest Pacific found that many native communities in this region strung match boxes and other cardboard containers with twine and spoke into them imitating the white man's communication system. When they saw a plane flying overhead they imagined it laden with precious cargo that could be theirs if only the vessel could be lured to land in a place convenient to them, and not at an airport. On such occasions they would energetically give out instructions into their slap- up, make- believe, microphones in the hope that one day the airplane would hear their voice and obey their directives.


This is not unlike the logic that the rural poor employ when they spend on private schools and hospitals. If these institutions work for the rich then they should work for them as well. But in one case you have a real wireless and in another a tatty toy. Can private- public partnership help in such instances to provide quality health and education to the poor? This is an issue worth thinking over for the private on its own is certainly not cut out for the job. At the same time, government schools and hospitals are too uncaring and dismissive of the public. What then?



For starters it is necessary to recognise why North European countries have the best health and educational status in the world. They managed this because they did two things right. First, the income differences in these societies are quite slight and nowhere as devastating as they are in India. Now, very recently, the Planning Commission has knelt down and confessed that there are 400 million in this country below the poverty line.


The second feature developed Nordic countries have in common is a strong public health and educational system. It is not as if these features are genetic, like being blonde and blue eyed. Broad based social welfare policies were deliberately devised by their governments since the 1940s ( as in Sweden) to bring quality public goods to the public, and not just for the poor. Should we not also do the same? The private sector works best in those societies where the public sector poses a challenge to it. One feels stupid to advocate public services in our country, but that is the best way to buck private enterprise and force it to excel. Or else, as in India, we will have a slothful public sector and a slightly less slothful private sector. This would compel the poor to be not just risk takers, but gamblers too.


In such conditions, a poor man and his money are soon parted!


The writer is a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library









THE ruling establishments of America and Pakistan have rediscovered a long lost " strategic relationship". The core of this strategic relationship is supposedly represented by a mutuality of interests relating to the war against the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the reality is a bit more complex.


From the American establishment's point of view, two factors are important: Afghanistan must not ever become a base area for the export of Al- Qaeda inspired terrorism against America; and Pakistan must not become a breeding ground for radical Islam that feeds into Al- Qaeda.


The first requires the physical elimination of Al- Qaeda and its local Taliban allies from the region and the installation and consolidation of an Afghan regime in Kabul that is able to sustain a pro- US and anti- Al- Qaeda stance without the presence of American troops on the ground. The second requires pumping a lot of money into Pakistan's economy and new weapons into Pakistan's military – the first to make sure that mass poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and alienation do not breed desperate " Islamic" warriors who hate America and want to redress " root causes of global injustice", such as Palestine and Kashmir; and the second to equip and incentivise Pakistan's army to go after the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network.


FROM the Pakistani establishment's point of view, two factors are also important: America must install a regime in Kabul that is not just able to look after America's interests but is also " friendly" or pro- Pakistan; and America must not do anything to disturb the civil- military imbalance in Pakistan that accounts for the preponderant role of the military in domestic, foreign and economic policy.


The first requires two elements: the proposed Afghan regime must be dominated by Pakhtuns who are friendly towards Pakistan; and the role of India in any future political dispensation in Afghanistan must be strictly limited to the social sector, leaving the administrative structure and apparatus of law, order and defense in the hands of Pakistan- friendly actors and players. This is now defined as " soft strategic depth" for Pakistan. The second entails a clear commitment by Washington not to try and pull civilian strings in Pakistan's fledgling party- political system to influence, much less to dominate, Pakistan's military establishment.


The record thus far shows that Pakistan's military establishment has had the upper hand. After a decade of struggling against the Al- Qaeda- Taliban network and denying or even trying to negate the " Pakistan factor" in Afghanistan, the US seems to have finally conceded a " strategic" partnership role to Pakistan. Instead of the talk of " do more" – as under COAS General Pervez Musharraf -- there is a sustained chorus of " well done" under COAS General Ashfaq Kayani. Indeed, recognition of this fact has pushed President Hamid Karzai to start negotiations with the Taliban, including sections close to the Pakistani establishment, and to stand up to the Americans where his own longevityinterests are concerned. The US also seems to have conceded to Pakistan's view that India must be nudged to make up with Pakistan rather than threaten it as it has done since the Mumbai attacks, if American interests in Afghanistan are not to be jeopardized by a flare- up in India- Pakistan relations on any one of several simmering counts. Finally, and despite the pro- democracy rhetoric, the Obama administration is talking and dealing directly with the Pakistani military, as it did in the 1960s, 1980s and 2000s under three military rulers. The fact that the " strategic dialogue" in Washington between the two civilian administrations was overseen by General Kayani should not be lost on anyone.


This analysis has several short term implications. First, as the deadline for Congressional elections draws nearer, the Obama administration is going to become desperately dependent on the Pakistani military establishment to give it a half- face saving exit strategy. This means that if, in the short term, politics in Pakistan takes a topsy- turvy spin that provokes the army, the Americans are going to tilt heavily in favour of the military establishment.


SECOND, much the same sort of sentiment is likely to be found in Washington in the event of a short and sharp conflict between India and Pakistan. Third, US military aid ( money and weapons) is going to get pumped into the Pakistani system faster than economic assistance because the first is for quick fixes while the second is part of longer term stabilization policies.


This suggests that the US- Pakistan relationship is actually " tactical" from the point of view of America and " strategic" from the point of view of Pakistan's ruling establishment. In the era of the cold war between the US and USSR that stretched from 1945 to 1989, it was " strategic" from both countries' point of view. The US " needed" Pakistan as a " front- line" state against communism and Pakistan " needed" the US as a " back- up" state against India. Today, Pakistan's need of America is unchanged – in fact General Kayani has said that Pakistan will remain " India- centric" and require " soft strategic depth in Afghanistan" as long as India's military capacity outreaches Pakistan's, which is going to be forever. But America's need of Pakistan, after abandoning the goal of nation- building in Afghanistan, may not last beyond the Obama administration's electoral strategy. Indeed, the " war against Al- Qaeda terror" seems to be already shifting from the tribal areas of Pakistan to the badlands of Yemen.


Pakistan's government and opposition dream of milking the US- Pakistan " strategic relationship" in terms of an American- sponsored Marshall Plan of tens of billions of dollars. They also want nuclear parity with India. Under the circumstances, however, with the global capitalist economy in recession and fears of a nuclear threat from terrorists, Pakistan has as much chance of getting either as a snowball in hell.



I HAD secret meeting with Asif Zardari, unbeknownst to Faujis. In Dubai. Zardari said, " you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours". Okay, I said, and began to scratch his back. He started giggling and running around the room. I ran after him scratching his back. Round and round in circles we went. Asif Zardari giggled and giggled.


I was so happy that he was so happy. Work is being made, I thought. Kaam bun gya. But then unexpectedly, with tears streaming down his eyes, Zardari shrieked, " stop it! Stop it!". He was still running around the room with me after him. Then Saaq Dar Saab who was also there, grabbed my arm and killed eye. Aankh mari.


" Please, Mian Saab, have a seat. I think so the President wants to say something". Zardari huffed and puffed and wiped his face with silk hanky and sat dawn. " The Americans want OBL. They've told me either we get him, meaning civilian leadership, or they will go to Faujis.


So we had better get OBL. Are you going to help me get him?" Oh ho, dead is being, I thought. Maray gaye. " You are also too much" I said to Zardari. " You should have told Americans that we can't get OBL for the simple reason that it has been privatised. You should have told us before privatisation that you wanted it; we would have given it to you, instead of to consortium of bankers, hain ji?" Zardari and Saaq Dar Saab both slapped their foreheads. Fly must have sat on it. " Moreover" I said to Zardari, " you should tell Americans that getting OBL only is against their shaan. Such a small bank. Offer them State Bank of Pakistan. Also, management there is in our saying. Hamaray kehnay mein hai". Zardari and Saaq Dar Saab again slapped their foreheads. Flies are too many. " Anyways", I said, " they are already having State Bank of Pakistan, hain ji?" By now both Zardari and Saaq Dar Saab had slumped back in their chairs and were looking at ceiling. Must be leakage. Then Zardari hauled himself back up and said tiredly, " Mian Saab, please try to understand, there is no such thing as a free lunch". What rudery! I decided that next time I am bringing my own tiffin carrier with parathas, kababs, achaar, kulfa, palak gosht, biryani -- Zardari said, " I will have to take hands into my own matters". Saaq Dar Saab said, " you are also loosing your marbles". I said it is time for both Zardari and me to write latter to Obama. Okay, Zardari said, please write it now so that we can send it secretly without Faujis knowing about it. I wrote: Sometimes sometimes In my heart thought is coming, That your making Is being for me.


Zardari said, " how nice! But it is so familiar. Haven't I read it before?" Saaq Dar Saab was slumped back in chair, swatting more flies from his forehead. He explained, " It is a songof Pakeezah. Kabhi kabhi, meray dil mein khayal aata hai. Ke jaisay tujh ko banaya gaya hai meray liye". Then I wrote, " before you were bussing in stars somewhere -- " but I looked around and both Zardari and Saaq Dar were crying.


To be continued








Given the occasional stridency and the volatile nature of the debate about attacks on Indian students in Australia that has raged for the past few months, the fallout has been interesting to observe. For the most part, New Delhi has handled the matter admirably, taking a firm stand on the safety of Indian citizens but refusing the temptation of jingoistic rhetoric. Even more interesting as an illustration of its successful diplomacy has been the way it has managed to create opportunity out of the entire troubling affair. It might have been a low-key development, but the announcement of an India-Australia education council during Union minister of human resource development Kapil Sibal's recent trip to Australia could provide a template for broadening the scope of bilateral relations with various countries, as well as strengthening the education sector

The kind of education diplomacy this initiative represents bringing together the government, academia, business and industry of both countries to boost cooperation in education is not something that New Delhi has tried before. The timing for it is particularly propitious given the ongoing push to open the education sector to foreign universities. The obvious benefit of the council initiative if it is implemented properly is the enhancement of ties with Australia. But there are other benefits that could be more far-reaching.

The poster-child of India's economic growth has been its IT industry, but it is dogged by the perception that western companies funnel low-skill, high-quantity work to it while retaining projects higher up the food chain for themselves. The reality is that this is simply no longer the case. Increasingly, developing nations, including India, are becoming hubs for low-cost but high-impact innovation that has revolutionised the market in industries as diverse as automobiles and cellphones. But if India wishes to sustain this, it must deal with the problem of an education sector that is moribund on many levels, capable in elite niches of inculcating technical excellence but severely lacking when it comes to research and development.

This is where the council and others like it can be of tremendous help. When it comes to innovation and research, western universities remain unparalleled. If New Delhi could leverage their expertise establishing cooperative initiatives at the highest level to draw upon their best practices and experience it would accelerate the process of establishing and attracting world-class universities. And for foreign universities, the incentives would be obvious; a vast, talented labour pool to drive research projects. As far as diplomacy goes, such opportunities for mutual benefit must be leveraged if India is to become a knowledge power.







The BJP rally against price rise in the capital on Wednesday was the party's first road show since it got a new president. Nitin Gadkari couldn't quite hold out in the summer sun and had to shift to the shade. Will the UPA government fare better as the heat from soaring food prices gets to it? It will look for solace in monsoon predictions for this year, expected to be a lot better than last year. So, price rise may be blunted in coming months. The opposition, of course, won't wait that long. The Left parties and the BJP blame the Centre for the runaway prices. The concern is valid and welcome. But is food inflation the sole charge of the Union government? Should not state governments partake of some of the blame for wrong policies that have created bottlenecks in the production and distribution of essentials like cereals, sugar and vegetables?

The point is, state governments and the Centre must work in tandem if food prices are to be brought under control. Opposition parties that take to the streets to protest the price rise rarely recognise this link. They find in the food crisis a convenient tool for political mobilisation. Few of them back up their attack on the Centre's policies with an alternative plan. A rollback of fuel prices alone is unlikely to help matters, it will simply kick the inflation football down the road. State governments, many of them led by parties outside the UPA, can intervene effectively in food production and distribution processes. Better productivity and less wastage of produce will help to contain prices and benefit both producers and consumers. Nothing prevents them from acting on these matters.







While it is imperative for India's well-being that we seek a peaceful resolution of our long-standing conflict with Pakistan without resort to war, it is equally important that we do not make peace with the ideology that created Pakistan through India's bloody partition in 1947. That would mean accepting the perverse notion that Hindus and Muslims cannot coexist peacefully within the same nation and society. Pakistan can afford to hold tight to that destructive ideology because it allowed a near-total ethnic cleansing of Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities at the time of partition. But Mahatma Gandhi and his colleagues had the good sense to avoid making India a mirror image of Pakistani state and society.

The core issue for Pakistan is Kashmir. But the core issue for India is not just terrorism but protecting our pluralist democracy. Kashmir is not mere territory to be kept under Indian jurisdiction at all costs. But we cannot accept the Pakistani agenda because that would mean accepting the logic of partition: that within the territory of each arbitrarily carved out nation state, every ethnic majority of its region is entitled to subjugate, eliminate or push out a minority. That will push us to the inexorable logic of a nation state where tragedy after tragedy of ethnic cleansing, murderous riots and political chaos overtakes its democratic and secular character.

As long as the subcontinent's Hindus and Muslims believed they were two religious-cultural communities living and sharing a common soil, they could easily work out decent norms for co-living on the basis of other common layers of identity such as language, village and culture. But once the corrosive power of ethnic nationalism invaded us from Europe in the late-19th and early-20th century, religious differences began to be dragged into the realm of politics for mobilising communal monoliths. Once a group begins to subjugate its multi-layered identities in favour of one single voracious identity, especially if that identity is acquired politically and asserted as a nationality primarily in opposition to some other group, rather than used for self expression and internal cultural bonding, it becomes a sure recipe for civil strife and inter-group enmity.

Muslim politics in the subcontinent moved through distinct phases in the 20th century. It started with Sir Syed Ahmed describing Hindus and Muslims as the "two eyes of Bharat Mata". Thereafter, it moved on to dealing with power imbalances within the framework of sibling relationships with Hindus described as elder brothers who needed to take the extra step to accommodate the aspirations of their younger Muslims brothers. It required the genius of Iqbal and Jinnah to convince themselves and their followers that "the two eyes of Bharat Mata" were actually two irreconcilable nationalities.

Iqbal, the leading brain behind the idea of Pakistan, had in his early years composed many a beautiful verse in praise of the composite culture of Hindustan. His famous poem, 'Sare jahan se achchha Hindustan hamara' evokes a sentimental image of Hindus and Muslims singing joyously together in the same gulistan (garden). However, he rejected Indian nationalism after returning from Europe in 1908 and became obsessed with forging Muslim solidarity as a distinct 'nationality'. His demand for Pakistan was based on the head-counting majoritarian principle imbibed from Europe.

Jinnah succeeded in convincing a section of Muslims that they were a monolithic community incapable of peaceful coexistence with Hindus. Consequently, millions were uprooted from their homes and the land they considered their own. The logic of majoritarianism identifying a group by certain objective characteristics, and then claiming the right to drive them out or subjugate them as a hated minority is inherently arbitrary and divisive.

The Pakistani claim to Kashmir rests on the assumption that Muslim-majority J&K should become part of Pakistan. Pakistan's military and intelligence establishment has a deep vested interest in keeping the Kashmir issue on permanent boil to destroy India's pluralist democracy. Jihadi rhetoric and the politics that goes with it allow them to keep their people in a permanent state of frenzy, overshadowing important issues related to internal politics and government accountability, thus allowing Pakistan's army an excessively prominent role in the political, administrative, cultural and even religious life of the country. If Pakistanis see Hindus and Muslims live peacefully in India, they are bound to question the need for partition.


The inability of Pakistan-inspired secessionists to carry even a token minority of Kashmiri Pandits of the Valley, Buddhists of Ladakh, Dogras, Gujjars, Sikhs and other minorities of J&K, along with them, shows that the slogan of "azadi" is not proof of their democratic credentials. It is only a cover for the Pakistani agenda of forcing yet another partition on the basis of religion. This ideology leads a section of Hindus to believe that if Muslims cannot coexist peacefully with them in areas where Muslims are a majority, why should Hindus be forced to live with Muslims where Hindus are a majority? Why should there be plebiscite only in Kashmir? Why not all over India? But that would mean India becoming another Pakistan a fate we should avoid at all costs for it means destroying the core values of our culture and civilisation.

The writer is a senior fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.






Well-known feminist poet from Pakistan, Kishwar Naheed , 70, was born in Bulandshahr in western Uttar Pradesh. A distinct female voice in the traditionally male-dominated Urdu writing, Naheed has produced over 30 years a solid body of work that is innovative, political and defiant. She spoke to Meenakshi Sinha while in Delhi for the annual Jashn-e-Bahar mushaira:

What is the state of Urdu poetry in Pakistan?
Urdu poetry is thriving in Pakistan, especially among the young. Being adept at English, French, Spanish and other languages, they have access to translations. The language is thriving now.

Which Indian poet has impressed you?
In India, Shahyrar writes very good Urdu poetry. Both countries have a vibrant culture in this field.

Stemming from your defiant, feminist writings where and how do you see the man-woman relationship in today's time?
We've more and more women working in offices and stepping out of their homes for an independent identity. There've also been comparative studies on this aspect, but the man-woman relationship between a husband and wife is very obscure in our society. That's because a man is supposed to be the earner and the woman is expected to be the server. There's no change in this mindset. We have to change this behavioural structure.

But this struggle has been going on for generations.
For the last 12 years in India 33 per cent reservation of seats for women have been repeatedly in demand. But Parliament is not passing it because there are mindsets working against it. Similarly, there are 33 per cent reserved seats for women in local governance in Pakistan. But now they are demanding that it should be reduced because they are scared of increasing presence of women at local governance level. These scared people have to be countered by a very independent and coordinated approach of women in this struggle for recognition.

What do you propose should be done to this effect?
I always say, we don't need women's emancipation. We need men's emancipation. Their mindsets have to be changed. That's all.

In what ways are women subjugated?
Subjugation of women will continue till such time when women will feel the need to give themselves importance. If they stop being dolls and doormats at the same time, only then will the real woman come out. The need of the hour is women of substance. They should step out and make their place in the sun.

To what extent do radical women writers thrive in Pakistan?
All the writers are radical because there's no choice. They don't have any option other than being radical. This voice has been accepted and has existed since i started writing in 1961. Other public intellectuals in this line of thought are Asma Jahangir, Rana Liyakat Ali Khan and Fatima Jinnah who fought elections against a dictator.

Isn't there a resistance to your voice? How do you deal with it?
Resistance doesn't matter. It just provokes you to write more. Our way of dealing with the situation is that despite our writings being ignored, we continue to write and keep a strong pen.

Do women writers in Pakistan delve into current topics like terrorism, global warming or the diaspora angst?
Very much, they are clued into current issues and continuously touch upon them in their writings.







My cellphone squawks. I've received a message, or what is known as an SMS. For a moment, just for a moment, hope dawns. Could it be just this once, please let it be someone calling me to a social get-together (Your presence is cordially solicited at the annual Monster's Ball; guess who's the Monster?)? Or could it be from a reader (Yo, Snotball, your last column was truly incredible it stank even more than usual. How do you manage to plumb ever-new depths of imbecility?)? Is it either of the two? Sure, the same way as it's going to snow in Delhi in June and this year Diwali and Christmas will fall on the same day, thanks to climate change. Climate doesn't change that much. Nor do the SMSs that i get.


I display the message: SAVE 50% of Electricity Bill! Govt-approved GERMAN-patent POWER SAVER! Only Rs XYZ! Instal Today, Enjoy tomorrow!! And if it's not a Govt-approved GERMAN-patent POWER SAVER, it's a: Lose Fat 'n' Flab, with SAUNA BELT as shown on TV! No exercise, no diet, Guaranteed loss! Send money NOW for FREE TRIAL! And if it's not a TV-shown SAUNA BELT, send money NOW, it's JHAKHRA MOTORS! Get best deals on ALL AUTOS/2-Wheelers/ 3-Wheelers/Wheeler-Dealers! Jaali Driving Licence thrown in For Free with Every Purchase!! And if it's not Jhakhra Jaali Driving Licence Free with Every Purchase, it's: Roti, Kapda, MAKAN! Plots, Villas, Penthouses, 2BHK, 3BHK, 4BHK. Plus SQ. FULL BACK-UP, CLUBHOUSE, BOOK NOW, for HUNGAMA DISCOUNT!! Jhuggijhopri Developers & Builders.


How do they manage to fit them all in? No, i don't mean how do they manage to fit in all the POWER-approved GERMAN-savers, or the TV Belts as shown on SAUNA, No exercise, No diet, or the Jaali AUTOS, Wheeler-Dealers FREE with Every Purchase, or the 2BHK, 3BHK Full BACK-UP. India's got a total landmass of 2,973,190 sq km and at a pinch it can fit in a few German Saunas, SQ and all. And if it begins to become a tight squeeze, we could always take over Bhutan, or the Maldives, or something, to accommodate the spillover of Free Jaali Driving Licences.


No, what i can't figure out is how do they whoever it is that 'they' are manage to fit in all these SMSs into my cellphone. It's pretty dinky, my cellphone. Maybe 10 cm high, and 5 cm wide. How can it possibly cram in all those dozens, hundreds of unasked for messages that get shoved into it like the telephonic equivalent of an enema?


I'm told it's all thanks to technology. Broadband technology, aka 2G technology, which is what we have now. When we had 1G technology, or landline technology, there was no techno-space for us to get unsolicited calls or messages from people selling German driving licences, or Nigerian gold bonds, or whatever. In those days all we got were wrong numbers. If you got a wrong number, you exchanged pleasantries (Stupid bugger, can't dial straight, or what?/ Bloody idiot, if it's the wrong number why did you answer?) after which both parties hung up, honour satisfied. Then we got cellphones, and 2G telephony. And the SMSs began, 24x7. And now the sarkar is holding auctions for 3G telephony. Which means 3 times MORE Jaali Germans, golden Nigerians, 3BHK Wheeler-Dealers, and SAUNA BELTS with built-in TVs. There'll be no time for inessential activities like sleeping, eating, going to the loo. All we'll have time for is receiving SMSs. From Govt-approved German Sauna Wheeler-Dealers as seen on TV.


3G? No thank you, ji. Even 2G is too G for me.








In a world that mixes up sheer numbers with qualities that can be described as pleasant, it's de rigeur to celebrate the 'biggest selling authors', the 'biggest box office-earning movies', the 'most populated countries' etcetera etcetera. But without making a fetish out of the pixies that are 'success' and 'popularity', there are times when we give that appreciative nod to 'quality', unmindful of 'how many' and 'how much'. Which is why, regardless of whether you agree with the 'results', it brings a smile to our Babel lips to hear that an unofficial survey by Unesco has conducted a worldwide vote on the 'sweetest language in the world'.

The unofficial winner (of this unofficial survey) turns out to be Bengali. With its undulating row of vowels and soft-paletted consonants, not to mention its shades of sibilants and subtle elongations and contractions, that Bengali (Bangla in Bengali) has a dreamy, sensuous tone to many ears can't be denied. Followed in the 'sweet list' by 'Spanish' and 'Dutch', many Bengalis would miss what many of them would consider 'fellow sweeteners for the tongue': Urdu and French — one with much historic links, the other with much romantic ones.

To make the 'sweetest language' a source of pride for a particular group that speaks Bengali — Bangladeshis, for whom it is the national language and for the defence of which they created a country; Bengalis in India, who treat it as a culturally superior form to other Indian languages, even if English continues to remain their badge of 'social mobility' pride; Bengalis anywhere in the world, who treat the language as their Jerusalem of sorts to mark their wandering tribe's identity — is inconsequential. What is of consequence is that a language that has the numbers but doesn't advertise power but something else is being feted. As they say in Bengali: apurbo, or chomothkar. Take your pick.





It was hardly a scorcher of a rally but BJP president Nitin Gadkari certainly felt the heat when he fainted during the proceedings. But to the party's credit, it has certainly turned the heat on the UPA on the price rise issue.

Despite soaring temperatures, Mr Gadkari was able to mobilise over two lakh BJP workers to come to Delhi, the first show of strength by the party chief. This suggests that the BJP, after wandering about directionless for many months after the last Lok Sabha elections, is beginning to take its role as the largest Opposition party seriously. This is something it should have done much earlier when prices started spiraling and hurting the common man.

In the year up to April 2010, the food price index has gone up 17.65 per cent and the fuel price index 12.45 per cent. Every day, we hear stories of deprivation and hardship. All this is tailor-made for an active Opposition. It is also heartening to see the BJP behaving in a mature and democratic manner on the issue of Naxalism. Following the massacre of 76 CRPF jawans in Dantewada, the BJP did not come out all guns blazing against the home minister but instead lent him its support. This is a rare instance of an Opposition party putting the nation's interests above its own. So while he got off to a faltering start, Mr Gadkari seems to have revitalised the party to some extent. The factionalism that was tearing the party apart also seems more under control now.

But Mr Gadkari has his work cut out for him. Charismatic party leaders like Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi are still chary of sharing a platform with him. The challenge for Mr Gadkari will be to project himself as a unifier in a party that has increasingly been seen as at odds with itself. There are several issues on which the BJP can take the government on, the price rise being only one of them. Though once a party of governance, the BJP has not been able to raise any foreign policy issues like that of India's stand on Afghanistan or indeed the ambivalent relationship with the US in any significant manner. The era of the grand stalwarts like A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani are well and truly over.

Mr Gadkari is widely regarded as a nuts and bolts man, a man who gets things done without saying much. Now all the 'nuts and bolts' man needs to do is to consistently put the government on the mat on bread and butter issues.





Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth centenary celebrations, to begin next month, have already set the drums rolling at the 'cultural departments' of the government, both Central and states. Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, ever anxious to get a foot in the door, has renamed as 'Rabindra Ghat' the crematorium by the river Hooghly where the poet was cremated 69 years ago. That jells with a Tagore song if sung in reverse: for you it is the beginning, for me it is the end.

Not to be outmanoeuvred by Mamata's Trinamool Congress, the ruling Left Front in West Bengal is christening even routine rural development projects with the 'R' word embedded in it. At an even higher level, Tagore's institutionalising is progressing with great fervour. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has announced that a "distinguished panel" of 25 persons would oversee the celebrations. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR) is unveiling plans to showcase Tagore to the world, maybe to display India's 'soft power'. It could well be so as the PM has announced that the celebrations would be 'jointly' held with Bangladesh, the second nation of the subcontinent with a Tagore song as its national anthem. Besides, Unesco has passed a resolution that it would celebrate Tagore's 150 years and the centenaries of Pablo Neruda and Aimé Césaire' as an instance of what it has named, with appropriate profundity, as the 'reconciled universal'.

While there is nothing wrong in occasional bardolatry — it shows we can worship people other than T20 cricketers and glamorous filmstars —  India is not yet quite clear about Tagore's status in public life. He surely can't be the Poet Laureate as that's indeed a government job, or a "stipendiary poet", as Edward Gibbon described it when he identified Petrarch as the first to hold that title. But is Tagore India's National Poet, in the sense that Neruda is of Chile, or Shakespeare of Britain? In popular discourse he is indeed one of India's several 'national poets', Bankim Chandra Chatterjee and Subramanya Bharathi being among the others. But none of these men, Tagore included, is held by popular acclaim as representative of the identity and belief of India's national culture.

In fact, to many in Delhi, Bharathi is not much beyond the name of a prominent road, despite the Tamil poet having spent years in Varanasi to appreciate India's cultural diversity. And poor Bankim is remembered outside his Bengal as the man who composed the 'rival' national anthem, 'Vande Mataram', his more material identity as the father of modern Bengali prose being relegated to obscurity. In India's babel, if Tagore is best recognised among his fellow National Poets it is because of him being the composer of Jana Gana Mana, the national anthem. Linguistic division has turned India's national culture into a mere phrase. It is rather hypocritical, therefore, to claim that Tagore occupies a similar place on the mind of the average Indian as Cervantes does with the Spaniard, or Kazi Nazrul Islam with the Bangladeshi.

Arguably, much of Tagore's linguistic 'otherness', as perceived outside Bengal, could be overcome through better translation efforts, which are now in evidence. But the otherness more difficult to negotiate lies in his views on everything — from nationhood to personal behaviour — that post-Independence India has accepted as its ideal. These were moulded by Gandhi and Tagore was critical of these to his last breath. In an acclaimed article in The New York Review in 2001, Amartya Sen, the polymathic economist, enumerated the fields where the two men had polar differences: nationalism, patriotism, the importance of cultural exchange, the role of rationality and of science, and the nature of economic and social development.

In strictly political terms, one wonders if there were more disagreements between Washington and Moscow in the height of the Cold War. Gandhi, it seems in retrospect, was not quite familiar with the evolution of Tagore's works, from a sectarian and nationalist phase when he was under his father Maharshi Debendranath's (died 1905) influence, towards an internationalist outlook and an infinitely more tolerant view of the West than Gandhi's. He no doubt coined the term Mahatma for Gandhi and possibly liked him too. But Gandhi made the blunder of taking him for a swadeshi supporter. Gandhi was the messiah of Independence but Tagore saw its dark underbelly and left its vivid account in his novel, The Home and the World, which was made into a gripping film by Satyajit Ray in another age, in short stories, poems, and in an essay poignantly titled, 'The Cult of the Charka'.

Tagore was older than Gandhi by eight years but there was an immense gap between their perspectives. Gandhi indeed could visualise an independent India pretty early on but it is doubtful if Tagore ever thought of India as a sovereign nation. In December 1911, his 'Jana Gana Mana' was sung at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress after the Viceroy's office had rejected it as the opening number for the Delhi Durbar with George V at its centre, for its deficit of 'loyalty'. The swap is significant.

Tagore may be a national poet but it is doubtful if he is the nation's poet.





At a time when granaries are overflowing, and stockpiles of food are rotting in the open, India is preparing to bring in a National Food Security Act. Saddled with the world's largest population of hungry and malnourished, the draft bill certainly provides a ray of hope for the hungry millions.

If enacted properly, it can turn appalling hunger into history. But if the intention is to only repackage old wine in a new but broken bottle, it will turn out to be a historic blunder.

The primary objective of the draft Bill, as being suggested by the empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM), seems to be to simply re-classify the population below the poverty line which is entitled to receive 25 kg (or 35 kg if the eGoM agrees) of grain at Rs 3 per kg. Moreover, by relying once again on a bogus Public Distribution System (PDS) to reach food to the needy, I think we are neither serious nor sincere in pulling the country out of hunger for all time to come.

As the new harvest flows in, the question that needs to be asked is why acute hunger prevails in the villages that actually produce food? How come a large population of the hungry reside in those very areas that constitute the country's food bowl? I fail to understand why in Punjab, where food rots in the open, almost 10 per cent of the population should go to bed hungry? Why is that Punjab, the best-performing state in terms of addressing hunger, should be ranked below Gabon, Honduras and Vietnam in the Global Hunger Index?

There is something terribly wrong in the way we have looked at hunger all these years. We have failed to realise that any programme aimed at providing food-for-all on a long-term basis has to look beyond food stamps and the PDS. Including the destitute and the homeless in the food distribution channel and by ensuring 35 kg of food entitlement per family (including nutritious millets and pulses) is not enough to remove hunger.

Instead of sending search teams to 22 countries that have food security programmes, the eGoM will do well to look inwards, and will find sustainable answers that can be easily replicated. Ironically, the answer lies in the hunger belt of Kalahandi-Bolangir-Koraput in western Orissa. Many years ago, I had stumbled on a cluster of villages in the heart of Bolangir district, which had not witnessed hunger for nearly three decades. My colleagues have since then travelled to numerous other villages throughout the country, which have adopted a socially workable 'sharing and caring' approach to remove hunger. If these villages can do it, I see no reason why a majority of the six lakh villages cannot become hunger-free.

In Bolangir, or in rural Pune, some villages have built traditional but small foodgrain banks. Those who are poor and jobless find solace in these grain banks. They are provided an adequate quantity of grains on credit, with the promise that they will return it in kind (along with a small portion as interest) at the time of the harvest when they find work. This cycle of 'sharing and caring' has built quite a sizeable foodgrain bank in these hunger-free villages. All that is needed is to train women self-help groups and NGOs in other villages, and food security will become the responsibility of the people.Making villages hunger-free will also limit the dependence on the unreliable PDS and thereby reduce the mounting food subsidy. It has to be backed by policies that ensure that agriculture is not sacrificed for the sake of industry, mining and exports. As Hivre bazaar in central Maharashtra has shown, the answer lies in giving control over jan, jal and jungle to the people.





Mr Pawar, forget the IPL, deal with the price rise

Rajdeep Sardesai's article Let's play straight (Beyond the Byte, April 16) made for interesting reading. The present IPL controversy shows that some Indian politicians are always at the forefront of unlawful activities that involve huge sums of money. Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, in a recent interview to a news channel, expressed concern over the IPL mess and even tried to defend IPL chief Lalit Modi. Hopefully, in the coming days, Pawar will also consider speaking to the press about the price rise with as much vigour and sincerity as he spoke of IPL.

Satya Veer Singh, Faridabad


Deal with Maoists on the ground

Sudhanshu Sarangi's suggestion that the government uses air raids to target the Maoists is impractical (Open up the sky, April 21). The use of fighter jets depends on various factors, including the climate over which we have no control. Also, imprecise air raids could kill innocent people. The only way to deal with the Maoists is to strengthen our military and provide our jawans with state-of-the-art weapons. A tough strategy to overpower the Maoists is the need of the hour.

Manish Kumar Mall, via email


Justice delayed, not denied

With reference to the story Jessica killer guilty beyond doubt (April 20), the Supreme Court's ruling against Manu Sharma is a historic decision and will go a long way towards building an equitable society. Though it took 11 years to convict Sharma, the outcome of the case once again proves that justice delayed is not always justice denied. With this, the Lall family finally gets justice.

Prakash F. Madhwani, Bangalore






When I was 18, I attended my first meeting of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) student organisation in my college campus in North Carolina. At the time, I was barely out to anyone, not even to myself. For days, I had been trying to muster the courage to attend, and even minutes before I wasn't sure I was going to be able to walk through the door.

Inside, there were about 50 students. The room was too small. There weren't enough chairs. One of the organisers passed around a legal pad for us to sign. "You don't have to use your real name," she said. "We just need a head count." When the pad reached me, I looked at all the names listed. I didn't recognise any of them, but would someone else recognise mine? I scribbled the first thing that came to mind.

When the meeting started, I was shocked when the vice-president of the club introduced herself as Swati. Could it be? Another Indian? I stared at her for much of the meeting, barely paying attention to the proceedings. At some point I noticed her scrutinising the legal pad, then looking up in my direction.

After the meeting adjourned, I immediately bolted for the door. I wanted out quickly, but I got snarled up in a crowd. Waiting, I felt a tap on my shoulder. "Elvis?" I turned around. It was Swati. "Elvis Presley?" she asked. "Not my real name," I said, blushing. She smiled.

She was a senior. She said she had never met another queer South Asian and was thrilled. Later that week, Swati picked me up from my dorm room. She drove me to her house and cooked rice and daal for me that tasted just like my mother's. Then she took me to a local independent bookstore, where she bought me a copy of Armistead Maupin's novel Tales of the City, set in San Francisco in the 1970s. It was the first book I'd ever read with gay characters. I felt like I was seeing myself for the first time.  

Later that year I told my brother. A couple years after that to my mother.  My father and the rest of my relatives in America would follow. It's been relatively easy for me. In 18 years of coming out to people, I've never had anyone reject me. On the contrary, my family has offered love and encouragement beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I'm lucky. But when I think about how easy it seems now, I try to think of all the people for whom this isn't the case. I also try to remember the frightened 18-year-old in the LGBT meeting in North Carolina who didn't know who he was, who couldn't even write his own name, and who finally found himself in the pages of a Maupin novel.



Man proposes; nature disposes. We are seldom more vulnerable than when we feel insulated. The miracle of modern flight protected us from gravity, atmosphere, culture, geography. It made everywhere feel local, interchangeable. Nature interjects, and we encounter -- tragically for many -- the reality of thousands of miles of sepa- ration. We discover that we have not escaped from the phys- ical world after all.

Complex, connected societies are more resilient than sim- ple ones -- up to a point. During the east African droughts of the early 1990s, I saw at first hand what anthropologists and economists have long predicted: those people who had the fewest trading partners were hit hardest. Connectivity provided people with insurance: the wider the geographical area they could draw food from, the less they were hurt by a regional famine.

But beyond a certain level, connectivity becomes a hazard.
The longer and more complex the lines of communication and the more dependent we become on production and business elsewhere, the greater the potential for disruption. This is one of the lessons of the banking crisis. Impoverished mortgage defaulters in the United States -- the butterfly's wing over the Atlantic -- almost broke the glob- al economy. If the Eyjafjallajökull volcano -- by no means a mon- ster -- keeps retching, it could, in these fragile times, produce the same effect.

We have several such vulner- abilities. The most catastrophic would be an unexpected solar storm -- which causes a surge of direct current down our elec- tricity grids, taking out the trans- formers. It could happen in sec- onds; the damage and collapse would take years to reverse, if we ever recovered.

As New Scientist points out, an event like this would knacker most of the systems which keep us alive. It would take out water treatment plants and pumping stations. It would paralyse oil pumping and delivery, which would quickly bring down food supplies. It would clobber hospitals, financial systems and just about every kind of business -- even the manufacturers of can- dles and paraffin lamps. Emergency generators would function only until the oil ran out. Burnt-out transformers cannot be repaired; they must be replaced. Over the past year I've sent freedom of information (FoI) requests to electricity transmit- ters and distributors, asking them what contingency plans they have made, and whether they have stockpiled transformers to replace any destroyed by a solar storm. I haven't got to the end of it yet, but the early results suggest that they haven't.

There's a similar lack of planning for the possibility that global supplies of oil might soon peak, then go into decline.
My FoI requests to the British government reveal that it has made no contingency plans. The issue remains the preserve of beardy lentil-eaters such as, er, the US joint forces com- mand. Its latest report on possible future conflicts maintains that "a severe energy crunch is inevitable without a massive expansion of production and refining capacity".

It suggests that "by 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10m barrels per day". A global oil shortage would soon expose the weaknesses of our complex economic systems. As the cultural anthropologist Joseph Tainter has shown, their dependence on high energy use is one of the factors that makes complex societies vulnerable to collapse.

His work has helped to overturn the old assumption that social complexity is a response to surplus energy. Instead, he proposes, complexity drives higher energy production. While complexity solves many problems -- such as reliance on an exclusively local and therefore vulnerable food supply -- it's subject to diminishing returns. In extreme cases, the cost of maintaining such systems causes them to collapse.

Tainter gives the example of the western Roman empire.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, the emperors Diocletian and Constantine sought to rebuild their diminished territories: "The strategy of the later Roman empire was to respond to a near-fatal challenge in the third century by increasing the size, complexity, power, and costliness of... the government and its army. ... The benefit/cost ratio of imperial government declined.
In the end the western Roman empire could no longer afford the problem of its own existence." The empire was ruined by the taxes and levies on manpower Diocletian and Constantine imposed to sustain their massive system. Tainter contrasts this with the strategies of the Byzantine empire from the 7th century onwards. Weakened by plague and re-invasion, the government responded with a programme of systematic sim- plification. Instead of maintaining and paying its army, it grant- ed soldiers land in return for hereditary military service: from then on they had to carry their own costs. It reduced the size and complexity of the administration and left people to fend for themselves. The empire survived and expanded.

A similar process is taking place in Britain today: a simplifi- cation of government in response to crisis. But while the pub- lic sector is being pared down, both government and private enterprise seek to increase the size and complexity of the rest of the economy. If the financial crisis were the only constraint we faced, this might be a sensible strategy. But the energy costs, environmental impacts and vulnerability to disruption of our super-specialised society have surely already reached the point at which they outweigh the benefits of increasing complexity.

For the third time in two years we've discovered that fly- ing is one of the weakest links in our overstretched system.
In 2008, the rising cost of fuel drove several airlines out of business. The recession compounded the damage; the volcano might ruin several more. Energy-hungry, weather-dependent, easily disrupted, a large aviation industry is one of the hard- est sectors for any society to sustain, especially one beginning to encounter a series of crises. The greater our dependence on flying, the more vulnerable we are likely to become.

The state of global oil supplies, the industry's social and environmental costs and its extreme vulnerability mean that current levels of flying -- let alone the growth the government anticipates -- cannot be maintained indefinitely. We have a choice. We can start decommissioning this industry while there is time and find ways of living happily with less of it. Or we can sit and wait for physical reality to simplify the system by more brutal means.

The Guardian






Philosopher and educational reformer John Dewey summed up thus: "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." In the debate on what the Indian Institutes of Technology should teach, it can be claimed that an expansion of curricula will work to everybody's benefit, provided accreditation, objectives and operations are taken care of.


IITs are India's premier higher education institutes. Expanding their scope is part of the scheme to overhaul higher education. Therefore, it's good news that the Union HRD ministry is set to amend the IIT Act so that IITs can offer medical courses, which three IITs are already considering. In fact, last August, IIT-Kharagpur signed an agreement with University of California, San Diego, for a state-of-the-art hospital and a medical college, whereby it would enrol graduate and post-graduate students along with researching medicine and bio-medical engineering. Given UC San Diego's expertise in the field, this would bring the most advanced medical technology and science to our medical education. An IIT, additionally, would bring engineering and medicine under the same roof.


Social sciences and humanities had been introduced at some IITs, aiming to expand the intellectual horizon of students absorbed in a very rigorous and technical field. Since then, IITs have desired to emulate the "all-round excellence" of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and produce quality scholars in, say, linguistics, literature, political science, etc. Medicine is more than just a larger diversification. IITs will need the Medical Council of India's accreditation, apart from the said amendment. But a tussle between the HRD ministry (responsible for higher education and the IITs) and the health ministry (responsible for medical education, which had asked IITs to stay off the MBBS) will do damage. That politics must be smoothed out, otherwise the project will suffer conflict of authority, confusion over accountability and deadlock in raising funds.







As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh travels to a Saarc conclave in Bhutan next week, our security establishment is back to debating whether he should meet his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani on the margins of the summit. The case for a substantive conversation — not just a "run in" or an "exchange of pleasantries" — is a straightforward one. The PM is scheduled to sit down separately with all the other Saarc leaders. To single out Gilani, by not meeting him, will only turn the entire focus on the regional forum — which now has many international observers including the US, China, Japan, Korea, and the EU — on to Delhi's tense relations with Islamabad. Worse still, such an approach would reinforce a growing worldwide perception of Indian unreasonableness towards Pakistan.


In fact, it's about time Delhi made it a standard practice for the PM, his ministerial colleagues and senior officials to seek out meetings with their Pakistani counterparts at all regional and international gatherings. Given the bitter and bloody legacy, it is in India's interest to keep all channels of communication with Pakistan open all the time. By making these meetings routine, Delhi will also be able to reduce the extraordinary burden of expectations from every meeting between the leaders of the two countries. Discarding the practice of crafting joint statements at the end of every meeting should help limit the kind of over-interpretation that came in the wake of the talks between the PM and Gilani at the NAM summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, last year.


Such a meeting in Bhutan might not necessarily resolve the current disputation on the terms for the resumption of the stalled dialogue. It is nevertheless worth trying. India insists on "credible action" against the plotters of the Mumbai attack as a precondition for the dialogue. Pakistan wants an unconditional return to the so-called composite dialogue. While India's demands are genuine, it must also factor in the psychological dimension of the relationship with Pakistan. The surest way of getting Islamabad to say no is for Delhi to demand it vigorously. It is only by talking to Islamabad, treating its ruling elite in a differentiated manner, and exploring many indirect approaches that Delhi can hope to get satisfaction on its many concerns with Pakistan.








Income tax investigators have turned up at the offices of Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures Limited, owned by the Deccan Chronicle; at the Barakhamba Road office in Delhi of GMR Sports, the company through which the infrastructure giant GMR owns the Delhi Daredevils; at the office in Lucknow's Aliganj where the Sahara empire supervises, among other things, the preparations for Pune's new IPL team; at Vijay Mallya's Royal Challengers Sports Private Limited; at Shah Rukh Khan's Red Chillies, part-owner of the Kolkata team — indeed, at pretty much all the major IPL offices. Why, precisely? Because IPL is a hotbed for benami registration, money laundering? But does that imply that wholesale raids are permissible? Is a mere perception enough for business-disrupting activity of this sort? Is it not necessary to do some hard investigative work first, rather than to view public anger as a warrant for harassment?


This takes us back to the bad old days of the raid raj — for example, when V.P. Singh was finance minister — when the income tax department could be used as a tool in a class war, or political infighting, or outright harassment. There are no shortcuts here. The Indian people have come to understand the complicity of our politics in cricket's mis-administration: they will not be fooled by merely unleashing the forces of the coercive state on all and sundry. They need answers, they will expect a thorough, transparent investigation — and they will recognise, and not forgive, harassment by the state without due cause.


There is indeed a danger that an attempt to clean up the IPL will take on a dangerously anti-free enterprise tone. It is all too easy to slip into an easy, old-fashioned attack on money, or to make the claim that if a company is registered in a low-tax jurisdiction it is automatically up to no good. Such a claim is not borne out by facts; and those who would make such a claim muddy the waters alarmingly, jeopardising both the clean-up effort and Indian cricket's future. The government organs conducting the investigation must remember that they are in the spotlight: they will be expected to, in exemplary fashion, make clear the basis for any action. Otherwise, many will fail to be convinced of their effectiveness, and the feeling might gain ground that they are little more than a diversion, a sop to public anger. And that anger will just grow.









