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Saturday, April 24, 2010

EDITORIAL 24.04.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month april 24, edition 000490, collected & managed by durgesh kumar mishra, published by – manish manjul

 

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

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

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

 

THE PIONEER

  1. RAJA OF SRI LANKA!
  2. MARXIST VERSUS MARXIST
  3. LISTEN TO THE CRIES OF THE POOR - HIRANMAY KARLEKAR
  4. FREE YOUSELF FROM FEAR - ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA
  5. EAT HUMBLE PIE AND LIKE IT TOO - ARUN LAKSHMAN
  6. BIG SCAM, BUT WHAT'S THE STORY? - UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI
  7. BOARD, GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESCUE CREDIBILITY - SAMBARAN BANERJEE

MAIL TODAY

  1. IF THAROOR CAN GO WHY SHOULDN'T PRAFUL PATEL?
  2. ACT WHILE THERE IS TIME YET
  3. PLAYING BY THE RULES - BY R. SRINIVASAN
  4. DIGITAL INK - SACHIN KALBAG

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION
  2. GAME FOR A CLEAN-UP -
  3. YOU BET WE'RE ALL BETTING -
  4. SCIENCE IS THE SOLUTION
  5. SCIENTISM CAUSED THE PROBLEM -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. NOT MUSIC TO OUR EARS
  2. LET'S READ THE FINE PRINT - PRATIK KANJILAL
  3. DOUBLE ROLE MODELS - GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. COTTONING ON
  2. NOT JUST CRICKET
  3. CASTE IN IRON
  4. JUST WHO IS THE AAM AADMI? - YOGINDER K. ALAGH
  5. IPL BABY, IPL BATHWATER - SHEKHAR GUPTA
  6. PARTY HILA DENGE - Y P RAJESH
  7. ABOUT 420 — AND 415, 409, 405
  8. LET WALL STREET HOWL
  9. POWERLESS PAKISTAN - RUCHIKA TALWAR

THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. REIN IN THE RAIDS
  2. OIL'S NOT WELL, AGAIN
  3. IT'S EITHER INFLATION OR EXCHANGE RATE - ILA PATNAIK
  4. STILL A LICENCE RAJ FOR NEW BANKS - P RAGHAVAN
  5. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR POWER EQUIPMENT SHORTFALL? - NOOR MOHAMMAD

THE HINDU

  1. LESSONS FROM BANGALORE
  2. KANDAHAR'S GRIM PROSPECTS
  3. FOR ACCESS & EXCELLENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION - M.A. BABY
  4. COCA-COLA'S RESPONSE DISAPPOINTS PLACHIMADA ACTIVISTS - NARAYAN LAKSHMAN
  5. THIS JOURNALISM REQUIRES NO SWEAT - VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM
  6. NATO INVITES BOSNIA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. IMF GETS MORE BULLISH ON INDIA
  2. DEBATABLE ISSUES
  3. THE GAMES THAT BIG BOYS PLAY
  4. PUNTING ALONG IN BRITANNIA

DNA

  1. THE URBAN CHALLENGE
  2. 'IF ALL GO VEG, THERE'LL BE NO FOOD CRISIS' - VIVEK KAUL & SACHIN MAMPATTA
  3. THE ALL ENGLAND IN BIRMINGHAM - DEV S SUKUMAR

THE TRIBUNE

  1. ARREST NOT ENOUGH
  2. ENGINEERING IN TAMIL
  3. OMAR'S TRACK RECORD
  4. DEALING WITH NAXALITES - BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)
  5. SERPENT BAR - BY P. C. SHARMA
  6. ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE - BY RAJINDER CHAUDHARY
  7. COMBAT SOLDIERING NOT FOR WOMEN - BY COL PRITAM BHULLAR (RETD)
  8. INSIDE PAKISTAN - BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

MUMBAI MERROR

  1. POOR PEOPLE'S RICH REPRESENTATIVES

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. METAPHOR OF THE TIMES - T N NINAN
  2. IPL OR SCAPEGOAT MODI? - SURJIT S BHALLA
  3. A LESSON FOR BCCI TO LEARN - DEVANGSHU DATTA
  4. MAIDS OF HONOUR - SUBIR ROY
  5. WHEN HISTORY MEETS FICTION - V V
  6. CENTRAL BANKS UNDER FIRE - BIMAL JALAN
  7. SUBJECTS STRIKE BACK - SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY
  8. STRONGER AND LESS VOLATILE - POONAM MUNJAL

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. NETA NEXT DOOR
  2. CALLING FOR INCLUSIVE POLITICIANS
  3. NOT ONE MORE COMMITTEE!
  4. AS YOU SOW, SO SHALL YOU REAP - VITHAL C NADKARNI
  5. 'INDUSTRY MAY GO BACK TO 30% GROWTH LEVELS -
  6. DEEPALI GUPTA AND PANKAJ MISHRA

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. BABUS WATER EXERCISE
  2. IMF GETS MORE BULLISH ON INDIA
  3. DEBATEABLE ISSUES - BY BY FARRUKH DHONDY
  4. THE GAMES THAT BIG BOYS PLAY - BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE
  5. PUNTING ALONG IN BRITANNIA - BY KISHWAR DESAI
  6. UNYIELDING ANGST OF ISRAEL - BY ROGER COHEN

THE STATESMAN

  1. REACTIVE SECURITY
  2. JOLT FROM WITHIN
  3. LAPANG GOES
  4. THE SORDID STING~II - MADHAVI GORADIA DIVAN
  5. 'BJP HAS DESTROYED OPPOSITION UNITY'
  6. ON RECORD
  7. DELHI DURBAR

THE TELEGRAPH

  1. CRISIS AS OPPORTUNITY
  2. IF SHASTRI HAD LIVED - RAMACHANDRA GUHA

DECCAN HERALD

  1. JUSTICE IN JEHANABAD
  2. THIRD ANGLE
  3. THE ICE HAS BROKEN - BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV
  4. BLOOD RELATIONSHIP - BY RADHA PRATHI
  5. FATIMA BHUTTO - BY KHUSHWANT SINGH

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. GREECE AND WHO'S NEXT?
  2. THE COURT AND FREE SPEECH
  3. RUNNING ON EMPTY  - BY GAIL COLLINS

USA TODAY

  1. OUR VIEW ON FINANCIAL REFORM (PART I): REIN IN WALL STREET BEFORE HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

I.THE NEWS

  1. POWER PLAN
  2. EASING THE FLOW
  3. MOBS IN WARDS
  4. A NEW CONTROVERSY
  5. ARIF NIZAMI
  6. CONTRA SUFISM - AZIZ ALI DAD
  7. PARLIAMENTARY EMPIRICS - SANIA NISHTAR
  8. WHOSE PROVINCE IS IT ANYWAY? - FAIZA MOATASIM
  9. CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW? - BABAR SATTAR
  10. IT'S TIME - SALMAN IJAZ

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. ENERGY STRATEGY TO MAKE SITUATION MORE CHAOTIC
  2. FRANCE TO BAN WEARING OF VEIL
  3. AFGHAN REFUGEES GO BACK TO RETURN
  4. WHAT THE TRUTH IS? - MOHAMMAD JAMIL
  5. AMERICA'S DISCRIMINATORY NUCLEAR POLICY - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  6. PAK'S LEGITIMATE CONCERNS IN AFGHANISTAN - SAJJAD SHAUKAT
  7. MILITARY EXERCISE AZM-E-NAU - ALI SUKHANVER
  8. ISRAELI UNASSAILABLE MIGHT & UNYIELDING ANGST - ROGER COHEN

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. RISKY FOOTPATHS
  2. COMMUNITY RADIO
  3. NITIN SHOULDN'T FAINT AGAIN! - ROBERT CLEMENTS
  4. WILL THIS POWER CRISIS END IN 2013? - ABDUL MATIN
  5. ACHIEVING MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS - GOPAL SENGUPTA
  6. INDUSTRIAL POLICY FOR HIGH-SKILL JOBS - DANI RODRIK

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. REMEMBERING FALLEN HEROES
  2. WHY OUR POPULIST PM MISSES THE MARK ON POLICY
  3. WELFARE REFORM IS A PRIORITY
  4. ECONOMIC CONSENSUS CALLS FOR BIT OF GIVE AND TAKE
  5. GARRETT THE FALL GUY IN RUDD'S ROOFING FIASCO
  6. ALARMISTS KEEP RINGING THE BELL
  7. SENATORS, START UP THE INTANGIBLE ENGINE OF HUMAN MOTIVATION
  8. CLUB SENSIBLE IS CASTING ITS EYES OVER JULIA AND TONY
  9. POLLIE WITHOUT PORTFOLIO
  10. STORM CAN'T BE CUT ADRIFT

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. ROAD TO CANBERRA STILL HAS SOME POTHOLES
  2. NO ONE'S A POET IN A TEXT MESSAGE
  3. FIRE CHIEF GOES, HEAT'S ON BRUMBY
  4. LIGHTNING CAN STRIKE TWICE IN THE SAME PLACE

THE GUARDIAN

  1. GENERAL ELECTION: THE POLITICS OF GOD
  2. THE ECONOMY: OF BALLOTS AND BUSINESS
  3. UNTHINKABLE? STEVE DAVIS AS WORLD CHAMPION AGAIN

DAILY EXPRESS

  1. NATIONAL INSURANCE ERROR
  2. TRY READING, IT WILL DRIVE THEM ABSOLUTELY WILD

THE KOREA TIMES

  1. WARTIME COMMAND
  2. KOREA-CHINA FTA
  3. INDONESIA SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN - BY HENRIQUE SCHNEIDER

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. LEARN FROM H1N1 EXPERIENCE
  2. SHIFT GEARS ON BASE RELOCATION
  3. THE LIMITS OF CHINA'S GLOBAL CHARM OFFENSIVE - BY JONATHAN HOLSLAG 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

RAJA OF SRI LANKA!

HE MUST NOW FULFIL HIS PLEDGE TO TAMILS


By securing a comfortable majority in the recently concluded parliamentary election in Sri Lanka, the ruling United People's Freedom Alliance has further enhanced its political might. Indeed, with a President who has already secured a larger-than-life image for himself at the helm of affairs, the UPFA Government could not have had it any better. However, with great power comes great responsibility and the 144 parliamentary seats that the UPFA has won should be seen more as an opportunity for ensuring development and reconciliation with the Tamils rather than merely a vote for President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Rajapaksa clan. For, there has been a tendency towards the latter. In the run-up to the parliamentary election, there was a concerted attempt on the part of the UPFA to turn the poll into a loyalty test — Sri Lankans had to prove they were either with the heroic President and his family who delivered them from the terror of the Tamil Tigers, or against them. Although Mr Rajapaksa has indeed brought the 25-year-old civil war to an end, it is time he stops basking in the glory of his achievement — especially so if he wants to be remembered as one of the great statesmen of the sub-continent — and gets down to securing the peace.


In order to achieve meaningful reconciliation with the Tamils and put an end to the Tamil issue, Mr Rajapaksa needs to set the ball rolling with respect to the full implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Sri Lankan Constitution. It will be recalled that the 13th Amendment, which was born out of the India-Sri Lanka Treaty of 1987, provided for significant devolution of power to provincial councils. This, it was hoped, would provide a viable political solution to the Tamil issue by giving Tamils the opportunity to govern themselves in the provinces dominted by them. But the 13th Amendment was vilified by the LTTE and Sinhala nationalist parties (such as the Janatha Vemukthi Peramuna) alike. For the former it was a far cry from the Tamil Eelam it wanted while the latter saw it as minority appeasement that would encourage Tamil separatism. But with the defeat of the Tamil Tigers and the relative sidelining of the JVP, Mr Rajapaksa has a golden opportunity to implement in full the 13th Amendment in the Tamil-dominated provinces, especially in the north. He must realise that devolution of political power is key to mitigating Tamil grievances and that development alone will not suffice. And unless and until Tamil grievances are mitigated, there will always be the threat of another militant organisation taking up the mantle of the LTTE.


The other issue of concern is the continuing detention of Gen Sarath Fonseka. Now that he is a Member of Parliament, the cases against him need to be brought to a conclusion as soon as possible. For, each day that Gen Fonseka remains in detention, his supporters will step up their attack on the Government. Unless the matter is settled soon, Mr Rajapaksa risks squandering the huge goodwill that he enjoys among the masses; if that were to happen, it would be a pity. It is time Rajapaksa the politician gives way to Rajapaksa the statesman. Sri Lanka needs the latter today.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

MARXIST VERSUS MARXIST

PINARAYI GLOATS AS VS IS EMBARRASSED


The unauthorised tour of Gulf countries by Kerala Police's Inspector-General Tomin J Thachankery, his suspension by Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan and the stay imposed by the Central Administrative Tribunal on the disciplinary action have caused a huge embarrassment to the CPI(M)-led LDF Government. Mr Achuthanandan had seen in Mr Thachankery's version of Arabian Nights an immense opportunity to deal a blow to his rival in the CPI(M), State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan, whose neo-liberalist group is said to be protecting the senior IPS officer. The Chief Minister had acted against the official on the basis of reports that he had escorted a CPI(M) delegation, led by Mr Vijayan, to the Gulf and the findings of the inquiries conducted by the State DGP and ADGP (Intelligence). Mr Achuthanandan, it is believed, had acted without consulting Home Minister Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, a Polit Bureau member, which has once again revealed the distrust among the members of the Cabinet and the intensity of the faction war in the party. It is believed Mr Thachankery rushed to the Central Administrative Tribunal on the advice of the neo-liberal Marxists. This group is planning to launch a counter-offensive against Mr Achuthanandan at the State secretariat meeting to be held on Tuesday by accusing him of causing embarrassment with his hasty and unilateral decision.


Mr Thachankery had approached the Central Administrative Tribunal alleging that his suspension was politically motivated and that he was the victim of CPI(M) groupism. He also furnished documents to prove that the Government had shown favouritism in the case of certain other IAS and IPS officers who had travelled abroad without permission. Strangely, the State Advocate-General failed to appear in the Central Administrative Tribunal on Friday and thus did not present the statement of facts that Mr Achuthanandan had given him to support the Government's decision. The Advocate-General has said he did not get sufficient time to submit the statement to the tribunal but there are no takers for that claim; obviously there is more to his absence than meets the eye. Interestingly, Mr Thachankery, who enjoys the support of the Pinarayi faction, has in the past been accused of several wrong-doings. He has also been charged with amassing wealth well beyond his known and legitimate means. It is now almost certain that the Thachankery affair will cause big upsets for Mr Achuthanandan. On the one hand, he may not be able to win the case in the tribunal, while on the other he could face a concerted attack from his detractors in the party. However, the fact remains that this affair, like many others in the last four years of LDF rule, has proved that the State Government is a house divided, with factions pulling in opposite directions.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

LISTEN TO THE CRIES OF THE POOR

HIRANMAY KARLEKAR


By the look of things, the inquiry ordered into the affairs of the Indian Premier League will open a can of worms. That is precisely what has to be done if cricket in India, which arouses mass fervour as no other game does, has to be pulled out from the shadow of white-collar criminality that has come to fall over it. Hence it is important to ensure that the probe is not sabotaged midway or its results are not consigned to the mortuary where reports of many such exercises have come to rest. Meanwhile, one needs to focus on some of the wider issues raised by the manner in which the IPL, which has become emblematic of a certain way of life, has been conducted. Do we want such a way of life and the values informing it to become the whole country's?

The possibility of this happening cannot be brushed aside if one considers what can be best described as the political economy of IPL. The latter is a product of the market economy and the accompanying consumer culture, which are being hailed by corporate India and a section of the media as the engines of India's transformation into an economic superpower celebrating ceaseless, limitless, consumption.


In such a dispensation consumption becomes an end in itself because it is the driving force of the market economy which depends on sales revenue as the principal source of surplus which keeps the economy moving. Savings play a secondary role. This was not so in the earlier stages of capitalism. As Max Weber has pointed out in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, it is savings generated by the austere and puritanical way of life prescribed by Calvinism that provided the capital for economic ventures. The entrepreneurial energy came from Calvin's version of the doctrine of pre-destination according to which people were pre-destined to salvation or damnation, and success in one's calling was an indication that one was on the salvation road.


The substitution of savings by individuals and individual enterprises by institutional savings and investment as the main driving force behind growth was a major factor in the rise of finance capitalism and money markets. The demand for consumer durables rose as capitalism, bolstered by resources extracted from colonies, brought progressively higher levels of prosperity to the West. Dual use products like typewriters, electric bulbs, cooling devices like fans and, later, air-conditioners, automobiles and telephones, which could be used both in homes and business and industrial establishments, constituted an important segment of demand.


With increasing production, sales from consumer items became a progressively more important source of revenue and, at one remove, savings. This, in turn, gave a massive boost to advertising as an instrument of increasing sales. Over a period, advertising became an industry in itself with its own dynamics of growth powered by the desire for the generation of progressively higher levels of turnover and profit. As a result, it sought to persuade people to believe in the indispensability of its own role in augmenting sales while competition among its units led to methods of attracting consumer attention to products that transgressed all canons of decency, morality and aesthetics.


Central to the process of attracting attention to consumer items to increase their sales was their projection as embodiments of magical qualities and their possession as a sign of status. The message that became incessently, albeit mostly subconsciously, delivered with cumulative force was that a person was known by what he or she possessed, and not what he or she did or stood for. It did not matter whether one was a criminal, loan shark, speculator who destituted millions of people by engineering stock market collapses, perpetrated bank frauds or ran drug syndicates. What mattered was what one possessed and the lifestyle one could afford. At one level, this has been eroding moral scruples, and destroying the respect that qualities like honesty, courage, and compassion have traditionally commanded; at another, it stoked a compulsive desire to possess certain commodities. This, in turn, led to crime to finance consumption when one's own income was not enough.


A heightened proneness to criminality is, however, not the worst consequence of an advertisement-driven consumer economy. Alongside the market for commodities has come into being an employment market for human beings where the latter are bought or sold as commodities, and where people experience themselves as commodities. In his seminal work, To Have or To Be?, Erich Fromm states that the "marketing character" has replaced the "authoritarian-obsessive-hoarding character" that began to develop in the 16th century and "continued to be the dominant character structure at least for the middle classes until the end of the 19th century". In the human commodity market, it is the "personality factor" that plays a decisive role. The possession of the right personality matters more than the possession of the requisite skills.


Fromm points out, "The aim of the marketing character is complete adaptability, so as to be desirable under all conditions of the personality market. The marketing personality characters do not even have egos (as people in the 19th century did) to hold on to, that belong to them, that do not change. For they constantly change their egos, according to the principle: 'I am as you desire me'." Such persons do not stand for principles, for what is right. Nor do they oppose wrong-doing and tyranny. They serve wrongdoers and tyrants. It is hardly surprising that the growing predominance of the market economy in India has produced a culture characterised by acquiescence and indulgence by the consuming classes and violent revolt by the deprived — a dangerous mix.

The most telling example of the commoditification of human beings is the IPL auction of cricketers. Shockingly this has triggered few protests. As shocking is the extravagant use of electricity during evening matches when huge parts of the country go without power, and the mobilisation of police forces and security agencies for protecting IPL venues when they could have been deployed to protect common citizens from terrorists and criminals. In fact the IPL, more than anything else, has become the symbol of the skewed priorities that prevail in India's corridors of power where the cries of the poor receive little attention.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

FREE YOUSELF FROM FEAR

ACHARYA MAHAPRAJNA


Thinking born of fear is negative and destructive. A fearful man is incapable of right thinking. Fear dulls his mind and heart, blunting his thinking. It would be futile to expect a fear-ridden brain to function normally. Such a brain cannot think constructively. The first condition for rational thinking is total freedom from fear. The mind must be absolutely fearless. Indeed, the whole environment must be free from fear, Only in the right atmosphere will rational thinking be possible. A man oppressed by fear cannot think straight.


What makes us afraid? Why is man tormented by fear? In fact, fear is the outcome of wrong thinking. A man's individuality is determined by his thoughts. We become fearful because we accept certain ideas and beliefs. A man who has understood even a little bit of spirituality, whose dry and anguished existence has been even slightly touched by the grace of religion, cannot but be fearless. He who is not fearless cannot be spiritual or religious. Fear is the root of all disease, of all conflict and of unspiritual experiences. Can a fearful man experience truth? He certainly cannot.


People talk of soul and god endlessly, but they still live in illusion. How can a man gripped by fear know anything about highly-subtle, supra-sensual elements? The mind is never free of fear — fear of disease, fear of old age, fear of death and separation, fear of loss, etc. The soul can never manifest itself in a state of fear. Fear can only give rise to a goblin; it can never lead us to god. Fear is the creator of evil spirits. It takes the form of a ghost or demon. In the very moment of fear, the ghost begins to take shape before our eyes. It is the projection of a fear-afflicted mind. Is such a mind capable of any knowledge?


Unless we can rid ourselves of fear, there is no way that we can achieve a state of spirituality. We should strive to conquer our fears on a daily basis. For, it is only when we face fear that we are able to bring what is essentially hidden in our subconscious to our conscious. And it is when we view our fears through the prism of our conscious mind that we understand the futility of being fearful.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

EAT HUMBLE PIE AND LIKE IT TOO

WHAT WILL LIFE BE LIKE FOR SHASHI THAROOR AS AN ORDINARY MP? DOES HE HAS A REVIVAL PLAN READY? WILL HE COUNT ON THE SAME PEOPLE FOR ADVISE?

ARUN LAKSHMAN


Quoting a stanza from the works of the legendary Malayalam poet, Vallathol Narayana Menon, the first victim of "IPLGate", Shashi Tharoor, bade farewell to his brief life as a minister on Tuesday. "When you hear the name of India, your heart must swell with pride. When you hear the name of Kerala, the blood must throb in your veins."


It is doubtful if there were any tears shed for him in Kerala. His margin of victory over the CPI's P. Ramachandran Nair was not spectacular by any standards (99,998), and his Anglicised mannerisms set him apart in a state whose menfolk are known for their natural cockiness. There was no love lost between him and Kerala Pradesh Congress bigwigs AK Antony and Ramesh Chennithala, both of who sank mutual differences to make life difficult for him in state politics. Both saw him as a novice thrust on them by the party high command.

Tharoor's rise and fall is interpreted as some kind of a watershed event in Indian politics. His entry signaled hope to the 100 million-strong sub-nation of English-speaking Indians. They forgave his silly tweeting and looked forward to the day when his party would give him a bigger responsibility than play minister for better relations with countries in west Africa and Latin America. The media liked to call him a 'new age' politician and sincerely hoped that he would be that magnet to draw more 'people like us' (PLUs) to 'clean up' Indian politics. However, when the news of the 'sweetheart' deal spilled out in the public domain, these very people turned their backs to him. The famous journalist Nalini Singh set the perspective on him right by stating that Tharoor was actually a 'new politician' with an 'old fashioned style'.


Thiruvananthapuram's voters knew about his dazzling background as a United Nations bureaucrat and novelist. The personal rapport which he had created with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul swung the ticket in his favour. There was a great deal of debating in blogosphere over Tharoor's candidature. While some people were awed by the entry of such a handsome, educated man in the grimy world of politics, the majority opined that Tharoor should have probed other ways of serving his country.