To break the rules, you must first know the rules." Google any close approximation of that phrase and you'll find a million references. This sage advice has been around for thousands of years, a basic tenet of would-be revolutionaries and paradigm-changers in virtually every profession known to humankind. Whether you are an artist aiming to revolutionise art — think Picasso — a writer challenging the rules of grammar, a CEO turning around a troubled company, or indeed a politician who wants to revamp the system, this is a universal principle any "outsider" would do well to internalise.


And yet, it was missing from the meteoric political career of Shashi Tharoor, who tried to position himself as a cutting-edge, game-changing, new-age Indian politician. Instead, before the meteor finally flared out with his resignation this week from the council of ministers, he repeatedly found himself portrayed as the hapless enfant terrible of Indian politics, or at least the Congress party. Many of his own colleagues viewed him as an arriviste, despite the fact that he brought years of international diplomatic experience to the table, not to mention great erudition and personal charm.


Does that mean Indian politics has no place for outsiders: mid-career lateral entrants who have earned a name

for themselves in diverse fields? There are many examples of lateral transfer efforts that have failed, from the Mumbai banker who plunged into electoral politics last year — but lost — to the many movie stars, corporate czars and others who have flirted with politics with some success, only to either lose interest or fade away.


On the other hand, there are many examples of the opposite: outsiders who have survived or succeeded in

politics, and some who even brought about radical changes. These include movie stars, lawyers, bureaucrats, editors and the like, with MGR, NTR, Kapil Sibal, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie coming to mind. The most prominent of these is of course Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. There are intriguing parallels between Dr Singh's career trajectory and that of his derailed protégé Dr Tharoor, but also important differences. They both have academic heft, with doctorates from well-known foreign universities; both wrote influential papers and books; and both had distinguished careers in multilateral organisations.


That's where the similarities end. Without going into their personal lives, which are as different as night and day, lessons can nevertheless be drawn from the very significant differences in their professional lives. The more morally inclined might compare Dr Singh's exceptional probity in public life, for it is unimaginable that he would ever be enmeshed in anything quite like the IPL controversy. And perception is as important as reality. In his eloquent post-resignation mea innocentia in Parliament, Shashi Tharoor tacitly conceded being tripped up by the familiar Caesar's-wife test, that is, the requirement to be above suspicion.


But that can't be, and isn't, the whole story. After all, politics is full of people who fail the Caesar's-wife test (or, for the more Swadeshi inclined, the similar test involving Lord Rama and his wife Sita). The deeper point of this saga lies in the answer to two questions: are outsiders in politics held to higher standards? And, what might improve their chances of success?


First, it is indeed the case that outsiders are held to higher standards, as they should be. By definition, such people are "anti politicians" who have raised the public's hope for better, cleaner politics. They represent the induction of proven talent, as opposed to the "usual suspects" of whom people are so cynical. It goes without saying that they are expected to be different and to be change agents.


As to what might improve their chances, let us revisit the ancient wisdom we started with: It's even part of the Dalai Lama's rules of living, though he slightly rearranges the words and emphasises the affirmative, "Learn the rules so you know how to break them properly." To reiterate, this applies to outsiders in every profession. Let's take an example from the corporate world, where the management of large global companies often involves the same kind of big budgets and internecine politicking that are commonplace in governments.


One of the biggest conundrums facing large multinational companies is the appointment of CEOs. Here is an extract from the bible of management science, The Harvard Business Review, of November 2007: "There is no more important decision a board can make than naming a CEO. Yet most companies pay scant attention to the issue of succession... The result? The hiring of an outsider who quickly gets mired in legacy and obstinacy, or an insider who knows the business but can't lead. That's why the best CEO should be both an insider and an outsider, says Harvard Business School professor Joseph L. Bower. 'The best leaders are people from inside the company who somehow have maintained enough detachment from the local traditions, ideologies, and shibboleths that they have retained the objectivity of an outsider,' Bower writes."


Substitute "company" with "party" and "CEO" with "minister" and that conclusion is just as apt. In fact, there are many concrete examples in politics worldwide. One of the best known "outsiders" in politics anywhere is Barack Obama. While his qualities as US president are open to debate, what is beyond question is that his breakthrough in healthcare reform represents a radical systemic change. What is less often recognised is that he was actually a ground-up insider, a party apparatchik who grew inside the system for years, before he became the great outsider. The same was the case with Ronald Reagan, another great "outsider" in American politics, though it is often forgotten that he transformed himself from B-movie star to politician for decades before becoming president.


And that is the crucial difference in outsiders who have succeeded in politics: acclimatisation. Shashi Tharoor spent decades outside India before being suddenly catapulted into the completely unfamiliar terrain of Indian politics. The Singhs, Sibals and MGRs first spent many years at the periphery or inside the system, retaining the outsider's perspective of the change that was needed while gaining the insider's instinct for the change that was possible.


The writer is a BJD MP








No matter how well-intentioned, sometimes drafters of a new law fail because they have not successfully put themselves in the shoes of those whom the law is meant to benefit. In such cases, these laws can cause more harm than good.


This is the case with certain provisions of the proposed Copyright Amendment Bill introduced in the Rajya Sabha on April 19, 2010. HRD Minister Kapil Sibal had his heart in the right place when he decided to introduce a provision in the Copyright Act, 1957, to allow the 70 million Indians with visual impairment, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other persons who cannot read printed material due to disabilities ("persons with print disabilities") to convert reading material into formats that they can "read". But the wording of the proposed amendment is completely inadequate and in fact, to a large extent even runs contrary to the intention of alleviating the problems of persons with print disabilities. Here are the key problems with the proposed amendment:


"Specially designed" formats: The Copyright Act, 1957 as it stands today does not explicitly permit persons with print disabilities to convert reading material into formats accessible to them without violating the rights of the copyright holder. In what appears to be an attempt to address these lacunae, the proposed amendment introduces an exception that will allow automatic conversion of reading material into "specially designed" formats such as Braille and sign language. Unfortunately, this will not benefit millions of persons affected by cerebral palsy, dyslexia and low vision and the millions of visually impaired persons who do not know Braille. To a person with a print disability who does not know Braille, the proposed amendment is as much help as a law that gives a person who knows only English, access to hitherto unavailable books, but in Chinese! For reading material to be accessible to them, such persons require the material to be available in mainstream formats such as audio, reading material with large fonts and e-texts compatible with screen reading software which are not "specially designed" formats. The drafters have obviously not understood that even modern day Braille production is dependent on the material being first converted into mainstream electronic formats such as MS Word because Braille translation software requires input in such formats. Given the above, the exception in favour only of "specially designed" formats is limiting and counterproductive and shows failure to take into account the advances in technology since Braille was devised in the early 1800s.


Problematic licensing system: For conversion to non-specialised and mainstream formats as mentioned above, the amendment proposes a cumbersome and time consuming licensing system which will permit only organisations working primarily for the benefit of the disabled to undertake conversion and distribution. This will prevent educational institutions, self help groups, other NGOs and print disabled individuals themselves, who at present undertake the bulk of the conversion, from undertaking conversion and distribution of reading material in accessible format. The proposed provision will essentially bring the entire conversion ecosystem to a halt and send persons with print disabilities to the dark ages.


Violation of fundamental rights: The proposed amendment violates the constitutional guarantee of equality, since it discriminates between those blind persons who know Braille and other print disabled persons (including the blind) who do not. Even otherwise, by failing to institute a meaningful copyright exception that would enable access to reading materials by the print disabled, the state will continue to fail in its duty to guarantee a meaningful right to life.


Members of the National Access Alliance, consisting of disability rights organisations and lawyers have been campaigning for the amendment to be reworded to ensure that it: a) allows the conversion of books into all formats that can be used by persons with print disabilities depending on their disability and comfort; b) allows all stakeholders including organisations, educational institutions and the persons with disability themselves to undertake the conversion; and c) ensures that the conversion of reading materials into accessible formats is not subject to red-tape and delay in their availability.


The members of the standing committee which will examine this amendment should close their eyes or incapacitate their hands for a minute and then try to read a book. This will place them in the shoes of the intended beneficiaries of the new law and help them appreciate their real concerns.


The writer is a lawyer and member of the National Access Alliance






 On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, is the middle-aged green movement ready to be revived by some iconoclastic young Turqs?


No, that's not a misspelling. The word is derived from Turquoise, which is Stewart Brand's term for a new breed of environmentalist combining traditional green with a shade of blue, as in blue-sky open-minded thinking. A Turq, he hopes, will be an environmentalist guided by science, not nostalgia or technophobia.


Ordinarily I'd be sceptical of either the word or the concept catching on, but I believe in never ignoring any trend spotted by Brand, especially on this topic. He was the one, after all, who helped inspire Earth Day by putting the first picture of the planet on the cover of his Whole Earth Catalogue in 1968. Now he has another book, Whole Earth Discipline, in which he urges greens to "question convenient fables." In that spirit, let me offer a few suggestions gleaned from the four decades of Earth Day. Here are seven lessons for Turqs of all ages:


1 It's the climate, stupid. The orators at the first Earth Day didn't deliver speeches on global warming. That was partly because there weren't yet good climate models predicting warming in the 21st century and partly because the orators weren't sure civilisation would survive that long anyway. They figured that the "overpopulated" world was about to be decimated by famine, the exhaustion of fossil fuels, global shortages of vital minerals, pollution, pesticides, cancer epidemics, nuclear-reactor meltdowns, and assorted technological disasters. Who had time to worry about a distant danger from a natural substance like carbon dioxide?


Well, the expected apocalypses never occurred, and it's the unexpected problem of greenhouse gases that concerns scientists today. Greens say they've shifted their priorities, too, but by how much?


2 You can never not do just one thing. Environmentalists of the '70s liked to justify their resistance to new technologies by warning that you could never do just one thing. It was a nice mantra and also quite accurate. New technologies do indeed come with unexpected side effects.


But resisting new technology produces its own unpleasant surprises. The "No Nukes" movement effectively led to more reliance on electricity generated by coal plants spewing carbon. The opposition to "industrial agriculture" led to the lower-yield farms that require more acreage, leaving less woodland to protect wildlife and absorb carbon.


3 "Let them eat organic" is not a global option. For affluent humans in industrialised countries, organic food is pretty much a harmless luxury. Although there's no convincing evidence that the food is any healthier or more nutritious than other food, if that label makes you feel healthier and more virtuous, then you can justify the extra cost. But most people in the world are not affluent, and their food budgets are limited. If they're convinced by green marketers that they need to choose higher-priced organic produce, they and their children are liable to end up eating fewer fruits and vegetables — and sometimes nothing at all, as occurred when Zambia rejected emergency food for starving citizens because the grain had been genetically engineered.


In Denialism, a book about the spread of unscientific beliefs, Michael Specter criticises the "organic fetish" as a "pernicious kind of denialism" being exported to poor countries. "Total reliance on organic farming would force African countries to devote twice as much land per crop as we do in the United States," he writes. "An organic universe sounds delightful, but it could consign millions of people in Africa and throughout much of Asia to malnutrition and death."


4 Frankenfood, like Frankenstein, is fiction. The imagined horrors of "frankenfoods" have kept genetically engineered foods out of Europe and poor countries whose farmers want to export food to Europe. Americans, meanwhile, have been fearlessly growing and eating them for more than a decade — and the scare stories seem more unreal than ever. Last week, the National Academy of Sciences reported that genetically engineered foods had helped consumers, farmers and the environment by lowering costs, reducing the use of pesticide and herbicide, and encouraging tillage techniques that reduce soil erosion and water pollution.


"I daresay the environmental movement has done more harm with its opposition to genetic engineering than with any other thing we've been wrong about," Brand writes in Whole Earth Discipline. "We've starved people, hindered science, hurt the natural environment, and denied our own practitioners a crucial tool."


5 "Green" energy hasn't done much for greenery — or anything else. Since the first Earth Day, wind and solar energy have been fashionable by a variety of names: alternative, appropriate, renewable, sustainable. But today, despite decades of subsidies and mandates, it provides less than one per cent of the electrical power in the world, and people still shun it once they discover how much it costs and how much land it requires.


6 "NEW NUKES" is the new "No Nukes." In the 1980s, Gwyneth Cravens joined the greens who successfully prevented the Shoreham nuclear reactor from opening on Long Island. Then, after learning about global warming, she discovered that the reactor would have prevented the annual emission of three million tons of carbon dioxide. She wrote a book on the nuclear industry titled, Power to Save the World.


Brand has also renounced his opposition to nuclear power and now promotes it as green energy because of its low-carbon emissions and its small footprint on the landscape. He quotes a climate scientist James Hansen: "One of the greatest dangers the world faces is the possibility that a vocal minority of antinuclear activists could prevent phase-out of coal emissions."


Some groups are still resisting nuclear power, just as groups like Greenpeace are fighting genetically engineered crops. But if Brand is right, maybe some greens will rediscover the enthusiasm for technology expressed in his famous line at the start of The Whole Earth Catalogue: "We are as gods and might as well get good at it."


Technological progress, not nostalgia or asceticism, is the only reliable way for greens' visions of "sustainability" to be sustained. Wilderness and wildlife can be preserved only if the world's farmers have the best tools to feed everyone on the least amount of land. Solar power will be widely adopted only if there are breakthroughs that make it more efficient.


Greenhouse gases will keep accumulating unless engineers build economical sources of low-carbon energy or develop techniques for sequestering carbon. And if those advances aren't enough to stop global warming, we'll want new tools for directly engineering the climate. Given the seriousness of the danger, Brand supports climate-engineering research, and he has updated his famous line from four decades ago. The update makes a good concluding lesson for Turqs: We are as gods and have to get good at it.








It is said that there are only two ways to get high technology: create it or steal it. Stealing has not been part of our national psyche; but our attempts to create technology, particularly for defence, have been feeble. In the defence sector, transfer of technology (ToT) from a donor to a receiver is a misnomer and not a reality. Nobody passes on the technology they have created and mastered: technology, like liberty, does not descend upon a people. Sellers generally withhold critical system components to create long term cashflow for themselves. What they provide to the buyer are often low-end technologies that are unsatisfying crumbs rather than dependable meals. For a nation of our size and hunger for high technology, mere crumbs will not do.


In any case, for any ToT process to be effective, the receiver of the technology should be advanced enough, and adequately primed to absorb the transfer. In practice as soon as any weapon system has been cleared for foreign purchase, the indigenous R&D effort has been dumped as an inconsequential activity.


The responsibility for creating defence technology rests with the Defence Research and Development Organisation, or DRDO. Its performance over the period of last five decades or so does not inspire much confidence. Major weapon platforms like the


Arjun main battle tank, the Tejas light combat aircraft, the Kaveri engine, the Trishul surface-to-air missile, and artillery guns have floundered for too long. Value-wise, we are still dependent on outside suppliers for nearly 70 per cent of our defence needs. The extent of that dependence is a major problem, a barrier to India's rise.


Various committees constituted to examine what ails the DRDO have not helped. Moreover, a superficial revamp of its organisational structure, and the institution of some procedural changes has not, and will not, prove to be sufficient. It is a law of nature that when an ailment is serious, the remedial measures are likely to be more fundamental. In what follows, I have highlighted some of the core issues confronting the DRDO. I believe that acknowledgement and consensus around these issues is a first step to solving them.


The first problem is the mismatch between the DRDO's assertions and its actual capabilities. Without proven ability, in the early '80s, the DRDO undertook major projects: aircraft, battle tanks, missiles. India invested large amounts of funds in each of these projects, more on promise than on demonstrated abilities. The DRDO never organically developed its research capabilities. Rather, it bit off the largest bite it possibly could. More often than not, it found the chewing to be beyond its abilities.


Then there's the DRDO's politicised internal culture. Its funding has been enabled by the traditionally close linkages between the scientific community and their political masters. Project proposals were not duly scrutinised; yet the funding was sanctioned. No proper feasibility studies were carried out. Once the projects were underway, subjective peer-reviews — by convenient peers selected by the developing agency itself — were put in place. Such informal reviews can never substitute for a hardnosed technical audit. Various steering and working group committees were put in place —- but they were given no authority to pull the plug if they were not satisfied. Cost and time overruns were infinitely flexible, with no accountability for delay or failure.


In addition, there is the question of a seriously faulty customer orientation. The DRDO does not appreciate that its raison d'être is to develop weapon systems for the services. Thus an antagonistic attitude between the DRDO and the services is frequently seen. A favourite phrase of one project manager was for the evaluating service agencies to "take it or leave it" — hardly a path for building synergy and customer focus.


This unhappy brew of poor management, an unmeritorious culture and the lack of visionary leadership condemned the DRDO to an unproductive backwater. But what should be done about it?


It is time to finally admit that a governmental environment may not be the most optimum location to overcome these shortcomings. What is urgently needed is a perspective plan for the modernisation of the armed forces, linked to its technology requirements. Once technological gaps are identified, an all-out effort must be launched to create these technologies — with participation from both the public and private sector. For this, DRDO could be a convener — but not the sole decision-making authority.


The writer, a former major general, was associated with the DRDO and with the Arjun project since its inception







The Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have focused, uniquely, on constitutional reform in this campaign. As Britain prepares to vote in what's its most open general election in decades and as the give and take of agendas in a hung Parliament looks very probable, the Westminster system may just see dramatic changes. Excerpts from the three manifestos:



• Strengthen Parliament so that it acts as a proper check on the power of ministers;

• Reduce the number of MPs by 10 per cent as part of a wider series of reforms to cut the cost of politics;

• Ensure each vote has equal value by reducing the wide discrepancies between constituency electorate sizes;

• Restore the integrity of the ballot and give voters the right to kick out MPs guilty of wrongdoing;

• Introduce new rules on lobbying and tougher restrictions on ex-ministers;

• Seek an agreed long-term settlement on party funding, including an across-the-board cap on donations as part of a comprehensive package of reform. This will mark the end of the big donor era and the sleaze it has sometimes entailed;


• Work to secure a consensus for a substantially elected House of Lords; and

• Address the West Lothian Question by ensuring that legislation on devolved issues that only affects England, or England and Wales, can only be passed with the consent of MPs from England, and where applicable Wales.



• To begin the task of building a new politics, we will let the British people decide on whether to make Parliament more democratic and accountable in referenda on reform of the House of Commons and House of Lords, to be held on the same day, by October 2011.

• To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election, we will hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons.

• We will ensure that the hereditary principle is removed from the House of Lords.

• To further strengthen our democracy and renew our constitution, we will legislate for fixed term Pparliaments and set up an all party commission to chart a course to a written constitution.

• The success of elections for local youth mayors and the UK youth parliament strengthens the case for reducing the voting age to 16, a change to which Labour is committed. However, we believe that prior to this happening, we need further to improve citizenship education in schools so that young people are better prepared for their democratic responsibilities; a report will be commissioned on how best to achieve this.



• Change politics and abolish safe seats by introducing a fair, more proportional voting system for MPs. Our preferred single transferable vote system gives people the choice between candidates as well as parties. Under the new system, we will be able to reduce the number of MPs by 150.

• Give the right to vote from age 16.

• Introduce fixed-term parliaments to ensure that the prime minister of the day cannot change the date of an election to suit themselves.

• Strengthen the House of Commons to increase accountability. We will increase parliamentary scrutiny of the budget and of government appointments .

• Replace the House of Lords with a fully-elected second chamber with considerably fewer members than the current House.

• Introduce a written constitution.

• We would introduce a recall system so that constituents could force a byelection for any MP found responsible for serious wrongdoing.

• Get big money out of politics by capping donations at £10,000 and limiting spending throughout the electoral cycle.

• Require all MPs, Lords and parliamentary candidates to be resident, ordinarily resident and domiciled in Britain for tax.








The many bewildering statements made by Shashi Tharoor during his brief stint as a minister have come in for some severe drubbing. Delhi-based daily Hindustan Express, in an editorial on April 20, writes: "What does one say about Mr Tharoor who, being a minister in the country's Ministry of External Affairs, chose to debunk the cardinal principles of its foreign policy..." The paper adds: "He was absolutely unmindful of the dignity of his ministerial chair and its maryada. Even if he only had any business interest in the bidding of any team of IPL it would not have been befitting the status of a minister. But here, he was involved in it because of a woman friend of his."


Akhbar-e-Mashriq, published from Delhi, Kolkata and Ranchi, in its editorial (April 16), has been more severe in its criticism of Tharoor: "Like how one gathers the impression about a daughter-in-law, after staying for some time in her in-laws' home, whether she can manage a stable family, similarly, it can be said about Shashi Tharoor that he is not cut out to shoulder ministerial responsibilities".


In the run-up to the resignation of Shashi Tharoor, IPL Chairman Lalit Modi has been the recipient of very angry comments. The daily Sahafat, published from Delhi, Mumbai, Lucknow and Dehradun, in an editorial entitled "Cricket shareefon ka khel naheen raha" (Cricket no longer a gentlemen's game), on April 17 writes: "It can be said without any fear of contradiction that Lalit Modi has transformed the beautiful game of cricket into a dirty business, which can also be the cause of its decline. He has indulged in some activities which have created the scope for trickery, dubious alliances and bribery".


Delhi-based daily, Jadeed Khabar (April 15) writes: "If the government wants to do something, it should find out the sources and objectives of money coming to and going from IPL. In reality, Lalit Modi has promoted brockerage and black money in cricket. The IPL should be finished."


Manmohan-Obama meet


The daily Qaumi Tanzeem, published from Patna and Ranchi, in its editorial on April 15, writes: "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Washington will be considered successful from the standpoint that US President Barack Obama has declared as true and justified India's concern and anxiety over cross-border terrorism, and has said that the Indian Prime Minister is correct to say that he is prepared to talk with Pakistan, but prior to that terrorist activities have to stop." The paper adds: "About two hours after meeting Dr Manmohan Singh, President Obama also met the Pakistani prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani... [and] told him that the continuing terrorist activities should now be stopped, and his country's welfare depends on it".


Lucknow-based daily, Qaumi Khabrein, in its editorial (April 13), has noted with satisfaction President Obama's stance towards India. It writes: "According to reports, President Obama, keeping in view India's concern (connected with her relations with Afghanistan), has given an assurance to the prime minister that America will not do any thing as part of its Af-Pak policy that may harm Indian interests..."


Delhi-based daily Jadeed Khabar, in an editorial on April 13, has taken a dim view of India "complaining" to the US with regard to cross-border terrorism. It observes: "Obama has assured Manmohan Singh that he would put pressure on Pakistan to take stern action against extremist organisations. But the important question is whether India needs to request America for stopping terrorist activities being conducted from Pakistan?"

It's not cricket... in Pakistan


Raees Mohammed, the only one amongst the famous five Mohammed brothers in Pakistan who never made it to test cricket, has raked up a controversy going back to the fifties. Akhbar-e Mashriq reports on April 13, from an interview given to Abdur Rasheed Shakoor in a Pakistani newspaper that he (Raees, now 77 years old) was kept out of the test squad because of pure "partisanship " of the selectors, despite the fact that he was "in very good form".








The International Monetary Fund has floated two new tax proposals as a means to rein in what is now being viewed in some quarters as the disproportionately large size of the global financial system (particularly banks) and force banks and financial institutions to help finance the cost of a bailout when they land in a crisis. Both proposals will be put before a meeting of G-20 finance ministers in a couple of months' time. The first of the two proposed taxes is the Financial Stability Contribution (FSC). This is proposed to be levied initially at a flat rate and is to be paid by all financial institutions. At the second stage, the rate of this levy will likely depend on the liabilities taken on by the financial institutions. While most financial institutions were expecting such a levy, and while it will satisfy some of the public outcry, it doesn't necessarily make complete economic sense. Financial institutions may become more reluctant to lend to borrowers, hardly something that will add to GDP growth. And even if they do continue to lend the same amount as before, they are likely to pass on the additional tax burden as a cost to the borrower. So, governments may gain revenue but borrowers may bear a cost.


The second of the proposed taxes is the Financial Activities Tax (FAT). This is proposed to be levied on the profits and pay of all banks. This additional tax will reduce the size of profits in banks and curb the kind of pay packets that are continuing to cause public outrage in the West. Again, the economics of such a proposal can be questioned. Banks already pay taxes on profits. Will this additional tax be levied on all banks, or just a few large ones? If it's the latter, and it ought to be since only big banks are viewed as systemic risks, how easy will it be to define what a big bank is? On pay, we have consistently argued that it is only appropriate for shareholders to take a final call on remuneration. Government-imposed taxes will only lead to novel ways of structuring compensation packages without really changing the risk taken by employees. Also, remember that if any of these proposals is to be effective, it will have to be implemented by all major economies, at least the G-20. Again, why should those countries in the G-20 whose financial systems have survived the crisis intact (think India, Canada and Australia, for example) agree to such punitive taxes on their banks? The IMF, of course, has an interest in laying out bold proposals—that is one way to stay relevant. But the G-20 must think carefully before adopting any radical, and possibly counterproductive, proposals such as these.







The government's move to amend the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act to mandate a minimum float of 25% in the stock market as against the current limit of 10%, in both private and government-owned listed companies, will help broaden and deepen the markets, bring about better corporate governance and address better the rights of minority shareholders. As The Indian Express reported on Thursday, the ministry of law is giving the amendment its final touches, which is likely to be enacted in a couple of months. The Act is pertinent now, since a host of companies are planning to tap the primary markets in order to raise funds for their expansion plans. The mandated 25% public holding may initially be difficult for large companies as they would not want to issue shares at a lower premium simply to satisfy the regulatory norms. Thus, they must be allowed to do it in a phased manner. Data suggests that until the end of June last year, of 3,467 listed companies, there were 185 private sector companies and 36 public sector companies in which promoters held more than 75% shares. More worrying, however, is the fact that of these 185 private sector companies, no trading occurred in about 55 companies. These facts raise several questions about corporate governance and retail-level participation in the Indian equities market.


One of the main purposes of increasing the public holding of stocks will be to increase liquidity and contain volatility. Since much of the current trading is speculative in nature and not delivery-based, the change in public holding will help in better monitoring practices. It will also lead to the discovery of fair prices of shares, and enable meaningful resource mobilisation. The change will be particularly important for government-owned companies—at present, individual investors own a mere 3% of the total market capitalisation of listed government companies. Moreover, in the private sector, a low share of non-promoters has multiple implications for corporate governance as many decisions by companies, including appointment of directors, require simple majority and are made by promoters themselves by retaining a clear majority of shares. This needs to change. And retail investors, in particular, need to be encouraged. Dematerialisation of shares and online trading have made it easier for small investors to own equity or equity-linked instruments. This is a perfect opportunity to increase the market share of small investors—at the moment, less than 5% of total household savings in India are invested in stocks, compared to 20% in the US and Europe. This needs to change as well.








A few recent moves in education public policy, though driven by honourable intentions, don't recognise how quantity leads to quality. Putting 'deemed universities' on notice has not only created a long-drawn court battle but has also created a sharp arrow in the quiver of many state education ministers to demand ransom from all institutions. Crackpot regulators like AICTE are fining Manipal for taking 173 MBA students of the 7,830 applications instead of the 120 'sanctioned'. Consistent with AICTE's Ayatollah instincts, they have issued a fatwa that caps every new engineering college to 540 students. More dangerously, it specifies 60 students per discipline. Does AICTE really believe that all these disciplines have equal demand? Do they have a secret model to predict job creation demand that nobody in the private sector does? To compound the damage, older engineering colleges with higher student numbers have been prohibited to increase numbers beyond what they are currently admitting, even if they are willing to invest in infrastructure and faculty. So, we are back to the licence raj rather than encouraging competition.


But there are early signs of something wonderful in education. Employers like us are getting a flood of meeting requests from college managements desperate to improve placements. The adverse selection among education entrepreneurs because of the regulatory cholesterol in education becomes obvious in these meetings—most are with land mafia, criminals or politicians. For most of them, a college or school has been a piece of land with an ATM machine on it. But, thankfully, this ATM has started malfunctioning, and showing up it is no longer good enough. This year there are more than 100 engineering colleges in South India that received less than 10 admissions. The coaching mandi business in Kanpur fell by 40% because of the 65,000 seats of the UP Technical University. Marketing seminars for school principals on 'how to get admissions' are shockingly not only being held but are completely sold out. Many of the 1,200-plus MBA schools certified by AICTE are reporting high unwillingness of students to pay the 'rack rate' fees. In other words, institutions are starting to think about differentiation and becoming creative in their messaging if not in reality; ragging-free campuses, faculty ratios, faculty qualifications, infrastructure, openness to parent involvement, soft skills and spoken English curriculum, employer outreach, deferred fees and much else.


More importantly, many school and college 'trustees' are making a clinical calculation about their ability to generate revenue relative to embedded asset values. The obvious consequence of this calculation is the realisation that running a school is different from owning one and that many of these institutions may be worth more dead than alive, that is, the real estate assets must be deployed better or liquidated. The 'deployed better thought world' is leading them to sign management contracts or lease their premises to professional educational groups. But many of them are realising that they are better off liquidating or monetising their land values and there is a huge advice industry springing up on how to create this tunnel, given the complications of trust structures. But we must not forget that many of these are individuals who spent their lives figuring out how to gift-wrap a for-profit business as a not-for-profit charity. So, surely they will figure out ways to take their money out. And this is not a bad thing; it will dry the swamp and eliminate the adverse selection among education entrepreneurs. It will attract long-term capital from institutions that are not playing a one-innings game.


The potential policy implications of these trends are clear; the new Education Regulatory Authority must recognise that quantity is finally starting to drive quality out. It must accelerate this trend by rapidly lowering the entry barriers and licence raj that has hindered competition and made students hostages, not clients. This lowering of entry barriers must be accompanied by a one-time window during which existing managements could transfer control of trusts, migrate to Sec-25 companies, exit the business or, under specific circumstances, consider for-profit incorporation. Fundamentally, we must move away from education regulatory micromanaging student capacity and be patient during the five years that it will take for quality and differentiation to develop.


The unfortunate reality in India is that the most important decision a child makes is to choose his or her parents wisely. The only sustainable way to sabotage this ovarian lottery is a Cambrian explosion of education entrepreneurship. But education entrepreneurship, like all entrepreneurship and science, is hypothesis testing—you can't prove anything right but need to prove it wrong. So, the best way to take on the impossible trinity of cost, quality and scale in education is to encourage biodiversity of business and operating models in education. This requires a number of statistically independent tries with different DNA; not-for-profit, not-for-loss, for-lower profit, and for-normal profit. In the final analysis, the most expensive school is no school. And a bad school is better than no school. And this is why education public policy must make the painful-in-short-run choice of quantity over quality.


The author is chairman, Teamlease Services








RBI has just about set the tone for the rest of the financial year by highlighting concern on inflation while being sanguine about growth. It has pitched a lower WPI inflation rate of 5.5% for the year on the assumption that the monsoon will be normal and the relentless pressure witnessed on prices last year will not recur this time. If one combines the high growth expectation of over 8% with an eye on inflation, it appears that RBI is speaking the Keynesian language of demand-pull forces that need to be tackled head on.


The 25 bps hike across all rates was a minor surprise because while the market expected an increase, it was pitched at a higher level of 50 bps. Considering that RBI has already increased rates in two phases in this calendar year, the approach may be seen as being gradual but more frequent. The markets should be prepared for further interventions, even between policies, and the WPI number will have to be actively monitored with negative real interest rates likely to prevail for some more time.


The inflation concern is palpable because there has been a shift from primary to manufactured products, and even within manufactured products it is the non-food items that have started to show an increase. There are two reasons for this phenomenon. The first is that the global prices for metals have started to increase on the back of an economic recovery in the western countries and continued acceleration in China. With the price correlation for all these products being high with domestic prices, the feedback into the system will only get more pronounced. Second, RBI has also pointed out that there has been an increase in capacity utilisation in several sectors, which means that demand is rising on both the consumption and investment fronts. Hence, it is not difficult to conjecture that this segment will continue to exert pressure on prices.


RBI's move may also be interpreted as a further withdrawal of the stimulus that began with the Union Budget, which sought to reverse the tax concessions that were given earlier to keep the economy afloat. This is indicative of the fact that the government is really serious about being back on track and that the economy does not really require extraneous government support to continue growing, which is a good sign. In fact, the significant point here is that while the western governments have spoken of a phased withdrawal, ours is one of the first to actually do so. The only factor that could have averted this move would have been a fall in inflation, which has not been witnessed, despite the higher projected rabi crop this year.


While banks in the past have been equivocal in raising rates when RBI has announced increases in the repo/reverse repo rates, anecdotal evidence suggests that higher interest rates do not normally impinge on industry, especially when there is an upswing in activity, which appears to be the case today. Hence, it appears that there is no contradiction between growth and stability, notwithstanding the higher rates that may be charged by banks.


Liquidity will be under pressure, with both the private sector and government claiming bank resources against a withdrawal of liquidity through the enhanced CRR. Based on RBI's projections of growth in deposits and credit, the banking system could finance around Rs 1.2 lakh crore of the borrowings of Rs 3.4 lakh crore. RBI would have to be active in the GSecs market with its open market operations (OMO) to provide liquidity when needed and also enable the borrowing programme in a non-obtrusive manner. The fact that foreign funds will continue to flow in provides comfort to the extent of increasing the available resources for lending. Last year, RBI used a combination of MSS bonds and OMO sales to support the government-borrowing programme. The former will not be available this year as RBI is pitching for mobilising these bonds to the extent of Rs 50,000 crore on the expectation of higher foreign inflows.


Interest rates would definitely not come down in such a situation, though banks will face a bigger challenge in aligning their base rate computations with the policy rates. Currently, all policy and deposit rates have moved into the negative real zone. Bond yields will tend to increase and the 10-year yield will remain above 8% during the first half of the year, when inflation continues to be high. RBI will have to persist with its noncommittal ideological approach to monetary policy—using a monetarist tool à la Friedman to tackle a Keynesian phenomenon of demand-pull inflation.


The author is chief economist, CARE ratings. These are his personal views








A month after it exited China, Google has lifted the lid from how countries across the world request user data or censor its search engine. The Internet giant, currently operating in 100 countries, has launched a new tool—an online world map—that provides information about the user data and content removal requests that Google receives from government agencies across the globe. The requests' data currently covers the period from July 1, 2009, to December 31, 2009. These data will be updated every six months. Of the more than 40 countries in the Google Government Requests list, Brazil tops with 3,663 user data requests followed by the US (3,580) and the UK (1,166); India (1,061) falls on the fourth spot. Brazil also made the highest content removal requests with 291 calls, followed by Germany (188) and India (142).


For both Brazil and India, a majority of the government requests for content removal were relatively high due to the popularity of Google's social networking Web site Orkut and all the impersonation or defamation allegedly associated with it. Interestingly, 53% of Google's first quarter revenues came from outside the US. As such, the new tool is being introduced at a time when the company is expanding in worldwide markets and thus has to deal with different regimes overriding online freedom. It's also interesting that Google's new tool was launched on the very day when officials from 10 countries had gathered together to question its privacy policies. They were demanding that the company should make greater efforts to protect people's privacy rather than just paying lip service to it. They got an apt reply.


But China's content removal requests remain a mystery. Google hasn't put these in the public domain since China considers censorship demands a state secret. Still, what has become clearer now is that Google's battle over censorship extends far beyond China. According to OpenNet Initiative, more than 40 countries censor the Internet today as compared to just a handful in 2004. Google describes its new tool as a step towards transparency, and greater transparency implies less censorship.








Forced to jettison Shashi Tharoor as Minister of State for External Affairs, following damning revelations about his role in the Kochi franchise of the Indian Premier League (IPL), the central government seems to have launched a witch-hunt. The coordinated countrywide income tax surveys and searches of IPL franchisees and broadcasting firms, the behind-the-scenes political machinations, and the unwillingness to wait until the end of this week for the IPL final to be over look very much like a diversionary response — and a vendetta. There is much to be done to see that this hugely successful tournament, now in its third edition, is conducted with transparency and accountability. But what is needed is rectification, not revenge. The government cannot pretend that it knew nothing about the alleged irregularities before IPL Chairman Lalit Modi's tweets and l'affaire Tharoor made them public knowledge. The stink raised by the allegations over the IPL presents an opportunity to address the key issues — the inexplicable confidentiality clauses that draw a veil over ownership of some of the franchises, the nature of the funds that flow into them, and the conflicts of interest involved at several levels of the IPL.


In fact, the present crisis presents an opportunity for a deep rethink about the way Indian cricket is governed — at what cost, to whose benefit, for what social purpose? Mr. Modi might have done everything he could to create the impression that the league was his independent fiefdom. But the truth is that the IPL, inspired by the English Premier League, is a creation of the Board of Control for Cricket in India — with its governing council starting out in September 2007 as a sub-committee of the BCCI and graduating three months later to the status of a committee. The Board, which receives substantial tax concessions and other benefits from the state and fills its coffers by cashing in on the Indian public's phenomenal love for the game, cannot distance itself from the rot that has set in. It must take full responsibility for the integrity and transparent governance of its creation and eliminate the rogue elements without compromise. As important, it must reshape and reorient the IPL along the lines advocated in the thoughtful article, "The good, the bad, and the ugly of IPL," published on this page. With proper social values and priorities and governance reform, India's most glamorous cricket show can indeed become "a giant platform to energise the [cricket-loving] masses for the greater good." The future of the IPL is in the hands of India's powerful and already highly politicised cricket Board. It must set itself higher goals and standards than we have witnessed over the years.







The discovery of radioactive Cobalt 60 sources stored as scrap in New Delhi's Mayapuri locality by the Department of Atomic Energy and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is a clear pointer to the need for a stronger mechanism to monitor such dangerous waste. At least one person has received a very high dose of radiation in the incident, while six others have been treated for exposure-related symptoms. It is a matter of concern that an inspection conducted after the first reported injury found eight sources of radioactive waste in the scrap yard, necessitating a comprehensive clean-up of the entire area. Radioactive material is covered not by the Hazardous Waste (Management, Handling and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2008 but by the Atomic Energy Act, 1962. On paper, radioactive sources such as those used in radiotherapy machines in hospitals, industrial devices, and nucleonic gauges must be monitored from "cradle to grave," and at the end of their useful life, be returned to the original supplier. Imports have to be shipped back to the source or handed over to the Waste Management Division of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for disposal. The system of tracking and control of possession is obviously far from foolproof, although there is a lot of apprehension that these materials could be used by extremists to make "dirty bombs" (that can scatter radioactive materials). Many so-called sealed sources containing radioactive waste are going off the map and turning up in scrap yards, "orphaned."


The Delhi incidents underscore the importance of conducting a coordinated search across the country to regain control of orphan radioactive sources. Besides reducing the danger of deadly radiation exposure to people, a clean-up can benefit industry. In 2007, the U.S. Customs regulators rejected several metal article shipments from India, as they were found to be contaminated with radioactive material. Germany, France, and Sweden have also detected Cobalt 60 in Indian steel. It is not surprising that the trail leads to metal scrap, including imported waste used in steel manufacture. The Government of India needs quickly to launch a clean-up act, with the participation of State governments. There is a strong case for designating areas in every city to handle recycling, and prohibit such activity in all other areas. A major effort is called for to train workers and raise capacity in the recycling industry. It is vital that all national ports are equipped to detect radiation in import and export. The safety protocol for waste-handlers, now being drafted by the National Disaster Response Force, needs to be implemented in right earnest to prevent accidents.










Once again a promising initiative is embroiled in controversy, money laundering, nepotism, corruption, and subsidy for the rich and famous. This time it is the Indian Premier League (IPL). History repeats itself where public trust is misused and a great opportunity to make a positive impact on society is lost. Irrespective of how one feels about the IPL, the fact is that it provides three hours of excitement and entertainment to millions of cricket enthusiast worldwide. There is a demand for such a form of cricket and the IPL capitalised on this passion. For a change, divisive issues like language, religion, or nationality have little influence on how cricket fans enjoy the game.


Rather than viewing the IPL purely as a vulgar display of wealth and fashion, let's look briefly at the good side of it that was in display in South Africa last year. During the tough economic conditions, South Africa benefitted remarkably from the IPL as an economic stimulus event. There was significant economic activity from thousands of tourists converging in that country. Hotels, restaurants, gift stores, and other small businesses benefitted from increased spending from visitors and the IPL. It softened the economic upheaval in South Africa that plagued the world.


The best of the IPL in South Africa was not the wins, the spectacular sixers or the Bollywood stars, but the frequent recognition of hundreds of children, teachers, and schools in every game. Much-needed scholarships and gifts were given out in each game to children and schools. Eight-year old S'bonda Zuma, who lost his mother and had huge concerns over whether he could complete his schooling, was helped by the IPL. Four schools from each host city were selected for a scholarship fund to improve educational opportunities. Many local papers in South Africa cited the benefits of the IPL to numerous communities by raising awareness and community interactions.


If the IPL can be used to benefit local communities and educational opportunities, why not encourage it? While I could not find a formal study of the economic impact of the IPL on various cities in India, it is possible there are significant impacts on job creation in host cities. I am sure local businesses, including for example the garment industry (which supplies the apparel related to each franchise), are thrilled at the economic activity. It is the greatest show on Indian soil with millions of educated, well-off people watching who may be motivated and enticed positively to take ownership of improving their communities and schools. Bollywood stars and cricketers could be part of this movement to enable change. Is there a better platform to encourage citizen participation on local issues?


Sadly, what the IPL did in South Africa vanished on re-appearing on Indian soil. There were few instances of supporting education and children. What the TV cameras have been busy showing are cheerleaders, Bollywood stars, and highly subsidised rich individuals. I wonder what happened to all the good causes the IPL supported while in South Africa.


It is interesting to contrast India's greatest sporting event with American sporting events – college or professional. There is no major sporting event in the U.S. without the national anthem and the presence of the armed forces. On the occasion of Veteran's Day – a national holiday in the U.S. to celebrate and thank those who fought past wars – a National Football League (NFL is the professional football league that can be compared with the IPL), player after player thanked his friends, relatives, and family members who are serving or have served in the military. Military personnel, police officers, fire fighters, and war heroes are acknowledged and celebrated practically every major game.


At my university, every (American) football game has invitees from the military and the 80,000-plus spectators cheer war heroes and military personnel. It is common to recognise excellent researchers and teachers during the game and to beam their names on giant screens. Many scholarships are given to promising and deserving students. Numerous businesses are recognised for their contributions to improving local communities. People who have made significant contributions to the community are recognised. The games are used to inform worthy causes and contributions that encourage others to participate in the broader societal goals.


How wonderful if the IPL could bring attention to the hundreds of thousands of military and police personnel who toil in the harshest conditions and protect the freedom of others? Why should the IPL not partner with leading NGOs who have made sustained contributions to improve communities? Let an independent body of thinkers select those NGOs for the IPL to showcase.


The ugly part of the IPL is long and has been discussed extensively. It is getting nastier each day. What else one can one expect if the government is a partner and subsidises the cost of the show? While some economic incentives can be justified to get the ball rolling, there is enough evidence that the IPL is enormously profitable and there is no need to provide it tax subsidies or for the government to bear all the security costs.


It is not worthwhile blasting the IPL for having rich owners and Bollywood stars. The fact is they have the resources to take risks and make certain things happen. The objections that the rich are becoming richer are shortsighted. But what we need is to stop subsidising these rich owners in the name of economic development that lowers the supposed risk, but makes the rewards disproportionately higher. In fact, the opaqueness of the bidding process in the IPL gives rise to such disproportionate risk-reward tradeoffs. We need a full investigation of alleged money laundering, tax evasion, gambling, and other illegal activities. Sadly, there are hundreds of investigations in India that have not yielded any meaningful results. These investigations are themselves manipulated or delayed as the nexus runs deep and wide. One should not be surprised if there are one or two sacrificial lambs to maintain the status quo. The trust in the system's willingness to unearth the truth is very low.


There is anger over the exorbitant compensation paid to the players. Once again, it is futile to grudge this compensation. The owners will pay, based on the value players bring to the franchise. But this value is unnecessarily exaggerated by government subsidies. If the franchise had to pay taxes and market-based facility rental costs and incur security costs, then there would be greater sense in how players are compensated. It is once again a lesson on how the government enables these private initiatives to be irrational.


The real ugly part of the IPL is the disruption of the education of the most important national resource – the children, who are also the most passionate about cricket. Why in the world would the IPL host its games during the exam period of the entire nation? Of course, it is easy to say to the parents: shut off TV and the radio. But in this day and age of the Internet and wireless connectivity, the distraction remains.


While the media thrash the IPL management and politicians call for banning the IPL, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let's promote the good and minimise the ugly side. It is a giant platform that attracts the resourceful and educated and the energy can be translated for the good of society. Let the IPL adopt government schools, promote education, recognise community leaders, teachers, and the military, and bring attention to the issues that matter to the nation. We saw that in South Africa. I am sure people are forgiving of some of the sins and the subsidies. Let some of the profits go to a greater cause.

Hopefully, the players will involve themselves more with improving educational opportunities for the needy. Their value can only go up as more people will support the products they endorse. The former Australian captain, Steve Waugh, epitomises the good and what one can accomplish with fame and resources. His educational trust and welfare projects in India supporting children of leprosy patients at Udayan, and his initiatives to promote literacy and vocational skills in underdeveloped areas, must become a role model for the IPL and for cricketers. It is not unusual for American sport stars to have huge trusts to promote educational opportunities and become spokespersons to engage communities with meaningful projects. One can only hope the IPL and its players can engage on a greater scale to bring attention to real issues that plague the nation.


An important lesson once again: if the government becomes embroiled in private economic activity, there are numerous unintended consequences. Let the private take the risk, pay the market price for facilities and security, and reap the rewards. And let's not forget that the greatest cricketing event in India can be a giant platform to energise the masses for the greater good.


( Prabhudev Konana is the William H. Seay Centennial Professor and Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and can be contacted at








Anyone who has been in Pakistan even briefly knows about the "establishment". It comes up so often in routine conversations that despite being an English word, it is a part and parcel of the country's local languages. No Pakistani ever needs an explanation of what it means.