Tharoor was inducted into the Manmohan Singh council of ministers as MoS External Affairs. This was a letdown for him and his supporters as the least he had expected was independent charge. That was the point where he lost touch with reality. Unfamiliar with public expectations and the nitty-gritty of politics, he soon covered himself with needless controversy. He jumped the gun by commenting on India's foreign policy dealings, and many of his public remarks slighted the official Indian stand. A lesser mortal would have lost his position for questioning the Nehruvian axiom in Indian diplomatic history, but not Tharoor. A flipside to his immunity was his willingness to expose how vulnerable he was without the support of 10 Janpath. In politics, it's not a good idea to reveal the identity of your godfather - in this case godmother.


Though Tharoor became famous in the Delhi media for his love of tweeting, he failed to make the grade as a representative of the people. He always surrounded himself with people from the world of fashion, films and industry. The common man did not exist in his world. To the Thiruvananthapuram voter, he was something remote. His north Indian way of dressing, his clipped Malayalam and, above all, the wall of yuppie-class aides around him, ensured his marginalisation. When he landed himself in a messy situation over his fiancée Sunanda Pushkar's acquisition of a fantastic 'sweat equity' in the Kochi IPL team, few voices were heard in Tharoor's support in the Kerala media. Pandalam Sudhakaran and R. Jeevakumar, two of his allies in the state unit, regretted that Tharoor chose the wrong advisers who didn't take him through the necessary first step of consolidating his weak election victory. Instead of building bridges with the people of Thiruvananthapuram, he hankered for the approval of the media in distant Delhi.


Tharoor's biggest undoing, in the perception of his 'loyalists' is the Officer on Special Duty he chose for himself-Jacob Joseph. This 28-year-old, Delhi-bred had a 'bratpack' air about him. While ministers usually chose politically savvy persons as their OSDs, Tharoor made the mistake of appointing to the sensitive post a rookie with a swagger. This Jacob Joseph introduced him to the 'tweeting' alternative to old-fashioned mass contact. He not only authored the notorious 'cattle class' message, but also had the gall to scorn senior Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan as 'humourless' for objecting to it.


A political newbie himself, Tharoor had no idea how much damage a bad aide can do to a minister. Affection blinded him to the real side of Jacob Joseph. He blocked people's access to Tharoor and threw his weight around. The Congress leaders of Kerala hit back by disallowing Thaoor breathing space in state politics. He was not even invited to participate in meetings and events organised by the KPCC. Tharoor did nothing to win the love of the party. His advisers perhaps convinced him that it was enough to move around in the elite circles of Delhi, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram. Resultantly, Tharoor got isolated from the common voters. It didn't help that people detected 'arrogance' in each of his actions.


When Tharoor declared in Chennai that he would become the mentor of the Kochi IPL team, many saw it as the beginning of a process of winning Malayali hearts by a leader who had been denied the usual route to that pedestal. But when IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi opened the can of worms on Sunanda Pushkar, all the support he had mustered simply evaporated. Now it is hard to encounter even one Malayali willing to recall Tharoor's role in promoting cricket in Kerala. Even before "IPLGate" there were reports in Kerala on Shashi Tharoor's intentions to marry a third time. But soon, the upcoming marriage was seen as part of some dirty deal, leading to total loss of public confidence in Tharoor.


It is doubtful if Tharoor's stock would ever recover with the people of Kerala. At any rate his attachment to the state is one based on expediency. Unless Sonia Gandhi rehabilitates him fast through a ministerial reshuffle or expansion, Tharoor has only a bleak phase to look forward to. There is no glamour in the life of a first-time MP. He would need to work very hard to not only salvage his lost reputation, but also dirty his hands in the real world of Kerala politics. The Kerala unit is not likely to accommodate him as a top-ranking leader, and so he would have to eat humble pie and like it too.


 The writer is a senior journalist in Kerala

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BIG SCAM, BUT WHAT'S THE STORY?

'RELEVATIONS' NOTWITHSTANDING, CROWDS THRONGED AT IPL FIXTURES. AFTER 19 YEARS OF NEO-LIBERAL REFORMS SCAMS ARE DÉJÀ VU. IN OTHER NEWS, DALIT KILLINGS CONTINUE, BPL POPULATION TOUCHES 34 PER CENT AND AN ARUNDHATI ROY INTERVIEW ENJOYS SIX RERUNS….

UDAYAN NAMBOODIRI


Media interest and public interest are two different things. In classrooms on serious journalism, an episode out of Japan is often upheld to illustrate this divide. In mid-1988, it seemed that nothing was more important to the people of Japan than knowing in advance who President Ronald Reagan would name as America's next Ambassador to their country. Newspapers ran banner headlines predicting Mr X's possibilities over Mr Y's and TV channels announced prizes for anybody who could make the right guess. Day in and day out, there were 'breaking news' prompted by the outgoing Ambassador being spotted at a party or one of the possible 'winners' seen outside a Japanese restaurant in New York. One big newspaper (and mind, Japanese newspapers come very big) reportedly hired an agency in Washington to tap the telephones of State Department officials, and its competitor paid another guy to snoop on him to uphold 'ethics' in journalism.

 

The Japanese media's mindset was locked up in the post-World War II situation when an American Ambassador, as the political emissary of the US President, i.e. the chief of the victorious power, had de facto supremacy over Japan's King and Prime Minister. But, over the years, as Japan regained its economic clout and the task of defanging its military class was completed, the aplomb that surrounded the post of the US Ambassador got eroded and before long the Americans themselves lost all use for ritual reiteration of a forgotten agenda. As for the Japanese, it was their turn to take over American business corporations, car markets and Hollywood. Yet, every three or four years, the Tokyo media went berserk over the new viceroy. The hapless newspaper reading and TV viewing public had no choice but suffer the moronic competition.

The explosion of media interest over the so-called "IPLGate", which consumers are forced to recognise as a matter of life and death for India (the politicians said so and wasn't Parliament 'rocked'?), reminded me of this anecdote which was related to me while visiting a US university some years back. The backdrop to this was Shashi Tharoor's overstress on the point that an 'attractive woman' (later the lady herself humbly admitted to being one in a Tehelka interview) could be the world's greatest management guru. The public was entitled to be told of the details of the illegal 'sweat equity' (or was it 'sweet equity'?) to the minister's fiancée and left to make its own deductions. But, the handle that the media gave itself on the entire IPL empire was not about investigative journalism or even truth crusade - it was about misplaced morality.


I asked my teenaged son, the IPL circus' real target, "How can you watch a game that is so tainted….maybe it's fixed." He coolly shot back "it's like WWF -- dirty but entertaining." At that moment I was hit by a realisation: what kind of Indians are we rearing ? This is the generation born in the 1990s, wholly shaped by the neoliberal ethos which holds that everything, including morality, strikes its own market-dictated level. In my time, children were artless and unpolluted by too many realities; we rejoiced in the simple delights of life. Not these kids.

The media laments the corruption of cricket, indeed the duping of millions, but bark up the wrong tree. "IPLGate" is only the symptom of a cancer, which is the alien economic system which successive governments, beginning with Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh in 1991, have thrust on the Indian milieu. An IPL match is the embodiment of Mammom worship, the rape of the spiritual ethos of India which had once welcomed a gentle, dignified game like cricket. I may be sounding a bit like a yoga guru here, but slavish submission to the greed of a few, as the World Bank-led consensus would like us Indians to do, is definitely more treasonable than recalling the socialist emphasis in the Preamble to the Constitution of India. We stress on 'secularism' because it is politically expedient, but bury 'socialism', the other hallmark of the Indian State, because it's convenient to a few.


That's the story we miss. The whole gamut of issues that IPLGate has its origins in a flawed economic doctrine which was supplanted on India after four-and-a-half decades of phoney socialism failed to produce results. Since 1991, we have seen the media extend unquestioned approval to any new venture and go to any extent to cheer 'success', whether or not earned legitimately. Harshad Mehta, whose memory hits me every time I hear the words "Lalit Modi", was originally projected by Business India, Business World and the rest of the business press as a messiah for the investing community until the truth came out - accidentally. The MS Shoes scam, Damania Airways, Bailadila iron ore, Sankhya Vahini, right down to the SEZs now fast dotting the landscape, were beneficiaries of drugged silence. The media's antenna should have been up right in the early days of the IPL journey. Given the memory of the unseemly tango between big money and cricketers in the turn of the 1990s, somebody should have taken the trouble of visiting the office of the Registrar of Companies to check the antecedents of the entities that had brought so much money to the table. But nobody did.


Since Tharoor's resignation on Sunday night the whole focus has changed to Lalit Modi, BCCI and their respective shenanigans. Politicians and tax bureaucrats are merrily planting stories, even transcripts of tapped phone calls, which are regurgitated by the hour. Lo and behold, the morning newspaper reads like the script read out by the Times Now anchor on "NewsHour" the previous night. Much the same tamasha over the ITC scandal of 1996, when top bosses of that company were 'interrogated' by Enforcement Branch officials round-the-clock, even placed under police custody for weeks on end, but to produce other than a lot of news bytes which added up to nothing. Quite frankly, media houses in India lack skilled personnel to investigate economic crimes of the scale allegedly carried out by Lalit Modi or BCCI or, as some channels say, both. Our journos excel in being receptacles for interest groups.


Meanwhile, the Planning Commission has been forced to accept that 37 per cent of Indians, i.e. 430 million people, are currently living below the poverty line. There were two cases of heinous assaults on Dalit villagers this week. The media's apathy to this has bred a suprising, new market for the wisdom espoused by Arundhati Roy, the writer who is not embarrassed to articulate the agenda of the Maoists. Now, we have the same media which unabashedly campaigns for the Washington Consensus making money out of her interviews and articles. Why, simply because she now has a market where she isn't supposed to have. Now that's a case of convergence of media and public interest.


The writer is Senior Editor, The Pioneer

 

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THE PIONEER

OPED

BOARD, GOVERNMENT SHOULD RESCUE CREDIBILITY

LALIT MODI FED ON THE FERVOUR OF A CRICKET-CRAZY NATION AND HAS ALSO GIVEN NEW CAREERS TO CRICKETERS. IF HE MUST BE JUDGED FOR THE REPORTED MISDEMEANORS, LET THE PROCESS BE IMPARTIAL AND NON-POLITICAL

SAMBARAN BANERJEE


A few years ago, on the sidelines of a BCCI meeting, in which I too was present, I saw a gentleman talking angrily and waving his hands about. On inquiring what the matter was, I learnt that he was upset over being disqualified from the proceedings of the Board. I am acquainted with the cricketing circuit for the past three decades; first by virtue of being a cricketer and then on account of discharging various responsibilities assigned to me by BCCI and CAB. But I had never seen the gentleman before. Some fellow Board members came to my assistance and pointed out that he was Lalit Modi, an aspiring cricket administrator.


The incident faded from my memory until three years back, when all of us in the cricketing fraternity -- this includes millions of cricket lovers -- watched in awe the meteoric rise of Lalit Modi.


As the Commissioner of the Indian Premier League, there is hardly any doubt that Modi has been very effective in marketing cricket far beyond any former promoter of the game in any country. Over the past few years cricket has been turned into a commodity, a hot cake that sold as never before. Today it is different from what it used to be in the past century. No longer is it a purely gentlemanly pursuit. Now it is about gentlemen making money.

I wouldn't undermine Modi's achievements as there is no way to take the credit away from him as far as the IPL is concerned. But I had always advocated that the basic structure of cricket must not change. To adjust to the changing world is one thing, but losing pedigree is quite another.


Cricket should be allowed to retain its fundamental elements. IPL may be allowed to continue as masala material as long it does not compromise the seriousness of the game and break the founding principles of the sport. It should not fiddle with the other important cricketing events like tests, one-dayers, domestic cricket and so on. There should be a good 15-20 day gap between the IPL and the other important cricket events, including international engagements.


Often it is seen that the IPL is interrupting other national tournaments as also particular countries' international engagements. This time round the fixtures were arranged in such a manner that there was hardly any time for the cricketers to recuperate ahead of the T-20 World Cup which is knocking on the door. This may prove costly for Indian cricket in the final run. I do not want masala crickets to come in the way of serious cricket because we have learnt to respect the game that way. It has to be remembered that fund generation is good but that fund has to be used for the development of cricket and not otherwise.


In the context of the supreme success of the IPL many have often wondered whether Modi could be rated among some of the greatest cricket administrators of our time. Many have also tried to see in him the Kerry Packer of Indian cricket. Packer he was a different person belonging to a different league. He conceived a new form of cricket. Mr Packer's success was more related to his invention of a diversified form of cricket and not what many have already started to feel: a diversion from cricket. The two persons can not even be remotely compared. One must concede that IPL was not an independent concept. Rather it was an answer to an original concept called English Cricket League which was sought to be replicated in India by Subhash Chandra's Indian Cricket League. Originally, BCCI was contemptuous of the 20-over game, but after ICL threatened to grab the moolah, it hurriedly organised IPL. That is how Modi came into the picture. He recruited the help of Bollywood to give the game a new look. With time, it has emerged into a strong brand.


As for Modi's abilities as an administrator,I have nothing much to comment except that like millions of cricket lovers I can only perceive Mr Modi's success through the prism of IPL which has unfortunately got embroiled in most un-cricketing controversies. I never had any opportunity to work with him and so I am not the fittest person to pass a judgment on his abilities. BCCI and the government are already into doing that job. From what I hear about his style of functioning, the man is indefatigable. He works round the clock and prefers to do most of the work himself, without passing the buck to others. This has also led to allegations of lack of transparency in his work ethics.


There have been complaints of money laundering, betting and what not in the course of IPL. I have supreme faith in the Board and the government and I hope things would soon be brought to light and the guilty punished. As a positivist I foresee something good coming out of the current goings on. I hope cricket would emerge victorious and IPL would be played in a cleaner and healthier environment.


 The author is Former cricketer and BCCI member

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

IF THAROOR CAN GO WHY SHOULDN'T PRAFUL PATEL?

THE Indian Premier League saga is, to quote Alice, getting " curiouser and curiouser." Last week, Union Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor became its first casualty when he was forced to resign after he acknowledged that he had " mentored" the bid for an IPL franchise for Kochi and that his " friend" Sunanda Pushkar had been given " sweat equity" by the team consortium.

Yet a week later when it transpires that Union Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel seems to have been involved in equally serious impropriety relating to the IPL, both the Opposition and the Treasury Benches are treating him with kid- gloves. Not only was IPL auction related business information sent to Mr Tharoor on behalf of Mr Patel, the latter's daughter, Poorna, a hospitality manager with the IPL, allegedly persuaded Air India to reschedule a flight and converted it into a charter to ferry an IPL team to Chennai. The business information— a spreadsheet purporting to show that IPL franchisees had poor business prospects— suggests an even deeper role of Mr Patel in the murky IPL story.

Yes, the Opposition did stall the House on Friday, but not to demand Patel's head, but a joint parliamentary committee to probe the IPL issue. Past experience has shown that allparty JPCs are the best instrument for permanently putting an issue on the back- burner.

Meanwhile the Congress- led United Progressive Alliance seems to be using the issue to pursue larger political aims. It is apparently aiming to cut Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party to size. And it does not mind a JPC either since that would enable it to stretch the issue longer and at the same time it opens up the possibility of hauling the BJP over the coals because of the larger- than- life role IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi played in Rajasthan during the tenure of the previous chief minister Vasundhara Raje. Perhaps the government has information that could entangle other BJP figures into its net.

As the country remains transfixed at the sight of the Ministry of Finance attack dogs savaging the IPL bigwigs and franchisees, issues like the Dantewada disaster and the planned cut- motions on rising prices have been allowed to recede from public consciousness.

What was to be the government's summer of discontent has become the Opposition's moment of confusion.

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

ACT WHILE THERE IS TIME YET

 

THAT countries like the United States and Australia have asked their citizens to stay away from crowded markets in Delhi is evidence of the care they have for their own citizens; that is much more than we can say about the Indian state. For, notwithstanding what the loose security apparatus in place at crowded markets in the national capital may suggest, they face a very real threat from terrorists.

This is shocking considering that several of the capital's markets have been targeted in the past, accounting for the loss of many lives — as the people were reminded by the verdict in the Lajpat Nagar blast case.

As a MAIL TODAY report pointed out on Friday, the security arrangements at places like the Khan Market, Greater Kailash- I M Block Market and Sarojini Nagar Market continue to be far from satisfactory. The situation may be better than in the past but at all such places one gets the impression of the authorities going through the motions in the name of security — especially once the heat generated by the latest terror attack is dissipated.

For instance, at the GK- 1 M Block Market there are only four CCTVs to cover 225 shops.

Anyone can still walk into these markets or ride a car inside with explosives and no one would know, as has happened in the past.

There is no denying that providing foolproof security at these public places is far easier said than done, given the sheer number of people who frequent them and the constantly stretched resources with which the law enforcement agencies function. But then the state has a duty to upgrade its apparatus in keeping with the changed circumstances where Indian cities have repeatedly been attacked of late. Perhaps the only public places in Delhi where one gets a sense of security are our Metro stations where CISF personnel do a pat- down of passengers and luggage gets scanned. Elsewhere in Delhi and the rest of India we still very much seem Ram bharose ( by the grace of Lord Ram).

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

PLAYING BY THE RULES

BY R. SRINIVASAN

 

THERE is an interesting thread connecting every player in the ongoing IPL scandal.Each one, overt or covert, currently feeling the heat of public opinion and government investigations, had failed to exercise the one option which would have helped them avoid the whole drama— the option of having played by the rules.

 

Think about it. The high profile investors in the IPL franchises needn't have been forced to entertain tax sleuths in their offices. Praful Patel would not have needed to go on national television to defend his daughter. Lalit Modi could have continued to be the toast of the media for conjuring up a multi- billion dollar enterprise called the Indian Premier League virtually out of thin air. Even poor old Shashi Tharoor need not have crashed and burned.

 

All they had to do was to do exactly what cricketers were doing on the field — play the game by the book.

 

Business

The whole saga would not have come out into the open, if Lalit Modi had not wanted to play favourites, and failed.

 

There would be no armies of enforcement directorate and revenue intelligence investigators combing through corporate offices for data, if the bidders had not routed investments through shell companies in dubious tax havens.

 

Praful Patel would not have been on the hook, if his daughter had stuck to the rules prescribed for any employee, and kept confidential company data confidential.

 

Instead, everybody is in a mess, because everybody broke the rules in one way or the other.

 

It would be easy to put this down to greed. But greed alone does not explain this. In India, being devious has become part of the way we do business. This is true for doing any kind of business — political, government or economic.

 

It would be equally simple, and tempting, to put down this behaviour to our overpowering bureaucracy and the innumerable hurdles put in the way of anyone wanting to do honest business. Tempting, but wrong.

 

Things have changed in our country over the past decade or so, and for the better. Admittedly, India still ranks 133rd in the World Bank's ranking of nations on the ease of doing business. But that particular statistic comes with many ifs and buts attached, and needs to be viewed in the context of the players involved.

 

Yes, it may be still pretty difficult for a young entrepreneur armed with littlemore than a bright idea to start a business here. But that does not hold true for the rich and powerful, those already well entrenched in the arena and fully conversant with the twists and turns on India's road to enterprise.

 

Mukesh Ambani runs the world's largest refinery, right here in India. N. Srinivasan owns one of India's largest cement companies. Vijay Mallya is the world's biggest manufacturer of whisky.

 

The Burmans run a giant pharmaceutical enterprise, the Reddys own one of India's leading media houses and so on.

 

Why, Lalit Modi himself comes from one of India's richest and most powerful business families, and has been the executive director of India's second largest tobacco company for a decade and a half.

 

Politics

 

Even the non ' business' players, whether it is a Shah Rukh Khan or a Preity Zinta, are rich, famous and extremely successful in their professions. All of them have managed to not only overcome any hurdles the system might have put in their way to success, but are arguably now in a position to leverage the same system to their advantage. Let's be clear, there is no suggestion, as of now, that any of those named above have done anything wrong, or are hiding anything in the matter of their IPL franchises.

Starting a new business in India, for anybody already in any kind of position of wealth or power, is just as easy as starting a business anywhere in the world. In some ways, probably easier. In the same World Bank's ease of doing business rankings, for instance, India ranks a high 30 in terms of ease of accessing credit, and 41st in protecting investors. This means that if you are legitimate, and have played by the rules, the system will do a pretty good job of protecting your interests.

 

Why then, do so many who are in a position to do things differently, still end up choosing the riskier option? The answer possibly lies in the deep interconnections between business, unaccounted money and politics.

 

Much has been said about the role of black money in Indian politics. Even academic estimates run into thousands of crores of unaccounted money being spent in every election. But where does this money come from? The short answer— from corporates— hides more than it reveals. Why do corporates end up paying? Because those who are in, or likely to be in any position of power, will also have the power to disrupt their businesses. And how do they gain that leverage? Is it because somewhere down the line, these businesses have done something which will fail to secure them the protection of the law and judicial due process?

 

Attitude

 

Like conjoined twins with a single heart, politics and business are linked by the beating heart of corruption and the misuse of power. If no one abused their office, there would be no ' favours' rendered. If no favours are shown, there would be no need to return it in cash.

 

Problem solved.

 

Unfortunately, life is not that simple.

 

The biggest hurdle in the way of even making a start towards cleaning up public life is the fact that corruption in India is endemic and silent. If rule bending and palm greasing are ubiquitous, then it soon becomes second nature to modify your behaviour to the assumption that nothing can be done without breaking the law in some fashion, and so it is simpler and quicker to simply skirt around it in the first place.

 

It is natural— even rational— human behaviour to dislike paying taxes. Even more so, when the quality of governance one gets in return is of such poor quality.

 

The danger lies— and the really serious erosion of values starts— when this gets justified and rationalised in the name of the ' system'. At the end of the day, IPLgate boils down to attitudes— the attitude towards rule of law, the attitude towards paying one's rightful dues to society, the attitude towards power and office, the attitude towards wealth.

 

And the prevailing attitude is that if one is rich or famous or powerful, one can simply do what it takes to maximise one's returns, without worrying about niceties like the rule book.

 

And as long as this attitude gets reinforced by the manifest success of those who display it, it cannot be eradicated overnight simply by sending a tainted few into temporary exile.

 

r.srinivasan@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

DIGITAL INK

SACHIN KALBAG

 

HERE'S HOW THAROOR COULD SUE MODI & WIN

A TIP for former Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor: If you believe that IPL commissioner Lalit Modi has wronged you by tweeting about your association with the Kochi franchise and about your alleged relationship with free sweat equity beneficiary Sunanda Pushkar, you could sue him under the Information Technology ( Amendment) Act, 2008.

 

Not just that, if the judge in the case finds Mr Modi guilty, the cricket impresario can be imprisoned for up to three years and a commensurate fine imposed on him for defaming Mr. Tharoor.

 

The IT ( Amendment) Act, which was notified as recently as October 2009, brings under its ambit any act of defamation done through any electronic medium – be it a computer, a computer network, a mobile phone, a smartphone or for that matter, even the Apple iPad.

 

" The IT Act of 2000 did not have any mention of defamation in it," says Pavan Duggal, a Supreme Court lawyer and one of the country's foremost legal experts on cyber laws. " The IT ( Amendment) Act of 2008 fills this gap." Technically, therefore, Tharoor – who had to quit in disgrace after the IPL chief tweeted about the composition of the consortium that owns the Kochi franchise – could sue Modi and win.

 

But it is not for Modi and Tharoor alone. The IT Act can be used against anyone using Twitter – now the world's most popular microblogging platform – to defame anyone. " Anything that is grossly offensive or menacing in character can put you in trouble," says Duggal. " Although Twitter has no specific mention in the IT ( Amendment) Act, the new amendments have made dramatic changes to the law as electronic defamation in any form has been brought under its ambit." This means that any tweet that is offensive to someone can be held against you in a court of law. And if the judge rules against you, you could be in jail for up to three years, in addition to paying a fine whose quantum would be decided by the judge.

 

Which is why, Duggal warns, " Whatever you write or post on Twitter is legally permissible evidence, and could be used in any legal proceeding. ( Therefore), there is absolutely no room for tweeting when you are in an emotional state. People in many cases have the misconception that whatever you tweet has got nothing to do with the law. But nothing can be farther from the truth." But what if you are a victim of defamation on Twitter? " You could head to the nearest police station and lodge a complaint against the offending party," says Duggal. " But the truth is that law enforcement officers have little or no knowledge of cyber crime and cyber security issues. Hence, there is a chance that the complainant may go back disappointed." One of his clients did that, says Duggal. " After taking legal advice from me," Duggal says, " he went to a police station where an inspector refused to take down the complaint saying he had more important things to attend to and that he did not know anything about Twitter." But it is not just about law enforcement officers, the president of cyberlaws. net says.

 

" Even law professionals and information technology professionals have no idea of the legislation that governs the use of Twitter in India." As a result, most people who do not know the law end up breaking it by calling people names on Twitter and making allegations that cannot be proven in a court of law. " The propensity to break the law unknowingly is very high on Twitter," says Duggal. " Most people who don't know the law will end up breaking it." As a consequence of police officials being blissfully unaware of cyber laws and " grossly deficient in appropriate skill sets" according to Duggal, and lawyers not being interested in taking it up as a full- time specialisation, underreporting of cyber crimes is the norm in India.

 

" There have been only three cyber crime convictions so far in India since the introduction of the Internet in August 1995," he says. " Most twitter users invariably won't want to make a ruckus even if they are victims of abuse. They want to close their eyes and expect it to be buried.

 

This has given rise to the perception that India is relatively safe and no cybercrimes take place. It's not."

 

YOUR ENEMY'S ENEMY IS YOUR FRIEND

MICROSOFT hates Google and Google hates Facebook.So Microsoft which has no special hatred for Facebook, except when it wanted to buy the world's largest social networking site ( 400 million users and counting), has teamed up with it to crush Google out of the online documentation market.

 

Google Docs, a popular web docs software, was something that gained a lot of popularity the world over, thanks to its ease of use and the fact that everything would be stored online. But Microsoft wants to end it with a partnership with Facebook which will bring the features of all programs in Microsoft Office and make them accessible to Facebook.

 

Simply called Docs, the software Microsoft lets Facebook users collaborate on documents with their Facebook pals, in the browser or in the desktop versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.

 

WEB MOURNS AS HITLER PARODY VIDEOS GO DOWN

ONE OF the most hated villains in history was also a cult figure on YouTube. Until April 21, that is. A video clip of Adolf Hitler from the movie The Downfall was often used by humourists to poke fun at zeitgeist events by adding funny sub- titles to the German- language movie excerpt.

 

For example, when Usain Bolt created a world record, Hitler was there to show his anger. When author Chetan Bhagat began blocking people from his Twitter account for poking fun at him, Chennai- based IT professional and humourist Krish Ashok posted a video of Hitler seething at the author for blocking him.

 

But on April 21, Constantin Film AG, the producers of the German movie Der Untergang ( The Downfall) forced YouTube to take down all such Hitler parodies for copyright infringement.

 

Such was the outrage over this act that pranksters immediately put up a parody of the act of pulling down all parodies.

 

In the new video, Hitler says: " Haven't they ever heard of fair use? Title 17, U. S. C., Section 107? Parody is not an infringement of copyright." The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which fights for digital rights, said: " If copyright owners want to block remix creativity, they should have to use a formal Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice ( and be subject to legal punishment if they fail to consider fair use), rather than a coarse automated blocking tool." In fact, the EFF had asked YouTube to fix the bugs in the Content ID system ( which tracks copyright infringement) so that remixed videos are not automatically removed. " That was over two years ago," EFF says, " And YouTube told us then that they were working on improving the tool. If YouTube is serious about protecting its users, it is long past time for YouTube to do that work.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

WEAPONS OF MASS DISTRACTION

 

Sirens dress to kill. They also serve global peace. Thanks to them, a rapprochement between daggers'-drawn US and Iran seems imminent. Here's why. Decried as imperialist by Venezuela's prez Hugo Chavez, Uncle Sam's got an unwitting reprieve from Iranian cleric Ayatollah Kazem Sedighi. Chavez had accused the US navy of unleashing a "tectonic weapon" to cause Haiti's 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Its real target, the conspiracy theorist reportedly thundered, was Iran, aspiring nuke newbie. But Tehran's acting Friday prayer leader begs to differ. The causes of natural disasters, he suggests, are neither natural nor man-made; they're unnatural and woman-made. The culprit? Comely Calamity Jane.


The earth trembles, the cleric asserts, when promiscuous women flaunt their vital stats and provoke lasciviousness in chaste men. No wonder Tehran residents aren't listening to president Ahmadinejad's exhortations to flee a quake-threatened read: temptress-infested capital. Now we know that, to create terrestrial (and libidinous) havoc, America's quake-bombs are no match for bombshells.


Perhaps inspired by Gandhian moral causalism, the femme fatale has her own view on nature's fury. If Gandhi once said a Bihar quake was a divine rap for the sin of untouchability, Hollywood's Sharon Stone controversially asked if "bad karma" from Beijing's Tibet policy wasn't behind massive devastation in China. Heed Sedighi, and that's a beauteous blonde with tremor-causing basic instincts passing the buck. Actor Danny Glover, on his part, said Caribbean nations court disaster courtesy global warming, not foreseeing an Iranian cleric would back him on the sizzle factor. The itsier-bitsier, teenier-weenier bikinis become, the hotter it gets.

 

Baywatchers will agree.


Want an even better explanation for tsunamis and avalanches? Read the cleric's (female) hurricane alert alongside US televangelist Pat Robertson's diabolical hypotheses. "Cursed" Haiti's misfortunes, the broadcaster insisted sometime ago, were due to its 18th century Faustian "pact with the devil" to oust French rulers! Well, this 'devil' must surely have resembled Bewitched star Liz Hurley(-burly). Aren't her red carpet outings quake-walks? There can't but be geo-rumbles in response to her peekaboo wardrobe malfunctions, see-through saris (look, no blouse!) and gowns hung together with safety pins. And they say the devil wears Prada.


For bewitching womankind, the theory about their seismic jadu on man and nature must come as old witches' brew. Patriarchs stir the sexist cauldron periodically, irked that witch-hunting's no longer your everyday entertainment. Clearly, the boys are miffed, and not merely because girls just wanna have fun. Their manly weapons of mass destruction lack the punch of a far subtler feminine arsenal: one that causes landslides, tidal waves and tornados at the drop of a pallu!


Future armies should recruit these Immodesty Blazes. That way, they'll cut costs with GI Jane's skimpier uniforms. They'll acquire earth-shaking armoury. Above all, much like hide-all swimsuits, war itself will become a relic. The day will dawn when no one will want to go fight. Why? Because everybody will willingly surrender to weapons of mass distraction, deployed in an eye-teasing war to end all wars.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

GAME FOR A CLEAN-UP

 

Many decades ago, my little brother and i used to spend our evenings in neighbourhood parks, where we played only one game: cricket. We watched every Test match on TV. We idolised the players and tore up sports magazines to put our heroes' pictures in our room walls. We used to scavenge used soft-drink bottle caps for months to win a silly flipper book which, when flipped, animated a player's stroke play. We weren't alone, almost every kid in class behaved the same way. Not much has changed since. Indians are still hooked to their favourite game, which is both a passion and addiction.


A couple of centuries ago, the British entered China with a unique strategy. They had the population hooked to opium. The British had a monopoly on the drug, which they grew in India. The Chinese population couldn't have enough of it. That single monopoly was enough to change the entire geopolitics of the area. This dodgy trade eventually led to several wars. Of course, cricket isn't exactly opium. Opium was actually bad for people and turned the population unproductive. Cricket doesn't have the same negative effects.


However, the mechanism by which the Indian cricket business operates is not too different from the drug business of the past. Two main factors are common: a deep desire among the local population to consume the product, and a de facto BCCI monopoly on the business. Not to mention the complete opaqueness on the part of the monopoliser. Not surprisingly, both the businesses ended up being about big money, power and murkiness. The same happened with the IPL.


The IPL was, after all, the new hit drug. A quick fix of sixes and other sexy things, without the boring bits that made up the actual game. In fact, India didn't even have to win against another country to get high on this one. Indians lapped it up, advertisers supported it and the party was on.


But then came the big money, then the powerful people and then the murkiness. The party could have continued, if they followed the first rule of running a cartel: keep a low profile. However, just like Denzel Washington in American Gangster, who wore a flashy fur coat that did him in, a few brash tweets happened. What followed was the explosion called the IPL controversy, which frankly is far more interesting than watching those silly quickie matches whose outcome depends more on randomness than the actual talent of players. IPL already had mixed cricket and Bollywood, now it had politics too. What more could Indians ask for from India's biggest reality show? Too bad the IPL didn't sell the controversy rights beforehand. It would have been a better source of income than the 'chat up the cheerleader' helpline (no kidding, there is such a service).

While this is interesting drama, there is no denying the pressing need to clean up BCCI. For even though the game is a national passion, it doesn't have to be operated like a drug cartel. BCCI has repeatedly shied away from disclosure, citing itself as a private entity. However, it isn't completely private either, especially since it has monopoly rights over something consumed by a large number of people. It earns from franchise owners and television networks. They in turn recover their money from advertisers, who ultimately pass on advertising costs to consumers, built into the price of products. Thus, the consumers, or the Indian people, pay for BCCI. And since it is a monopoly, we have every right to question their finances. How does BCCI price its rights? Where is BCCI money going? That is the real issue, and the current controversy is a chance to tackle it head on.

Before the limelight shifts to another drama, the media and lawmakers have a chance to go after this completely feudal and archaic way of managing something as pure and simple as sport. Individuals are less important than changing the way things work. What needs to be at the forefront is sport are we using the money to help develop it in the country?


We don't have to turn Indian cricket into a non-commercial NGO, for that is doomed to fail. It is fine to commercially harness the game. However, if you are exploiting a national passion, getting funded by Indian people, it only makes sense that the money is accounted for and utilised for the best benefits of sport in the country.

For if there is less opaqueness, there won't be any need to make influential calls or petty things like personality clashes affecting the outcome of any bidding process. If we know where the money is going, there is less chance of murkiness entering the picture. Accountability does not mean excessive regulation or a lack of autonomy. It simply means proper audited accounts, disclosures, corporate governance practices, norms to regulate the monopoly and even specific data on the improvement in sporting standards achieved in the country.


If a young Indian child grows up seeing cricket as yet another example of India's rich and powerful treating the country as their fiefdom, it won't be a good thing. Let's clean up the mess and treat cricket as it is supposed to be a good sport.


The writer is a best-selling novelist .

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

YOU BET WE'RE ALL BETTING

 

WASHINGTON: There's a whole lot of gambling going on. From the decision of New York's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to file a case against Goldman Sachs alleging wrongful betting, to suspicions that many if not most Indian Premier League matches are fixed, it seems like an epidemic of gambling has broken out.

Well, in the words of the cafe owner in the movie Casablanca, it's shocking, simply shocking, for us innocents to discover that people gamble in the financial and sporting worlds. In fact, everyone bets. Life is a gamble, literally. The entire edifice of capitalism is structured on calculated gambling. And so, alas, is life.


Not that we bet with filthy lucre all the time. But we are constantly hedging our chances in life, in which bet-worthy uncertainties abound and in which the only certainty is death, at least at this point in time (wager, anyone?). A simple visit to the doctor involves a weighing of chance. We hear the diagnosis and accept the doctor's prescription hoping we will be rid of an illness that might hurt us, and our ability to earn, by temporarily confining us to bed or by disabling us in the long term or, in the ultimate possibility, robbing us of life itself. We trust and pay the doctor because we have checked out his credentials and he is frank about side effects of the treatment.


It's the same with, say, life insurance. We lay down a sum of money to protect our family from negative financial effects of an end to our lives; the insurance company bets we'll live long enough for them to make a profit from our premiums. Actuaries take care of such complex calculations on the insurer's behalf. It's a gamble in which both sides weigh the risks involved with information that is openly exchanged at the time of taking out a policy. It's the same with all financial transactions. Problems arise when one party or the other hides vital information.

The SEC charges that Goldman Sachs executives not only did not give important information to one client party to a deal (when it knew the other party was in fact betting on the housing market to go down instead of up), it allegedly allowed that other party to pick for investment a set of home loans that it knew would go bad. Goldman Sachs's rebuttal to the charges is what is known as a 'big boys defence'. It says that the allegedly defrauded customers were all big players in the market and therefore should have known the attendant risks, declared and unstated, involved in these transactions. One such risk is that when someone bets one way there must be someone betting the other. That's the story of investment in every financial market.


The Obama administration and the US Congress now plan more regulations to keep Wall Street in check. Meanwhile, the British and the Germans have moved against Goldman Sachs alleging that the firm sold investments secretly intended to backfire on their buyers. The operative word is 'secretly', that is, not telling the whole truth.


A modicum of regulation is necessary in all fields of civilised human activity. That's why umpires are there in cricket; they ensure that the rules of the game are followed so that everyone involved can have a sense of fair play. That's why the thought of betting in the IPL, if true, is worrisome, because most of us don't know what's going on behind the scene. In Britain, bookies offer odds legally on almost every game in the world. In India, betting in sport remains illegal but inevitably happens secretly and without the exchange of transparent information.

Curiously, India allows betting in horse racing. My late dad, who was for a while a regular at the tracks on Saturdays but stopped in middle age, once shared a lesson about incomplete information in gambling. "We would watch a horse's performance in early morning practice runs," he said. "We would compare pedigrees and data from past races. And then place bets, only to lose despite our best calculations. Because one question we couldn't ever answer was: Does the horse know?"

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SCIENCE IS THE SOLUTION

 

Move over, greens. Make way for turqs. Yes, 'turq' is the new term coined by Stewart Brand the brain behind the concept of Earth Day for the new-age environmentalist who will be guided by science and technology. The inspiration for 'turq' is combining the traditional green with blue, which represents openness.


Brand has got it absolutely right. A lot of traditional environmentalists are wedded to old notions of saving the environment by being militantly anti-technology and advocating a return to a simpler way of life. That is a utopian way of looking at things and isn't going to save the world. What will, however, is embracing technology as Brand suggests.


For example, most greens are opposed to nuclear plants. This has led over the past few decades to a boom in coal-fired plants which has harmed the environment irreparably. A turq, on the other hand, will promote nuclear plants as clean technology which can produce the ever-increasing amounts of energy that the world desperately needs.

Another example of the pig-headedness of greens has been the militant advocacy of organic foods. There is no convincing proof that organic food is any healthier than genetically modified food. But the most compelling evidence against organic food is that most people cannot afford it. If GM crops can be produced cheaply and effectively why not go for it, especially in a world where millions don't have enough to eat? Indeed, it could well be argued that opposition to genetically engineered foods has done much more harm than good.


It's time we get used to what Brand says about humans: "We are gods and have to get good at it." We can either try to turn the clock back a doomed enterprise or combat environmental problems with cutting-edge technology. The latter seems infinitely better.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

SCIENTISM CAUSED THE PROBLEM

 

Stewart Brand's turquoise environmentalism claims to combine environmental concerns with technological solutions. Unfortunately, his belief in technology overrides green concerns. The outcome is a vision that verestimates the potential of science and technology to save the Earth.


There is nothing new about Brand's scientism but for its packaging as pragmatic environmentalism. Such pragmatism, which in this case is merely a refusal to see conspicuous consumption as the root of the present environmental crisis, is unlikely to help humankind at this stage. Brand argues that new technological breakthroughs can reshape nature and help mankind persist with its abuse of the Earth. So, he makes a case for nuclear power, genetic engineering and even geoengineering. Technology can't satiate man's greed. Natural resources are finite. There are limits to its exploitation. To hope that science can help man tweak nature and bridge resource shortages is to miss the point. Advances in science and technology are partly to blame for the present crisis.


To put it simply, science is part of the problem. Yes, it could help us recover some of the lost ground. But for that we must recognise first the limits of science. A critical approach to technology alone would help us to regulate its use. Take nuclear power, which people like Brand believe would salvage the world from its dependence on fossil fuel and mitigate climate change. It's debatable if nuclear power can be cost-effective. Disposal of nuclear waste continues to be a serious problem. Security of nuclear installations is another tricky issue. An easier option is to reduce our power consumption. A decentralised and equitable society and economy, localised production of food and other essentials, differently designed buildings, less complex systems etc would help save energy. More cities, more complex technologies are unlikely to facilitate a sustainable world. Are Turqs listening?

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT MUSIC TO OUR EARS

 

Changes to our copyright law realigns it with legislation available in the developed world by giving content creators their due. But there are already murmurs of dissent from the distributors of Indian creativity that amendments to a law enacted half a century ago could seriously upend the country's entertainment industry. A half century in which the world has seen the biggest information revolution since Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. The Copyright Amendment Bill, 2010, which was tabled in the Rajya Sabha this week, tries to cover much ground in our treatment of intellectual property but falls short of what our trading partners, notably the US and the European Union, would have us enact.

The resistance to giving authors, lyricists, singers and directors a share of the royalties is based on the way the Indian entertainment industry is organised and which introduces a very localised set of issues. Films, particularly the song-and-dance variety, form the biggest chunk of entertainment we consume. Playback singing is unique to Bollywood and all its regional cousins, and so far the film and music industries have got along famously by paying songwriters and singers an upfront fee in lieu of their rights. Getting a song on air in India is a more elaborate exercise than in the rest of the world because it usually has a film attached to it. The draft law bans the transfer of these rights. Now royalties will have to be multi-party contracts instead of the current practice of the music company paying the producer of the film. And it doesn't end there. The director of every film will henceforth be a joint owner of the copyright, thereby bumping up the number of people that each contract will have to accommodate. Do the math for a film that has five songs written by two lyricists, sung by five persons and directed by another.

But it is this very structure of entertainment distribution that squeezes out independent deals between artists and music companies. In fact, the existing copyright regime works mainly in favour of the elephant in the room: the film industry. Today one man can write a song, sing it and broadcast it over the internet and, hopefully, make money in the process. Technology is upsetting all the rules of mass media and amendments to the copyright law are in tune with the opportunities the digital world provides. Laws cannot be written for the majority, however big.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

LET'S READ THE FINE PRINT

PRATIK KANJILAL

 

Last week, Penguin Books CEO John Makinson said that there is no real market for books in India. White man he not speak with forked tongue. Surely he was referring to volumes in English publishing in India, which are indeed poor by Western standards. His candour is a refreshing change from the insane enthusiasm of foreign publishers who expect our market to explode any moment. But perhaps Makinson missed the ferment of activity in Indian language publishing, which churns out almost 50,000 titles every year. Everyone seems to miss this vernacular revolution hidden from angrez eyes.

 

But then I learned of the National Library's plan to found a Museum of the Word to celebrate the many-layered history of shabda in India. In retrospect, it is amazing that we don't have one in a country which is a Babel of tongues and a maze of scripts. And home to one of the two dozen undeciphered scripts in the world, courtesy the Indus Valley civilisation.

 

The National Library has just vacated its old digs in Kolkata in favour of a modern, climate controlled building. It is planning to turn the old heritage building, which was once the home of Warren Hastings, Bengal's first Governor General, into the museum. Exhibits will range from clay tablets to printing equipment like superannuated letterpresses.

 

These days, when everyone has about a hundred fonts installed on their computers, we are beginning to forget the romance of printing, whose discovery was the watershed event of the modern period. It energised the Renaissance in Europe, initiated the age of science, laid the foundation of the modern knowledge economy and changed politics forever by taking learning to the masses. But its romance is remembered only in repositories of the history of the word, like the Gutenberg Museum in Mainz, Germany, the birth city of the goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg, who invented the first printing press for moveable type. For a publisher like me, to see his 42-line Bible and to actually help to print something with my own hands on a replica of his press was something like an epiphany.

 

The printing revolution casts a dramatic shadow over the history of the word. But I wonder if the National Library's museum will care to remember the oral tradition, the crucible of the word, which lives on in traditional Sanskrit teaching, among nomadic and tribal people and in everyday folk sayings. And it is impossible to ignore the translations which went out of India in ancient times, to places as far apart as Baghdad and Shanghai, and influenced the growth of Buddhism, the sciences, philosophy and mathematics. We are living in the third age of the word. The digital age was preceded by the Gutenberg era, but behind that the first age of the word stretches back for millennia.

 

Last week, I was buying shirts in Kolkata's Fabindia store, where shoppers are routinely surprised to find Brahmi inscriptions over the door lintels. It's located in the home of the late Suniti Kumar Chatterji, the pathbreaking linguist who raised a furore in 1968 by declaring that the Ramayana was derived from the Buddhist Jataka tales. The pre-Gutenberg history of the word lives on in the most unexpected places, like a south Kolkata residence. Really, it deserves a museum.

 

Pratik Kanjilal is publisher of The Little Magazine

 

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

DOUBLE ROLE MODELS

GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI

 

 'Salt?' they asked in amused disbelief. Of all the oppressive laws of the Raj, the Mahatma had decided in the March of 1930 to break its salt Laws. And challenge, of all iniquitous taxes, the tax on salt. There was derision. And laughter. "Let him make the thing and eat it too!"

But by the time he was on his way to Dandi with 80 men, most of who were less than 30 years old, something deep had stirred within India's psyche. Reaching Gujarat's seaboard, Gandhi lifted a fistful of salt-ingrained sand. That act seemed to say, 'This salt is yours. It was gifted to you by nature, like air and water. No government, much less a foreign government, has the right to hold it in thrall.' That was on April 6, 1930.

By May, over 95,000 salt satyagrahis were in prison, as were India's leaders, along with Gandhi himself. Among those taken in was the Congress' newly-elected president, Jawaharlal Nehru. With his wife Kamala, the 41-year-old leader had defied the salt laws in Allahabad. Nehru was sentenced to six months' simple imprisonment.

Though his own entry for that day in his pocket diary said 'Great Day!', the circumstances were grim. Nehru was placed in a part of the jail that had been earmarked for dangerous prisoners. And he discovered, to no surprise, that his circular cell was known throughout the jail as 'kuttaghar', or doghouse. "Was it my fancy," he was to wonder in his autobiography, "or is it a fact that a circular wall reminds one more of captivity than a rectangular one?" And he added: "The absence of corners and angles adds to the sense of oppression."

When the bolt clangs shut behind one, the particularisms of lock, chain and wall magnify into a titan of depression. One can let them do so. Or one can reverse the sequence and, instead of letting the minute become maximal, go to the unchained canvas of knowledge and pull it in to miniatures of a new cogency.