But now the United Nations has provided one; its report on the assassination of Benazir Bhutto defining it as "the de facto power structure that has as its permanent core the military high command and intelligence agencies, in particular, the powerful, military-run the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) as well as Military Intelligence (MI) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB)".


That the "establishment" should find mention at all in the U.N. report is extraordinary. Usually known for playing safe when it comes to the national sensitivities of its member-states, the three-member U.N. commission set up in February 2009 to investigate Benazir's assassination on a request by the Pakistan People's Party government, was expected to abide by the international organisation's low appetite for political risk.


Its mandate seemed designed to ensure a non-controversial report. As the head of the commission, Heraldo Munoz Valenzuela, declared at a press conference in Islamabad in July 2009, its terms of reference were to "look into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Prime Minister" and did not include a criminal investigation.


The commission, which had a former Attorney-General from Indonesia and a retired Irish police official

working with Mr. Valenzuela, the Chilean permanent representative to the U.N., was not expected to fix criminal responsibility for the assassination or come out with any new revelations. The widespread belief was that it would accept the Musharraf regime's conclusion that Benazir was ordered killed by the Pakistani Taliban leader, Beithullah Mehsud.


True to these expectations, there is no earth-shattering revelation in the 70-page report. It does not contradict that Beithullah Mehsud might have been the mastermind, though it says the hasty announcement of this by the Musharraf regime pre-empted a proper investigation.


In the main it is a painstaking reconstruction of events, put together by the commission after conducting 250 interviews. One part of the reconstruction deals with the political situation in Pakistan in 2007 — General Pervez Musharraf's attempt to sack the Chief Justice; the movement by the lawyers for his restoration; the secret Benazir-Musharraf negotiations leading up to her return from Dubai; the November 3 emergency; the sacking of the judiciary; the calling of the elections; the campaign by Benazir; and, her assassination.


It details the inadequacy of her security, especially in the light of the bombing of her convoy on the day she landed in Karachi after ending her exile. The second part is a reconstruction of the government response to the assassination — also inadequate.


This is valuable in itself, even thought it covers known ground. For one, in the absence of a proper criminal

investigation, it is the only authoritative, independent and cohesive reconstruction of the killing. The importance of this for a proper criminal investigation cannot be overemphasised. It provides a wealth of detail about the lapses in the security arrangements of the former Prime Minister and has helped to focus attention on some of the principal actors, their decisions and their acts of omission and commission. It names government and police officials and at least one serving and one retired military official, holding them responsible for a chain of egregious acts, concluding that many of these acts were deliberate.


In Pakistan, there is all-around satisfaction that the report has blamed the Musharraf regime for failing "profoundly" in its duty to protect Benazir, and after she was killed, to investigate her assassination. The retired General remains a pet hate of the political class and the media, and the report has triggered fresh demands that Pakistan's former military ruler, now a gentleman of leisure who divides his time between the U.S., London and Dubai, be brought back to Pakistan to face trial.


Opponents of Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Law Minister Babar Awan are also sharpening their knives on the report. The two men have been faulted for speeding away from the scene of attack in the car that was the back-up vehicle in Benazir's convoy, leaving her damaged car to fend for itself.


Detractors of President Asif Ali Zardari and the PPP have also gleefully pounced on the commission's incomprehension at the PPP's failure to get a proper criminal investigation going despite coming to power a few months after the killing.


But perhaps the most remarkable portion of the report, one that has been studiously ignored in media commentary and political reaction in Pakistan, is about the "pervasive" role of the "establishment" and how intelligence agencies blocked early attempts at investigating the assassination. It helps throw light on why the PPP never attempted to pursue Benazir's killers and may not be able to do so even now.


It is now part of the record of the world's highest international forum, of which almost all sovereign states are members, that Pakistan's intelligence agencies "severely hampered" the investigation into Benazir's assassination and thus "impeded an unfettered search for the truth".


The commission found out that the ISI conducted what it calls parallel investigations into both the attack on Benazir's welcoming rally at Karachi that October and her killing three months later, gathering evidence and detaining suspects. But it shared the findings only selectively with the police. The report questions the integrity of such investigations "given the historical and possibly continuing relationships between intelligence agencies and some radical Islamist groups that engage in extremist violence".


It also puts down some failures of the police and government officials in the Benazir assassination to the "uncertainty in the minds of many officials as to the extent of the involvement of intelligence agencies". Officials, it says, "in part fearing involvement by the intelligence agencies, were unsure of how vigorously they ought to pursue actions that they knew, as professionals, they should have taken".


This is perhaps the first time that the country's civilian-military relations have been raked up in an official, public document. Mincing no words, the U.N. wades right to the heart of the ever-relevant debate on the balance of power between the elected government and the military.


"[The] autonomy, pervasive reach and clandestine role of intelligence agencies in Pakistani life underlie many of the problems, omissions and commissions set out in this report. The actions of politicized intelligence agencies undermine democratic governance. Beyond the recent steps that have reportedly been taken to curb the involvement of intelligence agencies in political matters, the democratic rule of law in Pakistan could be greatly strengthened with a thorough review of intelligence agencies based on international best practices in this area," the report states.


Perhaps it was Mr. Munoz's personal experience of military rule, which he has chronicled in a book called The Dictator's Shadow: Life Under Augusto Pinochet (2008), that prompted this open indictment of the military's role in Pakistan in the report. But, whatever the reason or motives for the commission's extensive comments on the "establishment", to the PPP's ears, it is music.


When the PPP government asked the U.N. to set up this commission, it came in for warnings from sections of officialdom and the media that national sovereignty was at stake. The Foreign Ministry was particularly unhappy as it felt that it amounted to a government declaration of "no confidence" in its own investigating agencies and would lay open "sensitive" departments to international scrutiny. The Foreign Secretary at the time, Riaz Muhammad Khan, quit some months before he was due to retire after a spat on this issue.


For the PPP, which attempted a "reform" of the intelligence agencies back in the summer of 2008 only to be beaten back by the military, the report is a vindication, a ringing endorsement of all that the party has maintained through most of the four-decades of its existence — that the "establishment" is the real villain in Pakistan. But does the report change anything on the ground? After all those encounters through 2008 and 2009 in which he steadily lost political ground and the Pakistan Army progressively regained political stature, this report finally gives Mr. Zardari a victory over the military. But coming at a time when the PPP government has pretty much accepted the supremacy of the Pakistan Army, the victory has nothing more than notional value.








So strong was the anti-business sentiment for the first Earth Day in 1970 that organisers took no money from corporations and held teach-ins "to challenge corporate and government leaders".


Forty years later, the day has turned into a premiere marketing platform for selling everything from office products to Greek yogurt to eco-dentistry.


For this year's celebration, Bahama Umbrella is touting its specially designed umbrella, with a drain so that water "can be stored, reused and recycled". Gray Line, a New York City sightseeing company, will keep running its buses on fossil fuels. But the company is promoting an "Earth Week" package of day trips to green spots like the botanical gardens and flower shopping at Chelsea Market.


To many pioneers of the environmental movement, eco-consumerism, creeping for decades, is intensely frustrating and detracts from Earth Day's original purpose.


"This ridiculous perverted marketing has cheapened the concept of what is really green," said Denis Hayes, who was national coordinator of the first Earth Day and is returning to organise this year's activities in Washington. "It is tragic."


Yet the eagerness of corporations to sign up for Earth Day also reflects the environmental movement's increased tolerance toward corporate America: Many "big greens", as leading environmental advocacy organisations are known, now accept that they must take money from corporations or at very least become partners with them if they are to make real inroads in changing social behaviour.


This year, instead of holding a teach-in, Greenpeace will team up with technology giants like Cisco and Google to hold a "Webinar" focused on how the use of new technologies like video conferencing and "cloud" computing can reduce the nation's carbon footprint. Daniel Kessler, a spokesperson for Greenpeace, said it was necessary to "promote a counterweight to the fossil fuel industry".


In 1970, New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay addressed a crowd of tens of thousands in Union Square on Earth Day, in an atmosphere The New York Times likened to a "secular revival meeting".


This year, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg will be in Times Square to announce measures to reduce New York's impact on the environment. Using the same stage, Keep America Beautiful, an anti-littering non-profit organisation, will introduce "dream machines", recycling kiosks they are rolling out with PepsiCo. The machines are meant to increase the recycling rates for beverage containers, which currently is estimated at about 36 per cent nationwide.


The irony, of course, is that a fair portion of the more than 200 billion beverage containers produced in the United States each year are filled with PepsiCo products like Mountain Dew and Aquafina; such bottle trash contributes to serious pollution on beaches, oceans and inland waterways.


Still, Matthew M. McKenna, president and chief executive officer of Keep America Beautiful, and a former PepsiCo senior vice-president, said he jumped at the opportunity to have his former employer introduce its kiosk at the event. "We are not being asked to encourage the purchase of Pepsi or the consumption of their products," he said. "We are asked to deal in the field with what happens when they get thrown out."


While the momentum for the first Earth Day came from the grassroots, many corporations say that it is often the business community that now leads the way in environmental innovation — and they want to get their customers interested. In an era when the population is more divided on the importance of environmental issues than it was four decades ago, the April event offers a rare window, they say, when customers are game to learn about the environmentally-friendly changes the companies have made.


The original Earth Day events were attended by 20 million Americans — to this day among the largest participation in a political action in the nation's history. This year, while the day will be widely marked with events, including a climate rally on the Mall in Washington, the movement does not have the same support it had four decades ago. In part, said Robert Stone, an independent documentary filmmaker whose history of the American environmental movement is being broadcast on public television this week, the movement has been a victim of its own success in clearing up tangible problems with air and water. But that is just part of the problem, he noted.


"Every Earth Day is a reflection of where we are as a culture," he said. "If it has become commoditised, about green consumerism instead of systemic change, then it is a reflection of our society." — New York Times News Service








  1. Experts estimate poverty rate doubled since the real estate and stock markets collapsed in the early 1990s
  2. Few impoverished Japanese seem willing to admit their plight for fear of being stigmatised


Satomi Sato, a 51-year-old widow, knew she had it tough raising a teenage daughter on the less than $17,000 a year she earned from two jobs. Still, she was surprised last autumn when the government announced for the first time an official poverty line — and she was below it.


"I don't want to use the word poverty, but I'm definitely poor," said Ms Sato, who works mornings making boxed lunches and afternoons delivering newspapers. "Poverty is still a very unfamiliar word in Japan."


After years of economic stagnation and widening income disparities, this once proudly egalitarian nation is belatedly waking up to the fact that it has a large and growing number of poor people. The Labour Ministry's disclosure in October that almost one in six Japanese, or 20 million people, lived in poverty in 2007 stunned the nation and ignited a debate over possible remedies that has raged ever since.


Many Japanese, who cling to the popular myth that their nation is uniformly middle class, were further shocked to see that Japan's poverty rate, at 15.7 per cent, was close to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's figure of 17.1 per cent in the United States, whose glaring social inequalities have long been viewed with scorn and pity here.


But perhaps just as surprising was the government's admission that it had been keeping poverty statistics secretly since 1998 while denying there was a problem, despite occasional anecdotal evidence to the contrary.


That ended when a left-leaning government led by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama replaced the long-governing Liberal Democratic Party last summer with a pledge to force Japan's legendarily secretive bureaucrats to be more open, particularly about social problems, said government officials and poverty experts.


"The government knew about the poverty problem, but was hiding it," said Makoto Yuasa, head of the non-profit Antipoverty Network. "It was afraid to face reality."


Following an internationally recognised formula, the Ministry set the poverty line at about $22,000 a year for a family of four, half of Japan's median household income. Researchers estimate that Japan's poverty rate has doubled since the nation's real estate and stock markets collapsed in the early 1990s, ushering in two decades of income stagnation and even decline.


Easily overlooked


The Ministry's announcement helped expose a problem that social workers say is easily overlooked in relatively homogenous Japan, which does not have the high crime rates, urban decay and stark racial divisions of the United States. Experts and social workers say Japan's poor can be deceptively hard to spot because they try hard to keep up the appearance of middle class comfort.


Few impoverished Japanese seem willing to admit their plight for fear of being stigmatised. While just over half

of Japan's single mothers, like Ms Sato, are poor — roughly in line with the ratio in the United States — she and her daughter, Mayu (17), take pains to hide their neediness. They outwardly smile, she said, but "cry on the inside" when friends or relatives talk about vacations, a luxury they cannot afford.


"Saying we're poor would draw attention, so I'd rather hide it," said Ms Sato, who lives in a block-like public housing project in this small city surrounded by flat, treeless farmland reminiscent of the American Midwest.


She said she had little money even before her husband, a construction machine operator, died of lung cancer three years ago. She said her family's difficulties began in the late 1990s, when the economic slide worsened here on the northern island of Hokkaido, as it did in much of rural Japan.


Even with two jobs, she says she cannot afford to see a doctor or buy medicine to treat a growing host of health complaints, including sore joints and dizziness. When her daughter needed $700 to buy school uniforms on entering high school last year, a common requirement here, she saved for it by cutting back to two meals a day.


The working poor


Poverty experts call Ms Sato's case typical. They say more than 80 per cent of those living in poverty in Japan are part of the so-called working poor, holding low-wage, temporary jobs with no security and few benefits. They usually have enough money to eat, but not to take part in normal activities, like eating out with friends or seeing a movie.


"Poverty in a prosperous society usually does not mean living in rags on a dirt floor," said Masami Iwata, a social welfare professor at Japan Women's University in Tokyo. "These are people with cell phones and cars, but they are cut off from the rest of society."


Years of deregulation of the labour market and competition with low-wage China have brought a proliferation of such low-paying jobs in Japan, economists say.


Compounding matters is the fact that these jobs are largely uncovered by an outdated social safety net, created decades ago as a last resort in an era when most men could expect lifetime jobs.


This has opened up a huge crack through which millions of Japanese have fallen.


Ms Sato expressed similar fears for her daughter. Mayu wants to go to a vocational school to become a voice actress for animation, but Ms Sato said she could not afford the $10,000 annual tuition.


Still, she remains outwardly upbeat, if resigned. She said her biggest challenge was having no one to talk to. While she said she was sure that many other families faced a similar plight in this small city, their refusal to admit their poverty made it impossible to find them.


"In bed at night, I think: 'How did I fall so far? How did I get so isolated?"' said Ms Sato. "But usually, I try not to think about it." — New York Times News Service








Sri Lanka's President Mahinda Rajapakse had a resounding election victory over his former military commander, Gen. Sanath Fonseka (Retd), leading the Opposition coalition, in the January 26 election. And now the President's party and the coalition he led in the just-concluded parliamentary elections has come up with a stunning victory, but falling just short of that two-thirds margin that would have given him unfettered powers to change the Constitution. What Mr Rajapakse does with the impressive political support he commands in the country will be watched with mounting interest, not to say some anxiety, within Sri Lanka and the region. The stakes are very high. The island nation had been torn by civil war for a quarter-century led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. With the LTTE's military defeat in May last year, followed by victories notched up in the presidential and the parliamentary polls, the Sri Lankan leader has the unique opportunity to bring much-needed normality and stability to his country, which will continue to elude Sri Lanka if the ethnic Tamil issue is not brought to a satisfactory close. If the healing touch is forthcoming, and Tamils in their home in the northern and eastern provinces have a sense of confidence in the system under Mr Rajapakse, there is no reason why the emerald island cannot live up to the promise of 6.5 per cent GDP growth and all-round development.
The plans that President Rajapakse may have to bring the Tamils into the mainstream by removing their sense of alienation have not been shared with the country. There are strong suggestions, however, that the devolution of powers to the Tamil North and East within a broad federal arrangement — a long-term demand — is not on the President's mind. In the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance there are said to be powerful elements which may not be well-disposed to conceding devolution to Tamils. These are essentially Sinhala interests with strong roots in the rural areas. However, the test of Mr Rajapakse's leadership would be to steer the ship in a direction that does not give cause for continuing estrangement of the Tamil minority, and to set the compass in the direction of national reconciliation and the healing of wounds, which is a sine qua non for the long-term progress and viability of the Sri Lankan state. It will be a pity if the military dismemberment of the LTTE raises a sustained majoritarian spirit in Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, and allows the moment to pass. That could be a road to unending bitterness and strife at the social and political level even after the annihilation of the LTTE.
India has high stakes in Sri Lanka's prosperity, and this country stood steadfast in opposition to the LTTE's cause of a separate Tamil homeland. But in order to stanch that demand, New Delhi has consistently maintained that a suitable devolution of powers to the Tamil areas within the framework of a united Sri Lanka offered the best bet for creating circumstances for progress and stability in Sri Lanka. Before and after the presidential election, Mr Rajapakse had given the world every reason to think that he would pay attention to the Tamil question in a manner that would help bring the north and east of the country into the democratic process. The President must not lose sight of this imperative. To do so would be to fail his country. If Mr Rajapakse makes a genuine effort to win over the Tamil minority and reorders domestic political arrangements with a view to creating a new dynamics without wounds, he will win kudos in the world and along with it much-needed economic assistance that will be good for everyone in Sri Lanka.







Last week a storm in a tea cup died down as Shashi Tharoor resigned as minister of state. That excitement gave way to a deeper stirring in the dregs of Indian Premier League (IPL), which promises a deeper sense of scandal. This lull is a time for reflection where one looks at Mr Tharoor not as an individual but a sociological fact.
The Tharoor episode combined two great dreams of Indian life, the dreams of politics and cricket. For many, Mr Tharoor was a new age politician. The label, I am afraid, is a misnomer. He had none of the quietness, the team work, the understated style of a Pilot, a Singh Deo or a Deora. He came out as a brash, overloud persona, projecting a caricature of himself. Mr Tharoor at 54 belonged to an older generation. He needs to be compared with a Jairam Ramesh or even a Salman Khurshid. Yet these stalwarts appear like vintage entities next to Mr Tharoor, with track records that he cannot even dream of.

Mr Tharoor was not new age. He was new, new to politics. He was part of the diaspora, more at home in the United Nations and in Dubai than in the politics of the Congress. In fact, Mr Tharoor's performance raises questions of the political implication of the diaspora's return. Mr Tharoor is a double, in that sense, a product of a different world, offering to speed up Indian politics. He was brash, acted superior but in his success became a Rorschach of Indian dreams of success, of the Indian returning from the West to create a new West within us.
One suddenly realised that as a phenomenon, Mr Tharoor was a graft, an implant that the body politics felt it had to reflect. There was something double-sided about him. On one side he was a sauve, sophisticated UN bureaucrat, with a degree from Tufts. On the other hand he was Johnny come lately who presented himself as a gift to Indian politics, asking us to be grateful for the sacrifices he had made. Sometimes, one was not clear whether he represented Dubai or Thiruvananthapuram.

It was true that he could stir things. He was sharp in his observations, quick on the repartee. He could have been a character in one of his own novels. He called a spade a shovel and twittered about it. He appeared adolescent, precocious, an over-smart quiz kid among politicians who pretended to be sheep in sheep's clothing. Little did he understand the carnivorous nature of politics, the quiet ruthlessness, the stolidity which covers an acuteness that was four moves ahead of him.

In an age of communication, he became the lord of Twitter, claiming a following larger than Shah Rukh Khan. Yet he twittered his career away by misreading the world of McLuhan (Herbert Marshall McLuhan, a Canadian philosopher and scholar, whose work is viewed as one of the cornerstones of the study of media theory. He coined the phrase, "The medium is the message").

In India, the medium is not the message. One should not confuse the excitement over twitter with the quiet shifts of politics. By misreading the ironies of communication, he became a Page 3 politician who had lost his sense of Page 1. Forget Twitter, he is already yesterday's newspaper. He lacked the sense of politics as the fine art of survival, where mediocrity provides sustainability, and where consensus is caught between silence and a dozen undecipherable dialects. Intelligence he had, but wisdom deserted him. He sounded like any diasporic complaining of the local traffic, worried about being part of the cattle class. Yet he embodied a dream of many middle class professionals who hoped to make it big abroad and then return to acclaim in India, promising to bring change, creating the institutional magic that has always eluded us. It was the professionals' dream of professionalising democracy, treating it as a collection of clubs to which he had won membership. He behaved like a first-class-first, ever ready to provide guess questions and aid to the mediocres around him. Oddly, when he resigns he appears a more naïve victim than a great strategist. Indian democracy is a great leveller, especially of pretensions to reform. In fact, Mr Tharoor's newness lay in the fact that he was the first coffee-table politician, immaculate till located in a more realistic context.

Mr Tharoor raised prospects of a second dream. Every diasporic carries within him a nostalgia of cricket. Cricket is our first nationality and it insists on a ritual patriotism. To play cricket is to play more than a game. It is to affirm a way of life, and claim knowledge of its myths, its discourses, its legends, and to possess a fund of anecdotes which become a passport to another universe. Cricket was a part of Indian cosmology.
When IPL emerged, one felt a new incarnation, a different vision of cricket was born. It was to allow access to a new generation of players while allowing a diversity of legends to live again in India. IPL was a splendid form of cricket. Like IT, it was a high for the middle class. Yet at the core of cricket was a middle class code. Cricket was the most parliamentary of games. It talked of table manners, yet allowed for a dream of mobility. Mr Tharoor rode in as a knight errant into the world of IPL breaking into its almost mafiosi-like cover, he offered a new team and an improbable one for Kerala. Team Kochi's patrons were not from Kerala yet the dream of a new team was a heady one. It was idealism coming alive again, a sense of Kerala as a new and powerful possibility. But our Galahad wrecked it when the backstage of dirty deals and shady francisees came into the open. At one fell swoop, Mr Tharoor demolished two great dreams, one of politics and the other of cricket.
Instead of ushering the promise of the new, he reinforced the murkiness of the old. His career virtually seems to enact a fable, a warning that the magic of change may be elusive. In that sense, Mr Tharoor was a symptom of a wider hope, a dream of speed, of modern communication, of expertise that fell afoul of the old structures that anchor Indian politics. But for the few moments of fame, he was a story worth telling and worth reflecting about.

By Shiv VisvanathanShiv Visvanathan is a social scientist







The India-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh mentioned Balochistan. India is now committed to discuss Balochistan with Pakistan. Let us now make a comparison between Balochistan and Kashmir.
Both have been in turmoil due to militancy for decades. They are mountainous regions suited for guerrilla warfare. Pakistan calls Kashmir the core issue. But Kashmir is more a symptom than the disease.
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with 43 per cent of its land space and only four per cent of its population. It is the richest province of Pakistan in mineral resources with gas, oil, uranium, thorium and arguably the largest copper deposits in the world. It is also Pakistan's most deprived province. All its people profess the same religion. Kashmir has negligible mineral resources. It enjoys greater autonomy than all the other states in India. It is the most pampered state in terms of the highest per capita Central aid. As against India's national average of 26 per cent below the poverty line, Kashmir has only 3.7 per cent in this category. Kashmir is a multi-religious state where Kashmiri Muslims are in a minority with the remaining population comprising non-Muslims and non-Kashmiri Muslims.

The British signed a treaty with the Khan of Kalat in 1876. This made Balochistan an allied state, virtually like Nepal. Kashmir was a Princely State, like several others in the country. Jinnah had been the attorney of the Khan. As per the agreement signed at Delhi on August 4, 1947 between Mountbatten, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat, Balochistan was to revert to its 1876 status on Pakistan becoming independent. Accordingly, the Khan declared his independence in August 1947. In January 1948, on a visit to Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan, the Khan was made to sign an instrument of accession to Pakistan. This was rejected by the state Assembly at Quetta and by the tribal councils. A violent agitation was started by the Khan's brother and this has continued with varying intensity for over six decades.

The Kashmir story is different. The Maharaja of Kashmir had not been able to make up his mind about which dominion to join. Pakistan launched an invasion of tribal raiders led by officers of the Pakistan Army. By October 26, 1947, the invaders had captured Baramulla, subjecting it to pillage and rapine of the worst kind. They were now very near Srinagar. The Maharaja acceded to India. Sheikh Abdullah, the undisputed political leader of Kashmir, endorsed this. The Indian Army flew into Kashmir the following day, saved Srinagar and drove the enemy out of the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah became chief minister and later the Maharaja was made to abdicate. After the first Indo-Pak war, peace prevailed in the state for over 40 years. Democracy functioned and elections were held regularly. Having lost three wars to India, Pakistan crafted a strategy of a thousand cuts to bleed India. A low-intensity conflict — a vicious mix of insurgency, terrorism and proxy war — has been raging in Kashmir since 1989. Over 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley. Militancy in Kashmir is fuelled by religious fundamentalism. In the case of Balochistan, it is the assertion of a separate ethnic and political identity.

The Pakistan Army has been conducting all-out offensive operations in Balochistan using air power and artillery. These area denying weapons cause indiscriminate and heavy casualties. There has not been a single instance in which the Indian Army has used such weapons in Kashmir. General Tikka Khan of Pakistan ruthlessly quelled the Baloch uprising in 1973. The Baloch people called him the "Butcher of Balochistan". Gen. Musharraf ordered airstrikes to kill veteran Baloch leader Akbar Khan Bugti. On the other hand, in Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardcore separatist leader in Kashmir, has never been treated harshly. He is allowed to meet Pakistani diplomats and leaders. In 2006 he was terminally ill with liver cancer. He wanted to go to the US for treatment but was denied a visa. All facilities were provided for his treatment in Mumbai. On a previous occasion, he was even flown to Mumbai in a state plane for treatment — complicated surgery that saved his life. Immediately on return to Srinagar, he ranted against India's "illegal occupation" of Kashmir.
Prompt action is taken in Kashmir against human rights violations. Army, paramilitary and police personnel found guilty have been dismissed and given prison sentences of up to 14 years. There is no information of such action being taken in Balochistan. Two specific instances are revealing. Major Rehman was accused of raping a mother and her daughter at Handwara, Kashmir. He had been going to the woman's house when her husband was away. One night the 13-year-old daughter saw him with her mother. She raised a hue and cry, leading to the officer being apprehended. Immediate action was taken and the officer was arraigned before a court martial. There was no forensic or other evidence to substantiate rape. However, it was proved that he had gone to the woman's house in the night while her husband was away. He was dismissed from service for conduct unbecoming of an officer. About the same time, a Pakistan Army major raped a lady doctor in a hospital at Quetta. No action whatsoever was taken against him. Violent disturbances broke out but these were quelled by the Pakistan Army. The lady doctor left Balochistan and went to Karachi, where her conservative father-in-law refused to accept her. Her husband was more understanding. They migrated to Canada. Gen. Musharraf, during his US tour, was asked about this case. He said the lady was raped, got money and got a visa to Canada. There was an uproar against this statement, both in international and Pakistani media.

There is proof of Pakistan's involvement in militancy in Kashmir, from thousands of Pakistanis apprehended there as also from documents and from international sources. Jihadis in Pakistan have openly declared war in Kashmir. A former ISI director, as a minister during Musharraf's regime, admitted in Pakistan's Parliament that the ISI had been organising cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. On the other hand, there is not a shred of evidence produced by Pakistan of any Indian involvement in Balochistan. India has no geographical access to Balochistan. She cannot do what Pakistan has been openly doing all these years in Kashmir. Had India wanted to pay back Pakistan in its own coin, she could have done so in the Gilgit Skardu region with which she has a common border. This region is legally Indian territory. For some time there has been widespread unrest there.
Pakistan has raised the Balochistan bogey to put pressure on India to withdraw her consulates at Kandahar and Herat as a first step to hustling India out of Afghanistan. Pakistan, the epicentre of terrorism in the world, is suffering at the hands of a monster of its own creation. She accuses India of terrorist attacks in its country even when its own terrorist outfits have been claiming responsibility. All this is being done to provide a fig leaf of justification for its terrorist attacks against India.

By S.K. SinhaThe author, a retired lieutenant-general, was Vice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir







I have never had the pleasure of meeting Amitabh Bachchan. We did speak once — or rather he talked and I listened — many years ago when I was working with the Telegraph in Calcutta. I was at home when the phone rang. He was calling from abroad to say that his name had been cleared in the Bofors scandal and, as he had always maintained, he had been proved innocent. Later, when I told my wife about the call, she was more interested in how he sounded on the phone rather than what he said.

A few years later, in early 90s, we moved to New Delhi where the third question they ask when they meet you at a party for the first time is, "And where do you live?" — the first being your name and the second your profession and position. In our case the where-do-you-live was often followed by "Does Amitabh Bachchan still have a house there?" Or, "Is it near the Bachchan house?"

There is a house down the lane from where we live that is known as "the Bachchan house". Old-timers in our neighbourhood say Amitabh Bachchan's parents, father Harivansh Rai and mother Teji, lived there for years and that he would often visit them.

It's not a movie-star mansion; it's a house like any other house in the neighbourhood except that it's screened behind high walls. But no one I know has ever seen the movie star, his wife or their children enter or leave the house, though our driver did inform us a few times that "shayad Amitabh Bachchan raat ko aye the" (Seems Amitabh Bachchan had come at night). He said he had heard from his network that there was a lot of security near the house and the night watchmen had seen some cars enter the gate. In the morning on my way to work, I did see a few people hanging around.

But that was some years ago. For a long time we have not seen any activity outside the house. Or inside. I am told there was some renovation work and neighbours spotted new blinds in the widows around the time the Bachchans' daughter was getting married. I believe it's lit up on Diwali like any other house, but according to the grapevine no one lives there except perhaps a caretaker.

The house is a landmark in the neighbourhood. When our guests ask for directions to our house, we often tell them to "take the gate next to the Bachchan house". Even some cabbies and autorickshaw drivers know its location.

In the days my work took me to Mumbai, I would often drive past what I was told was Shah Rukh Khan's house on way to my hotel in Bandra. And invariably the cab driver would point to the gate and say, "Shah Rukh house, Sir". The cab would never slow down so I only got to see the gate and little else till I watched parts of the Discovery Travel and Living documentary, Living with a Superstar.

I watched because I guess there's a voyeur in most of us. We like to see how the rich and famous live. "But they never showed his living room", said a friend after watching the documentary; another said it didn't look like a lived-in house, meaning everything was so neatly arranged. What they liked was the image of a family man, a caring parent.

Some months back, on a flight from Mumbai to Delhi, I saw the Bachchans enter the aircraft. His seat was two rows in front of mine, the first row window seat that most VIPs seem to prefer; the wife was across the aisle from me.

I don't recall ever seeing a top-notch Bollywood star up-close. In the low-ceilinged aircraft cabin he appeared to be taller than he looks in movies and ads. I had seen him many years ago in Calcutta when he came to my office to meet my boss, but that was only a fleeting glimpse, and from a distance.

When the flight landed in Delhi he opened the overhead locker, and carried his wife's baggage. I liked the gesture. I would have liked to ask him if he ever visits the house next door, but I was too embarrassed.
Later in the car my driver said there was a commotion outside the airport when the crowd spotted the movie star and his wife. As my car neared our house, he said, "Maybe they don't live here anymore". Maybe they don't, but for a lot of people it will always be known as "the Bachchan house".

By Shekhar BhatiaShekhar Bhatia can be contacted at



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Q: In the process of making myself happy, if I make somebody else unhappy is it OK?

Sadhguru: Now, you're talking about happiness as something that you borrow from people around you. See, you must understand, you being happy has got nothing to do with what is happening outside of you. Right now because your energies are so deeply enslaved to the outside, the outside is deciding your inner happiness. Once it is like this, conflict is inevitable. Please see, the conflict in the world is just my happiness versus your happiness. My happiness is Shiva, your happiness is Allah, we have to fight. Because we have decided, we have become incapable of being happy by our own nature; we have to do something to be happy. When you have to do something in the world to be happy, then others also have to do something else to be happy. Today or tomorrow our paths will cross and we will fight. We may pretend that we are all brothers, but when our happiness is under threat we want to shoot the other man!

Let's say, right now your happiness is in climbing a pole… Now there is somebody else who is sitting on the pole and saying you should not climb this pole because it is a holy pole. The moment he stops you, you become unhappy. If you are weak, you will go away; if you are strong you will pull him down and climb the pole. It is because your happiness depends on climbing this pole that you want to climb it somehow. Suppose you are already happy, and just like that you want to climb this pole and this man says, "No, please don't climb this pole". You will go and climb some other pole, and there will be no problem. If you are already happy in your own nature and your life is an expression of your happiness, then there will be no conflict in the world. But as long as you spend your life in pursuit of happiness, today or tomorrow there will be conflict in this world. It doesn't matter how much you educate people, how much civilisation you apply to them, they will fight.
If my happiness is within myself, and I have organised my energies in such a way that I am naturally happy, then whatever happens in my life, my happiness is never at stake and I will simply do what is needed for the situation I live in. There is no particular reason that I must be doing something, I can sit here without doing anything. If the situation demands I will act and if the situation doesn't demand I will sit quietly. In your pursuit of happiness, please see how you are burning up the whole planet.

Fortunately, 50 per cent of the world consists of lazy people. If all the seven billion people were very industrious like you, this world would not last for even 10 more years, it would be finished. This world exists not because of the industrious people, but because of the lazy people. They are the ones who are really saving the world. These so-called industrious people with good intentions and absolute stupidity are uprooting the world in so many ways. They have great intentions for people, but if their intentions are fulfilled, the world itself will not be left. So don't be in pursuit of happiness, know how to express your happiness in the world. If you look back at your life you will see that the most beautiful moments in life are moments when you are expressing your joy, not when you are seeking it.

By Sadhguru

— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally-renowned speaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at








A few months ago, when the human resources development (HRD) ministry tried to ban deemed universities in India, a big outcry led to a rethink. A review committee has now come up with new regulations which deemed universities must follow. The problem started with the severe shortage of higher educational institutions in India. With government-owned and funded institutions failing to increase supplies of seats, private universities mushroomed. They were loosely "advised" by the University Grants Commission.


Sadly, some of these "deemed" universities were found to be taking students for a ride. They collected exorbitant fees without setting up matching infrastructure or facilities, had hopelessly inadequate faculty and large unredeemable promises about foreign affiliations. Under the circumstances, an official overview was not only inevitable, but also much needed. The new regulations are stringent and legally enforceable. This means that deemed universities must not only meet the required standards but will be punished if they do not comply. They need to have 15 years of proven excellence, they will be monitored by a panel of national experts which will be changed every five years and they will be run by boards of at least 10 members. New applicants will be reviewed by experts to see if they have the knowledge to provide what they are promising.


Welcome as these measures are, they point to the enormous neglect that education in India has suffered since Independence. From pre-primary to post-graduate education, we have the same situation of millions running to get admission into a select few institutions. Quality, except for those select institutions, has been a major casualty. It is hardly surprising that the enterprising have tried to capitalise on the gaps, some with good intent and means and the others through sheer chicanery.


The best college education in many other parts of the world is privately-owned and run. It could be so in India as well, if education was not just seen by some as a get-rich-quick opportunity but as a viable investment in our future. It is because of the chicanery of so many so-called "educationists" that the government is being forced to step in. Bad practices in the end only invite regulation. Better late than never is a cliche that applies here.







Clean fuels need compliant technologies in vehicles to be effective. It is not enough then if oil companies are able to put Bharat Stage IV (BS IV) fuels in the market if vehicles with appropriate engines are not there to make optimal use of them. The oil majors are ready to introduce BS IV and BS III — fuel emission gradations which are relatively cleaner — fuels and this was conveyed by the ministry of petroleum and natural gas. The transport ministry wants implementation of the new emission standards to be deferred by six months because auto manufacturers are not yet ready with matching engines. This is more than an inter-ministerial tussle and the playing out of conflicting interests.


India is passing through a veritable auto revolution with the number of cars and other vehicles growing by the million every year. The country is literally on wheels. But this comes with a price tag in terms of an alarming rise in emission levels that are a health hazard for urban dwellers. Of course, this is not the only problem posed by affluence, as reflected in the growth of car-owners. There are the traffic snarls in city centres and there are clogged highways. But a cleaner environment has become a top-of-the-agenda issue for more than one reason. There is the overarching climate change problem. The more tangible one is the need for clean air in cities.


The emission standards question is complicated and requires a coordinated approach which goes beyond governmental agencies. There is need for auto manufacturers and oil companies to talk to each other and not just through ministry channels. Fuel efficiency is now an integral part of auto engineering and a communication channel between the two would be better for all.


The government, for its part, can avoid compromises like allowing different emission standards for different cities. The BS IV standards are now applicable only in 14 cities while the rest of the Tier I cities and towns will have to comply with BS III. The compulsions behind a phased approach are understandable but they create enough complications and confusion as well. There is no reason why the metros and bigger cities should have better emission norms than smaller ones. The country needs to move towards a single zone in terms of emission standards. Turf battles and administrative tinkering will not be of much help. A round-table approach is the way to solve this problem.







While the rest of the world was celebrating the 100th anniversary of International Women's Day in March, a process of disempowering women was initiated in Jammu & Kashmir with the introduction of the J&K Permanent Residents (Disqualification) Bill, 2010. Introduced as a private member's bill, it laid down that a woman who marries outside the state would lose the status of permanent resident (PR) — including the right to hold property, securing jobs in state services, voting for the legislative assembly or contesting elections.


While introducing the bill, Murtaza Khan of the People's Democratic Party (PDP) said that a female PR acquires the status of her husband and ceases to be a permanent resident on marrying someone who is not a PR of the state. The bill was later dropped, but not because of the unacceptable position it embodied. It was dropped on 'technical' grounds because a bill which required a constitutional amendment could not be introduced in the upper house.


This was not a 'freak' bill introduced by an 'odd' member. It has a certain politics and a history behind it. The PR status follows the state's notification of 1927 and 1932 that classified the residents of the state in various categories and provided them with special rights. However, this notification did not make a distinction between men and women. Through some administrative fiat, however, a practice was started of stamping the legend "Valid till marriage" on the PR certificates issued to women. As a consequence, a woman had to procure an altogether new certificate after her marriage. In case she married outside the state, she automatically lost that status.


In 2004, the state high court, in the case of State of J&K vs Sheela Sawhney, declared that there was no provision in the existing law dealing with the status of a female PR who married a non-resident. The provision of women losing their PR status after marrying outside the state, therefore, did not have any legal basis. This decision was historic because it corrected an administrative anomaly and brought relief to women who married outside the state.


However, the PDP-led government sought to undo the relief given by the high court by introducing the 'Permanent Residents (Disqualification) Bill, 2004', which clearly laid down that a woman marrying outside the state would lose her PR status. The PDP's viewpoint was revealed in a statement given by Muzaffar Beg, who was the law minister at that time. He argued that it was "universally accepted that the woman follows the domicile of her husband."


The bill was supported by the National Conference and was passed in the lower house. But it could not ultimately be passed.

It was a similar kind of bill that was sought to be passed in March, 2010. As in 2004, the logic put forth was that it was needed to preserve the Kashmiri identity from exterior sources. The right of women to marry outside the state and retain their status of PR was seen as going against the 'autonomy' and 'special status' of the state. There is an ongoing campaign claiming that such a right given to women would ultimately lead to demographic change in the state.


The whole debate smacks of a patriarchal mindset. If demographic change is the issue, then it is men rather than women who need to be debarred from marrying outside the state because unlike women, who exit the state and cannot pass on this right to their husbands or children, the men can.


There are many in Kashmir who genuinely believe that the bill is needed in order to buttress the larger political cause for which Kashmiris are fighting and who believe that raising the issue of the women's rights is an unnecessary diversion that could fragment the movement. There are also many who argue that Kashmiri identity would have to be redeemed before women can be granted equal rights.


But there are women in the state who decry this hierarchical ordering of rights. They argue that Kashmiri identity is inclusive and a woman is as much a part of this identity as a man is. When the bill came up this time, they questioned its patriarchal bias which renders women as secondary members in society. They demanded to know how there could be full empowerment of the Kashmiri 'people' without the empowerment of women? Isn't the empowerment of Kashmiri women very much a part of the 'greater cause' of Kashmiri empowerment?


The bill has been dropped for the moment. But in the absence of a women's movement in the state and given, in particular, gender insensitivity within the political class, politicians in search of emotive issues can at any point rally once again around this biased and retrograde bill.


Women's Feature Service







Suddenly, Shashi Tharoor has become everybody's favourite whipping boy. Just the other day he was like the teacher's pet with his insouciant lock of hair and light, goodie-goodie eyes that sparkle with innocence: even when he is very, very naughty he gets away with it. No sending him into the corner by the headmistress — with just a light tap on the hand, accompanied with an indulgent smile.


Today our very freshly ex minister of state for external affairs can do no right. But there is one thing I can commend him for. And, please, dear readers do stifle that yawn and don't stop reading under the impression that this is yet another piece of journalism on the stupendous rise and precipitous fall of Shashi Tharoor — or even of the continuing soap opera of the duel with Lalit Modi and l' affaire IPL.


This column is on the rise of the mature woman in an age obsessed with youth and looking young. If you take a quick poll of powerful, married men of a certain age the world over: politicians, industrialists, movie stars, directors, famous novelists and media tycoons, the "other woman" in their lives tends, generally, to be decades younger. Just look at our movies: our botoxed fortysomething actors with not-so-subtle hair weaves get to frolic with starlets scarcely into their 20s.


Whatever else he may or may not have done, the twice-married Tharoor did not, allegedly, fall for a bimbette barely out of her teens. The other woman in this brouhaha, Sunanda Pushkar, is a mature woman on the fringe of, well, middle age, give or take a few years.


She comes with a baggage of a bit of history, and much mystery. Despite the fact that New Delhi does not suffer from the lack of lissome young lasses with washboard stomachs and guts full of ambition who are on the lookout for powerful, famous or rich men.

Is the woman of a certain age the next best thing? Perhaps, not. But women with the gentle caresses of the passage of time etched on their faces — along with traces of lives richly lived — are increasingly playing love interests in European and American films. And here, I am not referring to the cougars (women on the darker side of the 30s and upwards) on the prowl for toy boys.

Remember the sexy, smoky-voiced Mrs Robinson (memorably played by Ann Bancroft) who seduces the innocent college graduate — a very young Dustin Hoffman. He is old enough to be her son: we are almost in Phaedra territory here with the older woman as predator.


What I am really getting at is that there are an increasing number of mainstream Hollywood films in which the older man goes for the older woman: these are same-age romances, with the nubile young things shooed off centrestage. Are some men finally growing up — getting tired of their trophy arm candy?


In Nancy Meyers's latest film, It's Complicated, the mother of three grown-up children (an unglam Meryl Streep with a deeply-lined face and a body not-to-die-for) meets her ex-husband (a delightful and unabashedly fat Alec Baldwin) while attending their son's graduation. Sparks fly and before you know it Baldwin falls lustfully in love with his former wife. She becomes the "other woman", making the much younger wife (a smouldering sexy with a curious tattoo) the dumped one.


Something's Gotta Give, another American romantic comedy of this millennium, had the ageing roué Jack Nicholson habitually romancing women almost four decades younger, fall for a mature Diane Keaton: the mother of his latest squeeze. Interestingly, a young doctor (Keanu Reeves) is also attracted to her.
Is this the new twist to millennium adultery? Are men gliding towards comfort zones?


As for the couple du jour the column began with — it's complicated.










The raging Indian Premier League controversy which claimed former Union minister Shashi Tharoor as its first casualty has caused perceptible fissures in the relationship between the Congress and the NCP. Over the last few days, the NCP and its two Central ministers, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, have had fingers pointed at them for benami stakes, slush funds, benefits to kith and kin and for too cozy a relationship between Mr Pawar and IPL kingpin Lalit Modi, who is under a serious cloud for tax irregularities. Though Pawar has distanced himself from Modi, who also carries the cross of being close to the BJP, there is a nagging feeling that there is more to it than meets the eye. The IPL was created when Pawar was at the helm of the BCCI. The Union Agriculture Minister continues to be a powerful presence in the cash-rich cricketing body, of which Modi is a vice-president.


Though Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari recently went on record to say that the IPL controversy would not cloud his party's ties with the NCP as there is a "Chinese wall" between cricket and politics, the strains in the relationship are for all to see. Only the previous day Praful Patel had charged a section of the ruling party of launching a "slander campaign" about his involvement in the matter. As for Pawar, he was initially spirited in his defence of Modi and backed out only when he found that he was being bracketed with the BJP to which Modi was seen to be close.


Since the Congress and the NCP share power not only at the Centre but also in Maharashtra, Goa and Meghalaya, the stakes are high for both to maintain their relationship. For the Congress, which will soon be up against a vote on the budget at a time when its majority in the Lok Sabha has been reduced to a razor-thin one, the support of the NCP's eight Lok Sabha members is particularly crucial. Consequently, all eyes are on the tax searches at the IPL offices which could prove an embarrassment for the BCCI bosses if they unravel serious irregularities. Whatever Pawar and Praful Patel may profess, they can hardly deny that for them cricket and politics go hand in hand.








The Union Cabinet's proposal to introduce the Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, in Parliament is welcome. There has been an alarming increase in custodial deaths. The police still has a colonial mindset. The National Human Rights Commission, in its annual reports, has recorded the custodial deaths of 16,836 persons or an average of 1203 persons per year during 1994-2008. These included 2,207 deaths in police custody and 14,629 deaths in judicial custody. However, these represent only a fraction of the incidence of torture. There is no record of torture that does not result in custodial death. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's guidelines in the case of D.K. Basu vs State of West Bengal or the NHRC's guidelines to report cases of custodial death and rape within 24 hours have failed to end torture. The apex court has ruled that non-compliance of its guidelines would be treated as contempt of court and police officers will be punished accordingly, but most states have done little in this regard.