Relying on memory and his own notes from previous reading, Nehru wrote from his cell in Naini a series of letters to his 13-year-old daughter Indira. They were on the history of the human civilisation. "I cannot say if you will like these letters..." he wrote to Indira. "But I have decided to write them for my own pleasure." His pleasure was the world's profit.

The collection of letters, a gift of contraband salt, became the first 18 chapters of Glimpses of World History. Appearing in 1934, the work was naturally compared to H.G. Wells' Outline of World History. Far away in America, the New York Times said Wells' book looked "singularly insular" in comparison with Nehru's, which was "one of the most remarkable books ever written".

Nothing could have been more reductionist than making a national struggle pivot on to a single crystal of salt. Nothing could have been more maximalist than letting the white grain grow into an account of the history of the world.

Holed up in the Naini cell was a son, a husband, a father, a nationalist. But liberating himself from the circularities of cell, of family and even of the cause of the nation was an individual with a mind that travelled far and fast — and alone . Writing those chapters on world history, he was being the tarun tapasvi — the youthful stoic — soldiering for India on his own terms, and being his own person on India's terms.

Can the story of the salt satyagraha, or of the freedom struggle itself captivate the tarun of today's India?

At a convocation where composer and musician A.R. Rahman was being given an honorary doctorate, I saw an unforgettable scene. The shamiana was teeming with youngsters, boys and girls, from all sections of Indian society. They sat patiently and attentively through the long ceremony. But when, after the speeches were over, Rahman went up to them, they just erupted. With, of course, 'Jai Ho!

I could not but wonder at how seamlessly we have moved from 'Jai Hind!' to 'Jai Ho!' Whose 'jai' is signalled in the cry that Rahman's genius has turned into a marvel of two-syllabled aspiration? And what is the difference  between  the two 'jais?

I could be wrong, but I think where 'Jai Hind!' had a clear and single message of patriotism, 'Jai Ho!' contains — like the Beatles' 'Help!', an individual's longing for assurance.

In a mind-rinsing article in Mint (April 8), Ramesh Ramanathan describes a discussion. The issue:  Mohandas Gandhi is debating on whether he should give his life to India's freedom or become a good husband, father, householder — all of which he is very good at being. What would you, if you were his closest adviser, ask him to do? Ramanathan links this speculative question to the practical one of why a larger cause, like India's greatness, cannot combine today with the imperatives of personal success. "Why cannot we do both?" he asks.

I can imagine the students at the Rahman convocation saying 'Jai Ho!' is in my desire, but 'Jai Hind!' is another story, for that we will need a rahnuma.

Is the twinning of personal and national instincts impossible without the catalyst of a millennial leader? Kamal Amrohi's hauntingly beautiful 1949 film Mahal has a scene in which the train leaving Allahabad stops at a station. The station is none other than Naini. The film's plangent song 'Aaega aane waalaa' has a line that holds both a lament and a challenge for us:

'Bhatki hui jawaani manzil ko dhuundhati hai,

Maajhi baghair nayyaa saahil ko dhuundhati hai...'

The metaphorical Naini, free and fascinating, is a manzil, a saahil, a station, where a Tarun Special can find its destination.

Gopalkrishna Gandhi was the Governor of West Bengal from 2004 to 2009

The views expressed by the author are personal

 

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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

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

COTTONING ON

 

On Monday, news had come that the Union ministry of textiles had imposed a "total ban" on the export of cotton. Pause to imagine this for a moment: India has just banned the export of its largest cash crop. Why? Because prices have risen this year: according to the Cotton Association of India, the price of long-staple cotton has increased 27 per cent in the past year, to Rs 7,958 per 100 kg. Those reflect international prices, which are today at record highs. But, in today's India, can that ever even begin to be a reason to ban exports?

 

That ensures that cotton growers can't benefit from higher prices; that they have to break contracts with users of raw cotton elsewhere in the world, causing them to acquire undeserved reputations for riskiness. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who represents a state where cotton growing is a major occupation (as is, crucially, the production of cotton yarn and textiles), has written a strongly-worded letter to the prime minister, calling the restriction "barbaric" and "anti-farmer". This restriction is a barefaced victory for well organised interests — the cotton yarn industry lobby — at the expense of, once again, farmers.

 

There is another reason why this action is shockingly timed, as well as unacceptable in a mature, democratic economy. We are at the threshold of the annual meeting of South Asian heads of government. It has been the stated policy of this country, for strategic reasons, to enhance trade ties with its neighbours. Bangladesh's textile industry is obviously dependent on Indian cotton exports. Surely decisions like these should be made keeping in mind India's neighbourhood and the momentum towards economic integration in South Asia. Is pandering to the cotton yarn lobby worth impoverishing Indian farmers, ruining their reputations — and putting our national security at risk?

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

 

NOT JUST CRICKET

 

In Bring Home the Revolution, his celebration of Americana, journalist Jonathan Freedland wrote: "The advantage of a political culture which can debate matters of national import through the medium of a celebrity scandal or a blockbuster movie is that everyone can take part." Certainly, with IPL-gate, political debate in this country has opened itself to all kinds of interventions and readings of what exactly must be the next move to deal with the improprieties at hand. So, on Friday, as the opposition stalled proceedings in both Houses of Parliament over a demand for a joint parliamentary probe, they indulged themselves with spot commentaries on what it is that ails cricket in this country.

 

Governments have used the JPC option with varying degrees of success in bringing multi-party clarity on a raging issue, and to distil some sort of solution — on issues as assorted as contamination of soft drinks to stockmarket manipulation. Yet, if this JPC is won by the threat of obstructing parliamentary proceedings, and conceded only to gain some political quiet, it would not necessarily be to the benefit of cricket. The air currently is too curdled with suspicions of both cover-up and vendetta. The problems in cricket administration that the IPL has highlighted relate to opaque procedures and conflicts of interest fuelled by patronage. The IPL was a sound innovation by the BCCI, but set up in a manner to benefit a small club. The game has, however, not been the worse off for it. The challenge therefore is to save the IPL's innovative content while cleaning up its administration.

 

What's worrying is the current clamour for solutions that involve anything from nationalisation of the BCCI to returning cricket to a mythical past in which factors of commerce and profitability had no bearing on how it was played. Cricket has seen constant innovation in the past decades — from one-day internationals, to abolition of rest days in Tests, to the use of technology to assist umpires, to Twenty20, and now, when the club of cricket-playing nations shows no sign of growing, to a league format. To check innovativeness would be to check cricket's growth. In many ways cricket has to be protected from some of its biggest enthusiasts.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

CASTE IN IRON

 

Mirchpur village in Hisar, Haryana was the site of stunning and shameful violence in recent days. Caste tensions have always trembled beneath the surface in this region, and this time, they broke over a pebble pelted at a stray dog. After a brawl with the Balmikis, on April 19, a mob of 40 Jats stormed into the village and set fire to 10 Dalit homes. Among those killed were 17-year-old Suman, a polio-stricken invalid, and her father Tara Chand.

 

While the unacknowledged apartheid of caste continues to blight India in many everyday ways, open caste wars are proliferating in Haryana, much like Bihar of a few decades back. Khap panchayats and their atavistic, cruel judgments are only one manifestation of the way caste relations continue to choke Haryana. A Jat social structure, the khap is a cluster of several villages and castes — in Haryana, it continues to enforce medieval injunctions against mixed-gotra marriage, and it does so with social intimidation and violence. Young couples who dared to fall in love have been killed in cold blood, their families ostracised. And yet, it is only as recently as last month that a sessions court awarded a fitting punishment to such acts. And yet, khap leaders were defiant, insisting that caste honour transcended state law. Public officials and enforcement officers condone the structural injustice of these systems, explaining it away as a "custom", an age-old tradition in the region. This is fed by the worst kind of political complicity — parties have tended to slice and dice the state by caste, into exploitable votebanks. Given how feeble real panchayati raj institutions are, it is in their narrow interest to keep the distinctions sharp, and their electoral mobilisations effective. In fact, the Haryana government has even defended khap panchayats, claiming that prosecuting them under the Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act 1967 would be a "rash step", and would destabilise law and order. Identity assertions have become more and more raucous in Haryana, encouraged by a cynical politics.

 

No matter what the police weakly mumble about providing security, there is no answer to the anguished question these Dalit villagers ask: where were the police when members of their community were burnt to death? For two days, the police dawdled, knowing full well that this violence was anticipated. Caste violence clings on in Haryana because it suits everyone to keep this polarisation politically potent. Unless the state's political formations realise the danger of perpetrating old oppressions for short-term electoral benefit, the situation threatens to spiral entirely out of their control and management.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

JUST WHO IS THE AAM AADMI?

YOGINDER K. ALAGH

 

The Tendulkar report, as this column has been forced to point out once already, has not solved the poverty conundrum by facilely rejigging the old official urban poverty line as the new national (rural and urban) poverty line. That is the context in which the Planning Commission's decision to accept the Tendulkar report for food security objectives alone should be seen: that it is correctly holding back its judgment on the poverty question. Unfortunately the political debate, unlike an opinion page column, is not particularly intellectually discriminating — and so attacks on this (Planning Commission) position is coming from that quarter.

 

First, the facts. The Tendulkar report has two merits and one shortcoming. It gives up the old official poverty line. But not wholly so; and the new line is the "urban" line in the old poverty system — sometimes called the Alagh Poverty Line, since in the late '70s it was laid down by a Planning Commission task force I chaired. This is mandated as the new poverty line for both rural and urban areas. I have wanted this for two decades, since India has moved on from the '70s; but any amount of effort, any number of committees, would not do it.

 

Tendulkar says he has, but really he does it only a part of the way. There is an advantage in the method suggested. Some indicators of malnutrition map on very elegantly — statistically speaking — on to the new Tendulkar expenditure poverty line. The old line went from calories required (depending on sex, work status and so on) to the poverty line. The emphasis then was on grain, although some calories came from non-grains also. Now non-grains are important. The objective is food — and food, as Tendulkar brings out, is not just grains any more. Its great merit is that if we go from the political arguments of kilos of grain and rupees per kilo to severely undernourished mothers and the girl child, we have the tools to do so — as, in his individual capacity, Abhijit Sen showed in a recent meeting in Patna. But as a very savvy chief minister argued, people look at it as "who is above" and "who is below"; and the numbers and the Tendulkar numbers come from the old urban poverty line. As I said recently, the Alagh Poverty Line comes back as an unwanted Banquo's ghost.

 

The rural development ministry has already circulated a concept note, which makes the rather simple point, one the CMs are also making, that there has to be a tallying between the macro (Tendulkar/ Planning Commission) poverty numbers and the numbers thrown up by household-level surveys. They suggest exclusion criteria. It is extremely unlikely that this will be accepted. The Tendulkar report has the merit that if we define the malnutrition norms as very severe, etc, we could from its mapping distributions get a number for food security and the field level would correspond to it with a small range of errors. We could then have a larger list of beneficiaries, the way the ministry wants, but that would be a political question and not all of them would get the largesse of the state as compared to the malnourished girl child or her mother.

 

Neat — but a CM I tried to entrap in this one would not bite. There is, he said, no possibility of consensus.

 

But he wanted a national commission to do this. I have asked for this before: a non-trivial definition of the "aam aadmi" by a national goals exercise. But this time the GOI side-stepped it by setting up another expert committee. We must not let these questions, and the activists who gherao the Planning Commission, delay the food security plan. Suresh Tendulkar has given us enough to get started. There is time to fashion an answer to the larger question — and by that time to review both NREGA and food security again.

 

The writer, a former Union minister, is chairman, Institute of Rural Management, Anand

express@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

IPL BABY, IPL BATHWATER

SHEKHAR GUPTA

 

Responding to the charge last year that the BCCI was forced to pull IPL out of India to South Africa because the government was incapable of providing security, Home Minister P. Chidambaram had made a characteristically sharp comment. "IPL," he said, "is a very shrewd and successful mix of cricket and entertainment. There is no reason to bring politics into it." Unfortunately, that is exactly what has happened over these past two weeks.

 

Politics has not just got mixed up with cricket, it is now threatening to overwhelm and damage it. Our headlines have been dominated by the stories of raids and leaks even while two semi-finals have been played, to packed houses. Tomorrow is the final of what has been, at least on the cricket ground, a wonderful tournament. It would be tragic if just because of the shenanigans of a chosen few who have operated for six years as if they "own" the game, IPL itself were to acquire a bad name. It is a wonderful product, a brilliant, new "all Indian" brand that we have come to feel proud of and which has attracted both envy and admiration in the entire cricket-playing world. It has generated unprecedented wealth for the game, and also distributed it among a very large number of cricketers. Thousands of other jobs have been created. Even more importantly, though, see what it is doing for Indian cricket. New stadiums and world-class facilities are coming up all over the country from Bangalore to Dharamsala, Chandigarh to Chennai and now on to Kochi, funded by the surpluses of IPL.

 

The problem with Indian cricket or IPL is not commercialisation or some new godawfully decadent hedonism that is corrupting the game. The game is, actually, in really fine fettle. Better than it has ever been in our history. India, today, is ranked at the top in Test cricket, at number two in ODIs, and already has one T20 World Cup in its cupboard. This has been achieved in the past three years and is no fluke, as our steady climb in Test and ODI rankings shows. Our bench strength is better than ever in our history, and our cricket is held in respect and awe it never commanded.

So what is the problem? It is a simple and yet a serious one. And it is mostly political. This phase in Indian cricket began with the ascent of Sharad Pawar as the BCCI president, demolishing Jagmohan Dalmiya. Mind you, the rise of Indian cricket had already begun under Dalmiya, marked by our stellar performances against Steve Waugh's supposedly invincible Australians. The new clout of Indian cricket reflected in his election as the first Indian ICC president. But he had run the board at his own authoritarian whim and made powerful enemies drawn from the entire political spectrum. They wanted revenge the moment power changed hands in BCCI. What complicated the situation was the fact that this also coincided with the arrival of UPA-I, and with it the exalted new stature of Sharad Pawar in national politics. It was the first time that a top-ranking politician, in fact a senior cabinet member packing the added clout of a major coalition partner, took over BCCI. Dalmiya was now left to fight all kinds of demons, including criminal cases filed by BCCI. In that feudal, winner-takes-all frenzy, the rest of the cricketing establishment rallied around Pawar, sinking all difference of politics and principle. So you saw Sharad Pawar, Rajiv Shukla, Arun Jaitley, Narendra Modi, C.P. Joshi, Anurag Thakur (Dhumal junior), Lalu Prasad quite literally on the same page, preening for the camera. They were joined by others, some purely from the world of business (N. Srinivasan of India Cements, now board secretary, owner of Chennai Super Kings and a Lalit Modi antagonist), some from that peculiar, sleazy but heady world that sits on the cusp of business and provincial politics, like Lalit Modi, and some from absolutely nowhere, like indeed the current BCCI president, Shashank (who is he?) Manohar. It is an aside, but an important one, so let me mention it. In October 2004 when Dalmiya was riding high mainly on India's on-field successes, and "needed to be put in his place", the groundsman in Nagpur had produced a green top for the India-Australia Test (when India were trailing 0-1 with only one more Test to go) so fast-bowler friendly, that one look at it on the morning of Day 1 and Captain Sourav Ganguly got such a stomach-ache that he couldn't play. Of course India lost within four days, and Australia had conquered their "last frontier", winning a series in India. Dalmiya was brought down a peg too. Of course Shashank Manohar's Nagpur has not produced another wicket like that since. There isn't very much more a mere mortal can say on this, but on some day of reckoning a distinguished gentleman from Nagpur would have to answer a tough question or two on this.

 

This slice of our cricketing history is relevant because it tells you what a vicious political game goes on for power in the BCCI. With the rise of an all-powerful Pawar, all dissent, competition, internal political challenge, democracy vanished. Along with it disappeared any semblance of checks and balances. The new cricketing establishment became a cosy, closed, exclusive club whose members struck out together in a display of loyalty not expected from our political class. BCCI in fact, has now emerged as India's only genuinely bipartisan "political" body, or rather the only multi-party parliament that functions without adjournments, albeit with no opposition. So close is this political core group that the occasional differences, if at all, have only arisen between the non-politicians like Modi and Srinivasan, for example.

 

It was this comfy club to which Shashi Tharoor sought an entry with such a touching sense of entitlement. And you could not really blame him. He went to the same parties, was a natural fit in the same socio-political network and, if anything, was better than them at playing cricket. His problem was impatience that led him into a mutually self-destructive school-kid-like fight with Lalit Modi. The collateral damage was, however, much greater. The fight broke the five-year omerta (apologies for drawing from the mafia's vocabulary, no offence meant) within the cricketing establishment.

 

This is what invited the government into the affairs of Indian cricket. Armies of taxmen are now raiding anybody with anything to do with cricket as if they have busted the underground network of Dawood Ibrahim or discovered the headquarters of Lashkar-e-Toiba. There are weird demands to ban IPL, nationalise BCCI. Even usually sensible people are saying BCCI should be made a statutory but "autonomous" body. All of this is dangerous for India's cricket and must stop. Indian cricket has never been in better shape. IPL is the finest new Indian brand of global value. The crisis in BCCI and IPL is something we are familiar with in the corporate world. It is a crisis brought upon by a combination of disastrous corporate governance and lack of transparency. It is a bit like Satyam, and for a government that converted that disaster into an opportunity, tossing all knee-jerk demands for nationalisation, this is one more such opportunity.

 

BCCI does not need government control or oversight. It needs corporatisation so it is brought into a transparent, tax-paying, tax-audited, regime where it is made to declare quarterly results and file regulatory compliances. And as we set about instituting that fundamental reform, Pranab Mukherjee would do well to call a halt, or at least take a strategic time-out, on this ridiculous televised tamasha which is best described as T20 of tax raids.

 

sg@expressindia.com

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PARTY HILA DENGE

Y P RAJESH

 

Exactly around this time last year, Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar was riding a wave that had been created out of nowhere by his own party. The Maratha strongman had, out of the blue, "emerged" as a candidate for the job of prime minister in the event of the highly fractured mandate the electorate was forecast to give. So he was flirting with parties as varied as the Shiv Sena and the Biju Janata Dal, while the Congress watched, mostly speechless. Events were so dramatic that even a proposed election rally he was supposed to address with BJD chief Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar triggered a crisis of confidence between the NCP and the Congress — and a last minute "aircraft snag" rescued everyone, as Pawar could not make it to Orissa.

 

But one year is a very long time in Indian politics; and no one would know that better than the wily old Maratha strongman. Much has changed for the Congress and the NCP since, and all the news, innuendo, half-truths and conjecture about the role of the NCP — particularly that of Pawar's family and of his Man Friday, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel — in the IPL mess now, caps what has been a traumatic year for the party and its ties with the Congress. Although it is too early to conclusively say if this crisis will be the turning point in the love-hate relationship between the Congress and its rebellious offspring, reading the tea leaves indicates that this could be a critical milestone.

 

Congress-NCP ties have mostly had a sense of superficial calmness in Maharashtra. But prick the surface and out comes a plethora of friction, of conflict over everything from development funds and real estate contracts to the appointment of police officers and sharing seats in municipal polls. And both parties have used every such opportunity to publicly indicate that there is no love lost between them and that theirs is only a marriage of convenience. They have also not wasted any time in seeking to grab the other's share of political equity, to make up for a division which split the secular vote in one of India's largest states.

 

The ongoing chapter in that saga started with Pawar aspiring to become PM yet again, his party seeking a larger share of Lok Sabha seats even though data showed that the Congress had done better than the NCP in a series of local elections in the previous five years, and some Congress leaders talking of going it alone. A Congress unsure of its poll prospects gave in to many of the demands only to be surprised beyond belief when the results turned the tables and pushed its tally beyond 200 nationally and gave it a huge lead vis-à-vis the NCP in Maharashtra. Yet, an unusually benevolent Congress agreed to NCP demands and gave the party three ministerial berths at the Centre — even though the NCP's tally had fallen to single digits. But that did not stop the NCP from recreating the drama all over again ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly elections last October, and once again seeing its fortunes take a beating at the hustings.

 

The Congress has since then had the upper hand in political machinations involving the NCP, both in Delhi, and more so in Mumbai. It has been on the offensive: suggesting that the NCP should merge with the Congress since the raison d'etre for its existence — the foreign origin of Sonia Gandhi — was no longer an issue. Pawar as agriculture minister was blamed openly for spiraling food prices; while in Maharashtra, the Congress has been showing off its new, aggressive self, thumbing its nose at NCP ministers and frequently trespassing on their territory.

 

Congress politicians in Maharashtra think the IPL mess NCP has landed itself in is the icing on this cake. But they also know that if push comes to shove and the NCP is made to pay a price it feels is too high and unreasonable, Pawar and co are capable of pulling the plug on the Congress and supping with the enemy, the Shiv Sena. The NCP has indeed given glimpses of this side of its character over the years, whether it was the recent civic polls in which it chose to contest alone, or the infamous "Pune Pattern", under which it supported the Shiv Sena to wrest power from the Congress in the Pune Municipal Corporation.

 

Losing Maharashtra would be too heavy a price for the Congress to pay and the NCP seems confident with that knowledge: a way will be found out of the IPL crisis. The Congress too knows that this is an opportunity it can use to push the NCP on the backfoot for quite a while, without pushing it off the edge. Like that funny TV commercial about politicians and IPL tickets, both sides are probably thinking, "party hila denge". For now though, it is the NCP that is more shaken up.

 

yp.rajesh@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ABOUT 420 — AND 415, 409, 405

 

VINAY SITAPATI

As allegations fly against Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi, one specific allegation is that Multi-Screen Media (formerly Sony Entertianment Television, India) paid US dollars 80 million as 'facilitation fees' to reacquire the telecast rights of the IPL. The allegation is that this amount was paid to Lalit Modi, in return for telecasting rights. These are unproven. But hypothetically, if the case is proved, VINAY SITAPATI examines some of the laws that Modi would have violated (for just this one allegation), and the possible punishment that he might face:

 

MONEY LAUNDERING

Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, anyone who is "connected with the proceeds of crime and projecting it as untainted property" is guilty of money laundering. This is a broad definition, and punishment under the Act is between three to seven years in jail, including a fine. But according to Sanjeev Sachdeva, partner (indirect taxes) in the law firm Luthra & Luthra, this Act's real power is that "once notice is issued, the tainted assets can be siezed". In other words, Modi's assets could be siezed even while the case drags on.

 

TAX AVOIDANCE

Under the Income Tax Act, if a taxpayer conceals his income, he is liable to pay upto 300 per cent of the tax avoided, along with interest. If income tax officials are able to prove that Modi received some of the 80 million dollars, he will have to pay penalties on the tax avoided. In addition, Section 276C provides the possibility of a jail sentence ranging from six months to seven years for a "wilful attempt to evade tax". But this clause is hardly ever invoked, especially for first time offenders, says a tax expert from a prominent consultancy firm, who did not wish to be identified as he was advising an interested party.

 

CRIMINAL BREACH OF TRUST

A Delhi-based criminal lawyer, who wished to remain unnamed as he is involved in the matter, says that " in case of 'corruption' in a private organisation, the charge most usually employed is criminal breach of trust." If the Indian Premier League is in fact a private body, then Modi could be booked under Section 405 of the Indian Penal Code which penalises those who, when "entrusted with property, or with any dominion over property, dishonestly misappropriates" it. The punishment, defined in Section 409, can be upto ten years in jail, including a fine.