Shockingly, fake encounters too are on the rise. The police have no fear of law. Following media pressure, the Supreme Court is monitoring the riot cases and the deaths of Sheikh Sohrabuddin, his wife and of Ishrat Jahan in fake encounters in Gujarat. Clearly, the police must not violate the human rights of innocent people. Otherwise, they will be exposed to double jeopardy. The Bill envisages imprisonment up to 10 years for public servants found guilty of torture. But this is not enough. The Centre and the states need to do a lot more to sensitise the police and check torture.


Significantly, the Bill will pave way for the ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Punishment adopted by the United Nations in 1975. India had signed the Convention in October 1997. Its ratification requires an enabling legislation having provisions necessary to give effect to the Articles of the Convention. Though the Indian Penal Code has some provisions, they neither define "torture" (Article 1 of the Convention) nor make it "criminal" (Article 4). The proposed legislation would have served the intended purpose if it helped change the image of the police, making them more humane and sympathetic.









Heads must hang in shame over the tragic death of a handicapped girl and her father in a village near Hisar. Words cannot adequately convey the outrage over the medieval act of vengeance carried out in the heart of Haryana where the two were torched alive for no fault of theirs. Dalit houses were set on fire on Wednesday by a mob of upper-caste men merely because a an upper-caste boy had got into an altercation with Dalits earlier in the week and was beaten up by them. The grossly disproportionate reaction was evidently inspired by caste considerations and wounded pride. While the armed mob went on the rampage and set the thatched tenements on fire, most people managed to escape but the roof caved in on polio stricken Suman who was trapped in the inferno and lost her life. Her father could perhaps have saved his own life but lost it while trying to save hers.


The shameful incident shows up the weaknesses of both the administration and civil society. The administration clearly had no clue about the simmering tension in the village or about the immediate provocation. The panchayat and the civil society too cannot be absolved of their responsibility. It is incredible that the majority of the villagers remained passive and allowed the mob to have its way. The absence of any restraining influence and lack of sane advice reflect poorly on village society and the 'dominant' community. Growing assertiveness of the dalits following their political and economic empowerment , and the corresponding loss of clout of the upper-castes, seem to be at the root of the conflict. Reports in the media suggest fairly old rivalry and sharp differences between the two communities, some as old as a decade. That is why the institutional failure to restore social harmony is a cause of serious concern and needs to be studied at greater depth.


Judging by past experience, the culprits are unlikely to get their comeuppance. In all acts of mob violence, it is certainly difficult to judge the specific role played by individuals and apportion responsibility. Most perpetrators take advantage of this lacuna to claim innocence and get off lightly. Justice, however, demands exemplary and swift punishment to the entire group because any delay or prevarication would continue to encourage unruly mobs to take the law into their own hands.

















Paid news has become a big threat to the world's largest democracy. It raises serious questions of journalistic ethics and professional integrity. In the last elections to the Lok Sabha and a few State Assemblies, a section of the media — print and electronic — had indulged in nefarious monetary deals with some politicians and candidates by agreeing to publish only their views not as advertisements but as news items.


Parliament, the Election Commission, the Press Council of India and organisations like the Editors' Guild of India and the Association for Democratic Reforms are deeply agitated about it. On April 26, the Press Council of India will examine the draft report of the inquiry conducted into this disturbing phenomenon by it. But we need to look beyond reports. There is need for exemplary action like impounding the licence of a publication or a TV news channel if it is found guilty of the crime.


In a petition to the Press Council, the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists (APUWJ) has charged six Telugu newspapers — Eenadu, Andhra Jyothi, Sakshi, Vaartha, Andhra Bhoomi and Surya — with succumbing to the lure of paid news. In a sample survey of these newspapers in West Godavari district during the election campaign in April 2009, it has alleged that the advertisers' copy appeared as paid news along with the dateline and creditline to mislead the reader to believe that it was the reporter's news story.


The respective newspaper managements, according to the APUWJ, collected money for space according to their advertisement tariff without acknowledging that it was an advertisement. Their designs were exposed when they published paid news sometimes on the same page and sometimes on different pages of the same edition, predicting the victory of more than one candidate in the same constituency with the same dateline and creditline.


The APUWJ has charged these newspapers with putting the creditline and dateline at the end of the story instead of at the beginning which was the usual practice. Some other newspapers did not give the creditline but published it in the news format with just the dateline. But then, the usual attributes of a news story such as where it was said and the context were missing. From the tone and tenor of the story, a journalist with minimum experience would sense that it was a plant or an advertisement.


According to Chief Election Commissioner Navin Chawla, the commission had received several complaints on paid news. One grievance was that candidates sometimes got blacked out by unscrupulous publications unless they paid up. Others complained that the well-heeled candidates who could cough up the money got favourable write-ups.


Significantly, the commission has sought comments from Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan who allegedly spent money on paid news in his favour in some Marathi newspapers and did not account for this expenditure in his election accounts. Mr Chavan was elected from Bhokar in Nanded district. The commission has pointed out that three Marathi dailies carried identical news reports praising Mr Chavan. Only the headlines were different. "Prima facie, we felt it was an advertisement masquerading as news", the commission said.


The media occupies a special place in society. It is the conscience-keeper of the nation. It enjoys freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under the Constitution. It will have to inform the people and the government correctly and dispassionately. It does not enjoy freedom of speech and expression to misinform and give distorted news and project views of a particular party or group in the guise of news for monetary considerations.


A newspaper — or a TV news channel — is much more than a product. It is a live medium of communication, information, analysis and opinion and not a commodity. Its fundamental duty is to serve the people with news, views, comments and information on matters of public interest in a fair, accurate, unbiased and sober manner. The media ought to conduct itself in keeping with certain professional norms which are universally recognised.


The various norms and guidelines regulating the Press underline one fundamental principle or objective — that the media has some societal compulsions and moral obligations. Journalists may enjoy complete freedom in the exercise of their duties. But this freedom is not without responsibility and restraints. It is the ethical foundation, based on certain norms and guidelines, which give the Press a stature and strength for a major societal role, particularly where credibility is the principal criterion. Ethical practices and norms distinguish rights from wrongs. An unfettered and restrained Press, without ethical concerns, can be a threat to free society and to its very independence.


If a newspaper or a TV channel takes money to publish or telecast a news item, it will have a debilitating influence on society. Free and fair elections are sine qua non of a democratic form of government. And elections will cease to be a level-playing field for all candidates if some, with bags of money, grease the palms of newspaper or television barons and get undue coverage. Clearly, paid news, if not checked, will subvert democracy.


True, there are problems in bringing the guilty to book. Circumstantial evidence may not always be available. There is also the question of transactional evidence that would hold up to legal scrutiny. Yet, nothing prevents the government from framing suitable guidelines for an independent and transparent monitoring mechanism after due deliberations with bodies like the Editors' Guild, the Advertising Standards Council, the Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the Press Council and the Election Commission. The Press Council needs to be given more teeth. At present, it is hardly able to do anything other than reprimanding or censoring those found guilty. It would be eminently sensible to empower the Election Commission to enforce the guidelines.


The Centre should also try for an all-party consensus for a legislation to tackle paid news. The suggestion for an amendment to the Representation of the People Act declaring paid news as an electoral malpractice merits serious consideration. Without this, the Election Commission would find it difficult to take action. According to Election Commissioner S.Y. Quraishi, the commission needed "solid proof" that could stand the test of legal scrutiny. The Editors' Guild has suggested that the expenditure limit of candidates be raised to a "realistic level" as the present ceiling on election expenses — Rs 25 lakh for a Lok Sabha seat and Rs 10 lakh for an Assembly seat — is being cited by politicians as a reason for resorting to paid news. But the Election Commission has expressed its limitations in this regard. Parliament alone can take the initiative in raising the ceiling on election expenses.


As for taking action against politicians and mediapersons who violated disclosure norms, Mr Chawla is of the view that the Election Commission did not have the mechanism to monitor candidates in all constituencies. However, he suggested that some "random samples" could be put under close scrutiny. If a few candidates were made an example, it would serve a warning to others, he says.

As paid news impinges on the people's right to know and wreaks havoc on the democratic system, it must be tackled expeditiously. At stake are the credibility and moral foundation of the Indian media.








THE Indian Railways, faced with an acute resources crunch, is engaged in an exercise thinking up ways and means to raise the wind and one of the ideas that is receiving close attention at the highest ministerial level is to ask bulk customers to provide their own freight wagons.


Will the idea catch on and extended to fare-paying passengers and will they be required to lug with them three-tier sleeper coaches, chair cars and general compartments when they arrive at a railway station to commence their journey?


I have been talking to Member (Coaching) of the Railway Board.


"Yes indeed," he said, "there's a distinct possibility that the next railway budget will contain provisions making it mandatory for passengers to provide their own compartments, but no final decision has yet been taken".


"As you know, the railway ministry had almost finalised a deal to import 10,000 steel bogies and wheel-and-axle sets from Japan and Germany, but due to budgetary constraints, the contract had to be scrapped at the last minute and therefore we are thinking of asking passengers to bring with them, along with their tiffin carriers and hold-alls, steel bogies and wheel-and-axle sets which they can place on the tracks and perch comfortably and commence their journey."


"What about the improved amenities for passengers which the railway minister is talking about?" I asked.


"That's receiving out top-most attention," said the Member (Coaching)," after all, fare-paying passengers are our bread-and-butter. Our station masters, gangmen and khalasis have been given standing instructions to provide also possible assistance to our passengers in this regard and unload the steel bogies and wheel-and-axle sets from their luxury taxis and help place them on the Permanent Way."


The Member (Coaching) continued: "Because of labour unrest and power shortage, Indian industry has failed to supply the railways heavy-duty buffer couplers and vacuum brakes and we might ask passengers to provide these equipment also.


"Because of the resources crunch" many of our air-conditioned sleeper coaches and chair cars are running without airconditioners and we're thinking as asking passengers to ruthlessly strip their offices and residences of five-tonne airconditioners and air coolers and bring them along to be fitted to their compartments. There's a likely possibility that they might also be required to provide high end signalling gear".


"Let's be grateful for small mercies," I said, "at least you're not thinking of asking them to provide rails."


"Don't be too sure" cautioned the Member (Coaching), "our contingency plans call for directing passengers to bring with them 56-kg Long Welded Rails and place them progressively on the Permanent Way as their journey progresses."


"I'm glad that passenger amenities aren't being given the goby despite the perilous resources position the railways find themselves in, I said, "but just one last question." Besides steel bogies and wheel-and-axle sets, heavy-duty buffer couplers and vacuum brakes, air conditioners, signalling equipment and long-welded rails, will the passengers be required to bring anything else with them?"


"Just one thing. Engines."








Omar Abdullah is 15 months into the job and it's been a turbulent period for India's youngest Chief Minister heading one of the country's most troubled and sensitive states - Jammu and Kashmir. The young Abdullah, who turned 40, seemed to have weathered the initial storm and has got down to real business of governance keeping his focus on gut issues like power, education, roads, health and jobs. The suave Chief Minister, dressed in a trendy linen suit, spent an hour talking today to The Tribune's Editor-in-Chief Raj Chengappa and principal correspondent Jupinderjit Singh at his official residence in Jammu. Excerpts:


You have now been 15 months in the saddle and your critics say your performance has been average. What's your response?

If my critics were praising me I would be worried. The fact that they are criticising me is rather heartening because then we must be doing something right. I think on the whole it has been a good 15 months. There have been ups and downs but given the challenges we have had to face, we have succeeded in improving the quality of governance, improving the delivery on the promises we have made. We have sought to improve the inclusiveness of the government. We have provided a good atmosphere in terms of security and law and order. And all-round development. As I said it was not free of its share of troubles but we have dealt with these also — perhaps in the best possible way. On top of that I am heading a coalition government which is an exercise in diplomacy. So I think under the circumstances, we have done a bloody good job.


What's the big lesson you have learnt?

I think the biggest lesson is to learn but take your own decisions. And any decision is better than no decision at all. Unlike governments in the past, I believe in doing things rather than in talking about doing things. My own style of doing things is to talk less and let my work talk for me.


What have you provided in terms of infrastructure?

In infrastructure, we have been working on not one but two central universities and four-laning of the national highway between Jammu and Srinagar which will significantly cut down the distance between the two. We have developed international airports but flights have been sketchy. We have focused on rural connectivity. In a large part of Jammu and Kashmir, connectivity is thin on the ground. You have an area like the erstwhile Doda district, which has 16 per cent road connectivity. This is abysmally low that too 60 plus years after Independence. If you can't get a bus to village, then what are you telling people. It is really the nuts and bolts, bijli, sadak, pani, sehat and taleem. These are our five focus areas to prove qualitative improvement in the lives of the people. Power is another one. We generate 2500 mw while we talk about the potential of 17000 mw capacity. So, we are trying to add another 6000 mw in the next five to seven years. So, these are really the big ticket focus items.


You have to come to power on the basis of providing jobs to the people. What have you done about that?

We have put into place a policy for the youth. Basically, the problem has been that employment has been looked at from the prism of government jobs. In J and K, a government job is the first option. The private sector is a measure of the last resort. We are gradually trying to change that. We are trying to start a system where a stipend could be provided to economically weaker and backward sections that are struggling to find jobs. We are also working on an aggressive programme on developing our skill development infrastructure. We have 18 polytechnics coming up in various districts. We are trying to provide one ITI for every two administrative blocks. The idea is to convert essentially unemployed youth into employable youngsters, provide them those skills to match the areas they come from. And the potential that exists there. At the same time, we are trying to see how many government jobs we can create without putting too much of additional burden on the economy.


Why did the policy of inter-district recruitment ban come up?

What we found was that better educated youngsters from one part of the state would get jobs in more difficult areas and not serve there. They would then get the posts transferred out. So, in fact, the area they got recruited into would not have their services. Besides, the posts available to that area would suffer. There are three kinds of government jobs — the district cadre, the provincial and the state level. The new ban is applicable to the district level only and we have ensured that the constitutional safeguards of 8 per cent for the Scheduled Castes have not been affected.


Was it a ploy to scuttle any non-valley citizen from taking valley jobs and also populating the region, thereby changing the demographics?

No, absolutely not. Please understand that we have only brought back a situation which existed up to 2004. It is not as if we have reverted to something that existed in pre-1947. It is not as if it was a Jammu versus Kashmir thing. More often, we found that it was a problem within Kashmir. People from Anantnag were getting jobs in Kupwara and Kupwara people were saying what was wrong with us. So, this in a sense was just to protect the employment interests of these districts.


Your main opposition party, the PDP, just today launched an agitation for India and Pakistan to settle the Kashmir issue?

I have my doubts on the extent to which they will be able to involve the people. They know that no amount of agitation on our part is going to get India and Pakistan talking to each other until the two countries are ready themselves.


What is your approach?

I think both will have to fulfil what they have been saying so far. For that, Pakistan has to ensure that its territory is not used against India and India has to ensure that we keep the dialogue process going on in spite of efforts made to sabotage or hijack it. If we can just do this, I think half of battle is done.


Has there been a rise in militancy in the Valley?

Contrary to popular perception that we are having a hot summer, infiltration this year is lower than last year at the same time. But, obviously, we have to remain on our guard. There is absolutely zero room for complacency. There is no room for letting our guard down.


Should the Army reduce its forces in the Valley?

I think it is something for the Army to decide. And it has to be taken out of the political arena. The decision to bring the Army in was not a political one. It was based on the security environment in the state at that time. And the decision to take the Army out will also be based not on political sloganeering of any political party. It will be based on the comfort level of the state government and the Central Government with the inputs from the forces on the ground. And keeping that in mind, we have had some amount of de-location of forces and we have done it quietly. Without all the bells and whistles that normally go with such decision. And so far it has worked absolutely fine.


What's your approach to the question of revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act?

It is a two-pronged one. In the medium term, we will hope to revoke it completely. But obviously in the near future, we would like it modified and amended so that the more draconian aspects of it can be taken away, like the search and seizure permissions, the mobile check posts that are allowed to be set up, where the law and machinery is kept out of the purview of this. Those aspects need to be looked at.

How should the Army be dealing with the people — we just had the case of a 70-year-old being killed?


What they need to build into the system is transparency and accountability.


Your opponent shave been pushing for self-rule. But you have been talking about autonomy. What do you want?

Well, basically, that the autonomy to J and K is a constitutionally mandated situation that existed between 1947 and 1953. And we believe that is the way forward. But we also say that there is enough scope for discussion. Clearly, we are neither the only political party here, nor are we the only voice and it is important that the government of India in the light of the Justice Sagheer Ahmed Report start engaging various voices and find a road map that is acceptable to the majority of people.


Between Jammu and Kashmir, a lot of trouble happened earlier because of the Amarnath Yatra. What have you been doing to bring the two regions together?

Just basically ensuring that each region gets it due share. No more, no less. We are trying to ensure that no region feels cheated or robbed at the hands of other one. There are sensitivities and those have to be addressed. And in this, the government of India has also played its part on the issue of the central university, which some political parties were hoping would flare up into an Amarnath agitation based on regional lines. And they were kind enough to sanction two central universities and that put an end to that.


Has the Amarnath land row being resolved?

It is a non-issue. The shrine board is free to use whatever land it needs to for the duration of the yatra and that has always been the case and it will continue to be the case.


Does the shadow of your father, Farooq Abdullah, fall on you. What lessons have you learnt from him?

We learn from everybody that we come across and meet. And I learn from dad almost everyday. I think he is one of the few people I turn for advice, knowing that it won't be in anyway biased or motivated by self interest. I learnt from him to be straight forward. I think my dad takes it to new heights but I tend not to do that.

What is the difference between you and your father?


Well, I don't play golf. (laughs) 









Situated in the heart of south Mumbai, there exists this beautiful stone structure – the Flora Fountain – on Dr D N Road. This structure was actually constructed in the honour of Sir Bartle Frere (the Governor of Bombay).
 Sir Henry Bartle Edward Frere was one of the few forward-looking statesmen of the Victorian age who spent most of his career in India to finally become the Governor of Bombay in the 1860s (1862 to 1867), which he managed with utmost distinction. In fact, he not only was a liberal thinker who worked towards economic development, but he had also played a major part in the actual self-discovery (read as progress) of Bombay (he was majorly responsible for dismantling the Bombay Fort and making Mumbai what it is today) and even Karachi for that matter.

An out-of-the-box thinker, Frere was a leading opponent of slavery and took great pains to see that he preserved the heritage and religion of India even at the risk of locking horns with his own countrymen who wanted to Christianise the sub-continent. He was appointed as High Commissioner for South Africa in 1877, but a fostering enmity with William Ewart Gladstone (who held the post of PM of Britain four times in 1868, 1880, 1886, 1892) saw him being disgracefully sacked for starting the Anglo Zulu war of 1879.

 Located on Dadabhai Naoroji Road – formerly known as Hornby Road named in memory of the Governor of Bombay William Hornby (1723 to 1803) who built a seawall near Worli to prevent flooding of low-lying areas at the risking of offending the East India Company – the fountain was built in 1864 in a prime business district in in the heart of south Mumbai and actually depicts the Roman Goddess of Flowers – 'Flora'.

 Designed by an English architect, R Norman Shaw, it is made up of imported 'Portland Stone' (a lime stone quarried on the Isle of Portland, Dorset, which has been used to build the St Paul's Cathedral, the Buckingham Palace and even the United Nations headquarters in New York) while the exquisite sculpture was made by James Forsythe. Although, initially, the square was known as Frere Fountain, it was finally named as Flora Fountain (this unexpected development somehow took place just before its inauguration). Originally constructed at a cost of £9,000 (equivalent to a princely sum of Rs 47,000), the fountain stands exactly at the point where the original Church Gate of Bombay Fort stood during that time. The construction was commenced at the behest of the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India but a magnanimous donation of Rs 20,000 from Cursetjee Fardoonjee Parekh went a long way in financing the construction.

Flora Fountain, was also known as Mumbai's Piccadilly Circus (a famous road junction which was built in 1819 and named after the house of a tailor known as Robert Baker who was famous for selling piccadillies or collars) because of the fact that five streets meet at this point. Flora Fountain was renamed to Hutatma Chowk (Martyr's Square) in 1960 in memory of 105 people who were martyred when a peaceful demonstration of the 'Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti' was fired upon by the police. This led to the creation of the state of Maharashtra on 1st May 1960 from the erstwhile bi-lingual state of Bombay (read as Gujarat included). A stone statue depicting a pair of torch holding patriots as a poignant memory of the tragic incident has also has been added to the square.



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Any assessment of Goldman Sachs' alleged "fraud" is likely to run into two problems. First, the armada of jargon that surrounds the financial derivatives market could mean that the essence of the case is lost in translation, leaving the non-specialist bewildered as to the exact nature of the Wall Street giant's alleged perfidy. Second, given the firm's role in the financial crisis and its patently insensitive decision to hand out obscenely large bonuses to its employees at the peak of the US recession, it would be difficult to find too many hearts that bleed for Goldman Sachs. This is likely to bias judgment. However, an objective assessment is likely to show that US securities market regulator SEC's case against Goldman Sachs is far from being open and shut. The key elements of the case are as follows. Goldman Sachs created a complex instrument called a synthetic collateralised debt obligation (CDO) and christened Abacus that enabled a key client, Paulson and Company, to bet against the US mortgage market. Shorn of all the complexities, a CDO is a portfolio of securities — in this case securities backed by residential mortgages. Mr Paulson betted against the mortgage market by shorting these securities, that is selling them in the future at a fixed price. If their actual market prices declined below this fixed price, which they did, Paulson would stand to gain, which he did. As the US sub-prime collapsed in 2007, Mr Paulson netted a cool billion dollars. Every seller needs a buyer and Paulson would not be able to "short" the CDO if Goldman Sachs had not been able to fund a buyer. The key buyers in this case were a German Bank, IKB and American firm ACA Management.


The core of the SEC allegation is that Goldman Sachs marketed the CDO to these firms without informing them that Mr Paulson was running a huge short on the very CDO that they had decided to buy or go long on. But that is hardly the cardinal offence that the SEC is making it out to be. For one, both the buyers and sellers were specialist investors who presumably took informed calls on the mortgage market. It's not as if Goldman was pitting the interests of some retail investors against a Wall Street Goliath. All that Goldman did as a financial intermediary was to devise an instrument by which IKB and Paulson's calls could translate into actual trades. Should it have disclosed Mr Paulson's identity and trading position to IKB and ACA? Market-making is often done on the basis of anonymity and one could argue that Goldman really had no obligation to tell Abacus' buyers about who was on the other side of the trade. There are other allegations that also can be viewed in more than one way. So what's the fuss all about? This is not to exonerate Goldman or for that matter any of the major Wall Street Banks of their role in fostering a culture of greed, over-borrowing and reckless risk-taking that ultimately precipitated the financial meltdown. Financial regulation in the US needs overhaul and it is surprising that almost three years after the crisis broke, no serious regulatory change has taken place. The fact that the SEC produced this somewhat flimsy charge against Goldman is perhaps evidence of the US administration's growing desperation to make a case for regulatory reform in a policy environment that, courtesy the lobbying power of banks, is still heavily biased in Wall Street's favour.







The cynics have a hierarchy on facts — lies, damned lies and statistics! But, modern economies live on numbers and economists love numbers. So, one must be deferential towards statisticians and statistics. Even so, India's poverty numbers and their repeated re-engineering test one's patience. It is possible to imagine that there would be as many estimates of poverty in India as there are estimates of it. So, one should not normally make much of statistical differences. Except, there is something seriously wrong with a statistical system or with professional economics if the estimates vary as much as they do. A committee constituted by the Planning Commission and headed by eminent economist Suresh Tendulkar has now concluded that 37.2 per cent of India's population lives below the poverty line (BPL). The Tendulkar panel estimate is higher than an earlier Planning Commission estimate that concluded that only 27.5 per cent of India's population lives below the poverty line. Both these estimates fall hugely below the fantastic number put out by the Arjun Sengupta committee that estimated the number to be 77 per cent. Offering yet another number, a committee chaired by another former Planning Commission member N C Saxena estimated the BPL population at 50 per cent.


All this would be good grist for political and academic mills and of little consequence for the poor but for the fact that the government now wants to bring in a food security Bill that will assure food to all BPL families. So, being counted in is important. While malpractices in the identification of the poor for issuing the BPL cards are well known, the fact is that a large number of the genuinely poor are still left out. The government's fiscal bravado in going down this path can only be admired given that in some states there are more BPL families than the total number of families! Many state governments may have their own view on the exact number of poor given the state's capacity to implement food security and other welfare programmes. Many chief ministers have already sought greater freedom in deciding the cut-off line for food security commitments. A consensus-based and an easily applicable yardstick for determining poverty and estimating number of BPL families is, therefore, called for. That, however, is easier said than done, with many in the government, and in the ruling Congress party, bent on adopting the most liberal definition of poverty. Indeed, the best option could well be to go in for a universal, self-targeted public distribution system rather than one based on estimating and identifying beneficiaries. Tamil Nadu and Chattisgarh offer good models of a pro-poor food security scheme based on a public distribution system that other states can learn from.








We have a long, hard road ahead of us, so we must not get complacent

It is now widely acknowledged in investing circles, at least among emerging market investors, that India is one of the better long-term stories out there. Chris Wood of CLSA has for years now highlighted India as his single-best long-term bet in Asia. He makes the point about entrepreneurship, focus on domestic consumption in the economic model, and greater respect for capital among corporate houses as his reasons for being bullish. The emerging market (EM) strategist at BCA also highlighted India as his single-best idea over the next five years at a recent seminar that I attended. He talks of India being a severely under-invested country which, despite the under-investment, is showing good productivity growth. He makes the point that India has now begun to invest, and betting on a country which is under-invested but is now investing because of rising domestic savings normally leads to profitable outcomes.

 Jim Walker of Asianomics is another noted economic commentator who is quite bullish on India for the long term, and has very high regard for our economic policy-makers in general and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in particular. Consistent with the above, he expects far less capital destruction in India than in other Asian markets, and far better capital discipline and a more pronounced domestic orientation in our growth strategy.

Everyone is, of course, aware of the famous Goldman Sach's BRIC report, and its contention that India will grow faster for longer and has the best longer term growth outlook among the four economies.

I could, of course, go on and there are many more equally famous market observers who have made similar comments. Thus, one can understand why everyone in India may be getting a little complacent and even smug. It is almost as if investors and policy-makers are convinced that this rosy outlook is baked in the cake, so to speak. If it is going to happen and India is going to march ahead anyway, why take hard decisions? Does one really need to battle vested interests when 8 per cent or even 9 per cent long-term growth is assured?

In this context I had some very interesting meetings over the last few weeks, with some very savvy and seasoned global investors who had an interesting perspective on this issue.

They first of all made the point that there are many instances of countries growing strongly for a period and then stalling. Brazil was cited as the most obvious instance, where, after a period of strong economic performance, the country totally stalled in the 1980s and 1990s. There have been only 12 or 13 countries which have been able to grow at 8 per cent or faster for at least 25 years. Of this number, at least half have little relevance being single-resource dependent or city states. India, therefore, cannot take its current success for granted, only four countries (of a reasonable size) have been able to do what India aspires to. What investors are assuming is a done deal is actually extraordinarily rare.

The second point made was the increasing politician-industrialist nexus. To these investors, parts of India were beginning to resemble Russia, with the same characteristics of crony capitalism and huge wealth transfer from state assets to private ownership. India may not like hearing it, but in certain sectors, its institutions are too weak to face off against corporate interests.

An additional point was made on the inability to take decisions and build consensus. Why would a country go on agonising over foreign education providers when there is such an obvious shortage of capacity in higher education? Even if you get foreign institutes to come in, they will only supplement the domestic institutions and just scratch the surface in terms of meeting unfulfilled demands. This was cited as another example of a total unwillingness on the part of the government to take on vested interests. It was surprising to one of the investors how even small sections of society can seemingly hold back progress and the whole country to ransom. In a country like India with a general resistance to change, any progress requires vested interests or rent-seekers to be pushed aside, and an unwillingness to do so severely impairs progress.

These investors also felt that India had an intractable problem on the fiscal front, as any progress would be frittered away in poorly designed or executed social sector give-aways. This genie has now been let out of the bottle, and no government will be able to resist the temptation to keep spending. Spending has now got strongly associated with winning elections. India may have got away with it right now given the poor fiscal situation globally, but the country has a structural propensity in recent years towards populism. This poor fiscal discipline will ultimately lead to structural crowding out and inflation issues.

There were additional points made on the extremely poor supply-side response in infrastructure, and as to how this was a systemic issue related to land and process and not to funding or capacity constraints. Being a systemic issue, it was not likely to get resolved. What would cause it to change today which could not have been done years ago? Infrastructure deficit was now binding, and unless it was resolved, it would not permit the desired growth.

There was concern around India's demographics, with the fear of this being a demographic disaster, rather than dividend. Given our levels of vocational training, higher education and labour market rigidities, questions were asked on how would the country move hundreds of millions of people off farms and improve their productivity? They were surprised at the very low levels of political noise around job creation compared to China, where the government has an almost single-point agenda around creating 20 million jobs per annum.

India's huge dependence on global capital flows was also highlighted. One investor went so far as to say that India was the most leveraged market to global capital flows and hence risk appetite in the world. Without strong foreign capital flows, the growth story did not stand, was the simple point.

There was concern around governance, or the lack of it. And, India as an investment destination was perceived to be a tug of war between a good micro-company-specific story and very poor and worsening governance.

It was to put it mildly a sobering series of conversations. While one does not necessarily agree with all the points made, it does go to show that maybe we should not get carried away. We can potentially have a strong growth trajectory, but it will require strong political will to implement long overdue fundamental changes. These required changes are well known but still do not get implemented. Someday soon this has to change. We have a long hard road ahead of us, we must not get complacent. Maintaining growth will require decisive action, determination and a clear head. We cannot let ourselves get diverted.

The author is the Fund Manage rand Chief Executive Officer of Amansa Capital








Lalit Modi is finally on an uncertain terrain. Old friends have ditched him, and the investigative arms of the government have begun to probe his business. The Indian Premier League (IPL), which he has run with style and success for three editions now, will probably have a new driver soon. It is too big a brand to let die and too much money is at stake. Apart from the fate of the cricket carnival, spare a thought for his surname. After a long while, a Modi had hogged the limelight in the world of business. Accolades came thick and fast for his innovations in marketing, the money he earned for the Board of Control for Cricket in India and how he built a multi-billion dollar brand from scratch. If he is ousted, it will be tough for him to claw his way back into those hallowed portals.

The Modis were once one of the wealthiest industrialists in the country. It was the Licence Raj and they made everything from sugar to textiles, lanterns, cement, tyres, chemicals and vanaspati. The rules of the game were different then. The competence of businessmen was counted in terms of their ability to get licences and put up roadblocks for their rivals in the corridors of power. Whatever was produced got sold. Then the Modis split in the 1980s. The business was sought to be divided between the five sons of Gujar Mal Modi and the three sons of his step brother Kedar Nath Modi. The Modi companies held shares in each other. It was a nightmare to disentangle the cross-holdings. As a result, when some of their companies went sick, it was difficult for banks and financial institutions to fix responsibility. Exasperated, the banks came out with the "group approach" — the Modis were blacklisted.

Very few of the Modis (apart from the eight brothers and cousins, their children are all in business) have since then tried to build a new venture. At least two of them got out of the Modi bandwagon to escape the group approach and get started in business one more time: Y K Modi (Kedar Nath Modi's son) and his cousin B K Modi (Gujar Mal Modi's son). Y K Modi had invested in tea, radio paging and coal bed methane.

B K Modi is perhaps the most enterprising of all. In the 1980s, when overseas companies were not allowed to come to India on their own, he formed a slew of partnerships with the likes of Xerox, Olivetti and Telstra to facilitate their entry into the country. Rightly he was called "Joint Venture" Modi. Once the rules for foreign ownership were liberalised, he exited these companies.

B K Modi then started mobile telephony in the Punjab and Karnataka circles under the Spice brand. This became his passport to riches. In 2008, he sold his stake of 40 per cent or so to Idea Cellular for Rs 2,720 crore. Since then, he has been looking for opportunities to grow in the new economy sectors in the emerging markets from Indonesia to Israel. First he tried to purchase Multi Screen Media (earlier known as Sony Entertainment Television) and then Satyam Computer Services. Both the attempts came to naught. He had also announced a film on the Buddha with Richard Gere and Shekhar Kapur.

In between, he lost control of Modi Rubber to his older brother, the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee-educated V K Modi. Thanks to the fight between the brothers, the factory was shut for several years. The machines rotted, and the company's share of the market plummeted to zero. Attempts to sell it to Onkar Singh Kanwar of Apollo Tyres too did not work out for the same reason. V K Modi has now restarted the plant. Though it was considered a good plant 10 years ago, it badly needs radial technology. The market buzz is that he is all set to induct Continental of Germany as a strategic partner in the company. That should give a new lease of life to the business. V K Modi also runs glass-maker Gujarat Guardian.

Very few people would remember an airline called ModiLuft. It was set up by S K Modi (also Gujar Mal Modi's son). The name was clever as it suggested a strategic partnership with Lufthansa, which was not the case. This was the first airline rush of the mid-1990s, and many of those soon went belly up. Names like Damania, East West and ModiLuft are just distant memories now. S K Modi soon lost his airline to a clutch of investors led by the Kansagra family. He kicked and screamed but the business was gone. It is now called SpiceJet.

K K Modi, Gujar Mal Modi's eldest son, owns Godfrey Philips, the tobacco company. It is smaller than ITC in size, but is run by a team of professional managers. K K Modi has two sons: Samir Modi, who is in charge of Modicare, a direct-marketing company built on the lines of Amway, and Lalit "IPL" Modi. It was Lalit Modi who put the family name on prime-time television and the front pages of newspapers one more time. He may do so for some more time, though not for the right reasons. Which of the Modis will take up the mantle next?







Climate change negotiations — cold after the freeze at the Copenhagen meet in December — have warmed up again. In early April, negotiators met in Bonn on the possible agreement, which could be signed at the conference of parties, scheduled in December in Mexico. This was followed by the US-convened meet of the Major Economies' Forum, which would be better named as the Major Emitters' Forum, in Washington. Next weekend, the group calling itself BASIC — China, Brazil, South Africa and India — is meeting in Cape Town to come up with its common position on climate negotiations. Then early May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has called some 45 environment ministers to come together in the castle of St Petersburg outside Bonn to keep talking. All this will culminate, for now, in the meeting of the subsidiary bodies to the climate convention in early June, also in Bonn.

So, the heat is now on. The US has thrown down the gauntlet, demanding that the now-infamous Copenhagen Accord, hammered out in the wee nights of the meeting, become the only game in town. It wants the world to stop discussing the Kyoto Protocol or the Long-term Cooperative Agreement — the two tracks that bring past polluters into a legal regime and future players into a cooperative arrangement to avoid the growth of emissions. To stitch up this deal, they have put together their very own coalition-of-the-willing (which includes a powerful section of Indian policy-makers). The US wants no full stops to this new deal.

 The small problem is this "deal" is bad for climate change. It is bad for us. Why?

One, the Copenhagen Accord is weak in terms of its commitment to reduce emissions. It does not set hard, drastic emission-reduction targets for rich countries (Annex 1) and instead promotes a framework for future agreements based on "pledge and review". In other words, industrialised countries will be allowed to voluntarily pledge their domestic targets, which will be aggregated at the global level. The target will be self-chosen and voluntary, even if it adds up to nothing. The US has offered some 3 per cent reduction over 1990 level, against the 40 per cent which is required of it. The Accord will simply legitimise its right to pollute, by saying that it will do what it can domestically and that this will be reviewed to see if the pledge is met.

This is when we know that the sum of the current "pledges", if we can call them that, means that the world is definitely not close to meeting its 2°C target but is, by recent accounts, close to at least 3°C or more. In fact, discussions on tough emission-reduction measures by rich countries are completely off the agenda. Occasional noises are made to keep the Kyoto Protocol alive. But this is just form. The function is to make the Copenhagen Accord supreme.

There is no way the Copenhagen Accord can be billed as a climate change agreement. It is simply an agreement to legitimise the right to pollute.

Two, the Copenhagen Accord will completely overwrite the principles of historical emissions and equity in burden-sharing. The reason is simple: as the world will no longer set targets based on historical and current emissions, the issue of equity in burden-sharing will be erased. The use of the word "equity" in the accord (twice) is just a smart ploy to fool some people in our world. The fact is that once this framework is accepted, then, in the words of the top US negotiator, the "breach in the firewall between developed and developing countries" would be sealed and signed. No longer will there be a distinction between countries which have created the problem, and so have to take the first step to cut emissions and create ecological space, and the rest. All of us will be equal in the world of polluters and sinners.

Three, as mitigation targets will no longer be on the basis of responsibility or contribution to the problem, all countries equal sinners will take on what they can. As developing countries, like India, are now growing in terms of their emissions, the heat will be on them to cut now. The burden of the costly transition will shift to the developing world. This is when, under the current climate agreement, industrialised countries are expected to cut drastically and provide financial assistance to developing countries to avoid growth of emissions. But the coalition would like this formula to be history. Buried forever.

The terms of the Copenhagen Accord are delicious because so much is left unsaid. Just think: All countries do what they can to cut emissions. There is no international legal agreement, but only a simple pledge that you will cut. This "pledge" will be recorded (and not be called your commitment to avoid red flags). But the big brother will send inspectors, or ask for your records to check for compliance. All this will be cleverly couched in terminology called international consultation so that we still believe that we are not being asked to make commitments. And, with this done, the Indian minister will be able to go to Parliament and say, "all is well".

So, what does this changed framework do to India's efforts to cut emissions? Are we rich enough to take on the cost of transition? Let me return to this question and more next fortnight. But what I can say today is, all is not well.







India is on the cusp of a dramatic urban transformation, the scale and speed of which is unprecedented. It took nearly 40 years for India's urban population to rise by 230 million, but it will take only half the time to add the next 250 million. By 2030, 590 million people will live in cities, more than double the 290 million in 2001. India will have 68 cities with populations of more than 1 million each, 13 cities with more than 4 million each and six megacities with populations of 10 million or more each.

Yet, India has barely engaged in a national discussion about how to handle this seismic shift. India remains caught in debating whether urbanisation is good or bad. This is a false dichotomy. The fate of India's villages and that of its cities are intertwined. Particularly as cities will generate 70 per cent of new jobs, more than 70 per cent of India's GDP, 85 per cent of the tax revenue that will finance development, and drive a four-fold increase in per capita income. Finally, cities represent perhaps the most cost-effective vehicle to expand access to basic services and foster inclusive growth.

 Not paying attention to our cities is perilous and could result in massive urban decay. Pursuing the current urbanisation approach, our analysis suggests, will result in peak vehicle density of 610 per lane kilometre against a benchmark of 112. Likewise, water supply will drop to 65 litres per capita against the benchmark of 150, and slum population will balloon from 17 million to 38 million. Indeed, the hardest hit will be urban India's poorest.

However, India has not lost its chance if it chooses to act with urgency. International experience suggests it is possible to turn cities around in a decade. Although India's development model is unique, our study of five international and 15 Indian cities suggests that nuts-and-bolts practices in urban renewal are common across developing and developed countries. Of the 34 recommendations that comprise a new operational model for India's cities, we elucidate the three most critical ones:

Unlocking $1.2 trillion in new urban investments

India needs to break away from its incremental approach to urban investments as it will need to invest an average of $60 billion (Rs 2,70,000 crore) annually. This is an eight-fold increase in annual per capita spend from $17 today to $134. The need is even higher in Tier-I, where India needs to spend around $300 per capita annually. Without such a scale-up, Indian cities are at risk. Achieving this jump requires India to unleash sources of funding that have been traditionally under-leveraged. First, India needs to monetise land assets effectively. MMRDA in Mumbai has shown that it is possible as it used land asset sales to fund a proposed $22 billion infrastructure programme. Second, India has to quintuple property tax collection to at least 0.3 per cent of property values through better assessment and compliance. User charges need to at least recover operations and maintenance costs. Third, cities in India hardly leverage debt or private sector participation to finance building of infrastructure, an opportunity that alone could be worth $12 billion a year. With these changes, Tier-I and -II cities can fund as much as 80 to 85 per cent of their requirements. The balance must come from Central and state governments, but not in the current ad-hoc manner. Like other countries, India needs to create a consistent, formula-based system. A pivotal reform on this front is to allow Indian cities to retain 18 to 20 per cent of the goods and services tax (GST), resulting in them having a material stake in their economic future. For instance, China allows its cities to keep 25 per cent of the VAT collected.

Empower cities, modernise service delivery

In 2030, India's largest cities will be bigger than many major countries in both population and economic output. However, it is unfortunate that despite the 74th Amendment to the Constitution, cities are run as distracted extensions of state governments. To achieve substantive change in city governance, India has a series of options to choose from, including converting its largest cities into states, e.g. Delhi. Since this is politically difficult, at the least India must institutionalise directly-elected metropolitan mayors in its 20 largest cities, like in the UK, a parliamentary democracy, in which India's governance architecture is rooted. For efficient service delivery, India needs to embark on a reform uniformly adopted by every successful city in the world: creation of corporatised agencies with clear mandates, reliable budgets and empowered chief executives.

Shape the distributed urbanisation portfolio

Few growing economies have had the chance to influence the distribution of their urban population. India has the opportunity to anticipate the next 20 years of rapid expansion and shape its portfolio of cities by acting simultaneously on two fronts. First, India should pre-invest in emerging Tier-II cities so they do not emulate the trajectory of urban decay of today's Tier-I cities. Next, development of cities has overlooked urban form, design and internal shape. Proactively designing the shape and density of cities is imperative to optimise costs, save land and reduce environmental damage. Prudent internal shape can save India at least six million hectares of potentially arable land.

If India adopts these reforms, the prize is significant — it could boost the economy's long-term growth rate by 1 to 1.5 percentage points. For this, India needs to transition from the current state of deep inertia to one of a deep commitment to change backed by a sense of urgency. In particular, state governments need to be the front-runners. Progressive chief ministers must recognise that managed urbanisation represents a powerful populist vehicle aligned to their political agendas as the nature of electoral politics changes.

Equally, the Centre has a catalytic role to play. Many reforms require political alignment and need to be pushed from the apex levels of the Central government. In the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, the Centre has a readymade vehicle that can be strengthened, including perhaps through creating an incentive fund targeted only at states that will embark on the next generation of reforms.

Finally, citizens should shift from small, reactive demands to a call for fundamental institutional change for urban India. They need to insist that political leaders fix the institutions that "fix the roads" and not simply "fix the roads".

It is easy to be sceptical about India's ability to transform its cities. But we are optimistic that it can be done. Nothing less than the sustainability and inclusiveness of India's growth is at stake.

Shirish Sankhe, Ireena Vittal & Ajit Mohan are the lead authors of the report, India's urban awakening: Building inclusive cities, sustaining economic growth. Shirish is a director, Ireena, partner and Ajit, engagement manager in McKinsey & Company's Mumbai office








With sugar prices tumbling, the time is opportune to decontrol the industry. Historically, the sugar industry has gained from so-called control.

Regulating supply and determining prices, the government helped the industry even out the bunched supply of a few months over the entire year, avoiding seasonal price plunges and associated disruption. Of course, for this protection, the industry had to pay a price.

The Centre dictates the minimum price mills must pay cane farmers, takes away 20% of the output at a throwaway price for the public distribution system (PDS) and states such as Uttar Pradesh notify prices higher than the Centre's recommendation for cane. Within these constraints, the domestic industry, split 50:50 between cooperatives and the private sector, has grown to be the world's second largest, now capable of making bold acquisitive forays abroad.

The industry is also now ready for consolidation, the roughly 20 million tonnes capacity being fragmented among 651 mills. Consolidation and further growth call for a policy framework and operating environment different from the ones that have sheltered the industry so far, primarily in the name of the five crore farmers who grow cane.

The industry now needs freedom, not only for capacity growth but also for value-added diversification into biofuels, cogeneration of power and bioengineering of crushed cane — bagasse — into organic fertiliser.

Surely, other than ensuring that farmers get a remunerative price for their cane, the government has little business to dictate terms to the industry .

After all, more than 60% of the total sugar produced is consumed by industrial, small business and high income household segments. To ensure that farmers get a decent price for their cane, the government can actively calibrate the import duty on raw and refined sugar, so as to keep domestic prices aligned to the desired cane price.

Politicians have entrenched themselves in sugar cooperatives and resist change. To overcome this hurdle, policy should address farmers directly, encouraging them to organise into corporate forms that vertically integrate cane cultivation with conversion and further value addition.







An Ikea-style temple construction kit should have been the brainchild of some Indian entrepreneur with an eye to the rising tide of religiosity among the diaspora.

Instead, it seems that the ancient Greeks and pre-Roman inhabitants of Italy thought of it before us. Archaeologists have excavated a structure in the southern part of Italy that seems to have a DIY manual inscribed on it.

Those ancient peoples' penchant for houses of worship equals our own, but it is commendable that they obligingly posted instructions on how to make more of them. Clearly in those days no one had heard of intellectual property rights and the perils of plagiarism.

The builders of those times, however, were clearly on the same page as their Indian counterparts today: as soon as they saw there was a critical mass of moneyed people ready to erect temples in the prevailing fashionable Greek style, they rolled out what could be termed as pre-fab structures to satisfy demand.

The manuals those Roman builders used may have been lost but various sections of the structure have symbols to show how the pieces should be fitted, much like the iconic Swedish home accessories brand. It may not be far-fetched to conjecture that its unbranded ancient counterpart also probably had the same relative marketshare back in 6th century BC.

Archaeologists have also marvelled at the evidence that the site provided of relatively less-skilled and possibly illiterate pre-Roman construction workers following and executing the complicated instructions of the Greek architects via symbols. They should then visit an Indian building site, for more on that.

Indians should read this writing on the wall, and gear up to provide this service, not only domestically but internationally . Entrepreneurs could also include a more diversified portfolio than the ancients did, extending the DIY option for all sorts of houses of worship, taking advantage of our cheaper labour costs.