 

CHEATING

If allegations are proved against Modi, that would mean that a fellow-bidder to the broadcasting rights was cheated out of their right to transparent auction by Lalit Modi. These competitors could file an FIR against Modi for cheating, defined under Section 415 of the IPC, and punishable under Section 420 with a fine and/or imprisonment upto seven years.

 

CORRUPTION?

Whether Modi would be guilty of "corruption" depends on whether he is a "public servant". This seems unlikely given that in 2005, the Supreme Court has held that the IPL's parent body, the BCCI, is not the "state", though it carries out a public service and must be open to public scrutiny. Besides, Modi may not fit into any of the definitions of "public servant" in Section 2 (c) of the Prevention of Corruption Act or Section 21 of the Indian Penal Code. As Supreme Court senior advocate Rajeev Dhavan says: "IPL may be a private body engaging in a public function, but under criminal law, it is unlikely that Modi can be considered a public servant." However, if Modi is found to be a "public servant", he could face punishment ranging from six months to five years under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

LET WALL STREET HOWL

 

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 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, 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 IMF 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?

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

POWERLESS PAKISTAN

RUCHIKA TALWAR

 

The biggest news this week in Pakistan originated not from the country's corridors of power; it pertains to power of a different kind, from the streets. Newspapers reported protesters complaining about the severe electricity crisis being faced by the country.

 

The Daily Times reported on April 19: "Protests against prolonged load shedding continued... with outages reaching 20 hours in Punjab." Politicians grabbed a chance to gain political mileage: "Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif said he will fight for the rights of the province if justice is not done with Punjab..." A separate report added: "Demonstrations were witnessed in Lahore... including two massive protests by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and Jamaat-e-Islami..."

 

The PPP government at the Centre was on the defensive now, suggests a report in Dawn: " PM Yousaf Raza Gilani has sought CMs' support in containing the countrywide protests... A senior official said the government had received intelligence reports that protests were turning into riots in some areas and had the potential of becoming an anti-government movement." An energy conference was called, reported Dawn on April 20: "Sources said if the proposals for conservation discussed were implemented... the duration of loadshedding could come down by at least four hours..." Another report added: " Shahbaz has presented a nine-point formula for minimising the impact of the crisis ." On April 21, The News reported quick action in Lahore the following day: "Punjab government has decided to close down all commercial centers and marriage halls after 9 pm from today..."

 

The strategy to combat the crisis was unveiled on April 23, as The News reported: "two weekly holidays in the public sector; markets to close by 8 pm; ban on unauthorised usage of ACs in government offices; 50 per cent reduction in power usage in the presidency, PM House, CM Houses, Governor's Houses and all top government functionaries." The 8 pm curfew didn't go down well with businessmen, reported Daily Times : "Traders have threatened to observe a shutter-down strike against the decision of closing businesses by 8 pm... They warned they'd keep shops open until 10 pm and retaliate if the government used force..." Dawn reported the ire of Karachi's power elite: " Elected representatives and opinion leaders reacted strongly to the conservation measures under which 300 megawatts will be diverted from Karachi to other power-starved areas of the country. L eaders in the Sindh assembly described the measures as 'ill-advised', and 'a conspiracy to create a law and order situation'."

 

ACtion taken report

The first victims of the UN report on Benazir Bhutto's assassination have begun to be picked out, reported Daily Times on April 19: "The interior ministry has placed several names, including those of former intelligence officials, on the exit control list... As many as six police officials who were serving during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf have been put on the 'duty suspension list'." Dawn voiced popular concern: "However, there was no word about the fate of the PPP leaders identified by the report for having provided 'insufficient' security cover to Ms Bhutto. These leaders include high-profile government functionaries such as Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza." The News added to the debate: "S ome people have heaved a sigh of relief over being almost exonerated by the UN commission while there are others who have become even more agitated as they say the whole exercise was nothing but a hogwash and waste of public money and time. But the report has become extremely controversial. Doubts are being cast over its credibility, after it was withheld for 15 days on request... the dilemma is the people who were interviewed by the Commission as 'suspects' ... are the ones who are holding the most important positions... For instance, Rehman Malik, who was security adviser to Ms Bhutto... The person who failed to provide security to one politician has now been entrusted with providing security to the whole nation." Dawn quoted Bhutto's chief protocol officer on April 22 as saying: "Malik and Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Babar Awan should step down and present themselves before the investigation team and provide information about the assassination..."

 

Amendment questioned

In the run-up to the sealing of the 18 th amendment, a number of petitions have been filed questioning the propriety of some judicial reforms. Dawn reported on April 20: "The day President Asif Zardari signed the bill into law, a second petition was moved in the Supreme Court challenging the constitution of a judicial commission for the appointment of superior court judges... " The News on April 22 added: "The Supreme Court Bar Association challenged in the apex court the composition of the judicial commission... It prayed the court to declare the procedure for the appointment of judges as ultra vires of the constitution." Meanwhile, The News reported the law ministry had ordered the production of "over 5,000 copies of the new constitution."

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

REIN IN THE RAIDS

 

That the IPL needs cleaning up is not in question. But there is now a real danger of the clean-up exercise turning into a misdirected populist tirade. This must be stopped in its tracks. The last time there were such a number of almost indiscriminate income tax raids on corporate entities was probably two decades ago during the government of VP Singh. And that was an unhappy period, at least for doing business. Blanket income tax raids, more often than not, simply end up as tools of harassment. Needless to say, they do not make for a conducive environment to do business. Two decades of economic liberalisation has precisely done away with such arbitrary practices against business by agencies of the state. It cannot be allowed to return now. Sure, there is plenty of reason to investigate certain business dealings in the IPL. But the agencies charged with that job must follow a careful method. There is every chance that not everyone involved with the IPL has committed wrongdoing, and so it serves little purpose painting everyone with the same brush of taint. Worse, it is too easy to damn the idea of money in sport as some politicians are attempting to do. But the problem isn't money in sport—cricket and indeed other sports need all the money they can get—but the manner in which business was being conducted. That distinction needs to be understood and maintained.

 

The other confusion that seems to have almost reached a point of hysteria is the role of tax havens and allegations of money laundering. Now, money laundering and tax evasion, if proved, are serious offences. But just because an investment has come from a tax haven like Mauritius or Cayman Islands doesn't automatically make it suspect. India, in fact, has a double taxation avoidance treaty with Mauritius that allows firms based there, and doing business out of there, to legitimately not pay tax in India. There is, of course, a larger debate on whether tax havens should be allowed to maintain their tax-free status, and this is something that is being discussed at forums like the G-20 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. But to mix up that debate with the dealings of the IPL is silly. For now, there is nothing illegal per se about tax havens. There is, therefore, an urgent need to add a dose of realism to the IPL investigation. We need to catch the wrong-doers but the exercise should not become a witch-hunt.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

OIL'S NOT WELL, AGAIN

 

As FE reported on Thursday, petroleum secretary S Sundareshan is concerned that the combined under-recoveries of India's three state-run oil marketing companies (OMCs)—Indian Oil Corporation, BPCL and HPCL—could go over Rs 1 lakh crore in 2010-11 if the average oil price remains $80 a barrel. The budgetary impact of such a scenario cannot be overstated. Given that the government has yet to fully compensate these retailers for last year's under-recoveries of Rs 45,000 crore and given that this year's projected under-recoveries are 122% higher, the clear implication of Sundareshan's statement is that this year's Budget plan for a lower fiscal deficit of 5.5% of GDP is facing the gravest of threats. In his Budget speech, the FM referred to the Kirit Parikh Committee report on decontrolling oil prices but then tossed the final decision on the recommendations of that report into the petroleum minister's court. His most controversial Budget proposal involved hiking customs duty and excise duty on petroleum products, which provoked an extraordinary walkout by the entire Opposition. And let us emphasise that hiking duties didn't even begin to address the fundamental issue of deregulation of oil prices. Now, the government has to choose between rationalising the prices of petroleum products and changing its target for the fiscal deficit. There is no third alternative.

 

Whether the government supports under-recoveries via oil bonds or cash payments, with the FM pledging to try and favour the latter as the former are off-budget, there is no gainsaying their hugely negative impact on the Indian economy. To name just a few downers, first, we are not building incentives for investing in less expensive alternatives and improving energy efficiency. Second, because their balance sheets have been weakened by years of under-recoveries, India's petroleum PSUs allocate less than 1% of their turnover to R&D. This represents a serious lag compared to international players. So, even as imports represent three-quarters of India's oil needs, domestic players are not investing enough in either improving existing recovery rates or in foraying for overseas resources. Third, while the government has backed state-run PSUs' under-recoveries, private players have been abandoning the game altogether. This has left the domestic petroleum products market rather short of necessary competition. We could go on, because there are so many reasons why the market for petrol and diesel should be freed up, as the Kirit Parikh Committee recommended. On the flip side, UPA has one solid reason for maintaining status quo. The Opposition will howl loud, protest marches will gain cache. But the bottom line is this: must meaningful reforms await populist cheer?

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT'S EITHER INFLATION OR EXCHANGE RATE

ILA PATNAIK

 

RBI raised the repo, reverse repo and the CRR by 25 basis points each this week. With this, RBI has given a clear indication to the markets that it will not tolerate higher inflation. However, if RBI's actions on the currency market are inconsistent with tighter monetary policy, this policy move will not be successful in controlling inflation.

 

Higher policy rates impact inflation mainly through the 'bank lending channel' and the 'exchange rate channel'. RBI and the government now need to ensure that these channels work efficiently so that inflation is conquered and further rate hikes are not required. If these channels do not work, it will require rates to be raised much more sharply than RBI may like to. For some time, banks have faced relatively low demand for credit. But as industrial growth picks up and the demand for credit rises, higher policy rates and higher CRR imply that bank credit should become more costly. Higher interest rates will keep the demand for credit in check. All banks may not raise interest rates immediately. If RBI continues on the path of tightening, one will soon see a situation when banks raise lending rates.

 

The second channel through which higher interest rates restrain inflation is the exchange rate channel. Monetary policy in the US and Europe is likely to remain loose for some time to come. A hike in interest rates in India pulls in capital inflows by increasing interest differentials with the rest of the world. This will help the rupee strengthen. A stronger rupee will reduce the price of tradables, and offset some of the global tradables inflation. These are primarily non-food items that shape the 'core inflation' that RBI has been most worried about. So, the pressure on higher prices, both in the local economy and with global tradables, is partly offset through a policy of higher interest rates and a resulting stronger rupee.

 

RBI governor D Subbarao has said in some post-credit policy interviews that RBI is not using rupee appreciation to control inflation. Regardless of what the intent may be, a strong rupee does help in containing inflation. If, alongside raising rates, RBI gets into trading on the currency market in order to force a strong dollar, it would be inconsistent. This will drive up the price of tradables. This will result in higher WPI manufacturing inflation and then put pressure on RBI to hike rates further, thus revealing the lack of consistency of the policy mix. Also, controlling liquidity will become difficult if RBI buys dollars to prevent appreciation. Policy could then collapse into trying to conduct capital controls to prevent inflows, creating further distortions in the market and setting off fresh trouble for RBI.

 

In recent days, RBI has reopened the MSS window. This suggests that they have either started buying dollars or plan to buy dollars. As argued above, this would be an inconsistent policy platform, and yield a mess (as has been seen in previous years when RBI tried to prevent rupee appreciation).

 

In the current environment, when politicians are focused on the inflation rate, RBI must clearly say to the government and to the larger public that it cannot simultaneously fight inflation and induce distortions in the exchange rate. RBI doesn't face pressure from lobbies, but the government does. The resolution of this conflict is a political decision. It is when such conflicts arise that central banks have been able to make their life easier by adopting inflation targeting as their objective. If the government wishes to support exporters, then instead of doing it through exchange rates that distort monetary policy and prevent RBI from attacking inflation, the government should do it through direct subsidies. Former finance minister P Chidambaram once pointed out that MSS interest payments, which have amounted to more than Rs 3,000 crore a year in the past, are an export subsidy.

Instead of such a subsidy, which simultaneously distorts monetary policy and induces high inflation, exporters should be given a direct on-budget subsidy. In summary, RBI's move on tightening monetary policy will only be effective if it is accompanied by a strong rupee.

 

The good news might be that thanks to the slowing down in food price inflation, overall inflation could stabilise at 6-7% by July. Higher food prices can spill over into higher inflation by pushing up the CPI and thus putting pressure on wages to rise. Rising input costs, both due to higher commodity prices and due to higher wages, can lead to a second-round effect on inflation. But with a lower base effect, a stronger rupee and some tightening, it is hoped that over the next two months inflation rates will stabilise. However, there may be further hikes, perhaps even before the next credit policy, if inflation and growth numbers remain high. RBI seems to be in a mood to wait, watch and move rates slowly rather than to make big moves. This bodes well.

 

The author is senior fellow at National Institute of Public Finance & Policy. Views are personal

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

STILL A LICENCE RAJ FOR NEW BANKS

P RAGHAVAN

 

The annual monetary policy statement for 2010-11 laid out few details about RBI's approach to granting licences to new private sector banks, something that was announced by the finance minister in his Budget speech. Unfortunately, RBI seems unenthusiastic and this raises the question whether yet another effort to unleash competition and improve access to the banking sector will come to a naught. The reason for such pessimism is the lackadaisical response of the central bank to what should have been a top priority for reforms in the banking sector. The roadmap laid out in the annual policy statement proposes to first prepare a discussion paper by the end of July to look at a wide range of licensing issues like international practices, the Indian experience, and the ownership and governance guidelines. This is with the apparent purpose of generating a debate and securing wider feedback.

 

This is to be later followed up by consultation with all stakeholders to finalise the guidelines. And what is even more bizarre is that the banking regulator also wants to set up an external expert group to examine all applications and make recommendations for granting licences. The lack of a proactive approach is not surprising, given the convoluted approach that the central bank has historically adopted to consistently thwart the recurring demands for a more liberal approach to bank licensing. The first major effort to allow entry of new players in the banking sector after the start of reforms was initiated in the early 1990s when RBI gave approval to a dozen-odd new private banks, of which some like the ICICI Bank and the HDFC Bank became major players in a short period of time.

 

Later in the mid-90s, the central bank made an apparently more ambitious attempt when it pushed forward with the local area bank (LAB) concept to improve banking services in both the rural and semi-urban areas. Although the LAB scheme, which envisaged a minimum capital of Rs 5 crore and an area of operation across three contiguous limits, met with enthusiastic response receiving as many as 227 applications, only 6 LABs were actually licensed by RBI. Of these, two have ceased operations and now only four operate. The last big name to gain entry was the Kotak Mahindra Bank, which secured a licence in the early years of this decade.

 

This tightly restricted entry policy and the high attrition of the weaker banks has shrunk the number of commercial banks in the Indian banking sector by almost half through the current decade from 300 in 2001 to just 170 in early March 2010. And although the number of total bank branches has climbed up marginally from 67,937 to 82,408 during the period, the network in the under-serviced rural sector has declined from 32,585 to 31,699 during the period.

 

But what is of deeper concern is the inability to muster courage for a radical review of the licensing policy, despite the highly skewed distribution of bank branches and the lessons of the gains from greater competition during almost two decades of reforms. In fact, banking facilities across large swathes of the country are much lower than even what the dismal all-India numbers show. Still, the regulator has been unable to respond to the situation with any enthusiasm. In fact, the most recent data published by RBI for 2009 shows the uneven growth that has impacted the availability of banking services in many states.

 

For instance, while each bank office, on an average, served 4,378 persons in Chandigarh and 4,937 in Goa, the availability of services declined substantially in the more disadvantaged states, with the population served per office going up to 39,088 in far flung states like Manipur and 30,611 in poor but politically important states like Bihar.

The disparities in per capita deposits and per capita credit were even sharper. While per capita deposit was above Rs 2,50,000 in places like Chandigarh and Delhi, it was just Rs 7,373 in Manipur, Rs 7,399 in Bihar and Rs 14,573 in Rajasthan. The difference was even larger in the case of availability of credit. While per capita credit was the highest in Chandigarh (Rs 2,85,863) and Delhi (Rs 1,89, 451), it was among the lowest in Bihar (Rs 2,017) and Manipur (Rs 2,929).

 

Such glaring disparities in the availability of banking services has encouraged various committees to support the revival of the LAB scheme, including the Khan Committee on rural credit and micro finance in 2005, the Rangarajan Committee on financial inclusion in 2008 and the most recent committee on financial sector reforms by Raghuram G Rajan in 2009. But will RBI listen?

 

p.raghavan@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR POWER EQUIPMENT SHORTFALL?

NOOR MOHAMMAD

 

The government has decided to defer its plan to impose customs duty on power equipment imports despite a strong recommendation from the high-level committee set up under the chairmanship of Arun Maira, member, Planning Commission.

 

Apparently, there is a threat to public sector power equipment manufacturer Bhel from the surge in Chinese imports. But who is really responsible for the slow growth in the country's power equipment manufacturing capacity that makes it necessary to import from China?

 

The Indian power sector was a neglected area until 2001-02. At that time, Bhel had an installed capacity to manufacture equipment worth 5,000 mw a year. The orders that the company bagged annually were in the range of 3,000 mw. So the company did not expand its manufacturing capacity. But the sector saw a rush for capacity addition in 2003-04 as the demand-supply gap began widening because of the explosive growth in economic activity. Since there was a huge gap in domestic power equipment capacity and the capacity addition envisaged by the power ministry, Chinese suppliers found an opportunity to enter the Indian market. If Bhel failed to expand its manufacturing capacity on time, it paid the price later.

 

It is possible that Chinese suppliers are benefiting from hidden subsidies like low cost of capital. But they also have the benefit of an integrated power equipment industry. Chinese power equipment manufacturers have all the raw materials available in their country. However, the power ministry's argument against imposition of import duty on power equipment is equally strong. India needs to accelerate the pace of capacity addition to maintain its growth momentum.

 

Chinese contractors are implementing about 23% of the 78,000 mw capacity envisaged by the power ministry under the 11th Plan. These projects are already facing delays after the ministry of home affairs imposed visa restrictions on Chinese workers. If the government were to impose duty on power equipment imports, the cost economics of power projects planning to use Chinese power equipment would go haywire.

 

noor.mohd@expressindia.com

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

LESSONS FROM BANGALORE

 

The bombings at the M. Chinnaswamy stadium in Bangalore have underlined a stark fact: despite years of bitter experience, the loss of hundreds of lives, and the investment of crores of rupees in policing in recent years, urban administrators have not woken up to the terrorist threats that confront the cities. For reasons that are still unclear, the Chinnaswamy stadium was not evacuated when bombs went off outside its perimeter wall — despite the evident risk to spectators and players inside. Emergency services were not summoned to the site, exposing the city's lack of a well-rehearsed disaster management plan. Indeed, it is unclear if the stadium even had a full-scale evacuation plan; certainly, fans were not told what to do if something went wrong. Police even failed to detect some of the improvised explosives the terrorists had placed along the stadium's perimeter wall. There were no closed circuit television cameras outside the perimeter of the stadium, despite a plethora of intelligence warnings that high-profile sports venues and public places were likely to be targeted by terrorists. Protecting sports fans as well as other city residents who gather at crowded public facilities just does not seem to be among the priorities of governments or the private sector in India.

 

Fortunately, no lives were claimed by the Chinnaswamy stadium bombings. But the relatively low toll of 17 injured was the consequence of errors made by the still-unknown bomb-makers. For months now, the Union Home Ministry has been warning of a heightened threat from jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba. On Thursday, responding to this intelligence, the United States issued a warning advising its citizens to stay away from several crowded marketplaces in New Delhi. Little is being done, however, to make such venues safer for those who do not have the choice of avoiding them. No intelligence service in the world has the capacity to prevent all terrorist attacks. But effective closed-circuit camera surveillance, the deployment of necessary trained police officers, and emergency-response plans for rapidly moving the injured to hospital are vital measures that can help save lives. Police and emergency-services providers in cities from Singapore to New York have done 'lessons-learned' exercises drawing on Mumbai's horrific experience of November 2008 — but not one major Indian city has done so. Later this year, New Delhi will host the Commonwealth Games. Experts have voiced concerns over security management at sites under construction. Even as India's police and intelligence services work to identify and apprehend the perpetrators of the bombings, urban administrators must take action to mitigate the consequences of the next attack.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

KANDAHAR'S GRIM PROSPECTS

 

During the night of April 19, Azizullah Yarmal, deputy mayor of Kandahar, the second city of Afghanistan, was assassinated while praying in a mosque. The murder has caused widespread shock. Mr. Yarmal was known to be an honest and dedicated public official in an administration noted for corruption and incompetence. A few hours earlier, the Taliban had claimed responsibility for an attack in which a booby-trapped donkey cart was exploded by remote control in an attempt on the life of a former governor of Spin Boldak district. The bomb in fact killed three of his nephews and wounded four others. On March 13, suicide bombers killed 35 people. The repeated attacks form part of a Taliban campaign to spread fear among the half-million population of Kandahar and to show the occupying forces what their proposed attack on the city will involve. The U.S.-led offensive, planned for June, will be the biggest operation since the western invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and could involve 30,000 troops. Its stated aim is to drive the Taliban to the negotiating table.

 

The Taliban, for their part, have rejected talks while foreign troops are in Afghanistan, and say they will target all who work for the government. This strategy, bolstered by a reputation for 'probity,' is clearly working among a population who, according to a U.S. military survey, bitterly resent U.S. support for the existing provincial council and consider, by 19 to 1, that the only way forward is to engage the Taliban immediately in talks, irrespective of the rigid and retrogressive society they would impose. That alone shows how destructive the U.S. presence in Afghanistan has been. The provincial council, headed by President Hamid Karzai's half-brother Ahmed Wali Karzai, is known to be extremely corrupt; Mr. Wali Karzai is also locked in fierce power struggles with a bloc led by former provincial governor Gul Agha Shirzai. Worse still, locals say the government is using its own mafias to kill business rivals or dissenters and rights campaigners. In addition, the U.S.-NATO commander in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, has overridden one of President Karzai's pledges, by saying that local councils or shuras will be allowed to 'shape' the conditions for the offensive but will have no veto over it. The shuras are totally opposed to the attack and the residents of Kandahar are rightly fearful of what lies in store. The U.S. obsession with brute force rules key political issues out of the agenda. The only thing that is more or less guaranteed is more killing and destruction — of Afghans and their country.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

FOR ACCESS & EXCELLENCE IN HIGHER EDUCATION

THE INSTITUTIONS TO BE SET UP BY FOREIGN EDUCATIONAL PROVIDERS ARE UNLIKELY TO IMPROVE ACCESS AND QUALITY. MORE PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN HIGHER EDUCATION AND ACADEMIC COLLABORATION WITH THE BEST UNIVERSITIES COULD BRING IN THE DESIRED RESULTS.

M.A. BABY

 

Kapil Sibal, the Union Minister for Human Resource Development, has claimed that access to, and the quality of the Indian higher education would improve substantially with the entry of foreign educational providers in the country. The new institutions would add to the opportunities available in higher education, thereby potentially increasing enrolment. Improvement of quality could occur both directly and indirectly. The off-campus centres would directly provide "world-class education" to the students who can afford it and indirectly ensure better performance of Indian institutions through competition, so goes his contention.

 

Such arguments assume that there are universal parameters for quality and that competition would inevitably bring about improvement of quality.