Man-made definitions tell us a lot about ourselves and about the things they define but, really speaking, in the final reckoning about how little they actually do. Consider, for instance, the standard dictionary definition of an island: a mass of land entirely surrounded by water.

And of a lake: a large body of water completely surrounded by land. The meaning and description seems totally appropriate and watertight, so to speak, till we realise how grounded they are only in everyday experience and normal commonsense.That , yes, Australia is an island albeit of continental proportions and the Caspian waters are a lake even though it's usually referred to as a sea.

But what if the Earth's land masses were distributed differently than they are today, with the northern hemisphere instead consisting totally of land and the southern totally water? Could we call the top part an island ? After all it would still be surrounded on all sides by water . Also, in that case, the lower part should classify as a lake because it too would be fully encircled by land. In other words, an island and a lake can sometimes surround each other like a yin and yang symbol with each fully defining the other's existence.

On the other hand, what if there was only a thin band of land running along the equator and going around the globe with gigantic ocean bodies on either side? It would comprise a sort of super island since now it would be surrounded by two lakes at once.

And finally, what about a planet like Venus as it was at one time envisaged by some science fiction writers in the fifties till science fact probes proved otherwise? They used to think it was a world covered entirely by a vast mantle of ocean.

Now that too, according to our august dictionaries would constitute a lake with the sides, in this case, at the bottom where an island of land resided surrounded only on top by water on all its upper sides.

It's probably what the sixteenth century metaphysical poet John Donne had in mind when he wrote, "No man is an island entire of itself; every man is... part of the main" . Nor, he might have easily added, is that which lies outside the boundaries of his skin an independent lake of a common definition because both remain in touch in so many ways vaster than we think as merely one.

Is it any wonder he came to realise that every man's death diminished him because he was involved?








Small and medium businesses in India are realising the importance of adopting technology to improve performance and companies are eager to reach out to them. Dell India general manager SMB Ravi Bharadwaj talks to Ravi Teja Sharma about the company's strategy for India and their mentorship programme for small companies.

How is Dell India engaging with small cos?

Dell sees tremendous opportunity in this segment. As one of our top five business priorities, we are committed to address the pain points of the small companies by offering them the right technology at the right price and have a range of SMB-specific personal computers and enterprise products. Our strategy is aimed at fostering innovation and technology best practices among Indian small businesses.

What is Dell's NSTEDB mentorship programme?

As part of our commitment to engage with entrepreneurs across India, we have partnered with the department of science & technology's National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) to launch SME Technology & Mentorship Forum (TMF).


This initiative provides a platform for small businesses to obtain strong academic insights and real life experiences from experts, through a combination of plenary seminars along with one-to-one and one-to-many mentoring opportunities. The first TMF was hosted in New Delhi recently and we have received an encouraging response from the owners of small businesses as well as aspiring entrepreneurs.

In India, how do you plan to integrate entrepreneurship, innovation and technology?

For small companies, it is often a case of not enough—not enough time, not enough money, not enough resources. Dell understands these unique needs. Small and medium businesses look for IT investments that enhance productivity and efficiency and Dell offerings around mobility, virtualisation, storage and cloud are all geared around these.

Through our conversations with aspiring as well as established entrepreneurs, we not only aim to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship but also provide platforms for entrepreneurs to share valuable insights and best practices and gain from the experiences of each other. Our conversations have clearly showed us that Indian SMBs are keen to understand and leverage new platforms and technologies such as online, software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud.

Is the outlook of small business owners towards technology changing?

IT has transformed the way small companies work today. There has been a visible shift in the outlook of SMB owners. From the basic functions of e-mailing and printing, an increasing number of SMBs are going beyond the routine personal computer and laptop adoption and are using IT to gain a competitive advantage. SMBs today are looking at employing technology as an enabler and not just a support function. The key challenge for the small and medium businesses is to keep up with technologies while ensuring return on investments.

What percentage of your business in India comes from small & medium businesses?

This is among the fastest growing segments and we are investing significant resources to address this market. Around 25% of Dell's annual turnover (worldwide) comes from the SMB sector. According to Dell's Q4 FY10 results, Dell small and medium business revenue was $3.3 billion, up 10%, driven by stronger sales of mobile products and servers. In the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations, revenue increased 72%, led by SMB and large enterprise.







He's battled many controversies, ill health and the vagaries of Indian politics and emerged a survivor. Former BCCI president and ICC president-elect Sharad Pawar is yet again in the middle of a raging IPL storm, which is threatening to blow the cover off Indian politics and cricket.

In an interview to ET's Girish Kuber, the agriculture minister stoutly defends himself, son-in-law Sadanand Sule and NCP colleague Praful Patel, while smartly staying clear of IPL commissioner Lalit Modi, who's widely considered to be his protégé.

You appear to be in the eye of a storm since the IPL controversy broke out...

In the past few years, a perception has been created as if I'm Indian cricket, thanks to the media. Actually, the issue is all about Lalit Modi and his actions, but the media focus is on me. If that's the case, so be it. But let me put it on record—forget IPL, I'm not even a member of the BCCI.

But you were Modi's mentor...

I have never been his supporter or detractor. I deal with many people in many areas. To say everyone is my baby or I'm their mentor is nothing short of ridiculous. As far as Mr Modi is concerned, it happened like this: see, if I go to watch a match and he (Modi) is around, he naturally comes to see me and sits next to me. And so the camera catches both of us... the same clippings are played over and over again, and this helps create an impression that he is close to me. The same thing happened after this controversy broke (out). I had gone to watch a match in Delhi where Arun (Jaitley) and Mr Modi were there. Isn't it natural if both come and sit next to me? Does it (in) anyway mean that I'm close to Mr Jaitley or Mr Modi?

Media is always in need of some kind of boxing bag. Currently, it's me.

Hasn't your position vis-à-vis Modi changed after you had a meeting with Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram on Wednesday?

Believe me, it's absurd. The meeting was about the commodity markets and exchanges. None of us uttered even an 'I' of the IPL. You can check with the two of them. But the electronic media—which unfortunately is seen setting the agenda for the print media too—went to town, saying I was summoned and a few of you bought that argument and wrote that I changed sides and no longer support Mr Modi.

So the question about your alleged support to Mr Modi remains?

My support is for the game and creating infrastructure. An impression has been created as if I don't do anything but cricket. It's the least of my priorities. I'm in no way associated with the IPL. As per the rules, once you become the BCCI president and retire, you can't continue even as a member. I'm not involved in the day-to-day operations of the BCCI either. So, to say I was Mr Modi's supporter has been hugely unfair to me. I reiterate that I never was his supporter or an opponent.

Now it emerges that your daughter's in-laws too have some sort of IPL connection.

Is it a crime to form a company in this country or what? Many of you may not even know that BR Sule (his daughter Supriya's father-in-law) was a person of such eminence that late Indira Gandhi had made him a Planning Commission member. He is an MIT engineer and had worked as a director of M&M for 30-32 years. Is there anything wrong if, after retirement, he forms a company and later sells it to Sony? It is perfectly legitimate to form a company. Besides, he has three sons. One of them happens to be my son-in-law, so you say all sorts of things about him. One channel (not ET NOW or Times NOW) went to the extent of saying 'late BR Sule'. Let me clarify that he is very much alive. He suffered brain hemorrhage a few years back and was in coma for a few months. But now he has recovered.

What can one say about this kind of journalism?

Praful Patel too seems to have got his hands sullied in the IPL.

What wrong has he done? Sharing information—which is in no way classified—is not a sin. A fellow minister asks for an info for setting up an IPL venture in his home state and Praful asks his daughter—who is an IPL employee—to get this information which he, in turn, forwards to the minister. You call it a crime? This is as simple as that.

So what will be your stand on Monday? (The BCCI will meet to discuss the IPL issue on April 26.)

I'm not even going to attend the meet. Shashank Manohar is a capable person. He has given efficient leadership to the BCCI. So now—if you believe—I have no role to play in the BCCI and IPL.








From its large facilities and offices to a global development center, the American IT products company, Cisco, considers India to be a key revenue driver of the future. It hopes that efforts in this market will reap dividends in terms of steady growth. The company has launched its proprietary borderless network architecture in India, which it hopes will drive further innovation and efficiency for enterprises. Marie Hattar, vice-president, Borderless Networks Marketing, Cisco , is responsible for setting and developing a strategic vision for products and services that span switching, routing, mobility, security, and application acceleration. In an interview with Amit Sharma and Harsimran Julka, she discusses the company's marketing plans, its green vision and growth strategy. Excerpts:

Which is your biggest market? Where does India figure in the list of your top markets?

The biggest market for Cisco is the US, but India is critical. That's why we have a full strategy centered on the globalisation centre in India and it is a top priority. We have a lot of our global innovations coming from here. The centre is the most innovative building that Cisco has. We call it innovative because it integrates some great energy management mechanisms. We have a significant R&D work in routing, switching and security operations being carried out in India. Then there is a lot of focus on the level of talent that we get here. Talent from India is stellar and so is the level of innovation. It will power our future.

Do you find Indian firms open to experimenting with technologies?

Indian companies are always looking out for technologies that can help them become more efficient. And, yes, they really do care about cost. But when we share the Cisco vision and story with a bigger vision, it does help to a greater degree.

Cisco has been a leading corporate voice for green marketing theme. How do you plan to take this agenda further?
We are thrilled with the green promise that our brand doles out. It is a key part of our business and we like to see more corporations paying heed to this because it's fundamental to our existence.

While a lot of our competitors look at merely reducing power consumption of devices, we take a larger perspective into consideration. The IT industry globally contributes merely 2% to greenhouse gas emissions. The rest of it is through other industries. Now, we are looking at making sure how we can make a difference to making other industries greener. Green is going to be the concern of governments and corporations, and we wish to be leaders in driving that change in consciousness.

Cisco's marketing communication is rather subtle and sophisticated for a country like India. Does the company intend to tweak it in order to make it more direct and simpler?

One of the key things that we want to do is think global and act local. That's why we are making significant marketing investments by way of a full-fledged marketing team. We want to make sure that what we produce and put on the market really appeals to the Indian consumers.

India is quite different from the West. We are willing to learn consumers' tastes and preferences so that we can appreciate the nuances of the market in a better manner.

Tell us about the borderless network tool that you have launched in India.

It is essentially about connecting anyone with any device. What we intend to do is to ensure this happens securely, reliably and seamlessly. There are some major trends in marketing that are happening across the globe. There is a huge proliferation in mobility. An increasing number of different gadgets means that businesses now require greater security. Companies have to manage all this proliferation of devices, which we help in. At present, mobility is not pervasive and restricted to, maybe, conference rooms. But in the future, it could mean moving in effortlessly from, let's say, a 3G network to a WiFi environment, and having seamless connectivity.




                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL



the Sri Lanka President, Mr Mahinda Rajapaksa, had a resounding election victory over his former military commander, Gen. Sanath Fonseka (Retd), leading the Opposition coalition, in the January 26 election. And now the President's party and the coalition he led in the just-concluded parliamentary elections has come up with a stunning victory, but falling just short of that two-thirds margin that would have given him unfettered powers to change the Constitution. What Mr Rajapaksa does with the impressive political support he commands in the country will be watched with mounting interest, not to say some anxiety, within Sri Lanka and the region. The stakes are very high. The island nation had been torn by civil war for a quarter-century led by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. With the LTTE's military defeat in May last year, followed by victories notched up in the presidential and the parliamentary polls, the Sri Lankan leader has the unique opportunity to bring much-needed normality and stability to his country, which will continue to elude Sri Lanka if the ethnic Tamil issue is not brought to a satisfactory close. If the healing touch is forthcoming, and Tamils in their home in the northern and eastern provinces have a sense of confidence in the system under Mr Rajapaksa, there is no reason why the emerald island cannot live up to the promise of 6.5 per cent GDP growth and all-round development. The plans that President Rajapaksa may have to bring the Tamils into the mainstream by removing their sense of alienation have not been shared with the country. There are strong suggestions, however, that the devolution of powers to the Tamil North and East within a broad federal arrangement — a long-term demand — is not on the President's mind. In the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance there are said to be powerful elements which may not be well-disposed to conceding devolution to Tamils. However, the test of Mr Rajapaksa's leadership would be to steer the ship in a direction that does not give cause for continuing estrangement of the Tamil minority, and to set the compass in the direction of national reconciliation and the healing of wounds, which is a sine qua non for the long-term progress and viability of the Sri Lankan state. It will be a pity if the military dismemberment of the LTTE raises a sustained majoritarian spirit in Sri Lanka's ruling coalition, and allows the moment to pass. That could be a road to unending bitterness and strife at the social and political level even after the annihilation of the LTTE. India has high stakes in Sri Lanka's prosperity, and this country stood steadfast in opposition to the LTTE's cause of a separate Tamil homeland. But in order to stanch that demand, New Delhi has consistently maintained that a suitable devolution of powers to the Tamil areas within the framework of a united Sri Lanka offered the best bet for creating circumstances for progress and stability in Sri Lanka. Mr Rajapaksa had given the world every reason to think that he would pay attention to the Tamil question in a manner that would help bring the north and east of the country into the democratic process. To do so would be to fail his country. If Mr Rajapaksa makes a genuine effort to win over the Tamil minority and reorders domestic political arrangements with a view to creating a new dynamics without wounds, he will win kudos and along with it much-needed economic assistance that will be good for everyone in Sri Lanka.






Juba, Sudan

Until he reached the White House, the US President, Mr Barack Obama, repeatedly insisted that the United States apply more pressure on Sudan so as to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur and elsewhere.
Yet, as President, Mr Obama and his aides have caved, leaving Sudan gloating at American weakness. Western monitors, Sudanese journalists and local civil society groups have all found this month's Sudanese elections to be deeply flawed — yet Mr Obama's special envoy for Sudan, Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, pre-emptively defended the elections, saying they would be "as free and as fair as possible". The White House showed only a hint of backbone with a hurried reference this week to "an essential step" with "serious irregularities".

President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan — the man wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity in Darfur — has been celebrating. His regime calls itself the National Congress Party, or NCP, and he was quoted in Sudan as telling a rally in the Blue Nile region: "Even America is becoming an NCP member. No one is against our will".

Memo to Mr Obama: When a man who has been charged with crimes against humanity tells the world that America is in his pocket, it's time to review your policy.

Perhaps the Obama administration caved because it considers a flawed election better than no election. That's a reasonable view, one I share. It's conceivable that Mr Bashir could have won a quasi-fair election — oil revenues have manifestly raised the standard of living in parts of Sudan — and the campaigning did create space for sharp criticism of the government.

It's also true that Sudan has been behaving better in some respects. The death toll in Darfur is hugely reduced, and the government is negotiating with rebel groups there. The Sudanese government gave me a visa and travel permits to Darfur, allowing me to travel legally and freely.

The real game isn't, in fact, Darfur or the elections but the manoeuvring for a possible new civil war. The last north-south civil war in Sudan ended with a fragile peace in 2005, after some two million deaths. The peace agreement provided for a referendum, scheduled to take place in January, in which southern Sudanese will decide whether to secede. They are expected to vote overwhelmingly to form a separate country. Then the question becomes: will the north allow South Sudan to separate? The south holds the great majority of the country's oil, and it's difficult to see President Bashir allowing oil fields to walk away.
"If the result of the referendum is independence, there is going to be war — complete war", predicts Mudawi Ibrahim Adam, one of Sudan's most outspoken human rights advocates. He cautions that America's willingness to turn a blind eye to election-rigging here increases the risk that Mr Bashir will feel that he can get away with war.

"They're very naïve in Washington", Mr Mudawi said. "They don't understand what is going on". On the other hand, a senior Sudanese government official, Ghazi Salahuddin, told me unequivocally in Khartoum, the nation's capital, that Sudan will honour the referendum results. And it's certainly plausible that north and south will muddle through and avoid war, for both sides are exhausted by years of fighting.

Here in Juba, the South Sudan capital, I met Winnie Wol, 26, who fled the civil war in 1994 after a militia from the north attacked her village to kill, loot, rape and burn. Her father and many relatives were killed, but she escaped and made her way to Kenya — and eventually resettled as a refugee in California. She now lives in Olathe, Kansas, and she had returned for the first time to Sudan to visit a mother and sisters she had last seen when she was a little girl.

Ms Wol, every bit the well-dressed American, let me tag along for her journey back to her village of Nyamlell, 400 miles northwest of Juba. The trip ended by a thatch-roof hut that belonged to her mother, who didn't know she was coming — so no one was home. Ms Wol was crushed.

Then there was a scream and a woman came running. It was Ms Wol's mother, somehow recognising her, and they flew into each other's arms. To me, it felt like a peace dividend.

Yet that peace is fragile, and Ms Wol knows that the northern forces may come back to pillage again. "I don't want war", she said, "but I don't think they will allow us to separate".

My own hunch is that the north hasn't entirely decided what to do, and that strong international pressure can reduce the risk of another savage war. If President Obama is ever going to find his voice on Sudan, it had better be soon.






The India-Pakistan joint statement at Sharm el-Sheikh mentioned Balochistan. India is now committed to discuss Balochistan with Pakistan. Let us now make a comparison between Balochistan and Kashmir.
Both have been in turmoil due to militancy for decades. They are mountainous regions suited for guerrilla warfare. Pakistan calls Kashmir the core issue. But Kashmir is more a symptom than the disease.
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan with 43 per cent of its land space and only four per cent of its population. It is the richest province of Pakistan in mineral resources with gas, oil, uranium, thorium and arguably the largest copper deposits in the world. It is also Pakistan's most deprived province. All its people profess the same religion. Kashmir has negligible mineral resources. It enjoys greater autonomy than all the other states in India. It is the most pampered state in terms of the highest per capita Central aid. As against India's national average of 26 per cent below the poverty line, Kashmir has only 3.7 per cent in this category. Kashmir is a multi-religious state where Kashmiri Muslims are in a minority with the remaining population comprising non-Muslims and non-Kashmiri Muslims.

The British signed a treaty with the Khan of Kalat in 1876. This made Balochistan an allied state, virtually like Nepal. Kashmir was a Princely State, like several others in the country. Jinnah had been the attorney of the Khan. As per the agreement signed at Delhi on August 4, 1947 between Mountbatten, Jinnah and the Khan of Kalat, Balochistan was to revert to its 1876 status on Pakistan becoming independent. Accordingly, the Khan declared his independence in August 1947. In January 1948, on a visit to Karachi, the then capital of Pakistan, the Khan was made to sign an instrument of accession to Pakistan. This was rejected by the state Assembly at Quetta and by the tribal councils. A violent agitation was started by the Khan's brother and this has continued with varying intensity for over six decades.

The Kashmir story is different. The Maharaja of Kashmir had not been able to make up his mind about which dominion to join. Pakistan launched an invasion of tribal raiders led by officers of the Pakistan Army. By October 26, 1947, the invaders had captured Baramulla, subjecting it to pillage and rapine of the worst kind. They were now very near Srinagar. The Maharaja acceded to India. Sheikh Abdullah, the undisputed political leader of Kashmir, endorsed this. The Indian Army flew into Kashmir the following day, saved Srinagar and drove the enemy out of the Valley. Sheikh Abdullah became chief minister and later the Maharaja was made to abdicate. After the first Indo-Pak war, peace prevailed in the state for over 40 years. Democracy functioned and elections were held regularly. Having lost three wars to India, Pakistan crafted a strategy of a thousand cuts to bleed India. A low-intensity conflict — a vicious mix of insurgency, terrorism and proxy war — has been raging in Kashmir since 1989. Over 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits were forced to flee the Valley. Militancy in Kashmir is fuelled by religious fundamentalism. In the case of Balochistan, it is the assertion of a separate ethnic and political identity.

The Pakistan Army has been conducting all-out offensive operations in Balochistan using air power and artillery. These area denying weapons cause indiscriminate and heavy casualties. There has not been a single instance in which the Indian Army has used such weapons in Kashmir. General Tikka Khan of Pakistan ruthlessly quelled the Baloch uprising in 1973. The Baloch people called him the "Butcher of Balochistan". Gen. Musharraf ordered airstrikes to kill veteran Baloch leader Akbar Khan Bugti. On the other hand, in Kashmir, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the hardcore separatist leader in Kashmir, has never been treated harshly. He is allowed to meet Pakistani diplomats and leaders. In 2006 he was terminally ill with liver cancer. He wanted to go to the US for treatment but was denied a visa. All facilities were provided for his treatment in Mumbai. On a previous occasion, he was even flown to Mumbai in a state plane for treatment — complicated surgery that saved his life. Immediately on return to Srinagar, he ranted against India's "illegal occupation" of Kashmir.
Prompt action is taken in Kashmir against human rights violations. Army, paramilitary and police personnel found guilty have been dismissed and given prison sentences of up to 14 years. There is no information of such action being taken in Balochistan. Two specific instances are revealing. Major Rehman was accused of raping a mother and her daughter at Handwara, Kashmir. He had been going to the woman's house when her husband was away. One night the 13-year-old daughter saw him with her mother. She raised a hue and cry, leading to the officer being apprehended. Immediate action was taken and the officer was arraigned before a court martial. There was no forensic or other evidence to substantiate rape. However, it was proved that he had gone to the woman's house in the night while her husband was away. He was dismissed from service for conduct unbecoming of an officer. About the same time, a Pakistan Army major raped a lady doctor in a hospital at Quetta. No action whatsoever was taken against him. Violent disturbances broke out but these were quelled by the Pakistan Army. The lady doctor left Balochistan and went to Karachi, where her conservative father-in-law refused to accept her. Her husband was more understanding. They migrated to Canada. Gen. Musharraf, during his US tour, was asked about this case. He said the lady was raped, got money and got a visa to Canada. There was an uproar against this statement, both in international and Pakistani media.

There is proof of Pakistan's involvement in militancy in Kashmir, from thousands of Pakistanis apprehended there as also from documents and from international sources. Jihadis in Pakistan have openly declared war in Kashmir.
A former ISI director, as a minister during Musharraf's regime, admitted in Pakistan's Parliament that the ISI had been organising cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. On the other hand, there is not a shred of evidence produced by Pakistan of any Indian involvement in Balochistan.
India has no geographical access to Balochistan. She cannot do what Pakistan has been openly doing all these years in Kashmir. Had India wanted to pay back Pakistan in its own coin, she could have done so in the Gilgit Skardu region with which she has a common border. This region is legally Indian territory. For some time there has been widespread unrest there.

Pakistan has raised the Balochistan bogey to put pressure on India to withdraw her consulates at Kandahar and Herat as a first step to hustling India out of Afghanistan. Pakistan, the epicentre of terrorism in the world, is suffering at the hands of a monster of its own creation. She accuses India of terrorist attacks in its country even when its own terrorist outfits have been claiming responsibility. All this is being done to provide a fig leaf of justification for its terrorist attacks against India.

The author, a retired lieutenant-general, wasVice-Chief of Army Staff and has served as governor of Assam and Jammu and Kashmir






Q: In the process of making myself happy, if I make somebody else unhappy is it OK?

Sadhguru: Now, you're talking about happiness as something that you borrow from people around you. See, you must understand, you being happy has got nothing to do with what is happening outside of you. Right now because your energies are so deeply enslaved to the outside, the outside is deciding your inner happiness. Once it is like this, conflict is inevitable. Please see, the conflict in the world is just my happiness versus your happiness. My happiness is Shiva, your happiness is Allah, we have to fight. Because we have decided, we have become incapable of being happy by our own nature; we have to do something to be happy. When you have to do something in the world to be happy, then others also have to do something else to be happy. Today or tomorrow our paths will cross and we will fight. We may pretend that we are all brothers, but when our happiness is under threat we want to shoot the other man!

Let's say, right now your happiness is in climbing a pole… Now there is somebody else who is sitting on the pole and saying you should not climb this pole because it is a holy pole. The moment he stops you, you become unhappy. If you are weak, you will go away; if you are strong you will pull him down and climb the pole. It is because your happiness depends on climbing this pole that you want to climb it somehow. Suppose you are already happy, and just like that you want to climb this pole and this man says, "No, please don't climb this pole". You will go and climb some other pole, and there will be no problem. If you are already happy in your own nature and your life is an expression of your happiness, then there will be no conflict in the world. But as long as you spend your life in pursuit of happiness, today or tomorrow there will be conflict in this world. It doesn't matter how much you educate people, how much civilisation you apply to them, they will fight.
If my happiness is within myself, and I have organised my energies in such a way that I am naturally happy, then whatever happens in my life, my happiness is never at stake and I will simply do what is needed for the situation I live in. There is no particular reason that I must be doing something, I can sit here without doing anything. If the situation demands I will act and if the situation doesn't demand I will sit quietly. In your pursuit of happiness, please see how you are burning up the whole planet.

Fortunately, 50 per cent of the world consists of lazy people. If all the seven billion people were very industrious like you, this world would not last for even 10 more years, it would be finished. This world exists not because of the industrious people, but because of the lazy people. They are the ones who are really saving the world. These so-called industrious people with good intentions and absolute stupidity are uprooting the world in so many ways. They have great intentions for people, but if their intentions are fulfilled, the world itself will not be left. So don't be in pursuit of happiness, know how to express your happiness in the world. If you look back at your life you will see that the most beautiful moments in life are moments when you are expressing your joy, not when you are seeking it.

— Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. An author, poet, and internationally-renowned speaker, Sadhguru's wit and piercing logic provoke and widen our perception of life. He can be contacted at [1]






Being fat is bad for your brain.

That, at least, is the gloomy conclusion of several recent studies. For example, one long-term study of more than 6,500 people in northern California found that those who were fat around the middle at age 40 were more likely to succumb to dementia in their 70s. A long-term study in Sweden found that, compared to thinner people, those who were overweight in their 40s experienced a more rapid, and more pronounced, decline in brain function over the next several decades.

Consistent with this, the brains of obese people often show signs of damage. One study of 60 healthy young adults (in their 20s and 30s) found that the fatter members of the group had significantly lower grey-matter densities in several brain regions, including those involved in the perception of taste and the regulation of eating behaviour. A study of 114 middle-aged people (aged between 40 and 66) found that the obese tended to have smaller, more atrophied brains than thinner people; other studies have found similar results.
Brains usually atrophy with age, but being obese appears to accelerate the process. This is bad news: pronounced brain atrophy is a feature of dementia.

Why fatness should affect the brain in this way is not clear, although a host of culprits have been suggested. A paper published this week in the early edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has identified a gene that seems to be involved. FTO, as the gene is known, appears to play a role in both body weight and brain function. This gene comes in different versions; one version — let's call it "troublesome"— appears to predispose people to obesity. Individuals with two copies of the troublesome version tend to be fatter than those with only one copy of it, who in turn tend to be fatter than those with two copies of the "regular" version. Now, the troublesome form has been linked to atrophy in several regions of the brain, including the frontal lobes, though how and why it has this effect remains unknown.

But genes are not the only guilty parties. Obesity exacerbates problems like sleep apnea, which can result in the brain being starved of oxygen; this can lead to brain damage. Obesity often goes along with high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, all of which are bad for the brain in their own right. Indeed, one study has shown that if, in middle age, you are obese and have high blood pressure, the two problems gang up on you, increasing the chances of your getting dementia in old age more than either one would do on its own.
Fat tissue itself may be a problem. Fat cells secrete hormones like leptin; leptin acts on the brain in a variety of ways, and is thought to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's. Obesity may thus disrupt the normal production of leptin, with dangerous results. Fat cells also secrete substances that cause inflammation; chronic inflammation of the brain, which is often found in the obese, impairs learning and memory and is also a feature of Alzheimer's.

Diet may play a role, too. Studies in mice have shown that eating a very-high-fat diet increases brain inflammation and disrupts brain function. And the onset of brain decay may itself play a part. Since the regions of the brain most affected by obesity appear to be those involved in self-control and the regulation of appetite, erosion of these abilities may lead to greater obesity, which may lead to more rapid brain erosion, in a downward spiral.

Whatever the causes, the implications are grave. In the United States today, around one-third of adults are obese. At the same time, dementia is already one of the most costly and devastating health problems of old age. The possibility that obesity today will lead to higher rates of dementia in the future is, therefore, deeply alarming.

The obvious question is: can obesity-associated brain damage be reversed? No one knows the answer, but I am hopeful that it can. Those two old friends, a healthy diet and plenty of exercise, have repeatedly been shown to protect the brain. Foods like oily fish and blueberries have been shown to stimulate the growth of new neurons, for example. Moreover, one study found that dieting reversed some of the changes to brain structure found among the obese. Which suggests an interesting study. The most effective — and radical — treatment for obesity is bariatric surgery, whereby the stomach is made much smaller or bypassed altogether. Do people who have taken this option show a reversal, or at least a slowing, of brain atrophy?

But whether you are fat or thin, young or old, the best hope you have of guarding your brain is to eat well and exercise. Anyone seen my running shoes?

By arrangement with the New York Times








TOURIST traffic has long been the key index of normality in the Kashmir Valley. Both in the law-and-order sense as well as in the economic domain, for the income that tourism generates is critical to the well-being of the common folk. So as temperatures rise in the plains, correspondingly do hopes for a "good season" increase in that beautiful but troubled region. Aware of how fragile that normality is, wisely has the official tourism unit opted against making predictions about tourist arrivals ~ that just might provoke the militants into action aimed at scaring away the pleasure-seeking visitors.

While others are hoping for an increase of at least 20 per cent, and suggest a trend of that order is already evident since the season began early, the tourism department prefers a wait-and-watch policy. That makes eminent sense, for the less tourism is in the news the more confident would intending holiday-makers be that they would be in for a good time: claims of a heavy influx do not "register" to the same extent that a report about an incident of militant violence does. Many a houseboat has been refurbished, hotels are satisfied with the levels of advance bookings.

The security forces will obviously have a tough task on hand, an added challenge being to do their job in the least obtrusive manner. The sight of men armed to the teeth taking up positions behind sand-bagged bunkers on every main road had turned outsiders away, even if they had been spared any fallout of militant activity. Against that backdrop it is easy to appreciate the chief minister taking exception to top army officials ~ in fact the defence minister has joined them ~ in talking of a "hot summer". True militant activity is on the rise again, there is no room for any complacency, any downsizing of the army must be based on professional not political assessments. Yet spreading fear is a prime objective of the trouble makers, predicting "hot" times ahead is doing part of their job. Reticence, either way, might just pay off.







THE matter is almost as serious as a leakage of questions. The goof-up has been unpardonable, and Calcutta University authorities have been remarkably prompt and swift in demanding an inquiry by the police. Question papers for the forthcoming BA/BSc/BCom Part III exams (26 April) were conveyed to a test centre where the Joint Entrance Examination was scheduled to be held last Sunday (18 April). In a way, the police are directly accountable as the question boxes are kept in the custody of the local thana on the eve of the exam. The wrong box was handed over to the staff of the examination centre, in this case a school at Andul in Howrah.
   Only an inquiry can establish if it was an accident or by design. Rightly has the VC, Dr Suranjan Das urged the DGP, Mr Bhupinder Singh, to get to the root of the mix-up, of a kind that has embarrassed the university no end and crucially on the eve of the graduate level exam. The Part III format has been less than successful; the latest controversy might complicate matters further still.

Quite obviously the label on the box wasn't closely checked either by the police station personnel or the exam centre staff to whom it was handed over. Both are thus to blame. Any attempt to underplay the fiasco by suggesting that the question papers were not tampered with will only amount to obfuscating matters. Indubitable is the fact that the box containing the Part III papers were opened. The anxiety to claim that the papers were not "tampered with" seems intended to forestall the slightest suspicion of leakage. There can be no dispute over the fact that the sanctity of the box containing the papers has been violated. And the VC ought to reflect on whether the questions need to be reset and also if  the exam can be deferred by a few days. On the eve of the municipal elections, it is unlikely that the DGP's report will come through anytime soon.








TO lie is a sin. To lie successfully is Oprah Winfrey. To say that it's not her fault would be a lie. And to say that reality television is responsible would be a reprehensible truth. But so be it. We all speak the truth. Sometimes. Even if Winfrey, television's most conspicuous manifestation of larger-than-life fixations, lets us know unapologetically that she told lies during most of her celebrated life because the "truth is boring". A celebrity biographer has ferreted out the untruths that make up parts of the persona of the most powerful woman in American television with corroborations from Oprah's cousin and father, no less. And yet, the world's richest Black billionaire says about her celebrated lies: "That's what people want to hear."

Reality television's motto seems to be: showing is believing. Since what is shown live can't be anything but reality, it manages to blur the not-so-fine line between truth and appearances. And, because it's live TV and appearances can be safely passed off as truths, the confession culture spawned by The Oprah Winfrey Show gained so much currency. You reveal yourself to the world on television. Because it's on the air, documented and visible, there is no reason why it should be anything else but your true self that you are so generously sharing. Winfrey's studio is credited with "uncloseting" and bringing mainstream visibility to America's lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender community for the first time. The most famous instance of it being the "coming out" as a lesbian of the American television hostess and actress, Ellen DeGeneres. With a celebrity like DeGeneres choosing Winfrey's show to make her sexual orientation public in 1997, it acquired a respectability that had so far eluded its tabloid television format.   

Taboos were breached, lives were laid bare. Respectably. How much more truthful could you get? How much more engaging? How much more eyeball-grabbing?

The biography suggests, among other things, that Winfrey was not raised in extreme poverty with roaches crawling around , as she claimed, and could even be a practising lesbian herself. That Winfrey, who "revealed" on television her indigent and difficult childhood and trauma of sexual abuse, has not yet commented on it, says a lot. What it does not say is how she could get away with it, if she had indeed told and sold lies. Here's the answer: because we love lies. Real, larger-than-life lies. A lesson for Winfrey wannabes in India, perhaps.








THE saga of Professor Siras of Aligarh Muslim University ended with a tragic sting. Suspended from his position in the university following a sting operation that is supposed to have filmed him in a homosexual encounter in his own home, Siras was found dead soon after. The humiliation was overwhelming and the damage to his reputation irreparable notwithstanding the stay ordered on his suspension by the Allahabad High Court only a few days before his sudden death.

The sorry saga raises serious questions on the freedom of the media and the propriety of sting operations in matters which involve the purely private domain. One issue is the right to privacy, to be let alone at least in the confines of one's own home. The other is the individual's freedom in matters of sexual orientation. Both these rights stem from the fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution, the right to live life with dignity.
Dramatic advances in technology have revolutionized the communication of information. But the very technology that it is credited with making the media revolution possible turns the media into a bit of an unruly horse now and then. Technology has engendered a deeply intrusive and voyeuristic society. Cameras lurk everywhere, on mobile phones and on CCTV, blurring the boundaries between the private and the public domain.  Secret cameras  have facilitated investigative journalism through sting operations.

Deceptive operation

A sting operation is a deceptive operation designed to apprehend a person committing a crime. Typically, a sting will have a law enforcement officer or a cooperative citizen act as an under-cover agent playing the role of a criminal partner or potential victim who will play along with the suspect's actions in order to gather evidence of the crime. Sting operations as a method of exposing a public wrong have been greeted with mixed responses and raised serious ethical and legal concerns. 

They have proved extremely effective in exposing corruption and crime where otherwise acts done behind closed doors rarely come to light. In India, sting operations gained currency with the Tehelka expose,  nearly a decade ago. A team of under-cover journalists from Tehelka, pretending to be arms dealers, secretly filmed meetings  with fixers, politicians and army personnel in order to expose corruption in matters relating to procurement of defence equipment for the armed forces in an operation famously called 'Operation West End'.  The team found its way into the then Defence Minister, George Fernandes' home and showed politicians accepting wads of cash for favours. The exposé was absolutely sensational at the time, and created what was truly a tehelka. For the first time, people watched on national television, leaders accepting hard cash for favours. The sting yielded the resignation of the then Defence Minister and also of the then BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, who was caught on tape shoveling wads of currency notes into his drawer.  
'Operation West End' was followed by 'Operation Duryodhana' exposing the cash-for-questions scam in Parliament. Again the tainted MPs were forced to resign with exemplary promptitude. While the ethics and propriety of sting operations have been debated, there is no doubt that in a system where corruption is so corrosive and the legal system slow and inept, some stings have achieved the kind of immediate retribution one is unlikely to expect from a long drawn trial where the evidence grows so weak and stale that a conviction is hard to achieve.

Live display of rot

Delivered last year and the first of its kind is the judgment of the Supreme Court in the infamous BMW hit-and-run case ( RK Anand v Delhi High Court (2009) 8 SCC 106) which involved a sting operation exposing the nexus between the witness, the prosecution and the defence. That matters involving the rich and influential can be 'fixed' is a truth readily acknowledged but a live display of the murkiness and rot that underlies the legal system, of a witness being bought out at the hands of a senior advocate brought home the depths to which the profession has plummeted. While upholding the public interest involved in this particular case, the Supreme Court was careful not to grant a carte blanche to all such operations. 'Compared to normal reporting, a sting operation is an incalculably more risky and dangerous thing to do. A sting is based on deception and, therefore, it would attract the legal restrictions with far greater stringency and any infraction would invite more severe punishment.'

The court was critical of the sensationalism which was apparent from parts of the telecast. The caution sounded by the Supreme Court in the BMW case is an important one. A live and visual medium, the impact of television is far more potent than that of the print media. The damage that irresponsible journalism can do in the visual media is incalculably higher. One lesson was learned in the Uma Khurana Case (Court on its own Motion v State 146 (2008)DLT 429) where a school teacher was subjected to  grossly manipulated a sting operation supposedly exposing her in a prostitution racket, but really intended at settling personal scores by falsely implicating her. Soon after the telecast, a mob frenzy was unleashed on the victim who was physically assaulted in the full camera gaze.  Khurana was sacked from her job and suffered devastating public humiliation. Eventually, the Delhi High Court acting suo motu exonerated the victim, reprimanded the TV channel and laid down guidelines to safeguard against misuse of sting operations.  

(To be concluded)

The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court and author of Facets of Media Law







What significance does the Right to Free Education Act have for deprived children as they toil or beg for a living? Gopali Bandyopadhyay looks for answers  Chintu (11) earns his living as a shoeshine boy on local trains plying the Howrah – Mecheda route. And his opinion on the Right to free education? He shakes his head with a grimace and says, "What good is an education? Will it feed my family? I'm better off this way and can fend for myself as well. Who wants to go to school now? Not me, that's sure".

Neera (10) works as a maid in a Gujarati household in the city. She belongs to a village near the Sunderbans but stays with a five-member family in Behala. She has to sweep, swab, wash clothes and generally run errands for them. In return for her services, her parents are paid the princely sum of Rs 250 every month. They collect her dues every two/three months when they visit the house to check on her. So, would she give up this life to go to school? After all, it is free, won't cost a rupee. Instead it will assure her an education, which she could utilize to earn a living.

"But I'm doing that right now!" is her protest. "I don't mind working here. I get to eat my meals every day, something I didn't get back in my village. Also, I watch television with the family. It's not that bad".
How does one convince them of the value of education? Yet again, the pangs of a hungry stomach cannot be filled by describing the modalities of providing free and compulsory education for children between 6 and 14 in India.

India is progressing rapidly on the global map. Yet, even a cursory glance at its social structure will show up the cracks. Child labour possibly tops the list, along with female infanticide, domestic violence, human trafficking, and a burgeoning population where a significant number belong to the BPL section.

Child labour is cheap. Children have nimble fingers, adapt to their environment easily and cannot form unions. The last reason is probably what drives every employer running a roadside hotel/ shop/ small factory to lure kids with the tempting prospect of regular meals, a roof over their head, and some kind of payment. The majority of these children are abused and exploited. Unfortunately for India's poor children, the other side of the coin is equally abysmal ~ a life devoid of any little indulgence or the prospect of ever being a "happy child".
The government will need to work on the motivation factor that will convince children employed as helpers at dhabas/ tea stalls or working in the tanning/ leather factories, at the many brick kilns along desolate highways to join a school for "free and compulsory education".

For implementing this plan, the authorities will need thousands of dedicated teachers and as many administrators to ensure that the wheels of "education" run smoothly. First, the government must ensure that every hungry stomach is fed if it is serious about imparting education to each and every Indian child. The midday meal under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan would have probably worked had the officials entrusted with implementing it fulfilled their responsibilities. Unfortunately, reports of substandard food being doled out, of lizards falling into the boiling pot of rice, of stray dogs lapping up the food, suggest where this scheme has gone horribly wrong. However, let us hope these are exceptions and not the rule.

Here's another reason why this Act will face resistance, not from the opposition party, but from the children themselves. Despite begging being termed an offence, several street children can be seen running around while they playfully beg and follow the people stepping out of the coffee shops and confectioners. For them, begging is the easiest and only livelihood. There are thousands of such children belonging to a marginalised section in India. And this is about urban India, rural areas cover larger tracts; hence, more deprived children.
Finding a solution for them is certainly not easy. The first task is to convince them, or their guardians, (if they exist) to give up whatever livelihood they follow and get into the nearest government school where wholesome meals and studies would go together. Dedicated and able teams of teachers would be required to impart education along with vocational training. Being literate is not enough, they must be taught to fend for themselves. If there is an incentive beyond food and free studies, the Right to Education Act will help these children take a giant step forward. It is a herculean task, but not an impossible one.

The writer is Assistant Features Editor, The Statesman








Out of air-conditioned rooms to be greeted with cool fresh air and into the embrace of the towering mountains from the clutches of concrete jungles, the heads of even Saarc member nations will be arriving in the country next week. The sight of the country's unique architectural designs and, as they proceed towards the capital city,

a glimpse of people working in fields amid lush valleys will be mesmerising.

So will the thought of being in a tiny nation, where peace still reigns, emerging from the harmony its people, the benevolent monarchs and the government have been able to nurture.

In a way, they will be introduced to the country's guiding philosophy of gross national happiness (GNH). But will that inspiration be enough for the visiting heads of seven nations to embrace this philosophy that Bhutan intends to submit as a possible development model for the region? Difference in population size, culture and interests would have to be considered.

The plan was among the six issues of regional significance that the heads of state and government would have to consider and decide during their meeting on 28 and 29 April.

The foreign ministry's Thinley Dorji, who is also a public communications team member for the Saarc summit, said the country participated in numerous international events and conferences to discuss GNH, but none within the region.

"Since they're coming to Bhutan, we'd like to share the GNH feeling", Thinley Dorji said. "We can't guarantee they'll all be willing to adopt our guiding philosophy".

He said the country will talk about the four pillars, share what it learnt and how the country went about development activities guided by GNH.

In the last 25 years since Saarc was established, the member states have failed to make much headway in what its charter required of them – well-being of the people. "We haven't been able to do much about the issues of poverty", Thinley Dorji said.

The region accounts for one-fifth of the world's population, of which the Saarc member nations make up ten per cent of the Asian continent and about 40 per cent of Asia's population. Therefore, as the 16th summit coincides with the silver jubilee of the association's founding, member nations will take stock and reflect on Saarc's achievements and make necessary changes for the future. Agreements in trade, in services and cooperation in the field of environment will also be tabled for the leaders.

Thinley Dorji explained that trade agreements had more to do with south Asian free trade area (Safta), customs and tariff related issues. On environment, he said, the leaders had to sign the environment convention, which was finalised about a month ago.

Inaugurating the permanent secretariat of the Saarc development fund and Bhutan proposing a ministerial statement to serve as a roadmap for the region's collective response to addressing global phenomenon were aming the other issues for consideration.

Since around 200 meetings were held in Saarc each year, the first meeting, Thinley Dorji said, would discuss budget and finalise which nation would host the various meetings. The second meeting of the standing committee, which functioned at the main policy level, would develop reports, consider and approve the budget discussed during the programming committee meeting. The council of ministers would approve the reports of the different ministerial meeting, whose issues range from health and information technology to women and other social issues, and come up with declarations. Kuensel/ANN








Staying alive is not a simple business for people in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province. The local Taliban and the army compete mercilessly to establish their authority along the border with Afghanistan. "If we support the army, the Taliban is unhappy and if we support the Taliban then the army is unhappy", lamented one local resident living outside Peshawar.

This unhappiness can have dire consequences for the civilian population. In the case of the army, this usually means ordering civilians out of a hostile area and then plastering it with high explosives. The Taliban is on the retreat, but it likes to show it is still a force to be reckoned with by sending its suicide bombers to kill anybody it sees co-operating too enthusiastically with the army.

It is a nasty little war that receives little attention in the rest of Pakistan or in the outside world. It is dangerous for journalists to visit the area. When they do come, they are usually escorted by the army and police. These are sensible precautions as was recently underlined when a British journalist and his two advisers, two former members of Pakistan's powerful ISI military intelligence, were kidnapped; they are now being held for ransom in North Waziristan.

"It isn't just journalists but politicians from the rest of Pakistan who never come to see us", said local leaders in Ghazni Khel, a poor agricultural village in the middle of parched farmland. It was not difficult to see why. Though everybody agrees that security is better than when the Taliban were roaming freely, life is still dangerous. At a hastily called village meeting one man complained: "It is difficult for us to go out in the evening because we are afraid of kidnappers who pick us up on the road and take us away".
I was able to go to Ghazni Khel because it is the village of Selim Saitullah Khan, a powerful local tribal leader, politician and industrialist who was going there with his own well-armed bodyguards. Mr Khan felt that the outside world should get some inkling of what life is like on the north-west frontier of Pakistan. He is deeply conscious of the poverty that afflicts the area, mainly because of the lack of water and electricity. Mr Khan may be right about economic and social deprivation killing more people than political violence, but it must be a close thing. The Pakistan Taliban are being driven back by army offensives. They have lost several of their best-known leaders to US-directed drone attacks. But they are not going down without a fight and are eager to prove that nobody who turns against them will escape their vengeance.

The violence in the North West Frontier Province is less reported than that in Iraq and Afghanistan, but in recent weeks more Pakistanis than Iraqis or Afghans have been dying in suicide bomb attacks. The Pakistan Taliban seem to have an endless supply of young men willing to kill themselves for the cause. Almost anybody might be their target.

But it would be wrong to think of the people of the frontier provinces as passive victims. "Everybody here is armed to the teeth", says one of Mr Khan's assistants with pride. Even the Taliban have to take account of local public opinion because it is backed up by armed force organised along tribal lines. Mr Khan says that his tribe and its allies could easily raise a fighting force of 2,000 men in the course of a day.

This ability to command a significant armed force helped Mr Khan and other local leaders to get rid of the Taliban in Lakki Marwat, starting in 2006. "Before that we thought the army and the Taliban were in league", says a local leader. "We wanted to stop the army and the Taliban fighting there".

The retreat of the Taliban is good news for the US-led forces in Afghanistan. The US and Nato convoys on the road are no longer such easy meat for the Taliban as they were when the Islamic militants had checkpoints on the road. Lorry drivers used to carry boards bearing the slogan "long live the Taliban" which they would attach to the front of their vehicles when entering Taliban-controlled territory.

The state within a state once created by the Pakistan Taliban is ceasing to exist and can probably never be resurrected in its previous form. But they still have many militants waiting for the army to relax its grip. The people of the north-west frontier, cautious and skilled in personal survival, are not going to write off the Pakistan Taliban just yet. The Independent







A kerfuffle has the propensity to deflect attention from major issues. Thus, of the many issues raised by the Indian Premier League and its shenanigans the ones that have grabbed attention are the personality of Lalit Modi and corruption. To an extent this is inevitable, since the IPL is Mr Modi's brainchild and whatever his alleged misdeeds he must be given credit for conceiving and executing an immensely popular form of mass entertainment. Short of Bollywood films, it is difficult to think of any other branch of entertainment that has captured the Indian masses in the manner that the IPL has. Thus, whatever happens to Mr Modi will grab attention. The other aspect is corruption, a theme that never fails to excite interest in India, despite — or perhaps — because of its all-pervasive presence in India. Without in any way diminishing the moral aspects of corruption, it needs to be noted that within the IPL controversy are issues that are perhaps more profound than the achievements or otherwise of one individual and the alleged presence of corruption in the operations of the IPL.


One such issue is impropriety and its obverse. Participation in public life demands a following of a strict code of proper behaviour. The word code is used advisedly, since all forms of proper behaviour cannot be defined by law or in legal terms. Convention and example decide forms of propriety and impropriety. There is nothing in law that says a minister should offer to stand down after a major scandal or disaster but convention demands such a gesture as a point of honour. Nothing in law forbids a member of the Board of Control for Cricket in India from bidding for a team, but the moot question is, should it be done? It took Shashi Tharoor some time to comprehend that he had been guilty of a gross impropriety by acting as a mentor for a consortium that included a close associate. The IPL controversy, perhaps for the first time, has brought issues relating to improper behaviour into the public discourse and to public attention. Its fallout will make people in public life — in government and in business — reflect seriously on not just the legality of their actions but on their propriety as well. This could well be the only silver lining to the IPL cloud. It is a result that no one quite intended but it is a consummation devoutly to be wished for.








When a minister of the West Bengal government talks of taking a "balanced approach" to anything it is time to stop laughing and get ready for mayhem. Legalizing the presence of hawkers on Calcutta's pavements is exactly calculated to produce this mayhem. The "balanced approach" is a rosy vision of space sharing between pedestrians and hawkers, a prelapsarian state of coexistence that Calcutta has never seen in recent times and is never likely to see. But the Left Front's glibness in covering up its own incompetence has grown with the number of its failures, however squeaky that glibness sounds. The latest decision, to provide over two lakh hawkers with identity cards, is a cover-up for the failure of Operation Sunshine to remove hawkers from particular pavements, to restrict their activities to certain areas, and rid 21 thoroughfares of hawkers altogether. Even more important for the Left Front, or, rather, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), is making sure of a chunk of votes in a season in which overwhelming electoral support is beginning to look uncertain. Identity cards for hawkers is just the thing: they can now block pavements, surge on to streets and refuse to budge, harassing and endangering pedestrians.


But that is likely to happen only in West Bengal. The Left Front government has cited the Centre's national policy on urban street vendors in support of its sudden change of approach — no more "blindly" clearing pavements of hawkers. The Centre's policy speaks of accommodating this huge group of disadvantaged entrepreneurs which serves the less affluent customer in "convenient" places at lower rates. But that policy, while asserting that this would be a means of urban poverty alleviation, is very firm on regulation, proposing restriction-free vending zones, restricted vending zones and no-vending zones, together with detailed working out of fair systems in case demand is greater than space. The freedom to carry on trade should be "reasonably restricted" if it hinders the flow of traffic, disturbs pedestrians or causes a health hazard. The Left Front has seized on the first bit of the policy and is, as experience would tell any Calcuttan, paying lip service to the second. Restraint, regulation, law, civic sense, balance, are really not part of the CPI(M)'s mental horizon. And urban order is certainly not something its leaders can conceive of.








Is there not an eerie resemblance between the current goings-on in West Bengal and the grisly events that took place there exactly four decades ago? The dramatis personae are the same: the Right, represented by the Congress ruling at the Centre, the Left, euphemism for the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the ultra-Left, identified as Naxalites in the early 1970s and now passing as Maoists. It is as if the intervening 40 years are irrelevant, the drama enacted then is having a rerun; some roles have, however, been extraordinarily reversed.


Forty years ago, the central concern of the Right was how to contain the CPI(M). The monopoly of power enjoyed by the Congress in the state had been broken mostly on account of onslaughts launched by the Left. The CPI(M) was a taut, militant outfit with a clear-cut ideology and thousands of dedicated workers stripped for action. It had captured the imagination as much of the dispossessed peasantry in the countryside as of the urban middle classes, and its organizational hold among the industrial workers had tightened further. The Marxists — or so it appeared to the worrying types among the Congress bosses — were bent on creating anarchy all over the state. They must be thwarted; in any event they must not be allowed any space in the state administration. Twice in quick succession, United Front ministries put together by the CPI(M) were ejected through the deus ex machina of Article 356 of the Constitution. The turbulent working class in industrial hubs on either side of the lower Hooghly and such other spots as Durgapur were confronted by armed constabulary dispatched by New Delhi, such as the Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force. At the same time, the state police, in cohorts with the rural oligarchs, came down heavily on the rebellious share-croppers and landless hordes incited by the Marxists. It was touch and go. There was a real danger of the CPI(M)'s getting an absolute majority in the impending state assembly elections.


At that juncture, the Right, that is, the Congress, instructed police and security personnel under its political control to seek the assistance of the ultra-Left, the Naxalites, in the holy battle against the Marxists. The Naxalites had broken away from the CPI(M). They were a frenzied lot, their immediate objective was indiscriminate killing of Marxists who had supposedly betrayed the revolution. This provided a wonderful opportunity for the Right. Congress goons and police agents infiltrated the ranks of the Naxalites. In several areas, a tactical alliance took place between the ultra-Left and the Congress to plot the murder of CPI(M) cadres or to eject them from their hearth and home.


The Right was only partly successful in its game plan. Deployment of terror tactics denied the Marxists an absolute majority in the assembly elections in 1971; they were made mincemeat of in the fresh polls the following year. The main purpose, though, remained unachieved. Excesses committed by both anti-social elements let loose by the Congress as well as Central police personnel sharply swung public sympathy in favour of the Marxists. While the CPI(M) could be kept out of the state administration, it could not be weakened politically. Even though it had to remain more or less in hiding it actually marched from strength to strength.


Half a loaf was better than no loaf; the Right took this dénouement philosophically and turned its attention to its erstwhile temporary tactical ally, the Naxalites. Congress hoodlums, assisted by Central and state police forces, did a thorough job of annihilating the Naxalites, and that was that.


It is 2010; there is a resuscitation in West Bengal of the same triangular phenomenon witnessed 40 years ago. The cast is basically unchanged. The traditional Left, represented by the CPI(M), however finds itself playing an altogether different role. Four decades ago, its thesis proclaimed India to be a federal integer constituted by diverse nationality groups populating the different states. The party was resolute in its determination to defend and expand states' rights. It was dead set against the induction of Central police and security forces for preserving or restoring law and order in a state; it in fact questioned the legitimacy of outfits such as the Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force since, under the Constitution, law and order was a state subject. All those formulations are now over and done with; the objective reality is taken to be altered. The CPI(M) at present presides over the state administration in West Bengal. That apart, the new incarnation of the ultra-Left, the Maoists, have made deep penetration into a number of districts in West Bengal taking advantage of what Andre Gunder Frank has called "the development of under-development" among the tribal population. They are no isolated splinter group like the Naxalites were in the 1970s. They have extended their influence among the adivasis over considerable parts of the entire country. In West Bengal, they have once more chosen to make CPI(M) leaders and cadre their particular target on the logic that, over here, the latter represent State power. The Marxists are very much on the defensive; armed forces at the disposal of the state administration have been unable to cope with the ultra-Left, so much so that in many areas, administration has practically ceased to function. The CPI(M)'s leaders in the state are now beseeching the Congress-ruled Centre to, please, send more and more contingents of the Central Reserve Police Force to overpower the Maoists. The Right, ruling at the Centre, has responded with alacrity. Central forces have arrived and participated in joint expeditions along with the state police, to flush out ultra-Left activists. While there have been limited successes here and there, in the overall the results are, however, disappointing. It could hardly be otherwise. For however twisted the theory and praxis of the Maoists might be reckoned to be, they have succeeded in entrenching themselves among the tribal people. Given the mass base they have succeeded in establishing, they cannot be wiped out in the manner the Naxalites were four decades ago. It is going to be a long haul.


There is apparently a lack of understanding among the CPI(M) leadership in the state about this aspect of the ground reality. A certain naiveté marks their appeal to the Right to come and rescue them from the clutches of the ultra-Left. It betrays a frightening lack of analysis of class relations. Besides, even assuming that the Maoists are unmitigated evil, does it still behove the Left to identify itself totally with the Right to ensure their liquidation? The mere fact that the Right is responding positively to the SOS of the Left hardly implies that the Congress and its class friends are going to abandon their ambition to destroy the conventional Left as well. In the lexicon of the Right, no distinction exists between the Left and the ultra-Left. From its class point of view, communists of all species deserve extermination. While Congress rulers in New Delhi will offer cooperation to the Left in order to suppress the Maoists, it is far from their intention to do anything that could help extend the longevity of the Left Front regime in the state.


In contrast, the CPI(M) leaders in West Bengal seem to have forgotten their class line. One of them has gone on record after the Dantewada massacre that it was time to sink all differences and fight unitedly against the common enemy, the ultra Left. Really? Does he mean that the Left would henceforth fight the Maoists unreservedly in the company of the Right (which, in Chhattisgarh for instance, is a joint front of the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party)? Has the season come to forget the unclear deal of the nuclear liability bill, the higher education bill, the foreign educational institutions bill, the proposal to convert the special economic zones into Nazi-type labour concentration camps, the rush to dismantle the public sector, the unabated inflation officially engineered to create extra profit for industrialists, hoarders and speculators, the sell-out of banks and insurance units to foreigners and the total surrender of foreign policy to the Americans? Is the Left telling everybody around that, where the ultra-Left is concerned, keeping in abeyance the class line and allying with the most retrograde rightist forces are necessary and permissible?


There is a problem though. The Left has a natural constituency which might not agree with the view that a value judgment on the grim tragedy in Dantewada was legitimate without taking into account the depredations perpetrated over the years in Chhattisgarh by Salwa Judum, jointly sponsored by the BJP and the Congress. The newfound love for the Right on the part of the traditional Left might persuade this constituency to withhold its allegiance. Does that prospect bother the ones who should be bothered?








The scene enacted in Parliament from the recent drama, Lalit Modi ko gussa kyun ata hai, was hilarious. You had the corrupt calling the corrupt, corrupt! It was amazing to hear them blatantly call for honesty, having led the corruption brigade for decades, looting whatever came their way. Then the finance minister stood up and announced that no defaulter would go unpunished under any circumstances. Hypothetical question: if a member of a party that is a coalition partner is implicated, will the ruling party be willing to sacrifice the government, making way for integrity and honesty? Or will it use the information to conveniently 'blackmail' the partner every now and then?


Consensus and carrying a disparate team through a diverse political jungle with many constraints can be defined and manipulated in various ways. But somewhere, probity must take precedence and prevail over all other compulsions, even those of retaining power. That is what highlights the sharp difference between opportunism and good governance. Will all the other named or benami men in cabinet and in the council of ministers who have 'stakes', not only in cricket leagues but in other businesses that have recently been taken off the fast-track clearance list, be eased out? An Opposition that was in complete disarray till recently, has managed to discredit the ruling party in some measure, even though players in their dispensations are equally guilty of similar shenanigans. Because they are not in power, they remain protected for a while.


The ruling party and its United Progressive Alliance government are complacent, arrogant, insecure and divided. All these adjectives that describe them are contrary and these extraordinary contradictions need deft handling. The Congress is split down the centre with the 'Congressias' on one side and the 'Congressmen' on the other. The traditional Congressias, leading the revolt within, against their colleagues holding office, know well that if they do not assert themselves now, they will lose their place in the sun.



The Congress seems comfortable wallowing in supreme indecisiveness that has permitted corruption to enter the processes of governance. To protect itself and its inmates from exposure, it has closed ranks, nurtured chamchas, disallowed differing opinions within party forums, and for all practical purposes created a 'court', where favoured courtiers have spoken, on behalf of their rulers, half-truths to create an intricate web of confusion. This has made the worst amongst them indispensable. New members who are uninitiated novices in this court, are watched by wily, seasoned operators. The vulnerable are ensnared with promises of protection from the law and upward mobility regardless of competence.


The Congressias are well practiced in the art of mouthing the politically correct rhetoric we have heard for decades, but alas, without much result on the ground. They will abuse the powers that be and virtually in the same breath, genuflect when in their presence. The hypocrisy is palpable, a trait of the survivor. They have learned well how to talk for the poor and have delivered little. They have mastered the art of being opaque. They have protected the unacceptable, feigning innocence when confronted with corruption, and failed to comply with the law.Pretending that their 'internal opposition' represents the voice of the future dispensation, these aging politicians will do anything to grab a share of the pie. They are unable to reach out to their opponents in the structure and therefore indulge in loose talk. If both Congress factions take the discourse towards a consensus that puts India above all else, India will, in turn, salute the party in power.



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





The law has finally caught up with Swami Nithyananda who was hiding in Himachal Pradesh after a sex scandal involving him and a film actress broke last month. It is ironical that the Himalayas and its foothills, which have for ages been the abode of great sages who nurtured their spiritual powers in the cool and peaceful environs, was the refuge of a self-styled godman on the run from the law and the consequences of his actions. The swami made himself scarce after video tapes of his sex romp became public. Convoluted attempts at denial have not carried conviction. In fact his disappearance from public view has only helped to strengthen the suspicions and the charges against him.

Other charges have followed the sex scandal. He is now accused of fraud, cheating, intimidation and financial malpractices. The growth of a boy from an obscure village into an international spiritual master in a short period was dazzling. But the network of spiritual centres set up all over the world became a web of deception and signposts of material greed. Thousands of people were taken in by the fake claims and pretences. Many left their own families and dedicated themselves to him. The whole house of deceit has now collapsed.

The arrest of Nithyananda is only the beginning of the legal process to bring him to account for his misconduct. In the past it has been seen that many cases involving self-styled godmen were not taken to their logical conclusion of punishment of the guilty. Failure of the prosecution to prove or press the cases or deficiencies in the deposition of witnesses have helped many fake godmen to escape punishment. That encourages other bad characters to carry on with their dubious business. It is hardly realised that their misconduct sullies the great spiritual traditions of the country and the reputations of masters who have lighted up the lives of countless people with their words and deeds. It is easy to deceive people with the promise of a higher life and enlightenment. The basic human urge to transcend the self, the credulity and simple faith of aspiring minds and the tensions of modern life all combine to make godmen out of cheats. There may be only one genuine spiritual teacher for a thousand fake masters. Nithyananda's conduct should be a warning to other fake-gurus-in-the-making and an eye-opener to common people.








When Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull volcano erupted last week, its reverberations were felt across the world, underlining the fact that disasters, natural and human-made, even those in remote parts of the globe, impact lives and economies thousands of miles away. The eruption threw up thousands of tonnes of mineral ash into the air, throwing a thick, dark shroud over vast parts of Europe. It grounded air traffic for almost a week and brought Europe to a standstill. The global disruption of flights, described the worst since 9/11, is expected to cost the aviation industry $1.7 billion. With the cloud lifting somewhat, planes in Europe are slowly taking to the skies again. While the worst of the crisis seems over, another could be brewing. Iceland has several seething volcanoes and Eyjafjallajokull's eruption could prompt an eruption of its larger neighbour, Katla, which is known to have erupted three times so far. Will Katla copy its belching neighbour now, hurling the troubled aviation industry into turbulent weather?

Although this eruption wasn't a major one on the Volcanic Explosivity Index, its impact is instructive. In our globalised world it is not the magnitude of a disaster alone that is important but where and when it happens and importantly, how we respond to it. This volcano has erupted in the past but its impact was rarely felt outside Iceland. Today, with air travel so common, Eyjafjallajokull's eruption left much of the world shaking. Markets which rely on same-day deliveries of products from exporters on the other side of the globe have been hit badly.

The immediate environmental consequences of this eruption are deadly. Plant species in northern Europe will have to fight to survive for some months. However, it appears that the cloud the volcano sent out last week has a silver lining. Its effects on the atmosphere and climate are unlikely to linger, say climate experts. Apparently, the earth is naturally equipped to deal with gas emissions from volcanoes. Besides, as the flights were grounded it meant that carbon dioxide vomited into the air by planes fell. The amount of carbon dioxide the volcano let out last week was far less. Eyjafjallajokull's dramatic eruption then, while devastating for the aviation industry was not that bad after all for climate and environment in the long run.









There was a document, called Charter of Democracy, which the presidents of Pakistan People's Party and the Muslim League signed at London on May 14, 2006. Both of them, the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, called upon the people of Pakistan to join hands to save their motherland from the clutches of military dictatorship and to defend their fundamental rights.

When I read the recent 18th amendment to Pakistan's constitution, I didn't find anything to stall a military coup. Pakistan had the consensus-based constitution when the nation adopted it in 1973 under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Yet Gen Zia-ul Haq and Gen Musharraf marched in the army when they so desired to crush all institutions under their jack boots.

When I asked Bhutto in an interview after the Bangladesh war if he could guarantee that the military would not take over again as was his experience when Gen Mohammad Ayub imposed the martial law, Bhutto replied that this time his men would come on to the streets and face the tanks. However, when Bhutto was arrested by Zia and detained at Murree, not even a dog barked. The nation slipped into martial law rule as easily as a person would in new clothes. It looked as if it did not matter to the people who the ruler was.

The 18th amendment is a step towards restoring democracy. Pakistan has yet to prove to the world that it has become a democratic country. The nation showed the signs of a liberated country when people rallied behind the lawyers to put back Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary in his seat. It is clear that the judiciary has become free. But the supremacy of Pakistan's parliament, is yet to be established.

The question that remains is: will people defend fragile democratic polity, which Pakistan has acquired, when it is challenged by a civilian dictator or a military chief?

India has one of the best constitutions in the world. Yet it lost the democratic system when Indira Gandhi took to totalitarian ways and imposed the emergency. The apolitical military in the country rightly stood aloof to let the affairs of governance be settled by the people themselves. Indeed, they did when they put democracy back on the rails.


The people gave the Congress such a humiliating defeat at the polls that the party was wiped out in northern India. Candidates put up by the opposition won by a margin of lakhs. This was the people's anger against the temerity to replace democracy with personal rule.

Basic structure of constitution

Pakistan should learn one thing more from India: how to restrain its National Assembly from becoming dictatorial and changing the basic structure of the constitution. The supreme court of India has held in the Keshavanand Bharti case that parliament cannot change the basic structure of the constitution. Democracy, secularism and the federal structure of the polity are considered three pillars of the constitution. Similarly, Pakistan can have democracy, the country's Islamic character, the federal structure and pluralism as the basic structure of the constitution.

Pakistan can probably teach a lesson to India by taking action against those who ousted the elected government of Nawaz Sharif and sat on the gaddi forcibly. India should have done so after the emergency by not only punishing the guilty politicians but also civil servants who became a willing toll of tyranny.

Had the perpetrators of the emergency been punished there would have been a lesson taught to the saboteurs of democracy. Unfortunately, some people who played a leading role during the emergency are members of Manmohan Singh's cabinet. Punishment to those who violate the constitution is the only way to ward off repetition.

In this context, the power given to president of the ruling party through the 18th amendment to remove the prime minister can lead to dictatorship of the party chief. The prime minister should be removed by parliament alone.

The point on which Pakistan's 18th amendment has excelled India is on defection. In India, MPs do not have the freedom of conscience. They must obey the party whip or lose their membership. In Pakistan, a member of the Senate or the National Assembly can defy the party whip except on the finance bill or a motion of no-confidence.

Still such progressive measures are very few in the 18th amendment. They definitely fall short of what the Charter of Democracy pointed out "…the threats to its survival, the erosion of the federation's unity, the military's subordination of all state institutions, the marginalisation of civil society, growing poverty, unemployment and inequality, breakdown of rule of law and the unprecedented hardships facing our people under a military dictatorship, which has pushed our beloved country to the brink of a total disaster."

There is no such categorical statement in the 18th amendment or even in the speeches made by the treasury benches. Both PPP and the Muslim League have to re-read the Charter of Democracy which had recommended 26 amendments to the constitution and 36 other measures. The 18th amendment remains only a half measure.









A long time conservationist and US senator Gaylord Nelson launched the idea of Earth Day in 1970. The main objective was to demonstrate nationwide concern for environment protection and to shake the political set up to initiate action.


The idea originated at a conference held in Seattle. Ironically, the initiators of the move had no clue that the chief of the original inhabitants of the United States — the Red Indians — pronounced the testament to protect mother earth two centuries ago by declaring that "the earth is our mother, not an enemy to be conquered. The white man treats his mother, the earth and brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered and sold like sheep. His appetite will devour the earth and leave behind only a desert."

Unfortunately, the wisdom of the Red Indian chief has been ignored time and again and we have shown how we pillage the earth to meet our greed and leave behind deserts through our unending appetite for materialistic development.

For those who are part of the ancient civilisations that survived for several thousand years, every day is an 'earth day' in which the respect for the nature was the foundation for all the actions. The ones who neglected these basics were wiped out from the earth.


In contrast to these ancient civilisations that survived for several centuries, the industrial civilisation has not even passed the test of three centuries. Within such a short lifespan it has created immense problems that have global implications, threatening the very existence of other life forms on earth, including that of the human being.

Earth Day indicates the global celebrations and commitment to conserve environment; it has been able to satisfy the need to evolve a new ritual to celebrate, to elicit response from common people towards protecting nature. In four decades of its existence, it has been endorsed by the industry and the media, but reduced to a symbolic act. In reality, the omnipresent political implications of decision making to destroy the natural resources take precedence over this symbolism.

The epidemic of 'affluenza' has engulfed the well off sections of people from developed and developing countries. The high GDP growth, a panacea for removal of underdevelopment is leading to unprecedented levels of material accumulation and over consumption leading to environmental and social disintegration.

The over emphasis on economic model of development requires extracting an ever increasing amount of natural resources. According to an estimate, this is 60 billion tonnes annually, or it is like consuming 112 Empire State Buildings every day! More than half of the extraction of the resource takes place in Asia.

These glaring facts do not move the common man to act, neither do they motivate the world leaders to initiate actions to find alternate path. The failure of Copenhagen is a clear indicator of how narrow-minded our leaders are, the fixation they have to continue high extraction of natural resources to meet the affluent members of earth.

The hope generated by Barack Obama as president of the US has evaporated into thin air. It is ironical that after a year in office he sounds like Bush III. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that the Earth Day launched four decades ago has had very little impact at the highest political levels.

This also indicates how globalisation invents new rituals like Earth Day, replacing the old culturally-rooted rituals like 'Bhoomi Hunnime' celebrated in some parts of Karnataka on a full moon day in which the farmers worship the earth for bountiful harvest. As we become global netizens, we need to find new ways to celebrate, and with media blitz, it becomes a new trend, where erasing older rituals is a non-issue.

The true sprit of Earth Day is to live in harmony with nature, attempting to tread carefully, with the minimal ecological foot prints to leave behind. However, those indigenous societies who practice this idea sincerely are treated as 'primitive' to be replaced by the high consumption models of development. It is doubtful if the world leaders are willing to profess the ways of simple living and high thinking.









It must have been only last year that I was crowing over my new 'slim line look' courtesy the inches I had lost. But in the months to follow, a binging began during the festive season presenting a wide variety of eats to gorge oneself on. The situation had in fact remained in a status quo all the way past into the New Year so that I had piled on those purportedly 'lost' pounds. Things had come to such a pass that I no longer fitted into my slim and slinky jeans, and had to actually take refuge in those extra large salwaar kameez to camouflage my large girth.

To a self-confessed foodie like me, keeping my weight at an optimum is at best a pipe dream. Having friends cheerfully chubby can mean being ribbed constantly about my vain attempts at 'diet control'. "Oh! why don't you have one more gulab jamoon… you have no need to diet like this… that's for people like us…" Such a comment can only 'lead me astray'.

To make matter worse is perhaps the fact that both my parents are a well-maintained couple who are fitness freaks, winning the admiration from friends and relatives alike for maintaining their figure over the years. "Ma'am, you have not changed at all… it has been 20 years and you are still as young and sprightly as ever…" Unfortunately, at the same time yours truly who is present on the scene hardly receives a second look or a similar comment!

Finally, a yearly health check had my doctor advising caution saying erratic eating with little or no exercise would have me balloon like the kung fu panda. Faced with this worrying news, I decided to take up swimming having heard that it was the best way of toning the whole body, and losing weight as well.


Alas! I had not foreseen the cruel comments that would follow me into the pool. Attired in a red and white polka-dotted costume, covering me from top to bottom, resembling some gigantic whale, I delicately stepped in to hear some children squeal, "Watch out! The Hippo's entering!" To the kinder of the lot, I was 'big aunty', an appellation that quite stuck, since I couldn't really shed any of that weight I had gained.

My nine-year-old niece, who is built rather over plump, innocently asked me, "Periamma, what would happen if the gentle elephant god, Ganesha, were to materialise in Bangalore? Would people make fun of him for eating so many 'modaks' like amma makes fun of me?"

I had to tell her, "I really don't know, little one. Only Ganesha knows, and only he can find a way out for us out of this 'weighty issue!'"







Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer has been responsible in the past two years for purchasing tens of billions of dollars in foreign currency to try to prevent the shekel from appreciating against other currencies. Economists are fiercely divided over whether Fischer's policy is wise, and some doubt his power to check the market forces that are driving up the shekel.

There is no certainty that Fischer's policy will succeed. But he certainly has the pluck to make such a move, as well as a broad view of our economic problems - in this case the dire implications of a strong shekel on exporters' profits. He is aware of the bank's responsibility to respond to these problems.

Fischer's broad view was also reflected in his backing for Supervisor of Banks Roni Hizkiyahu's decision to dismiss Dan Dankner from his position as chairman of Bank Hapoalim. Hizkiyahu did not give his reasons for doing so. Fischer insisted on keeping the reasons secret, apparently worried that exposing them might damage Hapoalim's reputation.


Fischer was criticized for this and accused of arbitrary conduct. Bank Hapoalim's controlling shareholder, Shari Arison, even called the governor's behavior "McCarthyism." In retrospect, in view of the suspicions raised against Dankner and his arrest on Wednesday on suspicion of paying bribes, it appears that Fischer's position and his doggedness were justified and served the public interest.

Fischer continued on this tack this week in daring to speak out about two complex public issues. "Senior managers' wages are too high, this problem must be dealt with urgently," he said, presenting the Bank of Israel's annual report. But he ignored the excessive wage problem at the institution he heads.

The report outlines the bank's position on another problematic issue - the economy's extreme centralization. This means that huge power is held by a few tycoons who control many companies, including financial firms.

Fischer did not hesitate to make harsh statements about Israel's large holding companies. He said they are too big and endanger Israel's economic stability. He hinted at improper connections between those companies and the banks, and among the corporations themselves, implying that these giant corporations are damaging competition.

He said that some of those corporations are managed based on the whims of individuals who have no worthy heirs. Fischer concluded that action must be taken to restrict the large companies' activities and at least prevent them from controlling banks and insurance firms.

Both these issues - senior managers' wages and Israeli tycoons' status - are out of the Bank of Israel's jurisdiction.

But Fischer found that these issues are clouding Israel's economy, so he thought it his duty to intervene and express his opinion publicly. The Dankner affair shows that we should listen to the governor.








Last week in Hawara, a town near Nablus, someone defaced a mosque with spray paint. The graffiti included Hebrew writing and a Star of David. Residents of a Jewish settlement nearby had vandalized Palestinian property in Hawara on previous occasions, so both the Israel Defense Forces and the Palestinian villagers accused settlers of committing the latest crime. Israel's official position is that it is a deserving, ecumenically-minded custodian of religious sites of all faiths, so the IDF Spokesman was quick to issue a condemnation and promise an investigation.

The defacing of mosques in the West Bank is relatively rare - "only" four incidents were brought to the attention of Yesh Din, an Israeli NGO that monitors law enforcement in the West Bank, over the past five years. But destruction of Palestinian property and acts of violence against Palestinian civilians occur frequently, often several times per week. Over the past few months, they have become more frequent and more violent. Many of these incidents are known as "price tag" operations, whereby settlers destroy Palestinian property as a response to the IDF's having dismantled an illegal outpost. The settlers, say West Bank field workers for various NGOs, are becoming bolder.

The more egregious acts of settler violence are reported in the Israeli media, although rarely with prominence, but most incidents fail to attract the attention of the major news outlets at all - because they occur so frequently that they have become unremarkable, because most Israelis are numb to these stories, and because Palestinians are increasingly reluctant to file a police complaint. Why bother to enlist the help of the police when, as Yesh Din has documented, more than 90 percent of legal cases involving settler violence end with their being closed due to "lack of evidence"?


When Jews, Muslims and Christians deface one another's holy sites or places of worship, the story is reported widely by the Western media - especially when the culprits are members of the group backed by military and political might, as is the case of the Jewish settlers in the Palestinian-majority West Bank. And so the story of the defaced Hawara mosque was reported widely in major news outlets, including The Washington Post and The New York Times, with accompanying photos. But the chances of the perpetrators being arrested and put on trial are very slight. In the cases of the four mosques previously vandalized, allegedly by settlers, two investigations are officially ongoing, and two have been closed for lack of evidence.

Lior Yavene, Yesh Din's research director, says that investigations into complaints filed against settlers by Palestinians fail for a number of reasons. The civil police of Judea and Samaria are understaffed and underfunded. Jewish suspects are almost never included in police lineups. The police frequently fail to verify the alibis of Jews, or to make arrests.

Investigations fail to result in convictions even when eyewitnesses provide accurate descriptions of Jewish suspects seen at or fleeing the scene, holding incriminating evidence - as in a case reported earlier this month by the Jerusalem Post's Dan Izenberg. According to the April 6 article, a settler from Kedumim was caught by police last summer, fleeing a burning Palestinian orchard while holding a jerrican filled with flammable liquid, and with the smell of the liquid on his hands. The suspect refused to answer police questions during interrogation; and less than a year later, the courts dismissed the case for "lack of evidence." Michael Sfard, Yesh Din's legal advisor, described the court's decision as "scandalous."

Palestinian villages are increasingly unprotected by the IDF, which does provide extensive protection for Jewish settlements. At the same time, however, Palestinians are not allowed to possess weapons; the IDF arrests people caught with knives or guns in their possession. Settlers, on the other hand, are permitted by law to carry weapons.

Meanwhile, the IDF is acting according to increasingly draconian orders to suppress non-violent demonstrations against the occupation that are organized and led by grassroots Palestinian movements. Leaders of popular resistance organizations are dragged from their beds during night raids, arrested and jailed - often indefinitely. The villages in which demonstrations take place on Friday mornings have been declared closed military zones. Those who violate the army's orders and come out to demonstrate are regularly shot at with rubber bullets, doused with skunk gas, beaten and arrested.

For Palestinians in the West Bank, the sense of helplessness and frustration must be enormous. When they are attacked, they can almost never hope for justice within the framework of the legal system. Nor are they allowed to defend themselves. Nor can they expect the IDF to protect them. And even when they protest these injustices using nonviolent methods - marching, chanting and waving flags - they are punished with arrests and violence, with dehumanizing skunk gas and beatings. So what happens when there is no legal recourse or justice for the injured and no real civic structure, and when the moderates are systematically crushed? Surely these are the ideal psychological circumstances that make people vulnerable to the beckoning finger of extremism.

Lisa Goldman is a freelance journalist and blogger, and a social media consultant for Yesh Din, for which she wrote this piece.








An interesting phenomenon is happening to health care in the United States, quite apart from all the noise about changes to the country's system of health insurance: Individuals are starting to take charge of their own health and trying to avoid the need for care in the first place. Just as people long ago moved from institutional, mainframe computers to personal computers, they are starting to make the same move from institutional to individual tools with their health - not for treating serious diseases such as cancer, to be sure, but for everyday monitoring and prevention.

A variety of trends are coming together to make this happen. First, it is becoming apparent that many health problems are self-induced: too much unhealthy food and drink, too much smoking, too little sleep or exercise. There is nothing new about that insight, but now it is easier to keep track of personal behavior. Just as we can use financial software to manage our money, we can now use a variety of software tools to monitor our own behavior and bodily statistics.

Many of these tools are things people first designed for themselves. For example, J.J. Allaire founded the iPhone weight-loss app Lose It! for himself, and has gone from 195 to 170 pounds (88 to 77 kilos) and gained some 4.5 million users in the process. Like the founders of the Homebrew Computer Club, a seminal group of Berkeley computer geeks who got together in the 1980s, many started by rigging up gadgets and later realized that they had come across a commercial opportunity. Many of these new "homebrew health" people meet at so-called Quantified Self Meetups, where some people demonstrate their software and others come to learn or compare data with others.


The tools they use include everything from pedometers/accelerometers that monitor footsteps and motion (from Nike, Fitbit and others) to sleep monitors (MyZeo), pulse and heart monitors, and glucose monitors (mostly for diabetics). People also count and calculate their food consumption. Just as you can use your computer to manage your finances according to a budget, you can use it to manage your body as well.

The hope is that the data may help you to modify your behavior in the right way. In my own case, I behave pretty well already: I swim for 50 minutes a day, I floss regularly, I eat sensibly, and so forth. But now that I use the MyZeo sleep monitor (I sleep fine!), I have noticed a marginal change in my own behavior when I am out at night. Sometimes, I am more motivated to leave early, anticipating extra sleep points in the morning. It is a small thing, but the kind of change that adds up over time.

Potentially even more effective are social tools, which use so-called "game dynamics." That is, just as you can earn points by collaborating with others in video games like World of Warcraft, you can earn points by competing or collaborating with your friends in healthy behavior. These are services that make health into a serious game where others can reinforce your willpower.

Imagine a health club that does not threaten you, but rather sends a message: "Juan and Alice will be waiting for you to join them lifting weights today at 4 P.M." Or: "Your team is only four points behind the Blue team. Please come and help us win." One service in which I plan to invest,, allows you to challenge a friend: "I will swim for 50 minutes if Alice runs around the block four times." The challenge is posted on Facebook or Twitter, ideally soliciting encouragement from your friends.

Right now, this market is incoherent, much like the early days of the personal computer. The different applications do not talk to one another; it is difficult to match your exercise with your sleeping patterns, or to share data with other people.

But that is what's exciting: There are many companies at early stages, all looking for money and partners. Not all of them will survive; with luck, some of them may merge. Those with great technology and lousy marketing will find others with lousy technology and great marketing. The companies with back-end standards will create interfaces for a couple of the leading applications; then other applications will tie themselves into those back-ends.

How will all this be paid for? In the beginning, early adopters will pay for most of these tools and services directly; others will be sponsored by advertisers. It would be nice to believe that they will be effective, but so far we have little proof. A vendor's testimonial that nine out of 10, or 99 out of 100, customers are satisfied with the results is hardly convincing, because those who fail to improve have less interest in participating.

More convincing will be data shared by individuals and collected (with permission) by third parties. At some point, employers, who are interested in healthy, motivated employees and lower health costs (but demand a lower level of proof than insurance companies and governments), are likely to come in, based on these informal data-collection efforts and their own pilot programs. That will lead to more data being collected, and eventually there may be enough to convince insurance companies and governments to pay as well.

One part of me resists that: Good health should be something that people do for themselves. But the realist in me knows otherwise about what can help good behavior spread. As a taxpayer, I would rather pay to foster other people's good behavior than pay more for the consequences of their bad behavior.

Esther Dyson is chairman of EDventure Holdings, and is an active investor in a variety of start-ups around the world.

Copyright: Project Syndicate








During the height of the Cold War, in the early 1980s, when tens of thousands of Europeans were demonstrating in the streets against the possibility of a nuclear confrontation between the two superpowers - in the wake of the American plan to place cruise and Pershing nuclear-warhead bearing missiles in Europe - a small group of American and Soviet cardiologists led by Dr. Bernard Lown and Dr. Evgeny Chazov founded what became International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Because of its efforts to promote civil society dialogue between Americans and Russians about the nuclear danger, and its educational work, IPPNW was awarded the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize for its "considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and in creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare."

There are times when civil society has to take the initiative when government leaders are unable or unwilling to do so. Indeed, today, with tensions rising between Israel and Iran, while Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad imagines "a world without Zionism" and says Tehran will react strongly to any possible Israeli attack, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declares that "the world is indifferent to Iranian statements about Israel" and is not doing enough to stop Iran's nuclear program - it is time to talk, before it is too late.

Since there are no signs that the Israeli and Iranian governments are interested in talking with each other, and civil society has to take up the challenge, just as American and Soviet physicians did in 1980.


Such dialogues between members of Israeli and Iranian civil society have been taking place, quietly, in recent years in such forums as the conferences in Amman of both Global Majority, an international initiative to promote nonviolent conflict resolution, and the Middle East Citizens Assembly, an organization that works to advance individual citizens' rights, tolerance and mutual understanding in the region, as well as in other venues and frameworks.

I have no illusions that at this moment in history, members of Iranian civil society will be capable of entering into such a dialogue with Israelis. However, Iranian-born academics living in the West, who are in touch with the realities of their native country, can do so. That is how the recent dialogue between Israelis and Syrians began, with the participation of Syrian-American businessman Ibrahim Suleiman.

An Iranian-born political scientist, Prof. Anoushiravan Ehteshami, recently participated in a written exchange with Israelis and others on "A Nuclear Free Zone in the Middle East: Realistic or Idealistic?" in the Palestine-Israel Journal, and two other Iranian-born scholars took part together with Israelis and others in a conference at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London last month, on the same topic. A similar conference will be held in Jerusalem on May 10, to bring the discussion home to the Middle East, the eye of the storm and focal point of fears about nuclear proliferation. It will also be intended to provide input to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, which will be taking place at the same time in New York.

The level of anxiety in both Israeli and Iranian societies is growing, and there are many mutual misconceptions. Can anyone find an authentic quote in which Ahmadinejad actually threatened to attack Israel? Does Israel really intend to attack Iran?

Dr. Moshe Vered of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University recently published a paper entitled "The length and conditions for ending a future war between Iran and Israel." He noted that the Iran-Iraq war went on for eight years, and the Iranians' willingness to sacrifice many lives would make a potential Iran- Israel war very prolonged and difficult to end. The clear conclusion to be drawn from reading the paper is that such a war would have catastrophic consequences for both peoples.

Israel and Iran were once allies. Even though much water has run through the Straits of Tiran and of Hormuz since then, doesn't that suggest that there are some fundamental common interests between the two nations, which one day may be revived? Many members of Iranian society are not happy with the current regime, to put it mildly, and they long to rejoin the international community.

Constructive dialogue between members of Israeli and Iranian civil societies can only help to promote positive change, while reducing the tensions, for the benefit of both peoples - even if it doesn't yield immediate fruits.

What does it say in Ecclesiastes 3:1-15? There's "A time to be silent, and a time to speak."


Shouldn't this be a time for Israelis and Iranians to speak to each other?

Hillel Schenker is co-editor of the Palestine-Israel Journal (







Dear Mr. Prime Minister, I have known you for 14 years. Time after time, I believed you. But something very bad has happened this year. Your time is running out; this is your last chance. You must put an end to the occupation." Thus wrote Ari Shavit in an open letter to Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu that appeared in Haaretz's holiday supplement. I don't know what my colleague was expecting of Bibi, who in their 14-year-long acquaintance, and despite Shavit's considerable support for him, has never heeded the authoritative advice he heaped upon the politician in his columns.

I have known Netanyahu for more than 14 years, from back when he would invite journalists to a restaurant and then forget to pay the bill. I knew him when he was Israel's ambassador to the United Nations. At the time he was planning his return to Israel and insinuation into the Likud leadership. He selected me, as one of the political correspondents he called from New York, in order to choose the right time to return to Israel and join the top ranks of Likud, with an eye to succeeding Yitzhak Shamir as prime minister.

As a political strategist, his timing was right. He was appointed deputy foreign minister, and later on deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Office, under Shamir. Netanyahu defeated Shimon Peres in the 1996 election, which was conducted against the background of frequent terror attacks. His campaign slogan promised to achieve "secure peace." I especially remember a lunch at the Sheraton Hotel in which he tried to persuade me that he had to watch his words in order not to lose Likud voters. "But after I'm elected," he promised me, "even Haaretz will be pleased with me." As time progressed it became clear that he did not back any of his words with actions. The "secure peace" slogan became fodder for "Hahartzufim," the Israeli version of the British satirical television show "Spitting Image." This was the period in which Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef referred to Netanyahu as "a blind goat."

We will not recount here Netanyahu's conduct during his first term as prime minister. In addition to failing as a leader, he was seen by perceptive observers to have a tendency to panic. Fears of a second attack on Iraq by the United States under President George H.W. Bush were kindled, and he ordered the replacement of the gas masks issued to all Israelis. It was Ariel Sharon (who was national infrastructures minister at the time) who told me in utter confidence that "the prime minister asked to examine the possibility of using a weapon type that must remain nameless." Sharon called Rafael "Raful" Eitan, and "the two old warriors," as he called them, warned Bibi that if he merely asked what and how, "we won't have it any more." The implication is clear.

In addition, Netanyahu came very close to being tried in the Bar-On-Hebron affair, and was saved from shame by attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein's sharp speech in his defense. Netanyahu was roundly defeated by Ehud Barak in the election. When the results became known, Bibi extinguished his big Cuban cigar in a dish of delicacies prepared by the Hilton Hotel for his headquarters and resigned from the Knesset, and even his close aides said that he had left the country in a fix, inside and out.

Why do I mention these events? To emphasize that politicians of his kind never change. Were he to have undergone that same kind of philosophical revolution as Ariel Sharon, to wean himself of the dream of a Greater Israel, Likud would not have split up and he would be Sharon's heir today. A year after his comeback, however, he has been revealed as a leader without an agenda, other than survival, not to go too much toward the extreme right, in order to maintain relations with the United States.

So he used a certain phrase in his speech at Bar-Ilan University about two states for two peoples, but there's been no trace of that since. He must have seen the statistical data published last week showing that one out of every four Israelis today is Arab. In a generation or two, we will pay a very heavy price for not leaping at the opportunity offered by a strong American president like Barack Obama who wants to build a Middle East of sane people.

Bibi remembers an America where presidents could be pressured through Jewish public opinion and the Congress. At his bidding, Ron Lauder, Elie Wiesel and others volunteered to bring pressure to bear on the president through newspaper advertisements and public appearances. Bibi himself went to war in a series of interviews to U.S. television networks, saying that freezing construction in East Jerusalem was impossible. And so the issue of Jerusalem, which was supposed to wait until the end under all circumstances, was placed at the very beginning by Avigdor Lieberman, Eli Yishai and Bibi.

Bibi is deluding himself that Obama will not be reelected. But even in the three years remaining in his first term the president can impose uncomfortable sanctions on Israel - a step that should scare Israel more than Iran. Bibi has not yet grasped that what the U.S. administration wants is a change to the composition of the ruling coalition in Israel. So long as Bibi does not replace Yisrael Beiteinu and Shas with Kadima, there is no chance of moving in any direction. It was in vain that my colleague wrote him an impassioned letter asking him to show leadership. It surprises me that he was unable to see that he does not have it. Netanyahu was not a leader during his first term and he is not a leader now. He is simply incapable of being one.







Of the innumerable cliches that landed on our heads like fireworks on Independence Day this week, one sentence stood out. It was said offhandedly and seemed to sum up in a few words everything that Israeli leaders tried to say in dozens of speeches. It was an Israel Defense Forces officer, who uttered a kind of ultimate wish to a television reporter. "I hope," he said against the backdrop of tanks and armored vehicles, "that in the next 62 years we will continue to do what we did in the past 62 years."

No senior official, from the most festive of platforms, summed up as well as he the mentality that motivates our leaders, and perhaps us all, in the Israel of 2010. He meant well, the old boy, he wanted to utter words of encouragement. It's not his fault that his words revealed a pathetic truth: In the absence of any positive vision, with the total loss of hope for peace ("Not one minister in the forum of seven believes in peace with the Palestinians," as Vice Prime Minister Moshe Ya'alon put it), without any desire for change, with a built-in and profound fear of the future, whatever it may be, only one wish and slight hope remains: inertia, just surviving.