 

The first of these assumptions ignores the organic character of higher education. Quality in education cannot be manufactured to order or transplanted across continents. It is rooted in the environment and the tradition in which it grows. It is linked up with time and milieu, with the project of nation-building. It evolves itself gradually. The short-cut of manufacturing quality through foreign universities or their Indian imitations ignores the importance of creativity. New knowledge is created through an arduous process of research. Scholars point out that the essence of modern research is interdisciplinarity, which is enriched through assimilation of knowledge from diverse sources, but degenerates through transplantation or imitation of external models. Courses transplanted across continents through off-campus centres will have little authenticity and relevance to the new environment.

 

The impact of even the best of off-campus courses of the best of universities delivered by the best of faculty on the overall quality of Indian education would be marginal. Our IITs and IIMs give us the clue. These have all along been isolated islands of excellence, contributing little to the general improvement of Indian higher education. While there may be some truth in the accusation of social insensitivity of these premier institutions, the reasons for their failure to significantly invigorate Indian higher education run deeper. External agencies can only play a minimal role in the process of quality enhancement. Improvement of quality is brought about through an internal process. External agencies can at best assist the process, but cannot substitute internal processes.

 

The unquestioning faith in the usefulness of competition is based on two myths: that the foreign educational providers would have the same mission as Indian universities and that both would share the same platform for their operations. The avowed mission of public universities in the country is to contribute to the project of nation-building. It may be that a majority of the institutions have failed in their mission. The mission would still be potentially relevant in guiding their destinies. The public universities continue to undertake the study of basic disciplines, research and extension because of the compulsions of their vision and mission.

 

Would the foreign educational providers be bound by the mission of nation-building? It is very unlikely that foreign universities would be driven by altruistic motives of improving Indian higher education — which is what Mr. Sibal's bill would apparently expect — if it has no prospects of profits to offer. Those who come for profit are unlikely to invest in the study of basic disciplines and research where the prospects of immediate economic returns are not very promising.

Unhealthy competition

 

Given the colonial hangover for foreign labels, a substantial number of bright students are likely to prefer off-campus centres of second-rate foreign universities to the best of Indian universities. They would not only ruin their academic prospects, but also potentially contribute to the intellectual impoverishment of Indian institutions. Whatever little research is undertaken in the Indian institutions is likely to suffer as a result of unhealthy competition with foreign educational providers. In their struggle for survival, average universities might compete with foreign educational providers in offering marketable courses at competitive rates and neglect their primary responsibilities towards the study of basic disciplines, research and extension.

 

The National Knowledge Commission presumes that setting up 1,500 universities and 50,000 colleges could address the question of access. A mere increase in the number of institutions or seats alone would not ensure greater access. What we need is equitable access, which foreign educational providers will not provide, more so as there is no cap on the fees and no provision for reservation of seats — both of which would tend to strengthen the existing iniquities in Indian higher education. In a country like India where the majority of the people live below the poverty line, access to higher education would be critically dependent upon the quantum of subsidies available.

 

How, then, do we increase access to and quality in, higher education? The modernisation of higher education requires huge investments. The requirement of inclusiveness further demands massive public investment. At present, government expenditure on education as a whole is only 3.5 per cent of GNP. The sectoral allocation for higher education is a meagre 0.37 per cent of the GNP. Going by the recommendations of the Kothari Commission and a committee appointed by the Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE), public expenditure on education should be increased to at least 6 per cent of GNP, of which 25 per cent should be set apart for higher education. The promises made in the Common Minimum Programme (CMP) of the first United Progressive Alliance government to gradually increase public expenditure on education to 6 per cent of GDP is yet to be acted upon. With all the rhetoric about the 11th Plan being an "education plan," the actual allotment in the Plan for major schemes in higher education is estimated to be only 12 per cent of the actual requirement of Rs. 252,000 crore. The rest of the investment is sought to be raised through public-private-partnership (PPP), which could actually result in large-scale privatisation of public assets, thereby shrinking even the limited spaces available for the poor. The Central budget for higher education for the current fiscal shows only an increase of 15 per cent over the last year. This compares poorly with the 112 per cent increase in Kerala's budget for higher education over the same period.

 

Academic collaboration

Academic collaboration with the best of universities could help improve quality, unlike direct intervention by foreign educational providers. While such collaborations have always existed, we need to increase their scope and extent in the future. As a matter of fact, efforts are being made in different parts of the country to promote collaborative learning. The Kerala State Higher Education Council, for example, has evolved two innovative schemes for national and international academic collaboration. The national-level programme envisages exchange of teachers between the universities in the State and universities in other States. Exchanges have already taken place between universities in Kerala and West Bengal. Tamil Nadu has evinced interest in such exchanges with universities in Kerala. The scheme is likely to be implemented in the next academic year.

 

The "Erudite" scheme which has been implemented in the State is a scholar-in-residence programme which provides avenues for teachers and students to collaborate with internationally reputed scholars. A large number of scholars including Nobel laureates have visited the universities in the State during the last one year. Testimonies of the teachers and students of these universities and the visiting scholars show that the benefits have been mutual. The essence of such mutually beneficial academic collaboration is partnership based on equality. It cannot be based on a relationship of superiority and inferiority. It has to recognise the kaleidoscopic character of quality in higher education and the value of mutually enriching collaborative learning processes.

 

( The writer is Minister for Education and Culture, Government of Kerala.)

 

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THE HINDU

COCA-COLA'S RESPONSE DISAPPOINTS PLACHIMADA ACTIVISTS

AN ACTIVIST WHO RAISED QUESTIONS ABOUT GROUNDWATER EXPLOITATION AT THE ANNUAL SHAREHOLDERS' MEET SAYS THE COMPANY IS MISLEADING INVESTORS.

NARAYAN LAKSHMAN

 

Activists who raised the issues of unethical groundwater use and pollution by Coca-Cola plants in India during the soft drinks giant's annual shareholders' meeting in Atlanta this week have expressed disappointment with the response of Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar Kent, accusing him of misleading investors about the problems the company had run into with regulators.

 

Speaking to The Hindu, Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Centre — which campaigns for the rights of communities in the affected areas — said that he had brought up the recommendations made on March 22 by an High Power Committee (HPC) set up by the Kerala government, according to which Coca-Cola should be held liable for $48 million (Rs.216.26 crore) in "damages to the community and the environment around its bottling plant in Plachimada".

 

On the discussion at the shareholders' meeting, Coca-Cola representative Lisa Manley told The Hindu that Mr. Srivastava was a lone voice speaking out on the matter. She said: "Mr. Srivastava did ask a question about the Kerala committee's report… this topic was otherwise not an issue of focus during the meeting."

 

Yet, it is a fact that the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada has been shut since March 2004 on government orders. According to the HPC, the Kerala Agricultural University found that fodder, milk, meat and egg samples collected from the Plachimada area contained copper, cadmium, lead and chromium at levels considered toxic by World Health Organisation standards.

 

The HPC adds that the deterioration in the quality and quantity of groundwater and the consequent public health problems, displacement and migration of labour and destruction of the agricultural economy were the main problems in Plachimada identified as caused and contributed by the Coca-Cola plant.

 

The company has also been involved in a controversy in Kala Dera in Rajasthan, where groundwater resources had been declared as "over-exploited" by the government in 1998. Yet, Coca-Cola built a new plant there in 2000, leading to severe water shortages in at least 40 villages in the vicinity of the plant, according to reports.

 

However, Ms Manley said Coca-Cola did not have all these details as it had not been given a copy of the Kerala committee's report and "at this point, it is simply a recommendation from a committee. The government has not yet acted on the committee's recommendations".

 

She said Coca-Cola disagreed with the recommendations, "and we will defend ourselves against any actions that may result. As always, we will continue to work with the proper authorities to resolve this matter".

 

Ms Manley also said that numerous investigations by the government of Kerala had shown that the Coca-Cola system was not the cause of local watershed issues and it was Coca Cola's view that any government committee or panel reviewing claims should "first determine through an established process of law whether any damage was caused to the residents of Palakkad [the district where Plachimada is located], and second, if such damage was caused, who was responsible."

 

"It is unfortunate that the committee in Kerala was appointed on the unproven assumption that damage was caused, and that it was caused by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages," she added.

Mr. Srivastava, however, took exception to Mr. Kent's response to the effect that Coca-Cola "could open the Plachimada plant any time". This was untrue, Mr. Srivastava said, adding that he challenged them to "try and reopen the plant tomorrow — we can guarantee that they cannot open the plant again".

 

Misleading

He emphasised that the IRC had been campaigning to get the company's shareholders to realise that "the Coca-Cola management, including board of directors, is misleading shareholders about the financial and criminal liabilities that Coca-Cola is incurring in India".

 

Mr. Srivastava said Coca-Cola had passed on the issue to its public relations department, rather than seeing it as an operational issue. But this was not a PR issue, certainly not for the communities in Plachimada and Kala Dera, he said.

 

Ms Manley contested this point, telling The Hindu that managing water responsibly was the highest priority in Coca-Cola's approach to environmental policy and corporate social responsibility in India. She said: "Our goal in India is to be a 'net zero' user of groundwater, which means we are working to create a potential recharge of the amount of groundwater equivalent to that used in our operations in India."

 

Ms Manley added that such recharge was happening through support for rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and other initiatives such as helping restore traditional water storage systems that local communities use. "By the end of 2009, we had achieved a recharge rate of 93 per cent of the groundwater that we use throughout India and we aim to achieve a net zero balance at the end of 2010," she said.

 

However, government figures that Mr. Srivastava quoted cast doubt on this as they suggest that "in the nine years prior to Coca-Cola's bottling operations in Kala Dera, groundwater levels fell just 3 meters and in the nine years since Coca-Cola has been operating in Kala Dera, the groundwater levels have dropped 22.36 metres."

 

Coca-Cola's shareholders have also been important in the debate. While the shareholder group had been more responsive in the past and had passed a few resolutions, Mr. Srivastava admitted that they did not get a very positive response this time. He said the shareholders were myopic in their views and more concerned with the company's sales, which had been on the decline in the U.S and in Europe for some time now.

 

Arguing that even in this regard there has been an injustice towards Indian consumers, Mr. Srivastava said the reason for declining sales in the West was that consumers "are wising up to the negative impact of these high-sugar drinks".

 

Rising sales

However, sales in countries such as India are rising and the company itself is focusing much more on its operations outside the U.S. According to recent reports, overall sales volume rose by three per cent in the first quarter of 2010 "and was largely driven by an 11 per cent increase in its Eurasian and African arm, as well as a 29 per cent boost at its Indian business". The sales rise came primarily from across Asia, boasting double-digit growths in India, Vietnam and the Philippines as new consumers developed a taste for the company's drinks, a report explained.

 

But was Coca-Cola any better for the health of Indians? Mr. Srivastava asked, noting that India had a growing proportion of diabetics and obese in its population and this "reeks of a double standard".

 

In an earlier statement, Mr. Srivastava also noted: "It is difficult to fathom why Coca-Cola located some of its plants in water stressed areas in India. It was either sheer incompetence on the part of the company or sheer arrogance. Experience tells us it is a lot of both."

 

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THE HINDU

THIS JOURNALISM REQUIRES NO SWEAT

NEW-AGE REPORTAGE RECENTLY IN EVIDENCE CROSSES THE BOUNDARIES OF DECENCY AND SETS WORRYING NEW PRINCIPLES.

VIDYA SUBRAHMANIAM

 

  1. It is futile to expect a delicately mannered anchor with a commitment to facts and fairplay to beat the competition
  2. Witch-hunt journalism in the mainstream media sets a new principle: That it is kosher to get into people's personal territory

 

Years ago, a newspaper editor taught me a few principles of story writing. Never make direct personal attacks. Twist the knife ever so tenderly and you will be surprised at the results, he advised. His own favourite story was his description of Shiv Sena lion Balasaheb Thackeray as the gentle Mr. Thackeray. The media veteran earned a torrent of abuse for it!

 

Rookie reporters also learnt other dos and don'ts: Attribute, confirm and hear out the other side — rules that could be set aside only when the story was a major scoop needing protection and secrecy.

 

But that was another world and another time, and as much hit me like a thunderbolt as the IPL mega scam exploded on television and print media alike. TV is by definition loud, fast and sensational. It is futile to expect a delicately mannered anchor with a commitment to facts and fairplay to beat the competition, much less bring the coveted TRPs. Most certainly not when a story breaks with the force of an avalanche as happened when Minister of State Shashi Tharoor was revealed to be complicit in a deal that offered a bounty to his lady friend. The Shashi Tharoor-Sunanada Pushkar story was god's own gift to the TV channels and they grabbed it with both hands, delving into Ms Pushkar's past with all the finesse of a rampaging bull.

 

Reporting epidemic

In the days since, the IPL reporting fever has spread like an epidemic, taking in its embrace mainstream newspapers as well as reputed magazines. Over the past week, scoops and stories have tumbled out at a breathless pace, some of them truly able to expose the rot behind the glamour and glitz of cricket's brashy new offspring but many others irresponsibly speculative. By all accounts, IPL is a humungous wheels-within-wheels affair. Just how many people it will eventually implicate, if it does so at all, is anybody's guess given the complex pattern of franchise ownership, benami stake-holdings and a score of affiliated legal and illegal activities, ranging from telecast rights to money laundering, betting, match-fixing and so forth.

 

When imagination takes flight in this volatile situation, the results can be tragi-comic. A reported e-mail sent from Minister Praful Patel's office to Mr. Tharoor had two newspapers reaching opposite conclusions. One held Mr. Patel guilty of helping Mr. Tharoor. The other accused him of trying to mislead the former Minster into giving up the Kochi Consortium bid.

 

A weekly magazine in its last issue dug its nails deep into Sunanda Pushkar, turning Mr. Tharoor's companion into a virago with an insatiable appetite for men, power and money. The author might have been Ms Pushkar herself, considering the easy and expert access she seemed to have had to her subjects mind. The belle from Bomai (in Kashmir) was apparently so devilishly clever that she mapped out her future while still a teenager in college, taking the marriage route to escape the dreariness of everyday valley life, ensnaring her husband's best friend on the way and chasing after the good life with a vampire-like thirst that ironically, by the author's own admission, did not get her subject too far. For, despite clawing her way into Dubai's event management and entertainment circles and charming a variety of sponsors (she had them eating out of her hands), not to mention a talent for acquiring a procession of companions, Ms Pushkar, the author says, struggled to stay afloat for the most part, orbiting into the inner circles of the mega rich as recently as 2009. The author concludes that though aided by heavy make-up, false eyelashes and seductive couture, Ms Pushkar ought to be reconciled to the fact that pedigree-obsessed Delhi would not accept a wannabe.

 

With so much venom packed into the narrative, it is hardly any surprise that the Pushkar profile and its author have become the toast of the glitter-twitter world. Author and gossip queen Shobaa De posted the juicy, masaledaar piece on her website. Complimenting the hugely talented author on her delicious reportage, she wished she had written it herself.

 

Salacious details

Not to be outdone, a Mumbai tabloid gave out salacious details of a surgery performed on Ms Pushkar by plastic surgeon Ashok Gupta. Dr. Gupta, a 2009 Padma awardee, confirmed to the paper that Ms Pushkar came under the knife. Not only this, he supplied the before and after photographs to prove the transformation. So much for the Hippocratic oath and so much for the Padma awards!

 

It is not my case that Mr. Tharoor and Ms Pushkar are innocent of all wrongdoing. Far from it. However, their sins do not fall in the same category. Mr. Tharoor can be accused of a corrupt practice but not Ms Pushkar who, as a private citizen, was free to accept job and equity offers, provided she did not run afoul of the law. To be sure, there are legitimate questions about whether her professional qualifications were such as to earn her a large "sweat" equity.

 

However, none of these concerns warrant the dissection of her personal life. Those who claim to have been entertained by the weekly's profile of Ms Pushkar must ask themselves this question: Entertainment at whose cost? Tragically, many of Ms Pushkar's detractors are themselves successful women basking in the fame and spotlight of Page 3 events and parties. Ms Pushkar has been pilloried for her ambition. Which woman who has reached any position of importance can claim to have got there without ambition?

 

Now imagine a man with qualities attributed to Ms Pushkar. Surely he would have been seen to be on the fast-track — a workaholic focused on his job and able to connect with a wide cross-section of people. And so what if he broke a law here and there? That would only add to his dash. A woman similarly placed becomes a social-climber, especially if she was a wannabe without the social sanction afforded by pedigree.

 

When witch-hunt journalism of this kind comes into the mainstream media it sets a new principle: That it is kosher to get into people's personal territory. That no attribution need be made, that if the person being profiled is judged to be completely without a virtue, her version can be dispensed with.

 

Fortunately, good taste does seem to prevail outside the rarefied circles of Metro high society. The reader response to the Pushkar profile (posted on the weekly's website) was one of revulsion. Said one reader: Every sentence in it reeks of a deep-seated upper class prejudice which ridicules and sneers at the ambitions and processes of social mobility of many people of India, especially those from mofussil regions. Commented another: This writing looks to be a case of libel. Vindictive and sexist to the core.

 

I could add a line: This journalism requires no sweat.

 

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THE HINDU

NATO INVITES BOSNIA

 

NATO leaders on Friday urged Bosnia to begin the MAP programme that is a crucial stepping stone for eventual membership, but warned that more needed to be done to transfer military infrastructure to central authorities. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at a meeting of the alliance's Foreign Ministers in Estonia that she hoped that the "membership action plan" would help Bosnia, a deeply divided country, to "function more effectively as a state".

 

Membership action plans, or MAPs, establish criteria and guidelines for candidate-countries to become NATO members. Bosnia applied for an action plan last year. — AP

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

IMF GETS MORE BULLISH ON INDIA

 

The International Monetary Fund has really surpassed itself in projecting India's growth rate at 8.8 per cent in 2010, and 8.4 per cent in 2011. This is even higher than what India itself projects. The Reserve Bank of India has projected growth for 2010 at eight per cent, with an upward bias. The IMF sees growth fuelled by rising domestic demand, increase in consumption due to growing employment opportunities and investments boosted by strong profitability. It sees the fiscal deficit as the key challenge for India, saying it should ensure durable fiscal consolidation, including implementing fiscal and other structural reforms. It also notes India has higher inflation than most of its Asian neighbours, saying the country is on the right path by tightening its monetary policy to tackle this. The IMF's projection showing bullishness on India is a welcome change — earlier it consistently underplayed or downplayed India. Now it has gone in the other direction. The Planning Commission deputy chairman has shrugged off the IMF projection, preferring to stick to the RBI's figures. Perhaps increased recognition at the G-20 and G-8 levels has something to do with the IMF's turnaround. It is a fact that its India projection appears awesome compared to that for Europe (a little over 1 per cent) and West Asia (2.5 per cent). It might also be that Fund mandarins are paying greater attention to the views of Indians at the IMF than earlier.

 

The IMF's views converge with those of the RBI on the challenges that developing economies face from the global financial environment. Both developed and developing countries are largely interlinked — as the IMF points out, while developed nations might want to depreciate currencies to encourage exports, this would directly impact developing nations, particularly the export-driven economies. China has seen ahead and is concentrating on pushing domestic consumption so that its dependence on exports decreases. It also has the advantage of a high domestic savings rate. The impact on India will be greater if the developed world currencies are depreciated. It already faces a problem with the rupee strengthening against the dollar. The RBI is, of course, aware of the problems that will arise as the developed countries deal with the recovery of their economies — about which there is still a lot of uncertainty. It has pointed out that as the global recovery gains momentum and demand increases, commodity and oil prices are likely to harden. This could lead to fresh inflationary pressures. Also, as governments of developed countries continue to rely on stimulus packages to fuel growth, there is the danger of large capital flows coming to emerging economies, particularly India and China. This, as the RBI governor said, will pose a challenge for the exchange rate and monetary management. One nagging question at that point will be how strong should the rupee be allowed to grow.

 

The news that this year's monsoon will be a normal one is very welcome. So if the rain gods continue to smile on us, the RBI's projection of eight per cent growth is likely to materialise. Inflation, however, remains one of the biggest worries, along with fiscal consolidation. The latest inflation figures show an increase in food prices, while fuel and power prices have also gone up. The signs are not good on this front, and could prompt the RBI to further increase policy rates.

 

While India is a juggernaut that cannot be stopped in the medium and long term, attention needs to be paid to the inclusive aspect of its growth path. The record is a sorry one. The latest figures of people ranked below the poverty line indicate that their number has gone up to around 37 per cent from the estimated 26 per cent.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

DEBATABLE ISSUES

 

 "I couldn't make the sonnet rhyme

So I wrote you a song —

It says the night is starless —

Without you — and long..."

From The Epigraphs

of Bachchoo


Arguing with a Pakistan-leaning friend I conceded that Indians should stop insisting that Pakistan rejoin India — it would be best if India rejoined Pakistan. Subsequently, I thought but didn't say, the majority could decide on the nation's name, capitol and secular Constitution. She didn't quite know what to make of it, having strenuously and consistently opposed the proposition that Pakistan had proved itself unviable by being ruled by its Army for most of its existence and by now 60 years on having to fight a major internal war to settle the nature of its statehood.


What then could I say for India? It is corrupt and has demonstrably sidelined and even murdered sections of its minorities, is still defaced by poverty, inequality and has its own brands of fanaticism...! I fell back, not disingenuously, on the usual suspect arguments: that India is dynamically, if unfairly and corruptly, capitalist (which of course raises the question of whether any transition to capitalism has been without its concomitant cruelties, mass slavery, enclosures, gulags, state terror, starvation and revision of all morality) and that it is a rambling democracy. I pointed out that the rise to power of a party that represents the dalit population (and the politically-correct outlawing of any reference to the former designations of these communities) is a massive achievement of the democratic process. The same process has, in waves, given voice to sections of the population which, for hundreds of years under conqueror and colonial rule, have suffered, at best, neglect and at worst an imprisonment in an unsustaining form of existence.


Democracy was the hero of my argument, along the lines of the best-worst system the human race has invented. The irony, which didn't escape me, was that when I had the opportunity to vote as an Indian citizen, I didn't. I abstained, and with others of my small and pretentious tribe, argued against parents, teachers and others that parliamentary democracy was a bourgeois sham, an opiate of the people and other unacceptable things.
I continued in that view when I became eligible to vote in British elections. As a student first and then an immigrant it seemed that the arguments of national policy didn't concern me but were for or against me and my presence — mostly against.

 

It was an era of what has been labelled "mass immigration" from the ex-colonies of Britain, successively independent nations in the subcontinent, Africa and then the West Indies. The adjective "mass" wasn't quite justified. Even today, three or four decades later, the number of people and their descendants from those ex-colonies is at the most 3.5 million out of a population of 62 (different quotes for different votes, of course. The British fascists double and treble the figures).


In '68 a powerful Conservative politician called Enoch Powell gave a speech in which he said he saw "rivers of blood" staining the Thames. It was demagoguery of the worst sort and, what's more, didn't work. He thought he would ride to the leadership on the winged horse of prejudice. The winged horse in the Britain of the day turned out to be a cabined and confined lame donkey and carried poor Enoch out of British politics. At the same time, a Labour government with James Callaghan as home secretary passed, on the hoof, emergency legislation to deny East African Asians who held British passports the right of entry into the UK. Idi Amin was expelling Asian settlers from Uganda. When they arrived here they were put in detention camps to ensure "orderly release" into settlement.


Enoch's well-chosen inflammatory phrases and Callaghan's hasty ban may not have had any lasting impact on British history, but they certainly defined and exacerbated racial tensions at the time.


Who then could one vote for? Better to join and work with extra-parliamentary agitational groups. I did and so did thousands of others, but that's another story.


The general election takes place in Britain on the 6th of May. For the first time in any UK election, the sitting Labour Prime Minister has agreed to televised debates against the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Opposition.


The first of these debates, watched by an estimated 10 million people, took place on April 15. What has hitherto been a lacklustre election suddenly took on interesting possibilities as the public opinion polls immediately after the debate pronounced that Nick Clegg, the leader of the minority Liberal Democratic Party, had emerged as the favourite, above Prime Minister Gordon Brown and David Cameron the Conservative leader. The subsequent opinion-surveys put the Liberal Democrats a clear second above the ruling Labour Party.


The second TV debate is to take place tonight (the column was filed on Thursday evening), but if Clegg's charisma holds, the election will be thrown wide open. A Liberal Democrat challenge to either of the main parties in select constituencies will result in a Parliament with no clear majority party and then, as in recent Indian general elections, the horse-trading will begin. This will entail, as in all moves towards coalitions, a trade-off of power and policies.


As of now, the Labour Party is willing to concede to the Lib-Dems a constitutional change which will bring in the system of proportional representation in subsequent elections, replacing the first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system that obtains today.


For the first time in the run-up to this election the Conservatives have reason to worry. Their calculations had put them far ahead of Labour and they had assumed that the Lib-Dems would be marginalised in an election in which the population would entrust the precarious economy to one of the experienced parties. Mrs Cameron was virtually looking through Harvey Nichol's catalogues to choose curtain colours for 10 Downing Street.
It may be that Mr Clegg's popularity is temporary and a reflection of the disgust that the general population feels for politicians — the Lib-Dems can still maintain that the other two parties have made the mess from which they will extract the nation and that they are the only ones not in thrall to capitalist forces on the one hand and union influence on the other. It's a persuasive contention and is flying at present, but could crash in the volcanic ash thrown up by the debates to come.

 

Farrukh Dhondy

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

THE GAMES THAT BIG BOYS PLAY

 

Oh! Oh… Should I be worrying about the price of wheat or the future of cricket? "Sports should not be politicised", said Nationalist Congress Party ka aadmi D.P. Tripathi with a straight face, and I almost fell off my chair with laughter. Politicians have a stranglehold over every marketable game going… it is only about political monopoly. And this guy had the gall to say this at a press conference! He also added sweetly, "Truth needs no furniture!" That was priceless, given the "furniture showrooms" his party owns. He glibly told reporters that Sharad Pawar met his Cabinet colleagues on that crucial Lalit Modi-bombshell morning, not to discuss cricket… but to talk about the price of wheat. Yeah, right! He went on and on about there being no saboot to nail anybody at this stage… and I said to myself, why are we wasting our time on this rubbish? Kuch nahi honewala! Guaranteed. So, don't be bloody naïve and expect a bloodbath, with mighty heads rolling and the guilty being marched off to jail. It ain't happening. This is how it works in India — always has, always will. It's like asking the Godfather to set up a commission to look into the Mafia's misdeeds. In reality, our "investigations" are like a romp in the woods. A naughty teddy bear's picnic. The main players involved (and I mean players) have finished laughing all the way to the bank (several banks in strange destinations across the world, actually). They know there is going to be no fallout. And by this time next week they'll be singing ''Aaal

eeez welll". The only idiots who will be left scratching their heads will be the citizens of India.


This is precisely what the Big Boys have been banking on. All that sho-sha about fixing this one and fixing that one, resignations, enquiries, investigations, raids… don't we know how this works? A great deal of noise was made all of last week. Every television anchor worth his pinstripe (and her kurtis) went hoarse following the hot, hot, hot story that finally ended not with a bang (ooooh!!! Sorry Tharoor!!!), but a whimper. It suddenly went phoos — kaput! Strange… in any other country, this would have signalled the beginning of a very thorough and detailed investigation, leading to arrests. That magic word — arrests! Nothing turns us on as much as watching the high and mighty in handcuffs. At the end of the day, we are voyeuristic spectators in a packed arena — we want to watch those gladiators bloody themselves and maul one another. We want action… lots of it! As it is, the Indian Premier League (IPL) had become the best reality show  on television. With trusting cricket lovers playing judges. Just when the elimination rounds were starting to get exciting, a few wet blankets ruined it all by declaring a truce. Since viewers have been kept in the dark about the details of this truce, naturally we are thirsting for more — more of the adrenaline-pumping moments that had us mesmerised all of last week, with a Breaking Story every hour. What followed has been an absolute anti-climax! At the time of writing, Modi was still gassing big time, while his ardent supporters were trotting out that annoying line — ''Let the law take its course". We know what that means — "Let's buy time".


I loved the new, improved Shilpa Shetty appealing to the media to show restraint since Modi "has done such a great job". No doubt, he has. Only a Modi could have pulled off such a mega plot. For plot it is. In terms of sheer brilliance and outstanding ingenuity, Modi deserves a medal. Roping in the right partners (money bags of varied hues and ambitions) was step number one. An obvious step, but an invaluable one (it helped that Modi's own family members were only too delighted to oblige). Working around government roadblocks seems to have posed zero problems for this master strategist. He used his old connections and clout to flatten any opposition. With the cunning of the world's sharpest traders, he struck deal after deal, secure in the knowledge that the mega returns he had promised investors would seal their mouths. Crazy how easily this worked — he had stuff on them, they had stuff on him. Everybody had stuff on everybody else. So, nobody could squeal. Nobody did. Till that blessed Twitter war got going. And that was it.


Well, guess what? There were disgruntled elements in Modi's carefully-protected paradise. And they were the ones who eventually ratted on the self-appointed IPL commissioner (or The Great Dictator). Sick of his arbitrary, arrogant, high-handed style of functioning, they decided to whisper in the right ears. Some of those ears were out to get Modi, even while pretending to be his best friends. Too many egos had entered the picture, while in Modi's vision there was place for just one — his own. Everything would have gone tickety-boo had another ambitious upstart not ruined the cozy party. Enter Shashi Tharoor — the political rockstar who richly deserves a shot at playing himself in a Bollywood blockbuster. Shashi was easily dealt with, and as of now the guy is cooling his heels and waiting it out like a penitent schoolboy after a caning. Shashi is the least of anybody's problems. He is seen as a chhota mota nuisance valuewalla — his bite no more lethal than a machchar's. People are openly laughing at his many indiscretions, and even more at Kofi Annan's rather juvenile attempt to link India's democracy to this mosquito bite.


The most serious error made by us Indians was in believing this entire mess has to do with cricket! What absolute chumps we were to fall for this. The IPL was never about cricket. It was always about money. So today, when one hears earnest cricket lovers talking about how this gentleman's game has fallen so low, one doesn't feel like consoling the mourners. You want to yell, "Wake up, you morons". See it for what it is — a monumental scam. In the same league as all those other multi-crore scams — and look where they are today. Buried deep, somewhere inaccessible and mysterious. It's the standard game government agencies are so adept at — keep delaying the investigative processes till people either forget… or die. Officialdom is vastly amused by all the fuss being made over Sunanda ("call me Sue") Pushkar's piddly Rs 70 crores! Come on… 70 crores? Are you kidding? What's the big deal? It doesn't even count as petty cash.


Ab kya hog? Kuch nahi. There will be more chest thumping and fire breathing. Assorted political bods will be accosted by hysterical TV anchors and lie through their teeth. They will do it in a manner so brazen and besharam, we'll be left gasping. Perhaps, in a fake show of "we mean business", Modi will be asked to back off for a bit and Tharoor to cool it in the backwaters of Kerala. This will give the much needed time to the asli fixers to do what they do best — fix. Which is why I say, tenshun mat lo, yaar. Aish karo. Par sirf cricket se.

 Readers can send feedback to  www.shobhaade.blogspot.com


Shobhaa

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

PUNTING ALONG IN BRITANNIA

 

The Shashi Tharoor episode finally put Indian politics on par with politics everywhere else in the world. So far the personal lives of Indian politicians have been off-limits for the media. And though Delhi is always rife with gossip about who is sleeping with whom, no one has as yet been interested in publishing anything about any activity between the bedsheets. In sharp contrast, the UK media has no such inhibitions. It is often filled with alarmingly salacious details of people's private lives. In India, on the other hand, MPs and ministers are like demi-gods and so this fracas was an absolute bonanza for everyone. No one's feelings were spared as Shashi-

Sunanda became a metaphor for the "sweetheart deal".


But the other big difference between the reportage will be revealed fairly soon, as it is doubtful whether the Indian media will succeed in publishing all the facts behind IPL-gate. Whilst here the media becomes a bloodhound, refusing to give up till all is revealed, one fears that the IPL story is likely to turn into another Bofors, a political game where the media is too dependent on government leaks to get to the truth. In the UK, by now, some tabloids would have managed to blow everyone's cover, even by paying someone a huge sum of money to get to a list of stakeholders. It is definitely not ethical journalism, but when investigations reach a roadblock, the media (especially the tabloid press) in the UK is known to employ every trick in the book. But for the IPL story it may already be too late. Remember, files are disappearing very fast…


However, another big difference which has emerged in this entire unhappy episode is the persistent sanctimonious attitude of the Indian government on the issue of betting. It is a mystery why betting remains illegal, even though it is carried out all over India, albeit surreptitiously. In the UK betting is a national pastime, and right now bets are being placed (even in the Guardian!) about who is going to win the next election! In fact, on the night of the televised leadership debate on April 15, between the three main contenders for prime ministership, bets were being placed on:


l Who would be the first to perspire, when the pressure built up.


l The number of times Gordon Brown (the leader of the Labour Party) "agreed with Nick Clegg" (the leader of the Liberal Democrats).


l The number of times David Cameron (the leader of the Conservatives) said "change".


l Who would be the first to mention the recent volcanic eruption.

l Who had the last word.

l Who was the first to interrupt.

l Who was the first to raise their voice.


And, of course, for the "debate winner" there was live betting throughout the television broadcast. If nothing else, the positive fallout of this has been that the disinterested UK population (and, indeed, anyone watching the debate) is now watching the election process as keenly as they would a football match. And by default they have become engaged in the process of selecting their Prime Minister. The betting stakes also mean that pubs are full of viewers who are following the political debates — and egging their own candidates on. What could be possibly wrong with that?


Of course, in India the government feels that the poor must be saved from themselves because betting is an evil addiction. Alas, we forget that the stock market is nothing but glorified betting. But because in the latter case the well-to-do benefit, they are permitted to feed their "addiction". It's a contrarian policy which encourages corruption as betting is pushed underground. In fact, if it came out in the open, as in this country — for a small amount of money — people would have a lot of fun, in the bargain. And some, of course, would legally make money too.


However, in the leaders' debate, the odds were on Mr Clegg keeping up his initial bravura performance. Nothing much was expected from either Mr Cameron or Mr Brown — but to everyone's surprise, Mr Cameron has managed to pull back the Tories from the brink of defeat and push his party back onto a winning streak once more. So now we are waiting for next week's clinching (we hope) debate on the economy. Perhaps the Indian electorate should encourage these televised face-offs as well. It is a superficial game show format, but it definitely has forced people back into examining their leadership. The interest it has generated, especially in the younger voters, may even result in a higher voter turnout this year.


MEANWHILE, AS a struggling author, I have often wondered how one could get onto the bestseller list on Amazon. Well, it seems that one way to do it is to get your spouse to post anonymous reviews trashing all your rivals. This unique methodology was revealed recently when Dr Rachel Polonsky, a Cambridge don, spotted a rather scathing review by a mysterious "Historian" of her book on Russian culture, Molotov's Magic Lantern, on Amazon. "Historian" dismissed Dr Polonsky's efforts as being dense and pretentious — wondering why this book was ever published. However, "Historian" also showed a marked preference for the work of another Russian expert, a Professor at Oxford, Orlando Figes. Putting on her sleuthing cap, Dr Polonsky began trawling through the other reviews posted by "Historian" and found that "Historian" had also been similarly agitated when Professor Figes had lost out to Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher over a literary award. She also recollected a rather bad disagreement with Prof Figes about a critical review which she, in fact, had written of one of his previous books.


Digging deeper, she was convinced that the trail led to Prof Figes' doorstep. However, when he was accused of having a hand in these nasty reviews, Prof Figes denied it all. Accusations and legal notices began to fly around — till suddenly, Prof Figes apparently discovered that it was his loyal wife, Dr Stephanie Palmer, a lecturer in Law from Cambridge University, who had been posting these reviews. Oh, the joys of having a loving but somewhat overzealous spouse!


The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Kishwar Desai

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This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


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DNA

EDITORIAL

THE URBAN CHALLENGE

 

In about 20 years from now, India's growth story may come to a grinding halt if it does not start spending more — substantially more — on its urban centres. According to a report conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute, India will have to spend about $2 trillion over the next two decades in order to keep pace with growing urbanisation. About half that money will be towards wiping out current deficits in services and the other half should be spent keeping future growth in mind. The report reckons that the current Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission has to be tripled to cater to the India's population which will now live in cities.
How seriously this report will be taken is another matter.

 

Governance in India appears to be fighting several battles on several fronts and many of these are dire — the current national hysteria over cricket notwithstanding. Sadly, the basics, the building blocks of our nation, appear to suffer the most neglect. If New Delhi is getting spruced up today, it is because some part of the world is coming to the Commonwealth Games next year. The needs of the common man will hopefully get some resolution as well, through this circuitous route. Mumbai, which a decade ago was still one of India's most liveable cities, is today faced with crumbling infrastructure and facilities — housing, water, sanitation, waste disposal, transport — all falling woefully short. After all, 60% of Mumbai's population lives in slums.

 

The rapid urbanisation across many parts of India also shows higgledy-piggledy, ill-thought-out growth. The McKinsey report says that by 2030, five states — Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Punjab — will be more urban than rural. It is estimated that India will have 68 cities of a population of over one million — this is the new India which needs urgent and instant help so that it does not repeat the same mistakes made in our massive mega-cities.

 

This is a battle which has to be fought at several levels — through local self-governments, state administrations and central help. A top-down approach can only lead to disaster. We are already victims of the often ad-hoc attitude to development which leaves nothing finished well enough and too much half done. Public transport and affordable housing have long been the demands of experts. Now it seems that if these are not developed at a clipping pace, we won't just be running hard to stay in the same place, like Alice in Wonderland. We'll slipping back into chaos and, potentially, disaster.

.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

'IF ALL GO VEG, THERE'LL BE NO FOOD CRISIS'

VIVEK KAUL & SACHIN MAMPATTA

 

Bill Barbour first came to India in 1977, as a graduate student on his way to Europe. Over the last four years he has been a regular visitor. Currently he is the director, investment specialist, Asia Pacific and MENA, Deutsche Asset Management (Australia) Ltd. He was recently in India to launch the DWS Global Agri Business Offshore Fund, which invests indirectly in agri businesses. He spoke to DNA on the economics of agriculture. Excerpts:


What's behind rising food prices?

Population growth is a key factor in rising food prices, not just over the long term but also over the next 5-10 years. There is high food inflation in India. People tell me it relates to hoarding and so on, but that's not the primary reason. It is the growing wealth in the developing world and the rise in the world's population that are the key drivers. The first thing that people do when their incomes rise above the subsistence level of US $1,000 per annum is spend a substantial portion of that new money on more food, better quality food. Much of the world shifts from cereal-based diets to protein-based diets (more meat essentially). Clearly, that is not happening in India to the same extent, but there is more dairy consumption given that India is primarily a vegetarian nation.


There are over three billion people in the sweet spot between $1,000 and $3,000 right now. This is a massive force for change over the next few years, leading to more food being required. Other drivers include the amount of agricultural land. It's not capable of expanding more. If we do create more agricultural land, we would have to cut down more forests and clearly governments are against that now.

 

Can you elaborate?

We have a declining amount of agricultural land and we lost about 0.3% of the world's agricultural land last year because of urbanisation, salt degradation and the encroachment of deserts. So this is a serious problem. If you allocate more land to biofuel there is simply less land available for food. So what do you expect to happen to food prices? They are likely to rise! There has been underinvestment in agriculture in India and now you are starting to look at it again because of the very serious reason that you need food to feed the population. And governments know that if you have food riots you lose the government. I am not suggesting that's why India is concentrating on agriculture again; but we have seen around 60 food riots around the world in the last 2.5 years.

 

Any other reasons for rising food prices?

Another thing is global warming and climate change. Short- and long-term, it is also a severe problem for agriculture. Low land areas are going to become hotter, more arid, which is a problem because we are going to lose land that way, but higher regions can actually increase their yield because they will become sunnier and they will be able to grow more crops there. But we will lose more land than we will gain. Also, we have got storms that are more severe and these are happening now. A good example is Hurricane Nargis which happened in this region two years ago. Philippines has had six typhoons in seven weeks this year, which have destroyed 2.5 million tonnes of rice.

 

What would you say is the biggest threat to food security?

I think it is weather related. We have basically consumed more than we have grown. If you actually take into account the number of people who are malnourished, we don't have inventories. If the food could be distributed to those people, the inventories would disappear. So basically if we get a bad season all around the world simultaneously, we are going to have severe food shortages. But that seems to not happen because right now crops seem to be good in the southern and northern hemispheres. The crop reports that are coming out of the United States also seem encouraging. The thing that could solve food shortages is if everyone went vegetarian. We don't see that as likely but it would solve a lot of the world's food problems.

 

What's the scenario on water and depleting groundwater sources?

Dramatic increases in the irrigation of crops across northern India have substantially depleted the region's groundwater. Between April, 2002, and August, 2008, aquifers lost a total of more than 54 cubic km per year. That decrease in groundwater is even more than double the capacity of India's largest reservoir. It's a huge problem, and wells have to be dug 10 metres deeper over the last few years just to cope with the amount of water demand that's coming. This is a significant agricultural area and if that water disappears you have problems. Some studies estimate that this could affect 400 million people in India. But again, the whole thing comes down to water and water rights. Who owns the water? You have big, long rivers and people are taking out all the water at the top. The main river system in Australia, the Murray-Darling, doesn't even flow into the sea anymore. It stops about 15 km from the sea.

 

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DNA

THE ALL ENGLAND IN BIRMINGHAM

DEV S SUKUMAR

 

You step out of the National Indoor Arena and it's a different, almost surreal world. After a day spent in the cavernous insides of the stadium, covering the All England, the mind takes time to adjust. It's cold, and the lights around are reflected in the water of the canal running right beside the stadium. A few shadowy figures walk briskly by — everybody is wrapped up against the chill.

 

The All England Open Badminton Championships in March — how much the cold is a part of it, as if it were another player in the world's greatest and oldest badminton tournament! For 16 years now the tournament has been held at the NIA in Birmingham, a grand structure that has hosted operas, ballets, and sporting events of every kind. When you arrive, in anticipation of watching the greats of the game play, you also brace for the cold.

 

It's better these days, of course. Back in 1947, when two Indians, Devinder Mohan and Prakash Nath, arrived at the All England (it was then at Harringay Arena in London), the storm was so fierce water had leaked in through the roof and turned into ice on the courts.

 

The canal gives a nice old feel to the city. It reminds you of the Venice you've seen in other people's photo albums. Birmingham was a city of the Industrial Revolution, and the waterways were its arteries. Now they're a tourist attraction — and much of the canalside development around the NIA was built in the Nineties.
Life during a tournament is split between the hotel room and the stadium. You scoot out early mornings and stumble in late nights — a faint flicker of the TV is the last thing you remember of the day. What's pretty in the mornings is almost menacing in the nights. There's nobody on the streets; it's cold and the wind makes rustling noises everywhere. The lights are all on in the surrounding houses, but not a sound comes from within. It's like you're the only living thing around here.

 

The first time I went, two years ago, I missed much of the city. I caught glimpses of statues and buildings, but I wasn't in the mood to explore. When the Chinese and Indonesians are playing inside the NIA, all else is secondary — I could've ignored an earthquake. This time I was keener on wandering around the city centre…
When you're not a keen student of European history, all statues look Greek and Roman. Around Victoria Square there are statues and vast public buildings — and I marvel at their grandness. And yetsomething's amiss. My engagement with all of this is the engagement of a tourist. I could identify a Queen Victoria statue; the buildings are what — Gothic? Neo Classical? Victorian? I didn't care to read the manuals. What could a day's history lesson teach me?

 

The city centre is a combination of the old and the new. Victoria Square is 'old' and The Pallasades and Broad Street — where the restaurants and pubs are located — is 'new'. Beyond that I cannot make any connections. It's almost shameful.

 

But I'm there for a badminton tournament, after all. This year was the 100th, and the All England, like Birmingham, is a small world in itself. A hundred years of a tournament that has so closely grown with a sport! This year the organisers paid some attention to highlighting its history, and had some cabinets showing old badminton racquets (called 'battledores') and shuttlecocks and a few other old gee-gaws.

 

The sport has grown beyond recognition. Like Birmingham's city centre, badminton is split between the 'old' and the 'new'. In recent times, the pressure from the 'new' has nearly overwhelmed the sport — there is increasing demand for shorter matches due to shorter attention spans; more colour, more ad breaks.

In some ways, it's like an old part of the city demolished to make way for glitzy, upscale malls.

 

Birmingham seems to have made a nice compromise. It has retained its Industrial Revolution era buildings, and Tesco malls rest comfortably close to Victorian monuments. Cars and pedestrians cross each other's paths on cobblestones. Badminton needs to achieve a similar compromise.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ARREST NOT ENOUGH

MEDICAL COUNCIL MUST BE OVERHAULED

 

The arrest in New Delhi of Dr Ketan Desai, the controversial and powerful president of the Medical Council of India, is a shocking reflection on the prestigious body. Dr Desai, who is said to have held a vice-like grip over the MCI for the last 20 years, has been charged, along with two of his alleged accomplices, with 'accepting' a bribe of Rs two crore for granting recognition to a private medical college in Punjab. This is not the first time though that he has come under a cloud. He in fact was forced to step down as MCI president in 2000 after the Delhi High Court ordered him to do so, holding him guilty of misusing his office and of corruption. But he returned as the president last year after winning a protracted legal battle. He got elected as the president of the World Medical Association, which has a membership of 90 million across the globe and his many admirers will no doubt see in his arrest a witch-hunt.

 

But the fact remains that the Medical Council of India was described as 'a den of corruption' by the Delhi High Court 10 years ago. With the MCI enjoying powers of granting approval to new medical colleges, clearing affiliation to medical colleges, carrying out inspections and derecognising them, private medical colleges find themselves at its mercy. But sadly, it has neither been able to enforce a uniform standard across the country nor has it succeeded in maintaining quality or putting an end to malpractices connected to capitation fees or admissions. It is widely believed that 'NRI quota' and the 'management quota' of seats in private medical colleges are routinely doled out to the highest bidders or used to favour politicians and bureaucrats. The 'industry' could not have flourished without the patronage of the MCI, politicians and the bureaucrats.

 

Sweeping reforms in the MCI itself and the health ministry are necessary therefore to cleanse medical education in the country. It is just not enough to arrest a few and make them cool their heels in prison for a short time. The system's capacity to mete out swift, sharp and exemplary punishment being in doubt, the only other alternative is to ensure transparency, reduce political interference in the MCI and impose restrictions on re-election of office-bearers for more than one term. 