We hope it will never end, whatever it is, as long as it's familiar: On the one hand the achievements of technology, agriculture and the economy, on the other a dozen wars, an occasional military campaign, gas masks, a surprise from our intelligence agencies, opening IDF bases to the public on Independence Day, the Bible Quiz, settlers hitting soldiers, rejecting peace plans out of hand, diplomatic isolation.


Did we say "never end"? Let's be satisfied with renewing the contract for another leasing period of 62 years. And then, as Defense Minister Ehud Barak likes to say, "The IDF will know what to do."

Israeli leaders' relation to time may be unique in the world: On the one hand they swear an oath and speak lofty words (as did the president, prime minister and foreign minister on Independence Day) about specific units of time like "forever and ever" and "never" in which we will stand up for our rights and work energetically. On the other hand they cling to the status quo, whether diplomatic, military and political, for fear that in the future the situation will be even worse.

Only in the period of time that includes the present and the immediate future - which is the leader's bread and butter - nothing can be found except for the "Concerns in Jerusalem." The only personal and national vision is to carry on until the end of his term and end it without a commission of inquiry, police investigation or an International Court of Justice. And the only direction left for activity is the past: embracing national heritage sites, studying biblical verses, swearing every day by a new archaeological "rock of our existence" and announcing (as did the Education Ministry) a project for setting the Declaration of Independence to music. Next week maybe they'll announce choreography for Operation Entebbe.

Meanwhile, Israel is becoming a kind of museum piece: anachronistic, frozen in place, fragile and not to be touched, stuck somewhere in the 1980s. Occasionally, like a former star who hopes to make a comeback, it still tries to restore its former glory with some military initiative or a daring assassination operation with mass participation. Like Norma Desmond in "Sunset Boulevard," Israel informs Cecil B. DeMille that it's ready for its close-up, without understanding why catcalls, rotten tomatoes and extradition orders have replaced the former cheers and admiration.

Even an age-old sight has a moment of birth, said the poet Alterman, and to that we can add that even a birthday sometimes has an age-old look. Independence Day has become popular despite, and perhaps because of, its strict secular and sometimes grotesque rules of ceremony and ritual, which focus mainly on the worship of national symbols and the army.

But when every day we have a holiday of declarations and oaths, and not even one ordinary moment of activity, and when all the days of the year resemble one big childish Independence Day with lots of nationalist gestures, symbols, flag-waving and an IDF display, who notices the difference?








When a tycoon falls from his personal jet, only the state coffers can save him - our coffers.The College of Management invited me to take part in a seminar on "financial education." The idea was that experts would go to the schools and teach the kids about how to conduct their financial affairs intelligently so that when they grow up they will know the difference between the blessings and the curses that money can bring.

The people who spoke at the seminar about the financial side of things had vast experience in banking, insurance and investments. I, on the other hand, represented the education side - or at least that's how I was introduced.

When I was given the floor, I immediately made clear my opinion that, if I were education minister, I would not allow these financiers to put their feet inside a classroom. They should remain outside the fence.


After all, their wealth and huge profits do not come from our intelligent conduct but rather from our foolish conduct, which they take pains to make even more foolish and confused than before. Even the governor of the Bank of Israel recently complained about the hard time he had deciphering his bank statement, which has fees for everything and all kinds of other bloodsuckers. Stanley Fischer's sigh of despair is my sigh of relief because it seems Fischer is a layman just like me.

I wouldn't allow them to enter the classroom because the example they would set is a bad one, and we have plenty of examples like that. Those who pocket NIS 1.5 million per month - 150 times more than a teacher, or even more than that - do not have the right to teach anyone in Israel. Those who get benefits even when their company is losing money - a total disconnection between profit and punishment - do not have rights. Those who do not restrain their urges and have no compunctions about being ostentatious are not the ones to be role models. Those who fall from the sky and still receive a golden parachute should show respect and stay home.

Those who have lost a sense of responsibility and a feeling of shame cannot stand up in front of a class, in front of the public. The trumpets already feel ashamed, but not the trumpeters. I recently read statements quoting the chairman of Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, which is making money, and the company Magal, which is losing money. He's on the board of another 10 companies and his total salary is confidential.

And this is what Jacob Perry said or asked on behalf of his colleagues: "You tell me, to whom do I have to apologize?"

"Tell me," he begs of us. So we will tell him: You can apologize to the clients from whose small savings the bank makes such big money. Had the senior officials not filled their pockets with golden nuggets, it would have been possible to throw a few crumbs to the depositors.

And it's possible to apologize to teachers, doctors, nurses and social workers, as well as soldiers, police officers and other civil servants who earn a pittance and don't feel that their contribution is worth hundreds of times less than that of Perry and his associates.

This isn't the top hundredth percentile, or even the top thousandth, but the top ten-thousandth, whose members dance and sing at every Independence Day ball. It's no longer a question of grabbing something and eating or grabbing something and drinking - after all, how much can you eat and drink without bursting? It's a question of grabbing and grabbing - of grabbing and pigging out.

I would not allow these bankivores to teach, just as I would not allow carnivores to teach vegetarianism or cannibals to teach issues of human rights. The Ofers and the Dankners will not get a teaching certificate from me; they are not your teachers.








Shalom to you Mother and Father, my dear parents. I'm writing toward evening, between Memorial Day and Independence Day. There was a light breeze in the cypress trees in front of your house, it descended on the eucalyptus grove and scattered bunches of golden white blossoms on your graves. A canopy of spices spreads over you and the Hefer Valley these days. It hangs between the pain and longing for the home you left, which was consumed by fire, and the praises for the home you built.

In the coastal plain, whose land you cultivated endlessly, a delicate fragrance rose: the blossoming of the citrus trees and the honeysuckle, the jasmine and the Persian lilac. You always said the transition from bereavement to joy was hard for you, almost impossible. But at night, on the lawn between the dining room and the water tower, you sang with all your hearts songs such as "Carry a banner and a flag to Zion," "Here in the land of our fathers' delight," and "We'll build our land, a homeland." Now it's quiet where you are. And I know that you're resting in peace.

You did everything you could and more. And it's a good thing that you don't know what's happening here and that I won't witness your heartbreak.


Recently we marked here, modestly and almost in secret, the 100th anniversary of the founding of Deganya and the kibbutz movement. That's how it is when a movement's political power has weakened and it has no public relations or influence on the composition of the party central committee and the coalition. If there were worthy leaders in Jerusalem, their disregard of Deganya's jubilee would have been an insult. But what can you expect from the leaders we have? To display a sensitivity that they lack? And perhaps that small jubilee celebration caught them just when they were at rehearsals for "Singing Independence with the President"?

In the past I thought that history would do you justice, my mother and father. That was apparently a vain hope. I am in despair about the politicians on that issue as well. And the historians will have trouble finding time for that before they find a wise explanation for the Israeli march of folly these days, and before they explain how government corruption expanded to such monumental proportions. How fortunate that you aren't here to see it, nor will you be here when the results come in. How fortunate that you don't know how far we are from your dream of the land of our fathers' delight, and even from the place where we've already been.

I am painfully sorry. The injustice will not be repaired. And now, toward evening, between Memorial Day and Independence Day, I will say what even we, your sons and daughters, didn't tell you. Because like you we kept silent in the wrong places, and in our youth we had difficulty seeing the long road you traveled. You were the people who carried the nation on their shoulders to the Land of Israel, the people who dressed it in a cloak of concrete and cement and spread carpets of gardens for it. You gave it everything you had to give: your days and your nights. Your hearts and your faith. Your joy and your sorrow. Your lives.


Now it's too late. But the thing must be said. Only after you were gone did we understand how hard it was for you. The extent to which conflicts of heart and soul were your lot. How little you asked for, as long as you could see a homeland coming back to life. The tent camps pitched by that forgotten Zionist-socialist party became the basis for the UN Partition Plan, the tower and stockade settlements became the basis for the state's borders and its line of defense in the War of Independence. Who can imagine its outcome and the cease-fire lines without Deganya and Gesher and Beit Alfa, Kfar Giladi, Dan and Dafna, Hanita and Eilon and Mishmar Ha'emek, Negba, Yad Mordechai, Nitzanim and Ramat Rachel.

At your bedside in a small leather box were a pin and a badge. Keep them safe, you said about the symbol of the Hashomer Hatzair Zionist movement and the Haganah military badge. You came to do the deed that you had sworn to do and insisted on doing. You did not hate or persecute or covet. You lived from the little that you yourselves produced. And you didn't deny your children anything. And you made mistakes and slipped and sobered up: Socialism, you said with a smile, was meant for holy people, and when we become such people there will no longer be a need for it.

And you were anxious about the next war and the occupation and the changing face of Zionism. But you never abandoned your path, nor did you deviate from it.

You came with nothing, and you left with a 36-square-meter apartment, a small refrigerator, an air conditioner, shelves filled with books, a garden at the entrance to the house and a eucalyptus tree whose roots were hostile to the rosebushes. You, my mother and father, "the millionaires with the swimming pools."

Don't worry about me. I'm fine. What I have achieved came from you. Look, I'm a writer.




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




Early this month, the International Maritime Organization — the United Nations agency that oversees maritime law — announced that large cruise ships will no longer be allowed to burn heavy fuel in Antarctic waters. This is a welcome step in protecting the harsh but delicate polar environment.


It is also part of a global effort to end the use of heavy, high-sulfur fuel in oceangoing ships. Burning heavy fuel throws highly polluting emissions into the atmosphere, and it poses a serious risk to marine life if spilled.


Gasoline and diesel, used in cars and trucks, are relatively light refined fuels, with strict limits on their sulfur content. The heavy fuel used in ships, including cruise ships, is called bunker fuel. It is basically the crude residue of refining — closer to asphalt than gasoline — mixed with diesel fuel.


The need to restrict these fuels has led the United Nations agency to begin creating Emission Control Areas, where tougher pollution standards, including a sharp reduction in sulfur and particulates, will be enforced.


The ban on high-sulfur fuel in Antarctica, which begins in August 2011, will effectively end visits by cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers. It will also reduce the total number of Antarctic passenger visits from more than 15,000 a year to about 6,400, all of whom will be traveling on smaller, lighter and greener ships.


This is an important step and a welcome respite for the waters. And it will help drive the cruise industry — notorious polluters — to re-examine its essential mission.


After all, what's the point of visiting the natural wonders of the nautical world if you leave a terrible stain behind when you leave?






The Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case about the privacy rights of a California police officer who sent very personal text messages on a city-issued pager. This case brings the court to a new frontier. As people use newer forms of communication, the court must ensure that privacy protections keep up.


Sgt. Jeff Quon, a member of the SWAT team in Ontario, Calif., used his pager for official business, but also sent nonwork-related messages, including some sexually explicit texts, to his estranged wife and to a girlfriend.


Ontario had a policy that Internet usage and e-mail on the city's devices were not private, but it did not mention pagers. Sergeant Quon was told by a lieutenant that as long as employees reimbursed the cost of nonwork-related messages that put them over the wireless company's monthly limit, their messages would not be read.


The city decided in 2002 to review pager messages to see how many were work-related and whether the limit was too low. It asked the wireless company for transcripts. Sergeant Quon and three people with whom he had messaged sued, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in San Francisco, ruled in their favor.


The appellate court said that the lieutenant was speaking for the department. And given his statement that text messages would not be audited, if the officers paid for their overages, the plaintiffs had a reasonable expectation of privacy. It ruled that the decision to search the messages was not unreasonable at the outset, but that its scope was unreasonable.


The Ninth Circuit was correct. Sergeant Quon had a reasonable expectation that his messages were private. Under the Fourth Amendment, the city had a duty to seek less-intrusive methods of searching, and as the court noted, those methods were available. The City of Ontario could have had Sergeant Quon and others request the transcripts and allowed them to redact anything personal.


The Supreme Court should affirm the appellate court's well-reasoned decision. If it rules for the city, it should do so in a narrow way, closely tied to the specific facts of this case.


Courts across the country have been unclear about what privacy rights apply to e-mail and texting, which are fast eclipsing postal mail and conventional telephones. The Supreme Court should make clear that the Fourth Amendment's robust privacy protections apply just as robustly to 21st-century communication.







Hamid Karzai is frustrating, difficult and — as his recent anti-American rants make especially clear — not a reliable partner. He is also the president of Afghanistan. If there is any hope of defeating the Taliban, Washington is going to have to find a way to work with him.


President Obama must use Mr. Karzai's planned visit to Washington next month to try to do that.


That is not an invitation to let Mr. Karzai off the hook. Mr. Obama needs to keep pressing him to fire the corrupt officials and cronies who have soured millions of Afghans on their own government. The Afghan leader is expert at ignoring such wise counsel, but he does so at his own peril.


We wonder if he even knows how close to the edge he is living — maybe fewer public lectures and more pointed intelligence briefings that show the alienation of Afghan citizens and the strength of the Taliban might help wake him up.


While that's going on, Mr. Obama also needs to open a second, less sensitive front in the anticorruption campaign. He should urge Mr. Karzai to ask the United Nations (which Mr. Karzai now implausibly blames for last year's presidential election fraud) to hand responsibility for overseeing Afghanistan's economic development to others more proficient in handling money.


The United Nations has enough to do to help strengthen Afghanistan's political institutions, oversee elections (a new Parliament will be chosen in September) and ensure that humanitarian relief gets where it is needed.


The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank could all do a better job of monitoring, auditing and coordinating the billions of dollars of international aid flowing into Afghanistan.


These institutions performed that role, with considerable success until 2005, when the United Nations unwisely shoved them aside. A succession of critical reports since then from the United States Agency for International Development, Government Accountability Office and Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction describe shockingly weak United Nations oversight of aid-financed projects in Afghanistan, telling of defective work and unexplained transfers of funds.


There are other challenges that other organizations are clearly better prepared to address. Taxes and revenues that could help pay for Afghan government services now go uncollected or are diverted into the pockets of corrupt officials. The International Monetary Fund can help determine realistic targets for these revenues and help develop a system for accountability.


The World Bank, which has worked with the Karzai government on development projects, can better monitor public spending, payment of government salaries and procurement spending. It has a strong interest in encouraging the development of Afghan businesses. The Asian Development Bank specializes in regional projects and can help link landlocked Afghanistan to neighboring road, rail and power systems.


Multilateral institutions can also bring in additional donors and more fairly apportion the costs of Afghan development. They can provide Afghanistan with the technical expertise it needs to manage its own resources.


Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries, but it is not without prospects. It is believed to have huge mineral wealth, including copper, iron ore and rare earth minerals like lithium, used in making electric cars. Its agricultural areas can be more than self-sufficient if irrigation canals are rebuilt and access provided. Its carpets and textiles have a worldwide market.


With less corruption, better economic management and more focused international effort, it does not have to remain poor. It could begin financing its government and its further development from its own resources.


The Obama administration has revamped its military strategy in Afghanistan. It has grasped the importance of competent local governance, even if it has a long way to go to putting that in place. There is no chance of succeeding without better economic governance.






There goes Senator John McCain, battling mightily for re-election in Arizona, buzzing off into the desert heat to another rally, another news conference, another television sound bite. Wait, you forgot your principles!


He's telling the world he'll never support immigration reform until the border is sealed. Now he's praising Arizona's Legislature for passing a bill that makes every Latino — citizen or not — a potential criminal defendant. It obligates the police to stop people who look like illegal immigrants and arrest them if they don't have papers on them. And here he is warning Fox News's Bill O'Reilly that drivers of cars full of "illegals" are "intentionally causing accidents on the freeway."


During the 2008 presidential campaign, Mr. McCain did his share of contortions to win over a right-wing base that never trusted him. Now he is fighting for survival against a radio host endorsed by border vigilantes.


But this pandering is tragic for a man who was one of the architects of the humane, comprehensive approach to immigration he has now disowned — threatening a filibuster to prevent its even coming to a vote.


Mr. McCain has long said border control must be a prelude to larger reforms. But he always insisted on realistic solutions, on respecting immigrants' humanity and giving them the chance to become legal. He never played the rancid, dangerous game of portraying Latinos as criminals, as Arizona's new immigration bill does.


Mr. McCain used to be the anti-demagogue. Here he is defending his bill in the Senate on May 25, 2007, one of many times he said the same thing:


"We need to come up with a humane, moral way to deal with those people who are here, most of whom are not going anywhere. No matter how much we improve border security, no matter the penalties we impose on their employers, no matter how seriously they are threatened with punishment, we will not find most of them, and we will not find most of their employers."


That was true then. It is true now. It is also true that no election is worth winning if you have to abandon what you believe.






Cambridge, Mass.


THANKS to an unlikely confluence of history and genetics — the fact that he is African-American and president — Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to reshape the debate over one of the most contentious issues of America's racial legacy: reparations, the idea that the descendants of American slaves should receive compensation for their ancestors' unpaid labor and bondage.


There are many thorny issues to resolve before we can arrive at a judicious (if symbolic) gesture to match such a sustained, heinous crime. Perhaps the most vexing is how to parcel out blame to those directly involved in the capture and sale of human beings for immense economic gain.


While we are all familiar with the role played by the United States and the European colonial powers like Britain, France, Holland, Portugal and Spain, there is very little discussion of the role Africans themselves played. And that role, it turns out, was a considerable one, especially for the slave-trading kingdoms of western and central Africa. These included the Akan of the kingdom of Asante in what is now Ghana, the Fon of Dahomey (now Benin), the Mbundu of Ndongo in modern Angola and the Kongo of today's Congo, among several others.


For centuries, Europeans in Africa kept close to their military and trading posts on the coast. Exploration of the interior, home to the bulk of Africans sold into bondage at the height of the slave trade, came only during the colonial conquests, which is why Henry Morton Stanley's pursuit of Dr. David Livingstone in 1871 made for such compelling press: he was going where no (white) man had gone before.


How did slaves make it to these coastal forts? The historians John Thornton and Linda Heywood of Boston University estimate that 90 percent of those shipped to the New World were enslaved by Africans and then sold to European traders. The sad truth is that without complex business partnerships between African elites and European traders and commercial agents, the slave trade to the New World would have been impossible, at least on the scale it occurred.


Advocates of reparations for the descendants of those slaves generally ignore this untidy problem of the significant role that Africans played in the trade, choosing to believe the romanticized version that our ancestors were all kidnapped unawares by evil white men, like Kunta Kinte was in "Roots." The truth, however, is much more complex: slavery was a business, highly organized and lucrative for European buyers and African sellers alike.


The African role in the slave trade was fully understood and openly acknowledged by many African-Americans even before the Civil War. For Frederick Douglass, it was an argument against repatriation schemes for the freed slaves. "The savage chiefs of the western coasts of Africa, who for ages have been accustomed to selling their captives into bondage and pocketing the ready cash for them, will not more readily accept our moral and economical ideas than the slave traders of Maryland and Virginia," he warned. "We are, therefore, less inclined to go to Africa to work against the slave trade than to stay here to work against it."


To be sure, the African role in the slave trade was greatly reduced after 1807, when abolitionists, first in Britain and then, a year later, in the United States, succeeded in banning the importation of slaves. Meanwhile, slaves continued to be bought and sold within the United States, and slavery as an institution would not be abolished until 1865. But the culpability of American plantation owners neither erases nor supplants that of the African slavers. In recent years, some African leaders have become more comfortable discussing this complicated past than African-Americans tend to be.


In 1999, for instance, President Mathieu Kerekou of Benin astonished an all-black congregation in Baltimore by falling to his knees and begging African-Americans' forgiveness for the "shameful" and "abominable" role Africans played in the trade. Other African leaders, including Jerry Rawlings of Ghana, followed Mr. Kerekou's bold example.


Our new understanding of the scope of African involvement in the slave trade is not historical guesswork. Thanks to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, directed by the historian David Eltis of Emory University, we now know the ports from which more than 450,000 of our African ancestors were shipped out to what is now the United States (the database has records of 12.5 million people shipped to all parts of the New World from 1514 to 1866). About 16 percent of United States slaves came from eastern Nigeria, while 24 percent came from the Congo and Angola.


Through the work of Professors Thornton and Heywood, we also know that the victims of the slave trade were

predominantly members of as few as 50 ethnic groups. This data, along with the tracing of blacks' ancestry through DNA tests, is giving us a fuller understanding of the identities of both the victims and the facilitators of the African slave trade.


For many African-Americans, these facts can be difficult to accept. Excuses run the gamut, from "Africans didn't know how harsh slavery in America was" and "Slavery in Africa was, by comparison, humane" or, in a bizarre version of "The devil made me do it," "Africans were driven to this only by the unprecedented profits offered by greedy European countries."


But the sad truth is that the conquest and capture of Africans and their sale to Europeans was one of the main sources of foreign exchange for several African kingdoms for a very long time. Slaves were the main export of the kingdom of Kongo; the Asante Empire in Ghana exported slaves and used the profits to import gold. Queen Njinga, the brilliant 17th-century monarch of the Mbundu, waged wars of resistance against the Portuguese but also conquered polities as far as 500 miles inland and sold her captives to the Portuguese. When Njinga converted to Christianity, she sold African traditional religious leaders into slavery, claiming they had violated her new Christian precepts.


Did these Africans know how harsh slavery was in the New World? Actually, many elite Africans visited Europe in that era, and they did so on slave ships following the prevailing winds through the New World. For example, when Antonio Manuel, Kongo's ambassador to the Vatican, went to Europe in 1604, he first stopped in Bahia, Brazil, where he arranged to free a countryman who had been wrongfully enslaved.


African monarchs also sent their children along these same slave routes to be educated in Europe. And there were thousands of former slaves who returned to settle Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Middle Passage, in other words, was sometimes a two-way street. Under these circumstances, it is difficult to claim that Africans were ignorant or innocent.


Given this remarkably messy history, the problem with reparations may not be so much whether they are a good idea or deciding who would get them; the larger question just might be from whom they would be extracted.


So how could President Obama untangle the knot? In David Remnick's new book "The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama," one of the president's former students at the University of Chicago comments on Mr. Obama's mixed feelings about the reparations movement: "He told us what he thought about reparations. He agreed entirely with the theory of reparations. But in practice he didn't think it was really workable."


About the practicalities, Professor Obama may have been more right than he knew. Fortunately, in President Obama, the child of an African and an American, we finally have a leader who is uniquely positioned to bridge the great reparations divide. He is uniquely placed to publicly attribute responsibility and culpability where they truly belong, to white people and black people, on both sides of the Atlantic, complicit alike in one of the greatest evils in the history of civilization. And reaching that understanding is a vital precursor to any just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.


Henry Louis Gates Jr., a professor at Harvard, is the author of the forthcoming "Faces of America" and "Tradition and the Black Atlantic."








In these columns I try to give voice to a philosophy you might call progressive conservatism. It starts with the wisdom of Edmund Burke — the belief that the world is more complex than we can know and we should be skeptical of handing too much power to government planners. It layers in a dose of Hamiltonian optimism — the belief that limited but energetic government can nonetheless successfully enhance opportunity and social mobility.


This general philosophy puts me to the left of where the Republican Party is now, and to the right of the Democratic Party. It puts me in that silly spot on the political map, the center, or a step to the right of it.


The center has been losing political power pretty much my entire career. But I confess that about 16 months ago I had some hope of a revival. The culture war, which had bitterly divided the country for decades, was winding down. The war war — the fight over Iraq and national security — was also waning.


The country had just elected a man who vowed to move past the old polarities, who valued discussion and who clearly had some sympathy with both the Burkean and Hamiltonian impulses. He staffed his administration with brilliant pragmatists whose views overlapped with mine, who differed only in that they have more faith in technocratic planning.


Yet things have not worked out for those of us in the broad middle. Politics is more polarized than ever. The two parties have drifted further to the extremes. The center is drained and depressed.


What happened?


History happened. The administration came into power at a time of economic crisis. This led it, in the first bloom of self-confidence, to attempt many big projects all at once. Each of these projects may have been defensible in isolation, but in combination they created the impression of a federal onslaught.


One of the odd features of the Democratic Party is its inability to learn what politics is about. It's not about winning arguments. It's about deciding which arguments you are going to have. In the first year of the Obama administration, the Democrats, either wittingly or unwittingly, decided to put the big government-versus-small government debate at the center of American life.


Just as America was leaving the culture war and the war war, the Democrats thrust it back into the government war, only this time nastier and with higher stakes.


This war is like a social script. Once it was activated, everybody fell into their preassigned roles.


As government grew, the antigovernment right mobilized. This produced the Tea Party Movement — a characteristically raw but authentically American revolt led by members of the yeoman enterprising class.


As government grew, many moderates and independents (not always the same thing) recoiled in alarm. In 2008, the country was evenly split on whether there should be bigger government with more services or smaller government with fewer services. Now, according to a Pew Research Center poll, the smaller government side has a 10-point edge. Since President Obama's inauguration, the share of Americans who call themselves liberals (24 percent) has remained flat, but the share who call themselves conservatives (42 percent) has risen by as much as 10 percentage points, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll, as former moderates have shifted to the antigovernment side.


As government has seemed more threatening, moderates and independents have also fled from the Democratic Party. Democratic favorability ratings have dropped by 21 points over the past year, from 59 percent to 38 percent. Democrats are viewed less favorably than at any time in modern history.


These shifts in the electorate have had predictable effects on the two parties. During periods when the government war is at full swing, the libertarian/Goldwater-esque tendency in the Republican Party becomes dominant and all other tendencies become dormant. That has happened now.


During periods of government war, the Democratic Party also reverts to its vestigial self. Democrats don't want to defend big government, so instead they lash out at business. Over the past weeks, President Obama has upped his attacks on Big Oil, Wall Street and "powerful interests," sounding like an orthodox Reagan-era Democrat.


The government war is playing out just as you'd expect it to, strengthening those with pure positions and leaving those of us in the middle in the cross-fire. If the debate were about how to increase productivity or improve living standards, people like me could play. But when the country is wrapped up in a theological debate about the size of government, people like me are stuck crossways, trying to make distinctions no one heeds.


This is a disappointing time. The Democrats have become the government party and the Republicans are the

small government party. The stale, old debate is back with a fury. The war, as always, takes control.







On Thursday, President Obama went to Manhattan, where he urged an audience drawn largely from Wall Street to back financial reform. "I believe," he declared, "that these reforms are, in the end, not only in the best interest of our country, but in the best interest of the financial sector."


Well, I wish he hadn't said that — and not just because he really needs, as a political matter, to take a populist stance, to put some public distance between himself and the bankers. The fact is that Mr. Obama should be trying to do what's right for the country — full stop. If doing so hurts the bankers, that's O.K.


More than that, reform actually should hurt the bankers. A growing body of analysis suggests that an oversized financial industry is hurting the broader economy. Shrinking that oversized industry won't make Wall Street happy, but what's bad for Wall Street would be good for America.


Now, the reforms currently on the table — which I support — might end up being good for the financial industry as well as for the rest of us. But that's because they only deal with part of the problem: they would make finance safer, but they might not make it smaller.


What's the matter with finance? Start with the fact that the modern financial industry generates huge profits and paychecks, yet delivers few tangible benefits.


Remember the 1987 movie "Wall Street," in which Gordon Gekko declared: Greed is good? By today's standards, Gekko was a piker. In the years leading up to the 2008 crisis, the financial industry accounted for a third of total domestic profits — about twice its share two decades earlier.


These profits were justified, we were told, because the industry was doing great things for the economy. It was channeling capital to productive uses; it was spreading risk; it was enhancing financial stability. None of those were true. Capital was channeled not to job-creating innovators, but into an unsustainable housing bubble; risk was concentrated, not spread; and when the housing bubble burst, the supposedly stable financial system imploded, with the worst global slump since the Great Depression as collateral damage.


So why were bankers raking it in? My take, reflecting the efforts of financial economists to make sense of the catastrophe, is that it was mainly about gambling with other people's money. The financial industry took big, risky bets with borrowed funds — bets that paid high returns until they went bad — but was able to borrow cheaply because investors didn't understand how fragile the industry was.


And what about the much-touted benefits of financial innovation? I'm with the economists Andrei Shleifer and Robert Vishny, who argue in a recent paper that a lot of that innovation was about creating the illusion of safety, providing investors with "false substitutes" for old-fashioned assets like bank deposits. Eventually the illusion failed — and the result was a disastrous financial crisis.


In his Thursday speech, by the way, Mr. Obama insisted — twice — that financial reform won't stifle innovation. Too bad.


And here's the thing: after taking a big hit in the immediate aftermath of the crisis, financial-industry profits are soaring again. It seems all too likely that the industry will soon go back to playing the same games that got us into this mess in the first place.


So what should be done? As I said, I support the reform proposals of the Obama administration and its Congressional allies. Among other things, it would be a shame to see the antireform campaign by Republican leaders — a campaign marked by breathtaking dishonesty and hypocrisy — succeed.


But these reforms should be only the first step. We also need to cut finance down to size.


And it's not just critical outsiders saying this (not that there's anything wrong with critical outsiders, who have

been much more right than supposedly knowledgeable insiders; see Greenspan, Alan). An intriguing proposal is about to be unveiled from, of all places, the International Monetary Fund. In a leaked paper prepared for a meeting this weekend, the fund calls for a Financial Activity Tax — yes, FAT — levied on financial-industry profits and remuneration.


Such a tax, the fund argues, could "mitigate excessive risk-taking." It could also "tend to reduce the size of the financial sector," which the fund presents as a good thing.


Now, the I.M.F. proposal is actually quite mild. Nonetheless, if it moves toward reality, Wall Street will howl.


But the fact is that we've been devoting far too large a share of our wealth, far too much of the nation's talent, to the business of devising and peddling complex financial schemes — schemes that have a tendency to blow up the economy. Ending this state of affairs will hurt the financial industry. So?








A week ago, when the Securities and Exchange Commission brought a civil suit against Goldman Sachs, legal experts debated whether the SEC could really prove fraud.


But a more interesting question might have been why the transaction in question — a casino-like side wager on subprime mortgages — occurred in the first place. One answer is that Goldman and other investment banks have morphed into betting parlors that traffic in exotic financial instruments. Another is that it was the result of a deplorable lack of transparency.


Investors in the Goldman offering— something known as a synthetic collateralized debt obligation (CDO) — knew little about who was on the other end of the deal, how common this type of investment product was, whether other institutions were buying it, and what kind of money Goldman was making as the matchmaker.


The financial reform measure expected to reach the Senate floor next week tries to fix this condition by putting so-called derivatives on open exchanges. Currently, only the simpler ones, such as futures contracts, are.


Getting these transactions out in the open would help reduce the chances of investors getting into products they don't understand, or being misled. This, in turn, would reduce overall risk in financial markets and help direct investment capital to where it can be most productively used. But the legislation might not go far enough.


Derivatives are not necessarily bad products. The great bulk of them are used to hedge risk (such as the price of jet fuel), not engage in it. But they can be, as Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett presciently said in his 2002 letter to shareholders, "financial weapons of mass destruction."


This is particularly true of credit derivatives. They generate risk by assigning liabilities to counterparties that might or might not have the resources to make good. They also provide a false sense of security. The banks at the heart of the housing credit crisis, for instance, used credit default swaps to spread the liability for each portfolio of loans. In reality, they were creating a giant game of hot potato that nearly burned down the entire economy.


The market for credit default swaps grew a hundredfold in six years, topping out at $62 trillion in underlying value in late 2007 — 15 times the annual budget of the U.S. government. Had this growth been more transparent and better understood, officials such as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would not have been so confident that the subprime meltdown could be "contained."


But regulators also need authority to act against the problems that they spot, such as the power to limit the scale of credit default swaps or ban investments better suited to casinos than to banks.


Five major financial institutions — J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Bank of Americadominate the credit derivatives trade. They make fat fees from arranging deals off exchanges, and they oppose putting them all out in the open.


Too bad. If the side-bet business is so important to the banks, they should move to Atlantic City and apply for casino licenses. The future of the global economy is too important not to shine more light on derivatives trades and rein in the ones that have no commercial benefit.








The controversy continues over the 7-year-old Russian boy adopted by a Tennessee woman who sent him back home alone to Russia because she couldn't handle him.


Russia has suspended adoption of its kids by Americans. A U.S. delegation is scheduled to go there next week to try to get Russian officials to change their minds.


Neither move should be necessary. But the incident tells would-be adoptive parents across the USA that things generally work out better if they adopt in this country rather than abroad.


My wife, Rachel, and I have six adopted children, now ages 10-19. All were adopted at birth. They come from varied backgrounds. Alexis, the oldest, has a birth mother from Pennsylvania. Twins Ali and Rafi, the youngest, from Georgia. Karina, 13, and Andre and Ariana, 12-year-old twins, from Florida.


Before we adopted, we considered Russia, China and Venezuela. But Rachel convinced me that through her contacts — primarily with schools and churches — we'd find American birth mothers who for good reason couldn't keep their children and our chances of successful adoptions would be better here at home. She was right.


For would-be parents wishing to adopt, it's important to know that kids are available. Facts from the National Council For Adoption:


•Last year, 143,022 children were adopted by U.S. parents.


•130,269 of those were domestic adoptions.


•Of the 12,753 foreign adoptions, only 1,586 were from Russia.


Despite the number of domestic adoptions, Council officials say that for the last available year (2008), there still were 123,000 children in U.S. foster homes. Most were available for adoption. Parenthood is one of the greatest pleasures — and challenges — in life. It should be carefully planned. Especially adoptions.


Feedback: Other views on adoption


"Every child, whether born in Moscow or Minneapolis, deserves a loving family. We need to cut through the red tape in the adoption process for families adopting kids internationally and here at home."

— Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., sponsor of a bill to streamline the international adoption process

"Americans adopt more children than the people of any other nation. In considering adoption, prospective parents should do their homework and adopt only when they can commit themselves to the child's best interests."

— Chuck Johnson, National Council For Adoption








In 1993, the Food and Drug Administration gave its stamp of approval to a then-novel item: the female condom. At the time, AIDS awareness was growing. NBA star Magic Johnson had announced he was HIV-positive less than two years earlier. But the virus was still greatly feared and misunderstood. Condom use was urged as a matter of dire public health, and so women finally could protect themselves if their partner chose not to.


Yet according to the Center for Health and Gender Equity, in 2007 about 11 billion male condoms were circulated worldwide compared with 26 million female ones. Cost used to be an issue, but it is no longer: The $4 female condom has been replaced by the 82-cent one.


Though women have, indeed, come a long way, when it comes to sexual equality, we apparently still have a long way to go. But perhaps change is on the way.


I live in Washington, D.C., and if I walk into a participating beauty salon, convenience store or high school, the FC2 female condom (FDA-approved last year) is available free of charge. Washington's campaign to protect women is being promoted through a $500,000 grant from the non-profit MAC AIDS Fund.


Washington has been ravaged by HIV/AIDS, with the highest rate in the country: Over 3% of adults are infected, according to a 2009 epidemiology report. Over a quarter of those are believed to be women. Chicago has launched a female condom awareness campaign, too, and hopefully, other cities will follow. The statistics point to the urgency:


•Women are more vulnerable to contracting sexually transmitted diseases than men, medical research shows. Still, most public funding and marketing efforts have focused only on the male condom.


•A recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that black women have the highest rate of genital herpes (48%) among all groups ages 14 to 49.


•According to the Department of Health and Human Services, AIDS is the leading cause of death among African-American women ages 25-34.


•Black women who live in poverty or have sexual relations with bisexual men are more prone to STDs.


The female condom is only one tool in helping women help themselves, but it's a critical one. It's high time that women have the opportunity to love their men while loving themselves just as much.


Yolanda Young is the founder of







The Dallas Morning News,in an editorial: "Goldman Sachs is the latest example of an out-of-control financial system in need of stronger regulations. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the investment firm defrauded investors of billions of dollars in a scheme whose biggest winner appears to be the hedge fund operator who created the securities and profited handsomely from their demise. ... It is mind-boggling that Lehman Bros., AIG, Bear Stearns and others took the world's financial system to the brink of the abyss two years ago and that Congress has yet to enact new rules to reduce the odds of another catastrophic moment."


Andrew Ross Sorkin, columnist, in The New York Times: "Why was Goldman ... allowed to create and sell a product like the synthetic collateralized debt obligation at the center of this case? What purpose does a synthetic CDO ... serve for the capital markets, and for society? The blaring Goldman Sachs headlines ... have given the public a crash course. ... Many more people now know that synthetic CDOs are a simple wager. In this case they were a bet on the value of a bundle of mortgages that the investors didn't even own. ... One side bets the value will rise, and the other side bets it will fall. It is no different than betting on the New York Yankees vs. the Oakland Athletics, except that if a sports bet goes bad, American taxpayers don't pay the bookie."


The Wall Street Journal, in an editorial: "Did Goldman have an obligation to tell everyone that (hedge-fund manager John) Paulson was the one shorting subprime? ... Paulson has since become famous for this mortgage gamble, from which he made $1 billion. But at the time of the trade he was just another hedge-fund trader. ... Not that there are any innocent widows and orphans in this story. Goldman is being portrayed as Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life, exploiting the good people of Bedford Falls. But a more appropriate movie analogy is Alien vs.Predator, with Goldman serving as the referee. Paulson bet against German bank IKB and America's ACA, neither of which fell off a turnip truck at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets."


Andrew McCarthy, author, in National Review: "In the Age of Obama, Paulson is the perfect villain: the corporate tycoon who is responsible for the whole mess ... and yet rides away unscathed. ... Democrats chime in on cue, we must have the umpty-umpth regulatory overhaul of the financial system to do what we were promised the last one (Sarbanes-Oxley) would do: perfect disclosure, eliminate risk, and ensure that anyone who makes a profit because he's better than the rest of us at reading the tea leaves gets his comeuppance. But Paulson did not escape the noose because of a regulatory loophole: He is not charged because it is not a crime to be smart."


The Philadelphia Inquirer, in an editorial: "The Securities and Exchange Commission is sending a welcome signal of enforcement with its lawsuit against Goldman Sachs: No firm is too big to nail. In recent years, the SEC was content to shrug while Wall Street titans ran amok. Its laxity contributed to the financial meltdown. The agency failed to ask even the most basic questions about Lehman Bros' indebtedness before the firm collapsed. SEC investigators also ignored repeated, specific complaints about fraudulent broker Bernard Madoff, who lost billions for investors in an elaborate Ponzi scheme. ... This enforcement action by the SEC is a positive signal that the watchdog is no longer afraid to take on deep-pocketed giants on Wall Street. "









Today is a holiday in Turkey, the "National Sovereignty and Children's Day." It commemorates the founding of the first parliament of the Turkish Republic on this day in 1923. Fittingly, across the country today, marches will be made, meetings will be organized and young speakers will address many an assembly in schoolyards to celebrate the rights, needs and hopes of children. Many will quote the words of Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk that, "Children are the new beginning of tomorrow." We certainly agree and we embrace the words of Atatürk on this day.


They are not empty words. For nearly a third of Turkey is under the age of 18, more than 22 million by official statistics.


So we cannot let the day pass without a word on the grave state of childhood in Turkey. Economic disparities, child labor and organized street begging are some of the items on the list faced by Turkey. We know that steps are being made by both the government and civil society organizations and we are hardly alone in lamenting these conditions.


But two items on our list we believe most critical. We have paid attention to both this week on our front page: children tried as prisoners and allegedly widespread sexual abuse of girls in the Southeast.


One is the continuing injustice of a legal system that treats rock-throwing minors at political demonstrations as adults for both trial and punishment. According to the Justice Ministry, today there are more than 2,600 children in prison. Not juvenile detention. Not rehabilitation facilities. Prison. Their ages range from 15 to 18.


We reject the argument made by judges at a colloquium held on Monday and Tuesday that their hands are tied. Supreme Court of Appeals Judge Mahmut Acar argued that this is the law, effectively saying this is necessary to discourage terrorist organizations from deploying children as a means to generate sympathy. We think the opposite true. And the facts are that judges in Turkey have great discretion, by design of the system, and they can and should use it to channel errant youth toward rehabilitation and education, not years of hard time with murderers and thieves.


Our second deep concern is the allegations we reported yesterday on our front page of widespread rape and abuse in the eastern province of Siirt, where complaints by girls aged 14 have resulted in interrogation of 100 suspects, 25 in custody and 16 arrests. Sexual harassment and abuse in any context is a serious crime, but in the case of children, it is a crime against humanity.As we write, prosecutors have imposed a press ban on the reporting of this alleged crime. We abhor the law that enables this to occur. We will, however, comply. But we ask our readers to reflect on these realities and the words of Atatürk. We ask the question: What kind of future are we creating?








The World Health Organization estimates that in 2007, cancer caused 7.9 million deaths or about 13 percent of all deaths. The main types of cancer deaths are: lung (1.4 million deaths/year); stomach (866,000 deaths); liver (653,000 deaths); colon (677,000 deaths); and breast (548,000 deaths).


The most frequent types of cancer worldwide (i.e. the order of the number of global deaths) differ in men and women: Among men, there is lung, stomach, liver, colorectal, esophagus and prostate cancer while among women, there are breast, lung, stomach, colorectal and cervical cancer.


About 30 percent of cancer deaths can be prevented. Tobacco use is the single most important risk factor for cancer. The incidence of cancer rises dramatically with age, due to an increase in risk factors and the fact that cellular repair mechanisms are less effective with age.


Tobacco use, alcohol use, low fruit and vegetable diet, and infections from hepatitis B, hepatitis C and the

human papillomaviruses, or HPVs, are leading risk factors for cancer in low- and middle- income countries. Cervical cancer, which is caused by HPV; is a leading cause of cancer deaths among women in low-income countries. In high-income countries, tobacco use, alcohol use, and being overweight or obese are primary causes of cancer. Other risk factors include low physical activity, unsafe sex, urban air pollution and indoor smoke from household use of solid fuels.


Prevention strategies include increased avoidance of the risk factors listed above, vaccination against human papillomavirus and Hepatitis B virus, or HBV, infection, control of occupational hazards and reduction of exposure to sunlight.


Deaths from cancer worldwide are projected to continue rising, with an estimated 12 million deaths in 2030.


Other more important causes of death in the world according to World Health Organization are maternity deaths. Approximately 536,000 women die around the world each year from pregnancy-related causes, according to the World Health Organization. In parts of some developing countries, the chance of a woman dying this way is 100 times greater than in industrialized countries.


The five major causes of maternity death are: hemorrhage (25 percent), indirect causes (19 percent), sepsis or postpartum infection (15 percent), hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and eclampsia (13 percent) and unsafe abortions (13 percent). About 70,000 women die each year from unsafe abortion – 600 in developed countries and 69,000 in less developed countries – while an unknown but much larger number suffer infection, injury and trauma. There are an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions each year, 90 percent of them in developing countries.


Women who do not have adequate family planning materials and services more often have unwanted pregnancies and bear too many children, or they have children when they are too young or too old, or have children too close together. Virtually all studies report that most women would prefer using contraceptives and resort to abortion as a last resort.


In 2007, around 9 million children under 5 died, mostly from preventable causes such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, and neonatal conditions. The leading cause of neonatal deaths are preterm birth, severe infection, and birth asphyxia. Once an infant has survived the first year, childhood diseases, AIDS, malaria and other health hazards need to be surmounted. The leading single cause of childhood deaths is acute respiratory infection which takes more than two million young lives annually, followed by diarrhea-related diseases which take l.8 million young lives. Malaria claims 853,000 children, while 395,000 die from measles and 301,000 from HIV/AIDS.


Close to half of all childhood deaths occur in Africa, more than one-quarter in Southeast Asia. Children in these countries often suffer from Vitamin A deficiency and lack access to antibiotics, clean drinking water, and sanitary living conditions. The majority of the 9 million childhood deaths can be prevented with proper health care.


Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkish Republic, and the first president of Turkey, dedicated the April 23 to world children. We celebrate every year the April 23 as Children's Day in Turkey.


In April 23, 1920, the Turkish Parliament had the first session and elected Atatürk as its first speaker.








Both sides of the most beautiful sea in the world are full of former churches that are now in ruins, now mosques, now museums, now nothing – but rarely still churches; there are also plenty of former mosques that are now in ruins, now churches, now tourist attractions and now nothing – but rarely still mosques.


For instance, walk by the "old Ayvalık," and ask for Saatli Cami (the Clock Tower Mosque), you will arrive at what once was the Taxiarchis Church. Skip over to island of Lesbos, walk by Odos Ermou in Mytilini, you will find the now minaret-less Yeni Cami, once a mosque, now a tourist attraction visited by just a sprinkling of tourists.


One handsome exception to the once-holy-now-ruins rule is the Hagia Sophia, the Great Church until 1453, a mosque from 1453 till 1935, and a museum since then. It is the same place the Turkish state protocol drags every foreign dignitary to, including, in 2009, President Barack Obama, and, most recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Other guests who, as always, were "amazed" by the museum's beauty include Queen Elizabeth II, Pope Benedict XVI, the Duke of Edinburgh Prince Philip and Japanese Crown Prince Tomohito of Mikasa.


All the same, the former mosque which was a former church does not always ring bells of beauty and glamour. Blame it on faith, or rather blind faith. These days there is a campaign going on to link the Hagia Sophia to Turkey's EU accession. Here is the appeal as it appears in the virtual world:


"Dear friends,


(I'm not sure that you've received this already. But just in case this is an important email to distribute.)


To all of you who are Greek or Orthodox or Christian or spiritually and culturally oriented:


The European Union Parliament is pressuring the Turkish Government to restore Saint Sophia Cathedral in Istanbul from a museum, into its original purpose, that of a Greek Orthodox Church. However the Parliament has set a requirement of 1,000,000 signatures on a petition before it makes this conversation a prerequisite for Turkey 's admission into the European Union.


If you believe as I that the re-instatement of St. Sophia is a must, you are requested to cast your vote by logging on to a link at


This is an opportunity for each of you to have an impact on world cultural events and not the re-write of the world's cultural heritage. Get as many of your friends to sign the petition and make history.


Please pass this e-mail to everyone you know.


Thank you."


I hope I am helping the campaigners by publishing their letter in this column. I also wish the campaigners the best of luck, some sanity of mind, and an intellect good enough to catch up with "Turkish affairs." I tend to smile each time I come across mature Europeans who think either that Turkey's EU accession is a serious, imminent issue; or that any trivial thing their serene minds could think of can perfectly be used as blackmail for Turkey's remotely hypothetical entry into the EU.


But the best possible response to the campaign came from across the most beautiful sea in the world.


"Instead of signing their petition," wrote a Greek friend, "I want to start my own: For Turkey to become a member of the EU, it must be forced to supply one free lokum (λουκούμι) a day to each Greek citizen, for the next 50 years. I need some partners to start my campaign for 1,000,000 signatures. I hope you can help your buddy over here in his blackmailing ambitions."


I have decided to sign my friend's petition. I made a simple calculation: The whole thing will cost 72 million Turks nothing more than 365 x 11 million x 50 = 200.75 billion lokums altogether, or just 2,788 lokums per Turk. Perhaps with our leaders, who are amazingly skilful at matters related to commerce and bargaining, we could win a 2,500-lokum-per-Turk deal with our Greek friends. Everyone will be happy!


But my friend is launching another petition campaign:


"Ah, yes, I almost forgot," he wrote. "To reciprocate, we'll start another petition. We'll collect 1,000,000 signatures for the following just cause: for Greece to be given its multi-billion euro financial help and avoid declaring a default, Greece must convert the Parthenon back into a temple for the worship of Goddess Athena, which, after all, was its original function. No worshippers nowadays? Who cares! Let's collect our signatures and worry about that little detail later."


I agree to all proposed campaigns. The Hagia Sophia should be converted into its original form, the Great Church; every Turk should buy 2,788 (come on, let's round it down to 2,500, shall we?) lokums to their Aegean neighbors; and the Parthenon should be turned into a temple for the worship of the Goddess Athena.


Meanwhile, may I launch my own parallel campaigns to collect 1,000,000 signatures for each? Minarets for Yeni Cami in Mytilini and Saatli Cami in Ayvalık becoming Taxiarchis again…








Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is involved in a dizzying spell of shuttle diplomacy at the moment. One minute he was in Washington, the next in Brasilia. Then he moved on to Tehran – after a brief sojourn in Ankara – and from there traveled on to Brussels, before going to Tallinn for Thursday's meeting of NATO foreign ministers.


While he clearly has more traveling to do and many issues on his agenda, it is evident that Iran continues to be the key item in his discussions with his various counterparts. This is why there are many questions being asked about his latest talks in Tehran, since it is not clear what it was he actually achieved there.


Our own Serkan Demirtaş, who accompanied Davutoğlu during his visit to Tehran and Brussels, has given us a good account of what the Turkish side thinks. It is clear that the Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government is insisting on continuing with the diplomatic track, as opposed to applying sanctions on Iran, which the West wants to impose because of Tehran's uncooperative attitude on the question of uranium enrichment.


"We have come to a point. I think at this point the frozen talks between Iran and the P5+1 can resume," Demirtaş quoted Davutoğlu as they were flying to Brussels after the talks in the Iranian capital. The P5+1 are of course the permanent members of the Security Council, plus Germany.


Taken at face value, it appears that Davutoğlu is making headway in terms of Ankara's Iran diplomacy. But judging by remarks from official quarters in Tehran it is not clear whether Turkey and Iran are actually on the same page in this respect. While Davutoğlu's remarks raise confidence, statements from Iranian officials raise some serious doubts.


In the meantime, the Turkish side keeps floating the notion that it is ready to mediate in the standoff between Iran and the West. But Iran has not given any indication as yet that it is willing to accept this mediation. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his part has said in the past that his country does not need anyone's mediation. There are no indications that this position has changed.


For example, Iran's foreign ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, told reporters after Davutoğlu's talks in Tehran that "friendly countries, including Turkey, are trying hard to make the other party understand our nuclear rights." But this statement does not suggest that Turkey is "mediating" as such.


Instead it indicates that Ankara is carrying messages that are not open to mediation, in order to try and convince the West over Iran's position in this stand-off. It seems, in fact, that Turkey is acting more like and advocate and messenger for Tehran and the regime there in this nuclear issue.


As for the uranium swap deal proposed by the United Nations, and supported by Turkey, there is some confusion on this score too. The whole idea is that this swap would take place in a third country be this Russia, Turkey, Japan or some such country acceptable to the Iranian side.


Iranian Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki suggested after his talks with Davutoğlu that his country was open to negotiations on this score.


"[This suggestion] could be a multilateral trust-building opportunity for all sides, including Iran," Mottaki was quoted by the English language Tehran Times as saying during his joint press conference with Davutoğlu in Tehran on Tuesday.


But it was left up to foreign ministry spokesman Mehmanparast to explain, a day after the Davutoğlu-Mottaki talks, what it was that they actually meant here. Asked about the issue, Mehmanparast said, "There are different ideas but these are only doable if our conditions are observed."


Pointing out that they "don't have anything else to discuss with anyone other than the issue of the fuel swap," Mehmanparast went on to add that any nuclear fuel exchange should only take place on Iranian territory. "Iran will be the location for the exchange," he said.


But this defeats the purpose and logic of the fuel swap offer by the West, since that offer is only meaningful if the swap takes place outside of Iran. This is precisely where Davutoğlu's mission concerning Iran appears to run aground; especially if he is trying to convince the West on this score.


As it is, France, which takes over the presidency of the Security Council in June, is increasing the pressure on the EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton, to act more decisively on Iran. Paris also has the support of Berlin in this and wants sanctions against Iran. It is in fact more than evident that Europe is closing ranks on the issue.


This will make it very hard for Davutoğlu to maintain his line of advocacy on Iran's behalf as time goes on. Despite these apparent difficulties, Foreign Minister Davutoğlu still appears upbeat on the prospects for settling the whole matter by diplomatic means. One has therefore to give him the benefit of the doubt seeing as there may be aspects to his talks with his Iranian, as well as European and U.S. counterparts, which the public is not aware of.


It is clear that if he can pull it off and ease the international tension over Iran, then both his and Turkey's international prestige will increase greatly. But if he cannot, then Turkey will not just have been isolated in NATO and Europe, but will also end up having been used by Iran to buy time against the West.


This in turn will hardly do much for Turkey's international prestige.








Could someone please tell me the meaning of the Children's feast on Aril 23?


What else do you remember other than having that day off?


What are we celebrating?


And aren't we making fun of it to some extent?


For me it's more than funny.


You'll see these unwillingly done celebrations on TV today, on the main news at night and on the first page of papers tomorrow.


The funniest of these representative rituals will be at official places like the Parliament in Ankara or governmental institutions.


What I like the most is children who are asked to sit in the chair of an official at the governor's office or the chairman of Parliament, the prime minister or other ministers.


It is obvious that they prepare this event way ahead. When cameras show up children just say what they were told to say and what they memorized. Some are 5 and some are 6 years old and the oldest are 13 or 14 (they cannot be called children anymore). The ages are determined according to the ranks of those who normally sit in that chair. For example, older ones are selected for the chair of the prime minister and younger ones for the chair of the governor's office.


Primary school celebrations are naïve and nice. But the shows in which children represent officials on April 23 are usually exaggerated and artificial because they are prepared by principal clerks that are not necessarily experts in communicating.


In front of cameras the kid would sit in the chair of the respective authority.


Journalists would ask questions as if the formal authority is doing a great job.


-  Esteemed Prime Minister (or Esteemed Minister) will you make a statement to the people?


-  What decisions did you make in today's meetings?


-  How will you solve the unemployment issue?


And all the while the prime minister and ministers would smile all over their faces as if to reflect the depth of this gesture. They would be quite certain that they have sent the message "in the future you will lead this country" across to all of the kids in the country via this kid representing the authority in this chair.


And these grown up kids would speak their words which they memorized earlier.

-  The traffic issue needs to be solved.


-  There shouldn't be any unemployment.


-  I want to create a country of which we can all be proud.


This is more than ridiculous and keeps repeating on TVs.


And people are proud saying look at the quality of our kids.


Of course, nobody believes it. Everybody knows that a game is being played but no one says a word.


I feel like shouting out

While it had a reason and meaning when Atatürk started it, nowadays it lost all of that and because no one can touch these holidays the ludicrousness just keeps going on.


I am fed up with it.


I'd like to shout at the top of my lungs.


Guys, instead of dealing with this ludicrousness start a campaign on April 23 for children living on the streets.


Save children from working on farms or in illegal deeds.


Take precautions to protect them from domestic violence.


Give up those senseless games.


Give up those shows.


Let's seriously focus on the education of our children.


Let's support their attendance to preschool. Let's increase the quality of education they receive at school. We are spending money in vain. We are announcing a holiday in vain.


Let's give up this primitiveness and really claim our children.







If you are an expat, you may find that moving back to your home country is actually more disorienting than going abroad was in the first place. You won't be the same person you were when you left. You've been exposed to another culture and learned how to thrive in a completely different environment. Whether you come away from the experience with good, bad, or, more likely, mixed feelings, you've grown personally. Your perspective on the world is broader than it used to be.


When you get back home, you'll be bursting with stories to tell. You'll feel a romantic fascination with what you've just done. You'll feel like there must be some sort of mesmerizing glow about you, something intangible that will fascinate others, too. But then you'll find that the people back home have been living pretty much the same lives they were when you left. Their routines have not changed much. They aren't as fascinated by your experiences abroad as you thought they'd be. You feel like you've gone through deep and profound changes, but when you tell a story about your life overseas, people reply with an anecdote about their vacation in Italy 20 years ago. You realize there is a chasm between them and you, and you will never bridge it. It's a lonely and frustrating feeling.


Back in your days abroad, there were probably times when you longed for the comforts of home. You missed your home country's food, your friends, your family. Maybe you missed things you used to take for granted, like the easy availability of a particular brand of milk, or a favorite chain of restaurants. You may have idealized your hometown, comparing an imagined perfection to the real-life reality of the new country, and as a result, you thought your home country was far superior to the new one. But then you go back home and realize your home country isn't as impressive as you thought it was. The cracks in the sidewalks are bigger. The buildings are more rundown. The cars aren't as shiny. The people aren't as healthy or as well groomed as you remembered. It's bad enough to feel lonely and disconnected, but now you're a little disappointed, too.


At that point, you start doing the same thing you used to do, but in reverse. Instead of missing your hometown friends and family, you miss the friends you made in the foreign country. Instead of idealizing the memories of your hometown, you idealize the memories of the foreign country. Instead of thinking, "Why can't this foreign country be more like my hometown," you think, "Why can't my hometown be more like that foreign country?"


Repatriation doesn't just bring culture shock, it brings culture whiplash. Going abroad looks easy in comparison.


The experts agree. According to one popular textbook used in many international MBA programs, "Executives' repatriation can turn into the most stressful time of the entire international assignment." However, while many companies concentrate on preparing their managers to go abroad, very few of them pay any attention to helping them come home. They figure their people are coming back to the place where they grew up, so the adjustment will be easy. They don't realize it will actually be harder.


If you are an expat about to head back to your home country, don't underestimate the challenges you are about to face. Keep in mind, however, that you already have the skills you will need. The same adventurous, flexible and adaptive spirit that helped you adjust to life in a foreign country will help you adjust back to your homeland. It may seem strange at first, that instead of finally getting to rest those muscles, you will actually have to work them harder. But you've already shown that you're up to the task.


If you are back at the headquarters, welcoming these people home from their stint abroad, remember that the reentry process may be more stressful than you realize. You don't need to coddle your repatriates, because they have already shown they perform quite well in the wild. But be standing by, ready to facilitate their reentry if needed. They are a valuable bunch, these people your organization chose to send abroad. They have the courage, adaptability and global perspective your organization will need to succeed into the future.








The president has once more raised the spectre of conspiracy. Speaking to a PPP audience in Bahawalpur, he mentioned two conspiracies. In the case of the one that claimed the life of Benazir Bhutto, he says the 'people's court' will decide the matter and that the PPP will not seek revenge or retribution. The rhetoric about the people and their right to deliver a verdict on the murder of Benazir Bhutto is all very well, but there are some hard facts to face. What many of us seek is not a vendetta of any kind, but a simple uncovering of facts so that Benazir's killers can be exposed. This task is of course one that the people cannot undertake themselves. The soft Seraiki in which Mr Zardari spoke does not reduce the ugliness of the crime. A political leader of immense stature was ruthlessly eliminated; a 'genuine' effort must be made to ascertain who had her assassinated and why. Indeed we wonder why a more searching investigation into the assassination has not been launched under the government of the party which the slain leader had led for a long time, and that too when her husband has enjoyed the most powerful position in both the party and the government.

The president, as has been his wont, spoke of other conspiracies and games involving various 'actors'. He described, as he has before, some of them as being based within the media. This seems to be aimed essentially at denying that there is any validity in the calls to investigate corruption charges against him or to challenge his immunity. The talk of plots against him reaches its most fervent pitch when the president is under most pressure. Given his enthusiasm for talk about conspiracy, perhaps Mr Zardari should focus on exploring one that some think may have existed within his own party. The former chief protocol officer for Ms Bhutto, in a media conference that coincided with the presidential address, has sought action against two prominent PPP ministers for the death of Benazir. Both form a part of Mr Zardari's inner coterie. Surely it would not be too much to launch an investigation in this respect and make a genuine effort to solve the many mysteries that continue to surround a political assassination that was undoubtedly the result of a plot by elements working against the interests of Pakistan.






The French firm awarded a $25 billion contract for the supply of Liquefied Natural Gas to Pakistan for the next 20 years has said it welcomes the Supreme Court taking up the case. This is indeed fortunate, given that the facts emerging as the hearings begin are truly extraordinary. We will need the firm's cooperation to get to the bottom of the matter. The court – which took suo moto notice of a report in this publication about the grant of the lucrative contract to the highest bidder while the lowest was ignored -- has been told that the French company, Gdf-Suez, had in fact not even participated in the bidding for the contract. Instead, the petroleum ministry bosses, in blatant violation of the law and the procedures, 'awarded' the contract on their own – ostensibly to save time and thus avert a gas shortage. The ECC, headed at the time by Shaukat Tarin, had approved the contract, unaware that a far lower bid existed. This came to light only after the head of the Fauji Foundation, one of the bidders, wrote to Mr Tarin.

We can all imagine the real factors that led to the contract being given out. It is fortunate that the story has come to light. Certainly the tale helps uncover details of the kind of wrongdoing and poor governance that exist here in too many places. The hearing of the case has already thrown up some quite startling details. We can only wonder at what more will be revealed once other witnesses give their testimonies and respond to the questions asked of them. But there is also a more fundamental issue at stake here. How long will the plunder we see continue, how will it be checked and by whom? We must hope then that the Supreme Court action will help reveal those responsible for the extraordinary goings-on in the petroleum ministry. This is essential so that other, similar acts – motivated of course by the desire to make illegitimate money – can be prevented and officials in other places deterred from thinking along similar lines.













There is a dynamic tension emerging from the shadows, and it concerns the slow change in the role and place of women in our society. Women are beginning to push back against the forces of extremism and the latest example of the pushback has occurred in the International Islamic University of Islamabad. Women students staged a seven-hour protest this week at what they saw as harassment by a particularly vocal member of the Islami Jamiat Tulaba who had lectured them against the taking of photographs in the Engineering Block on April 17. It is alleged that not only did he harangue the young women but he slapped and kicked one of them. This is apparently not the first time that this has happened and the man concerned has allegedly abused and beaten female students at least twice in the past. Matters quickly escalated, all departments of the university were closed by April 26 and 27 and student bus services were suspended.

The reaction of the university administration is equivocal to say the least. They have issued a notice to expel the offending male student, but at the same time say they are considering action against the protesters for complaining about his behaviour in the first place. Reports indicate that the administration had been aware of the harassment of women by the alleged offender and had chosen to turn a blind eye – some sources allege that he was encouraged in his actions. Such is the grip that the IJT has over the university that the administration seems powerless. The vice-president confronted the protesting female students, is said to have taken their names and told them they would be punished. She said that the alleged offender had already been barred from the university – but if this was the case then why was he on university premises harassing women as appears to be his established habit? Why had the university not ejected him and allowed the women to continue their studies in peace? The women of the university are right to make their protest – which they did peacefully and reportedly without any violence or a single pane of glass being broken – and the university administration needs to grow itself a backbone and protect the rights of all students, not just those who represent powerful interest groups.






If it had not been for the anger of the masses, now in full display across the country, would Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani and his government have woken up to the power crisis? The answer is no. It is only public fury which has rudely interrupted their slumber and driven them to some form of action.

We are now being instructed in the virtue of saving energy. This education should have started two years ago when the present political dispensation took office. But a year was wasted in the judges' issue, another year over the intricacies of the 18th Amendment. Zulfikar ali Bhutto managed to change so much in a hundred days. That was the speed at which he operated. Our present-day paladins have a somewhat different conception of time and space.

Iqbal, our national poet, we have turned into a soulless monument. We pay lip-service to his memory, but perish the thought that we should care about, or really understand, his ideas. He was a revolutionary thinker, his foremost concern the reinvigoration and renaissance of the dead world of Islam. Which makes it not a little strange that his "mujavirs," or shrine-keepers, represent the most reactionary elements in our society.

If this was a country modelled on Iqbal's thinking, there would have been no Objectives Resolution, certainly no hallowed place for it in the Constitution. There would have been no Saudi-funded or Iran-funded claustrophobic religious schools, no Taliban, and none of the sects and organisations–some of them criminally sponsored by our masters of strategy (may the soul of Clausewitz forgive them)–under whose wings hate and violence have spread across the land.

If Pakistan has still not been overrun by the religious right, if religious parties have not been able to expand their sphere of influence, it is because the temperament of the ordinary Pakistan is anti-theocratic. Despite Gen Zia's false proselytising in the name of Islam, in the mind of the ordinary Pakistani the role of the mullah is to officiate at the rites of marriage and death. In worldly affairs our holy fathers are given short shrift, a testimony to the fact that at heart this remains an easy-going society.

But this would be a more relaxed society if only we could rid ourselves of one of the worst legacies of the Zia period, the Hadood Ordinance. This Zia passed in 1979 because Pakistan at that time was broke and Zia wanted money from the Saudis and this antediluvian ordinance was his way of pleasing them. But that necessity has passed. Raza Rabbani and his committee of the wise should have concentrated on ridding the Constitution of its Zia-inspired anachronistic sections. But this would have required courage and vision, commodities often in short supply in Pakistan.

Pakistan's salvation lies in freeing its mind from the shackles of self-contrived shibboleths. For 800 years Islam has flourished in the subcontinent. It will still be around 10,000 years from now. Which only means we should feel less defensive about it.

Our problems are about concrete, material things, not the state of our souls, or the condition of our spirituality. We can do with less rhetoric and turn a bit more to doing things and solving problems. Power shortage is not a spiritual issue---except in the sense that if the Water and Power Authority could afford to be a little less corrupt (it is notoriously corrupt), we might have fewer line losses and a healthier power outlook.

The frontiers of spirituality end here. Beyond it lies the secular world of expertise and capacity. We have to deal with that world on its own terms if its problems are to be resolved, or at least mitigated.
But returning to anarchy, Iqbal in one of his most frequently quoted couplets says: be not afraid of contending winds or the approaching storm; they are meant only to make you soar higher across the skies.

The signs of anarchy we see in Pakistan are not harbingers of doom. They are raising the curtain on no Kyrgyzstan situation. We are too laidback for that. And despite all the manufacturing of gloom, at which we are so good, this remains, fundamentally, a sturdy state.

The Swat and South Waziristan operations, the ongoing operation in Orakzai, and perhaps very soon an operation to rid the Tirah Valley of the elements infesting it, would lie beyond the capacity of a weak state or an ineffective army. Putting up with President Zardari and his knights of the round table, and not suffering consequences worse than those already on display, also provide evidence of our underlying strength.

No, the rioting in the streets, the burning of tyres and effigies, are signs that the people of this country are alive. Gilani and his cabinet, and the four chief ministers, would have remained an immovable mass but for this turmoil. If finally the government at the centre and the provinces is getting serious about power blackouts, then it only means that the disorder we are seeing is creative, from which some kind of policy can emerge.

Lawyers taking the law into their own hands and browbeating judges and thrashing litigants, as is happening all too frequently; senior lawyers like my friends Qazi Anwar and Akram Sheikh, who felt few qualms in appearing before Justice Dogar when he was chief justice, now turned, with all the zeal of fresh converts, into uncompromising champions of judicial independence; senior lawyers pestering the Supreme Court with constitutional petitions, some with a decidedly surreal edge to them; all the talk of a looming clash of institutions; the never-ending saga of the quarrel between the actor Veena Malik and Muhammad Asif, the cricketer; the media and popular interest in the marriage of Sania Mirza and Shoaib Malik; are all signs of a people not dead but alive.

And if the pendulum in some cases is swinging too much to one side, as in the case of our quarrelling lawyers, with time it will come to rest in the middle.

Life goes on in war. Life went on even during the Second World War. People still made love and went to cafes and bars. There were shortages and bombings and, for some, huge suffering. But human beings are resilient. Beyond the evil and the banal in us, resilience and tenacity are two of the good things about our species. We have the capacity of endurance, even the capacity to exult in that endurance. Despite our many troubles life will go on and we will perhaps emerge better and tougher from our travails. Only in fire is steel tempered.

Friend Masood Hasan in his irrepressible manner has dwelt on the less-than-perfect language skills of Shoaib Malik. If in recent years the subcontinent had a sporting sex symbol it was unmistakably Sania Mirza, the heartthrob of millions, and if she has fallen for Shoaib Malik I am sure his language skills, good or bad, were not all that great a factor in the decision.

Masood and I are at an age where we tend to forget that at a certain time of the night linguistic skills really don't matter all that much.

Years ago, at a party in Lahore with Salmaan Taseer (yes, I have to confess I have known him), lounging on the floor in front us was Imran Khan in thigh-hugging jeans and someone with him also encased in an attractive pair of jeans. Salmaan was never a pushover in this department, but we couldn't help noticing that all the ladies were finding excuses to talk to Imran and his friend. About the injustice of it all, I asked Salmaan and he said, memorably, that one flick of their legs was worth all my columns put together.

I remember once listening, glasses and ice bucket close at hand, to Hadiqa Kayani singing "Boohe baarian" and Shazia Manzoor (where is she?) singing "Ghar aaja sonhrian," and thinking to myself that a place whence came such haunting voices couldn't be such a bad place after all.

Television I watch less for the analysis than for some of the faces on it. However gloomy the evening, a flash of Ayla Malik, a bit of Meher Bokhari---about whom Abbas Athar says she can pull the dead from their graves---and the shadows begin to lift. "Never give in," the Lawrence College motto: there's always something to celebrate.








The present energy crisis didn't just show up out of the blue. It has been expected for years. With riots breaking out against load-shedding, the federal government finally did something about the matter: It held a two-day conference.

The conference produced the regular noises about the need to do something. Blame for inaction was placed on the shoulders of the Musharraf government. The failure to undertake the Kalabagh Dam project was lamented. And so on.

Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif presented his nine-point plan to get the country out of the grips of load-shedding. Highlights included banning billboards, exploiting coal reserves, allowing sugar barons to burn their bagasse and the euphemistic "launch" of a countrywide campaign to conserve energy.

Getting Pakistan out of its energy crisis, and fast, requires vision and determination. As the population is expected to rise to over 250 million in another three decades, as we continue in our efforts to industrialise and to lead Pakistan down the road to development, we are going to need far more than the 20,000 MW or so of electricity-generating capacity we currently possess (though levels of generation are much lower). In fact, the Planning Commission has suggested that, by 2030, we will need something in the region of 160,000 MW of electricity capacity. Pakistan's energy crisis is not just something that exists in the now: it is a crisis that will remain with us like a curse and, unless properly managed and controlled, will plague future generations.

In this backdrop, the need for energy conservation is just as important as the ability to woo the investment needed to build additional energy capacity. Energy conservation efforts in Pakistan are mere gesturing. They do not amount to actual conservation. Forcibly closing commercial activity at 9 p.m. only harms the retail economy. Not having government air-conditioners run before 11 a.m. is amusing, at best, and turning off roadside lights not only makes driving dangerous, it's in ignorance of the fact that overall energy consumed by roadside lights is but a fraction of overall energy consumed.

Some basic facts: Approximately 20 percent of all electricity produced in Pakistan is lost because of an old and inefficient transmission system. Most of Pakistan's electricity is consumed in its cities. Household consumption hovers at just over 40 percent of electricity produced, but in the last decade overall household consumption has also doubled. This is because of all the new televisions, air-conditions, refrigerators people bought and installed and which load-shedding has transformed into expensive decorative pieces. Over 35 percent of Pakistan's 170 million live in urban areas now. By 2030, over 50 percent of an expected 250 million will live and consume electricity in urban areas.

Clearly, conservation efforts must go beyond turning to energy-savers and fixing the air-conditioner's thermostat to 26 degrees Celsius.

The energy-transmission grid needs to be replaced. Building new power plants will amount to nothing in the face of an old, expensive and inefficient system of distribution. Replacing the grid is impossibly expensive, but so is the political cost of failing to provide for the people. Conservation efforts must include debate on how to go about improving the grid system.

The household sector – the largest consumer of electricity – must be made energy-efficient. Buildings will have to be designed to accommodate for our natural climate. People seem to have forgotten that the air-conditioner didn't exist until a few decades ago. The Lahore Resolution was not passed in the ballroom of some air-conditioned hotel. The assembly hall where Mohammad Ali Jinnah delivered his address to Pakistan's Constituent Assembly didn't have an HVAC system.

Architects will have to be told they can't continue building energy-guzzling houses. Conservation efforts must include a re-examination of our urban planning paradigm. Simply too much energy is wasted in buildings – made of brick, cement, and too many windows – for our energy resources to consistently provide for. A whole building design code has to be thought up that will ensure that buildings consume the least amount of electricity and water that technology allows. A certification system for building energy efficiency has to be put into place before the government can seriously think of regulating energy consumption. The vocational skills of the construction industry will have to be improved so that, from the ground up, our buildings are designed in an energy- efficient and sustainable way.

The industrial sector will have to be cracked down upon. As things stand, the tariff for the consumption of electricity by industry feeds the subsidy that household consumers enjoy, despite their energy-inefficient ways. Government is being naive if it thinks it can enforce expensive energy conservation on industrial (or commercial) consumers. Conservation efforts must include cost-effective means of allowing commerce and industry to invest in new and clean technology.

If most of Pakistan's electricity is consumed by the household sector in urban areas, then urban Pakistanis must also understand their role in the current energy crisis. It is our energy-inefficient lifestyles that is, in many ways, the root of the present energy crisis. Urban Pakistan continues to demand automobile-dependant urban sprawl. Conservation efforts must address our lifestyles and challenge us to improve ourselves for the sake our country and countrymen. And this is where leadership is so important. It will simply not do for the political and bureaucratic elite to rely on electricity from generators when the rest of the nation is quite literally simmering. If there is one act of energy conservation I want to see, it's that the prime minister and the chief minister of Punjab have the generators in their private residences removed.

The energy sector also accounts for approximately 35 percent of the oil imported and consumed in Pakistan. Energy conservation efforts can also have a role in reducing our import bill (and doing away with the billion-dollar oil "facilities" from the Saudi government).

Clearly, energy conservation efforts have to go beyond turning the air-conditioner's thermostat to 26 degrees Celsius. But with the noises that came out of the two-day conference, this will probably not happen. Energy conservation is, pound for pound, the largest single source of energy Pakistan has. It does not require foreign investment. It requires a change from the inside.

The writer is an advocate of the high court and a member of the adjunct faculty at LUMS. He has an interest in urban planning. Email:







This government is jinxed. It cannot do the simplest thing without shooting itself in the foot. Whether this is because of sheer incompetence, the consequence of acting on bad advice and misinformation provided by an army of sycophants, or simply malicious intent coming back to bite it, this government has stumbled from one self-induced crisis to another, with no respite. The problem is that they think that they are more clever than they really are, and that they can dupe the public. But each time they act on such misplaced optimism, they fall flat on their faces.

The passage of the 18th Amendment, heralded as a cleansing of the 1973 Constitution of the mutilations it had been subjected to by military and civilian dictators, should have been a feather in the government's cap and cause for much national celebration. But instead, it promises to become yet another source of humiliation for Zardari and his administration.

A great fraud has been perpetrated on the nation in the guise of the 18th Amendment; we were promised something sublime, but what we got was something quite unpalatable. Without going into the details of the changes made in the Constitution by means of the 18th Amendment, which have already been highlighted in depth by various legal experts and analysts, suffice it to say that under the cover of jettisoning the 17th Amendment and Article 58 (2)(b) from the Constitution, a great deal of material has been infused into it, of which that is far from kosher, and the effect of which is to alter the basic features of the Constitution; parliament lacks the authority to do that. The intention appears to have been to metamorphose the Constitution to fit the requirements of the present regime behind the smokescreen of restoring genuine parliamentary democracy.

This government is treating the country like its personal fiefdom. In its effort to mould the laws of the land to suit its purposes, it is callously trampling established codes of conduct and national interests in the process. Is it any wonder that virtually every measure taken by this government is challenged in court? The most recent illustration of this is Zardari's conversion of Rehman Malik's dismissal from the FIA to "retirement."

Since this government came into power under the shield of the malodorous NRO, it cannot stomach an independent judiciary and strong democratic institutions and regards them as abominations that need to be dealt with and brought to heel for the government to save its own skin. Upon assuming power, they first did their best to avoid restoring the illegally suspended judges and then sought to control the judiciary by trying to appoint handpicked judges. Their having failed in both attempts, the 18th Amendment marks a continuation of their drive to control the judiciary so that the persistent ghosts of their past misdeeds may be denied resurrection.

All political parties, indeed the whole nation, stood united on the issue of repealing the dictatorial changes made in the Constitution. Such a wide-ranging consensus is rare in Pakistan and any government sincerely committed to restoring genuine parliamentary democracy would have pounced to take advantage of it. The repeal of the 17th Amendment, Article 58 (2)(b) and all other such draconian laws that mangled the Constitution should have been bundled together in the form of the 18th Amendment, which would have sailed through easily and the whole nation would have rejoiced and danced in the streets. But, true to its nature, this government deviously sought to manipulate the national consensus to insinuate into the Constitution such highly dubious measures as eliminating intra-party elections, tampering with the procedure for the appointment of judges and relaxing the qualifications for membership of parliament. All of these, apart from being repugnant on moral grounds, are in conflict with the basic features of the Constitution. Did they really think they could get away with it without the matter being raised before the courts?

What was the need to rush into changing the name of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa without taking the consequences into consideration? Precious lives have been unnecessarily lost in Hazara on this issue. Would it not have been far wiser and more constructive to hold off on the contentious and obviously illegal provisions of the amendment till more work could be done on them? But this government was in such a rush to hamstring the judiciary that it was blinded to the consequences of its actions.

There was never any doubt that the 18th Amendment would be brought before the courts for interpretation. The denizens of Margalla Hills, who have a vested interest at stake, are already crying foul at the notion of having the judiciary sift through their handiwork. They are claiming that if the judiciary were to tamper with the work of parliament it would give rise to a serious constitutional crisis. How can the judiciary remain silent and decline to exercise the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution if the matter of the legality of certain provisions of the 18th Amendment is brought before it? Besides, why should there be a crisis if the courts exercise their constitutional power of judicial review? If there is a crisis, it was, in fact, initiated by parliament, which overstepped its bounds by making changes in the Constitution that would result in the redefinition of its essence.

Judicial review is a corrective mechanism provided by the Constitution to protect the Constitution against subversion. How can establishing the writ of law by legal methods create a crisis? It may be a crisis for those who feel threatened by an independent judiciary, but the nation will welcome it. It is a sign of the times we live in that perverting the Constitution to suit personal interests is not considered tampering or subversion, but applying the law is cause for complaint and produces hallucinations of a crisis.

Much is being made of the perception promoted by some that a law passed by the elected representatives of 170 million people cannot, or should not, be set aside by 17 judges. But does the supremacy of law mean anything to us anymore? If it does, then we have to concede that we are bound by laws and have to act within their constraints. The 18th Amendment may have been passed by an elected parliament, but so was the Constitution; it was not imposed by a military dictator. Once a constitution has been enacted and holds the field, everyone, including parliament, is bound by it. That is the essence of written constitutions.

If we wanted parliament to be supreme, then we should have followed the British model and not bound it under a written constitution. But as long as a written constitution exists, parliament has to conform to it and cannot claim supremacy over the Grundnorm. It is not free to do as it wills. It cannot, for instance, pass a law legalising murder or corruption. The Constitution will not allow it. Only a constituent assembly has the right to change the fundamental features of the Constitution, which this assembly is not.

The government is either totally ignorant of the basic features of the Constitution and the universally acknowledged and -practiced principle that all institutions of state, including parliament, are bound by written constitutions, or their actions are based on mala-fide intentions aimed at subverting the Constitution, crippling the judiciary and bringing it to heel and unleashing a damaging conflict between vital organs of state, only to escape prosecution for their corrupt and criminal conduct of the past.

The writer is vice-chairman of Sindh National Front and a former MPA from Ratodero. He has degrees from the University of Buckingham and Cambridge University.







Beyond the blame game are cold statistical facts which point towards multiple failures at planning and administrative levels which have resulted in the current energy crisis. The roots of this crisis can be traced back to the first major wave of industrialisation in the1960s when no one thought about the energy requirements of the new industrial units being established at that time; to the unplanned expansion of cities which inevitably required tremendous amount of electricity; to the repeatedly eulogised efforts of Ayub Khan and ZA Bhutto's governments to bring electricity to villages without simultaneously generating more electricity to meet the additional needs, and to various other half-planned developmental efforts which eventually produced a huge energy gap between supply and demand.

In the absence of planning, the inevitable logical conclusions seemed shocking accidents. Thus the nation wakes up to an energy crisis of enormous proportions and the politicians rush to find a culprit as if once found, the culprit can somehow fix the problem as well. What the politicians have been doing for the last several days could have been done in a few hours by a simple and basic analysis based on solid facts about Pakistan's energy consumption over the last three decades. Such an analysis could have provided insights into the making of the crisis as well as fault lines and missed opportunities of correction, although it would have not solved the crisis itself.

What will solve the crisis is a full and bold realisation that Pakistan does not possess enough oil, gas or water to generate energy for its needs. Thus, shifting gas resources from fertiliser plants is not a solution, but a political way of juggling problems. A basic understanding of the problem, coupled with the realistic figures of current and future energy needs, would point to solutions. Only from this point of departure, one can think of a national solution to solve this national problem.

What is needed on a short-term basis is a new mapping of the existing resources with requirements with the realisation that this juggling is not a solution. The real solution requires initiation of mega-projects founded on war-footing and executed with diligence and transparency. Thus, to start with, the nation needs to have cold statistical facts and then a master plan using multiple means of production of electricity.

In the absence of adequate supplies of water, gas and oil, the most important alternative for energy in Pakistan is nuclear energy -- an area in which Pakistan has some expertise, but which also has its own limits. Then there are the so-called non-conventional solutions such as the solar and wind powered units to produce energy. It does not require exceptional intelligence to conclude that Pakistan needs multiple approaches to its current energy crisis -- approaches ranging from regulatory requirements for new buildings which will conserve energy to the production of energy via alternate means, including the solar and the wind technologies.

Everyone knows that Pakistan is ideally located in a climate zone in which relatively small and isolated solar units can substantially reduce load on national grid. But surprisingly, there has been little emphasis on utilisation of sunlight for the production of electrical energy. It is true that these technologies are still in experimental stages, but they are working in many countries of the world including our next door neighbour, India. Photo voltaic (PVs) converters have been in use in many countries for small and medium-sized plants, but recently multi-megawatt PV plants are becoming common. For example, a 14MW power station in Clark County, Nevada, United States, which was completed in 2007 as well as a 20MW site in Beneixama, Spain.

Of course, there are technological and scientific challenges to fully utilise these relatively new technologies, but then, what are Pakistan's scientific institutions doing? Why can we not have dedicated teams of scientists and technologists to work out ingenious solutions to the scientific and technological problems? What are institutions like COMSTECH doing if they cannot come up with creative solutions to these problems? There is no reason to believe that Pakistani scientists and technologists cannot come up with solutions if adequate financial resources are provided. After all, they mastered uranium reprocessesing techniques and produced what the world did not believe they could. Furthermore, there is big money in this business. There is no reason why Pakistan cannot become a leader in solar energy.

In addition to new, goal-oriented and time-specific research leading to solutions in specific areas, there is a need to adopt multiple approaches to solve the problem of energy in cities. These solutions can range from solar-powered traffic lights to solar-heated water tanks for domestic consumption. Furthermore, there is a huge amount of waste in our system. A concerted effort to reduce wastage can also significantly reduce the impact of current crisis.

The writer is a freelance columnist. Email:








One has already used this space to mention the success of the democratic process in the country and the praiseworthiness of the members of parliament on passing the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution by consensus. Besides, the new NFC Award which was agreed upon by all federating units some weeks ago is limited, but definitely a step in the right direction, and not just eyewash as was suggested by some critics. We are striving hard to become civilised as a nation and the democratic process and constitutional rule have started strengthening institutions of the state over the past few months.

I am one of those who would like to see a new constitution of the republic, but in due course of time. It can't happen overnight. Like some others, my only issues with the 18th Amendment for the moment are with the assertion that disqualifies all competent and noble non-Muslim Pakistanis from becoming prime minister and the abolition of the clause that made it mandatory for political parties to hold elections in their ranks. The heated debates that reach our living rooms, which are hosted mostly by half-literate television anchors and televangelists or the exchange of harsh words and slurs between political opponents on various occasions in public, do not bother me beyond a certain point. If you are not too cynical, the prevalent differences in opinion among different stakeholders on the independence of the judiciary, the appointment of judges and so on are also a healthy sign for a nation grappling to resolve its basic issues.

The PPP deserves praise for contributing substantially to furthering the bourgeois democratic process and strengthening the supremacy of parliament. It is also the other parties, particularly the major ones like the PML-N, the ANP and the PML-Q, which deserve similar praise, even if not of the same proportion. However, an independent observer can easily see a lobby of analysts, opinion leaders and journalists out there which cannot find a singular thing to appreciate in the whole process of democratic rule and is committed to blaming the president and his aides for everything that goes wrong under the sun. There is criticism of the government which is ill-founded but there is a lot of it which is absolutely correct. This is the beauty of the democratic process that we, as citizens, claim the rights enshrined in the Constitution and ask for those rights which are either not realised yet or are usurped by powers that be. Through this very process, we may ask for a new constitution as well. The process must continue and those of us who are concerned about long-term prosperity and true freedom of the country must carry on their struggle for bringing fundamental changes to the structure of the state and the fabric of society.

But unfortunately, some friends from the PPP become so defensive that they equate democracy in the country with the rule of the PPP. Therefore, you must refrain from uttering a word about the lack of governance, inefficiency, corruption and absence of vision for development. The PPP of today no more represents those masses who continue to vote it in. Political forces from the new-left have to take the next step in making Pakistan a just and progressive state. If they fail, we would see another picture of twelve aristocratic men, one wealthy woman and two men from the affluent middle-class flanking a filthy rich president signing the 19th Amendment. Important, but the most they could do.

The writer is a poet and advises national and international institutions on governance and public policy issues. Email: harris







The lines are being drawn on the 18th Amendment for the mother of all legal and political battles.

Arrayed on one side is the entire political class, reflecting a rare and historic consensus on the basic framework of running the state. Lined up against it are some well-known lawyers, prominent retired judges, a few of the bar associations and a section of the media.

While the judiciary has obviously not spoken on specifics, it has publicly asserted its right to review constitutional changes. The message this conveys is that it is not a disinterested party and some of the amendments are liable to be struck down.

If this does indeed happen, it could lead to a showdown between the politicians and the judiciary, and that will make earlier skirmishes seem like a ping pong match. The much-dreaded clash of institutions would finally be upon us and it could lead to state paralysis. This is something the nation can ill afford.

If it was only a legal controversy, some way out of it could have been found. But it is not. Lurking under the barrage of ostensibly technical interpretations scattering the media are deeply felt wounds and a desire to settle scores.

Within the anti-amendments camp, some hate Zardari and others this entire political order. They would love the judiciary to take on the political class and show who is boss. In the process, at a minimum, they hope Zardari will be ousted and, if enough chaos is created, maybe the entire political order.

The ruling party understands this, but after achieving a broad consensus among the political forces is gleefully anticipating this battle. It would rather fight on the principle of parliament's supremacy than on the issue of implementing the NRO decision.

This is understandable, because on the latter issue it has no case. The decisions of the Supreme Court have to be implemented by the government, whatever it might think of them. There are no ifs and buts about it. The political support that the government has on this matter is also thin, perhaps because of its weak legal position.

But the situation is different with regard to the constitutional amendments. On this matter, its legal case appears to be strong. Article 239 specifically prohibits the courts from adjudicating on constitutional amendments.

This business of inherent structure of the Constitution that some people trot out -- and are counting on to legally dismantle the amendments -- has a very flimsy foundation. How can the basic structure of the Constitution be determined?

This assumes and, forgive me for using a complicated philosophical term, that there is an a priori structure. In other words, something existed before the Constitution came into being, and will always be deemed to exist.

If one accepts this hypothesis, it would mean that besides the living Constitution that parliament approves according to the prescribed procedure, there is another structure besides it. The question is that if this imaginary structure has not been approved by the parliament, where has it come from?

If the judiciary is the repository of this imagined structure and can rule what is in line with it or otherwise, it functions above or beyond the living Constitution. The Constitution is, of course, written, and everyone can read it and see it. No one knows what the basic structure is until the judiciary tells us what it is. This makes it a supra-constitutional body.

If for holding the amendments "justiciable" reliance is made on the Holy Quran and the Sunnah, as the chief justice has done in one of his speeches, it opens a big Pandora's Box. Every institution, including parliament, could then theoretically be held against the essential tenets of Islam. Indeed, some of the strict interpretations made by religious scholars are against the entire parliamentary form of government. Are we ready to wade into these waters?

Let me add here that I have serious reservations about some of the amendments. The removal of the party elections clause and the unchecked power given to party leaders are abhorrent and against the spirit of democracy. The correct remedy is another amendment according to the prescribed constitutional procedure. It should not become a legal battle that pits one institution against the other.

I also fully endorse the Supreme Court judgment on the NRO and think that there are legitimate questions regarding Mr Zardari's eligibility to hold high public office. These issues were, and are, "justiciable," and there is no reason why the courts should not explore these further. But should they second-guess constitutional amendments?

Another strange argument being made by some is that only a constituent assembly can change the Constitution. This is ridiculous. Constitutions are living documents and can be changed according to a procedure laid down within them. In our case, it is done through a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament. Any other conclusion by so-called eminent jurists is beyond reason.

The political calculus is also against those wanting to take on parliament through the judiciary. It is rare in our history to have a political consensus. It came about for these amendments. Nothing signified this coming together more than Nawaz Sharif's participation in the signing ceremony at the Presidency.

If the Supreme Court chooses to strike these amendments down, it would be going against a broad national consensus. Those looking towards another lawyers' movement in the judiciary's support should keep in mind that its strength came through complete unity in the legal fraternity and backing of the political forces. Among them, the PML-N and Mr Nawaz Sharif personally played a critical role.

These two ingredients do not exist anymore. The lawyers are divided. In fact, some of those leading the movement for the judiciary's restoration – and closely associated with the chief justice - are against judicial review of the constitutional amendments.

The consensus among political parties also means that any striking down of the amendments would have zero political support. In the event of a clash between institutions, the judiciary and a section of the lawyers lining up behind it would be on their own.

If in the process the judiciary gets weakened, it would be a tragedy. The nation wants an independent judiciary. It took a long struggle, not just by the legal community but the political forces and ordinary citizens, to bring it about. Nothing should jeopardise it.

Those suggesting adventurism to the judiciary are no friends of the court. They have their own agendas. A new balance has begun to emerge in our body politic between the courts and the executive. This should be nurtured and preserved.









At a function arranged on the occasion of foundation laying of apartments for lower and lower-middle class people in the city's Uttara zone, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has squarely blamed the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (RAJUK) for the urban mess of housing in the capital. She has pointed accusing fingers at this authority's past negligence for unplanned growth of Dhaka city. Ever since the emergence of Dhaka as the capital of an independent nation, it has drawn people from all around the country but the city planners have failed to demonstrate the foresight needed for such a gigantic challenge.

Now, as the prime minister rightly tells, Dhaka is the 'most densely populated and unplanned city in the world'. Admittedly, the RAJUK is to blame but what about the role of political leaderships that mounted pressure on this organization to get illegal things done? Why RAJUK should still function as an approving authority-cum-developer when we often hear complaints from it that it cannot do its monitoring duty because of shortage of manpower. Better it should be assigned the task of ensuring that no house or housing complex is approved or allowed to come up without maintenance of building codes, which, of necessity, should include earthquake-resistance structural design.

Two alternatives for overcoming problem

So far as utility services are concerned, they are under severe stress because of unplanned and crammed housing. The problem cannot be addressed merely by dispersing residential accommodations within the city limit. Decentralisation of administration, commerce and industrial facilities is the answer to this. Let Dhaka not be the centre of all activities. To lessen the population pressure on the city, two proven alternatives seem to be a proper solution: first, setting up of satellite towns around the capital and then introduction of modern and faster railway service preferably by electric trains so that people can commute to the capital or other urban centres from their village or town homes.