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

ENGINEERING IN TAMIL

CREATE PROPER CONDITIONS FIRST

 

Votaries of mother tongue as the language of instruction have a reason to cheer. In a pioneering move Anna University in Tamil Nadu will introduce Tamil as medium of instruction for BE civil and mechanical courses in colleges affiliated to the university from the coming academic year on an experimental basis. In principle, the move aimed at motivating students from the Tamil medium schools to join engineering colleges is sound. Yet the measure calls for proper wherewithal to be put in place.

 

Besides the problem of availability of textbooks which the Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education is preparing, there are other issues like availability of teachers who are well-versed in Tamil and are technically qualified too. Already there is a growing unease over the quality of technical education in India and even the Prime Minister has expressed his concern. Even if the state government is able to put the infrastructure in place, the question of employability of these engineering graduates still remains. There is little doubt that today we are living in a global village and English has emerged as a link language, especially in fields of technology and research.

 

The fact that the new measure is being introduced only on a trial basis implies that the government is aware of the possible hiccups. It is reassuring to learn as Tamil Nadu's Higher Education Minister K Ponmudy has conveyed that a silent revolution in higher education is on in Tami Nadu. To capitalise on the gains reflected in increased enrolment in higher education, students from all classes must benefit. Undeniably, students who study in schools with their mother tongue as the medium of instruction start on a back foot when they have to compete with those from English medium schooling background. Yet utmost care has to be taken to ensure that the perceived benefit does not turn out to be an excess baggage. All said and done one of the main goals of technical education is to seek and find gainful employment. The government and the university have to make sure that their experiment is not just chauvinistic linguistic bravado and the interests of students are not sacrificed.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

OMAR'S TRACK RECORD

LAW AND ORDER VITAL FOR DEVELOPMENT

 

On the face of it, Mr Omar Abdullah's track record as the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir in the past 15 months has been satisfactory notwithstanding several ups and downs. As his interview to The Tribune on Thursday suggests, given the challenges he had to confront, he managed the affairs of the state with due sincerity. Over 35,000 troops have been reduced in Jammu and Kashmir so far. There has been substantial reduction in the number of Central paramilitary forces from internal duty as well. He has promised that with the improvement in the security situation, there would be a further reduction of troops. The Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and the separatists have been consistently campaigning for troop reduction. They believe that the Army's presence in Kashmir is affecting normal life and is also responsible for human rights abuses. The BJP fears that troop reduction may encourage militants to "regroup" and "worsen" the situation. The ruling National Conference is of the view that an improvement in the security situation necessitates troops cut in the Valley.

 

Mr Abdullah has made it clear that the decision to deploy the Army was not political, but based on the security situation in the state. Linked with the issue of troop reduction is the demand for withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the state. Any decision on the two demands necessarily hinges on considerable reduction in militancy and improvement in the security situation. Though infiltration from Pakistan this year is lower than last year, Mr Abdullah has rightly said that there is "zero room for complacency" and that there is no question of "letting our guard down".

 

The third generation Abdullah is known for his enthusiasm for work. His claim in the interview that "we have done a bloody good job" may seem an exaggeration, but few can dismiss his government's achievements like progress in setting up two Central Universities, speeding up four-laning of the National Highway between Jammu and Srinagar, stipend for the jobless among the economically weaker and backward sections and opening 18 polytechnics in various districts. While the government's thrust on development is welcome, Mr Abdullah cannot afford to lose grip on law and order as both are inextricably intertwined, the one depending upon the other.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

DEALING WITH NAXALITES

STRATEGY AND TACTICS REQUIRE REVISITING

BY MAJ-GEN ASHOK K. MEHTA (RETD)

 

Besides the brilliance and brutality of the Naxalite ambush sprung in Dantewada on April 6 that accounted for the single biggest one-day loss ever to security forces, two other images remain in the aftermath of the tragedy. Instead of saluting during the cremation of CRPF jawans, police officers doing namaste; and policemen bunched in single-file on patrol in the Dantewada forest. Both these actions demonstrate the civilian mindset of the police when military ethos is the answer.

 

The way 26/11 galvanised counter-terrorism, Dantewada will, we hope, chivvy counter-insurgency and anti-Maoist strategies. Since Black Tuesday a torrential downpour of lessons and ideas have flooded policy-makers on strategies to cope and confront the Maoist People's War. At one extreme is civil society's Arundhati Roy, calling Maoists Gandhians with guns while on the opposite side is the gun-wielding majority, demanding their extermination.

 

Clearly, India is facing the gravest internal security threat ever, first recognised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004 but without doing anything about it. Six years later, after repeatedly underestimating its gravity, the politico-military response turns out to be too little too late. The biggest distortion about the Maoist challenge is that it is billed as a law and order problem falling under state jurisdiction when even the blind will acknowledge it is a full-blown insurgency beyond the capacity of individual states.

 

It is a political problem with the Centre and the state having conflicting interests. Recently, West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya accused Railway Minister Mamata Bannerji of having links with the Naxalites. Jharkhand, Orissa, Bihar and Maharashtra are known to be soft on them. The Andhra Pradesh model of carrot and stick worked but with 10,000 Maoists operating across state boundaries under a unified command, and with an elaborate financial support structure ($ 200 million annually), and no dearth of manpower, only a well-coordinated and robust Central and state multi-pronged response can arrest the Maoist contagion beyond the 226 districts of the country's 630.

 

Consider the costs. More than 900 persons were killed in 2009 in Naxalite- related violence which is more than the combined fatalities of the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir and CIS in the North East. The economic cost is horrific: three steel plants, a chemical hub and a car plant all worth $ 15 billion have failed to come up and production and shipment of iron ore and aluminium have been hit and access to other strategic materials like thorium and bauxite prevented. Mamata Bannerji informed Parliament recently that 40 per cent of railway business was undermined by the Naxalite strikes and other disruptions.


About 40,000 sq km of territory is under the Naxalite control with some areas not visited by government officials since 1970 and some not since Independence. According to a reliable estimate, the recurring cost of the People's War Group is nearly 2 per cent of India's GDP. With a red corridor effectively in the making, there is an image and security problem for domestic and foreign investment. The Maoists are able to free their mates from a top-security jail in Bihar, demolish a police post in West Bengal, raid an armoury in Orissa… the toll is unending and extracted with impunity.

 

The Maoists have the upper hand. Given the scale of the problem and the operational deficiencies thrown up by Dantewada, both strategy and tactics require revisiting. The CRPF, according to the 2000 Group of Ministers report, is the designated force to tackle internal security but is untrained to fight insurgency which requires combat skills or an infantry soldier. The BSF is the only paramilitary force equipped, trained and battle inoculated like the infantry.


Massive expansion of the CRPF to 216 battalions has diluted quality and training standards. Specialist skills are being compromised by sheer numbers without matching weapons and equipment. Leadership is seriously in question. It is divided between the CRPF up to the level of Assistant or Deputy Commandant whereas the IG level and above are imported from the Indian Police Service.

 

The command structure must be rationalised. State police which is required to be the lead element in counter-Naxal operations is deeply politicised and geared to combat riot situations. There is a deficiency of 80,000 police, aggravated by the failure of states in implementing police reforms ordered by the Supreme Court.

 

The long-term challenge for the Home Ministry and Army is training of state and central police forces to requisite infantry standards. In the interim the Army must accommodate larger numbers of CRPF for six to eight weeks training in its CIS and Jungle Warfare schools in Eastern and Northern Commands. This will require expansion of training infrastructure and strict guidelines for trainers and trainees. Police units must be trained as cohesive teams led by dedicated officers.

 

Bihar and West Bengal are to raise units from 60,000 ex-servicemen who retire each year from the Army. Lateral induction into central police forces from Army must no longer be dodged on grounds of difficulties in adjusting seniority. The Army should consider establishing cantonments, military stations, collective training areas and firing ranges in Maoist-affected states. Operational advisory and monitoring teams should be embedded with CRPF units during training and operations. It is in the Army's interest to militarise the CRPF to avoid getting sucked into a third front. 


Nearly 60 Central police battalions (CRPF, BSF, ITBP and SSB) are deployed to assist states to fight the Maoists. Another 60 battalions are required to achieve reasonable force-on-force ratio to regain the initiative. This could take 3-5 years unless the Army and IAF are selectively employed to close the gap. The notion of not using the Air Force "against our own people" is outdated and self-punishing. Maoists have butchered hundreds of innocent civilians and policemen. How can they be our own people?

 

The IAF employed Hunter jets and helicopters to break the MNF siege of an Assam Rifles Post in Aizawl in March 1966. Thrice it was used in Jammu and Kashmir – May 15, 2000, helicopters were used to kill militants in Kandi-Yusmarg; on March 25, 2000, Mi35 attack helicopters fired rockets and guns on hilltops to destroy militant hideouts. Attack helicopters were used in 2003 on Hilkaka heights in the Pir Panjal ranges. The IAF was also used in offensive role against Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka quite freely. Concern for collateral damage reflects the operational ethos of our armed forces.

 

India is the only country facing a multiplicity of grave internal security threats to which it responds with minimum force at avoidable human cost instead of using adequate and proportionate force. Security forces need not be apologetic about gaining the upper hand with selective use of force. Of course, there is no military solution, but applying calibrated force is unavoidable. Lack of political will is responsible for insurgencies dragging on and the Maoist gaining ascendancy.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

SERPENT BAR

BY P. C. SHARMA

 

Palais des Nations in Geneva is the Mecca of international conferences. In its salles (halls) delegates deliberate on covenants, conventions and treaties to promote international peace, understanding and protect human rights. I was there recently to participate in the International Coordinating Committee on human rights.

Much heat and passion are generated over the draft resolutions. Wranglings lead to conflicts. Those accustomed to making verbal sallies succeed in confounding the issues, blurring the text and their contents as well. Opinions and counter opinions become a nightmare for the interpreters — making it, at times difficult for them to render intelligible translations.

 

When decisions elude and resolutions become difficult to pass, lobbying is the only answer. But the conference hall is not its true arena. It is best conducted in the Serpent Bar just outside the hall.

 

The bar is an oblong space overlooking a serene garden with luxuriant grass dotted with sculptures depicting pain and achievements of humanity, trees in slow-bloom suggesting oncoming of spring, and glimpsing Lake Geneva in the beyond. It is here that the warring delegates repair to.

 

Chairs resting on legs that look like slithering snakes cover the entire floor space. Aroma of coffee, smell of beer froth "winking at the brims", petite belles — all in the business of the Conference – throwing 'Bon jour', 'Bon journee', 'Merci' with captivating smiles at the slightest eye-contact is the ambience that Serpent Bar offers like no other.

 

Here the delegates mingle without ear-phones, communicate without interpreters, tempers that soared high inside the hall cool down, clarity of thought descends in a flash. Lobbying is at its best in this setting. Delegates make full use of mobiles for back-home consultations, hold each others' hands — especially when interlocutors happen to be boue feminas — exuberate understanding of issues which defied solutions inside the salle. Decisions suddenly appear within reach.

 

The sartorial elegance of dark suits–-an unwritten dress code of international conferences – is in full display as a symbol of international solidarity. Unique mosaic of different cultures, races, religions and languages that throng the bar plays its own role in promoting international understanding.

 

The delegates return to the conference hall with areas of misunderstanding 'considerably narrowed down', and resume business with earphones and country-plates in front. Perfect contrast to the informal milieu of the bar.

 

The bonds developed and the understanding reached in the bar become quite evident. Things unsaid become eloquent. The language of discourse is tempered with caution. Resolutions are adopted with thumping applauses. And the hammer comes down on the conference.

 

But the event cannot be said to be over without the last visit to Serpent Bar where departing delegates exchange business cards, make professions of mutual understanding and say 'aure voirs' with assurances of cooperation.

While flying back home, I kept wondering whether it was the salles of Palais des Nations or its Serpent Bar which took the cake. But, indeed, it is difficult to imagine one without the other.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

ALTERNATIVE AGRICULTURE

HOODA SHOULD LOOK BEYOND GREEN REVOLUTION 

BY RAJINDER CHAUDHARY

 

A meeting of Central ministers and chief ministers held on April 8 with the Prime Minister in the chair constituted a working group under the Chief Minister of Haryana, Mr Bhupinder Singh Hooda, to "recommend ways of increasing agricultural production and productivity". The group is expected to submit its report by June 6, 2010.

 

Till date the strategy of agricultural development has primarily been to (a) extend the Green Revolution (GR) package to more geographical areas and crops and (b) plug gaps, if any, in the areas and crops already covered. In this context, the minimum support prices, timely availability of fertilisers and water are the issues one hears about. The latest addition to this strategy is the use of bio-technology involving genetic modifications, e.g. Bt brinjal.  

 

But age-old wisdom says that one should not put all eggs in one basket, in this case the basket being the GR package. A committee set up by the Planning Commission has called this agriculture "exploitative" because it has resulted in "damaging impacts on the environment, human and animal health, soil and water resources".

 

The increased use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers has caused problems of soil, environment and water degradation. The chemical-intensive agriculture, practised post-Green Revolution success, has polluted our food, drinking water and air. "Life expectancy has improved, but the quality of life has deteriorated. The rural economy is in ruins because of the over-dependence on outside inputs in agriculture such as seed, fertilisers, pesticides, growth-promoting chemicals etc" (GoI, 2001).

 

Besides, "modern agricultural practices are contributing to the genetic uniformity of crops with vast tracts of lands sown with the same genotype extending into even neighboring countries… [which] makes agriculture highly vulnerable to unforeseen weather and pest/pathogen situations".

 

Since 1980 the water table has fallen by 4 metres in 264 districts. In the agricultural strategy of the government, organic or alternative agriculture is only paid lip-service and is meant for niche markets or for rain-fed areas etc and not as a general strategy of agricultural development. The terms of reference of this working group are no different with a heavy emphasis on "bridging yield gaps", a euphemism for extending the GR package to other states.

 

Way back in 2001 a report of the Taskforce on Organic Farming had recommended that "leaders of the government should propagate the concept of organic farming as a sustainable and better alternative" and suggested that "all the state governments may be advised to consider experimentation and demonstrations on government farms on a 50:50 area basis on organic farming and other forms of farming".

 

Unfortunately, this has not been done till date. It appears that organic agriculture interests the Indian government more for its export potential rather than as an agricultural strategy. The contribution of the Ministry of Agriculture in the propagation of organic agriculture is confined to the creation of national and regional centres of organic farming by renaming the existing establishments and allocation of just Rs 150 crore in the Eleventh Plan.

 

The least that the "long-term policies for sustained agricultural growth" require is that all eggs are not put in one

basket. To operationalise this conventional wisdom, the mainstream agricultural policies and research institutes should take note of "organic/alternative agricultural practices" successfully adopted by thousands of farmers for many decades now.  The fourth edition of "Organic Farming Source Book" gives a list of farmers flourishing without the use of the GR package of chemical fertilisers, insecticides, herbicides etc for decades.

 

Is it too much to expect from the Indian Council of Agriculture Research to formally collect, consolidate, study and verify these claims. Either turn these down as a fraud or develop these further as well as extend at least the same state support to them as is extended to the GR package.

 

Alternative agriculture is a self-reliant agriculture with no external inputs. No purchased inputs means no indebtedness, and no indebtedness to trader means no distress sale immediately after the harvest. No reliance on chemicals means no reliance on the fast-dwindling oil reserves and costly imports. Hence, alternative agriculture can take care of not only sustained agricultural growth but also many other goals that the government has set for itself, including "reduce the gap between farm gate and retail prices", have "climate-resilient agriculture" etc.

 

Confining the group to the GR states of Haryana and Punjab, and to West Bengal and Bihar, where the GR is weak, indicates that one can expect this group to serve the old wine of GR in a new bottle. That would be sad indeed given the steady decline in the soil and water quality, two essential inputs of agriculture or rather human life itself, which has been brought about by the Green Revolution and which has been well documented by the government's own committees.

 

The writer is a Professor of Economics at M. D. University, Rohtak

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

COMBAT SOLDIERING NOT FOR WOMEN

BY COL PRITAM BHULLAR (RETD)

 

WOMEN officers in the armed forces are asking for parity with the male officers in all streams, including the combat arms. In September last year, the government decided to grant permanent commission (PC) to those women officers who were recruited after March 2009 on the completion of 10 years of service and that too in a few administrative streams.

 

Some women officers challenged the decision in the Delhi High Court. On March 12, the Delhi High Court ruled: "Women officers of the Air Force who had opted for PC but were granted extension of SSC and of the Army are entitled to PC on a par with male officers."

 

As for their induction into the combat arms, the Delhi High Court said: "The claim of absorption in areas of operation not open for recruitment of women officers cannot be sustained being a policy decision." The court refused to interfere with the policy decision, which does not offer permanent commission to SSC officers across the board for men and women being on parity and as part of management exercises.

 

A study carried out at the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff on all aspects of employment of women officers in the armed forces in 2006 recommended that women officers should be excluded from close combat roles.

 

Women officers are up in arms against such thinking and say that the Army is a male-dominated establishment in which the risk to women in combat roles due to their biological difference from men is exaggerated. They feel that nothing poses more challenge to women than men in close combat roles. It is only the masculine mindset of the military that is keeping women out of close combat roles.

 

Several countries such as America, the UK, Australia, Canada, Israel, Russia, Spain, Thailand, Vietnam and Yugoslavia enlist women in their armed forces. America has a large percentage of them, that is 11 per cent, in its volunteer forces. The first large-scale war fought with women's active participation in it was the Gulf war in 1990. Among the US troops in this war, 8 per cent were women who not only contributed their share to the victory of the allied forces but also figured in the list of casualties and POWs. Of the 13 women killed, five were battle casualties and two women were captured by the Iraqi army.

 

At the time of induction of the US forces into Saudi Arabia in 1990, a former Marines officer-turned-journalist said: "Women could play their part in the rear areas, but soldiering was something best done by men." He went on to say that he was not alone in expressing misgivings about what would happen if women got involved in combat. "As soon as women stated coming home in body bags or the Iraqis captured a few and raped them, we would see an end to it," he quipped. And sure enough, this was proved true as America did not send them again to the second Gulf war.

 

The two women who became POWs were Major Rhonda L Cornum and Specialist Melissa Colman. In June 1992 Major Cornum testified before the Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces that she was "violated manually, vaginally and rectally." Based on the disclosure of Major Cornum, the opinion that gained ground in America was that women were far more vulnerable than men in combat. Incidentally, none of the male prisoners reported any such treatment though they complained of inhuman torture.

 

Admittedly, it is their gender that puts women at a great disadvantage in battle. For, they not only become victims of sexual assault by the enemy in the event of being captured but they also run the risk of losing their chastity at the hands of their own forces.

 

Despite their derring-do, frontline soldiering is risky for women as no country can reconcile to its women soldiers being sexually violated in battle. Combat soldiering should, therefore, be counted out for women. Their place is in the rear areas where they are not likely to come into contact with the enemy. They should be granted SSC in the administrative wings of the three services and should be considered for the grant of PC after five years of service depending on their suitability, as in the case of male SSC officers, so that they can make the Army a career for them. 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

INSIDE PAKISTAN

IS ARMY TAKEOVER NO LONGER POSSIBLE?

BY SYED NOORUZZAMAN

 

With President Asif Ali Zardari's assent to the 18th Constitution Amendment Bill, one question that is being hotly debated is whether it will really no longer be possible for a future Army Chief to stage a coup in Pakistan. The 18th Amendment has strengthened Article 6 of the Pakistan Constitution, barring courts from legitimising a military takeover of power.

 

Article 6 in its new form has it that any judge validating an army coup will be guilty of high treason. That is why Zardari asserted while signing the historically significant Bill that he had closed the doors forever on military dictators usurping power.

 

But Zardari also added that "mishaps can take place". This part of his statement is equally significant. It is true that "The judiciary has always been the vehicle of legitimising the illegal removal of elected governments", as Daily Times has commented. Now the judiciary will be doing so at its own peril. But military dictators do not bother about such things. They know that there are many other ways to get the cloak of legitimacy as Gen Pervez Musharraf did by stage-managing a referendum in 2002.

 

Having a tough law to prevent army rule in the future is one thing. But the law can serve the purpose only if there is a mature political leadership in Pakistan. Most newspapers have stressed the need for a capable political leadership, which can make it impossible for the Army Chief to stage a coup, whatever the circumstances.

 

GENERAL KAYANI'S ROLE

Zardari, who had been initially reluctant to forego the enormous powers he enjoyed as President, is believed to have put his signature on the 18th Amendment Bill because he had no better choice. Army Chief Ashfaq Kiyani's dominant role in all that has happened, though for the good of democracy, has been too visible to be ignored. The Pakistan President, perhaps, was given a clear hint that either he agreed to accept the position of a titular head of state or get ready to be hauled over coals. A way could have been found to open the cases against him relating to his Swiss bank accounts. With the all-powerful Pakistan Army working against him, Zardari could have been prevented from taking the advantage of immunity he enjoys as President.

 

FIRST SUPPORT FROM COURT

Meanwhile, the Sindh High Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition challenging the eligibility of the Presidential immunity from corruption cases. A Division Bench of the court ruled that the 2008 Presidential election, which went in favour of Zardari, could not be challenged as the President enjoyed indemnity from court proceedings and could be removed only by launching impeachment proceedings in parliament.

 

The Sindh High Court verdict goes against the opinion expressed by the Pakistan Supreme Court off and on after it nullified the controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). As Raoof Hasan, a Lahore-based commentator, says in an article in The News, "The Supreme Court's insistence that the government take the necessary steps with regard to the initiation of cases against the President in the Swiss court hinges on its belief that these cases are not covered by the much-hyped immunity clause." This shows that Zardari's troubles are not over despite the bargain he is believed to have made with the Establishment. 

 

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MUMBAI MERROR

EDITORIAL

POOR PEOPLE'S RICH REPRESENTATIVES

Our rich politicians' neglect of poverty and governance can be considered a much bigger scandal than their involvement in the ongoing IPL drama

 

 When one of the Union ministers, who is under media glare for his alleged link with the widening IPL scandal, was asked to explain his secret involvement in the bidding, he quipped, "Why should I resort to such subterfuge? If I wanted to own an IPL team I can bid for it on my own." What he meant was that being one of the richest members of the current Lok Sabha, he could afford to bid without any external support or proxy. We know this to be true, since his declared wealth is on display on the Lok Sabha Website. We don't know how the IPL investigation saga will end, if at all. But the increasing concentration of wealth among lawmakers is a cause for concern. The wealth of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha members is known to the public because they themselves declare it during elections. Parliament also maintains a register of business interests of members after they get elected, although this information is not in the public domain. This register is maintained so that members are prevented from asking questions that could arise from a conflict of interest. Imagine an MP with interest in two-wheelers industry, asking for excise tax relief for motorcycles.


 The current Lok Sabha has 314 crorepatis, more than double of 154 in the previous Lok Sabha. Some of this can be attributed to inflation, just as Kaun Banega Karodpati doubled its prize from the first season to the second season. But it is a huge increase nevertheless. India's national income did not double in those five years, nor did the stock market. In the Rajya Sabha too more than half, i.e. 98 out of 183 members are crorepatis. A detailed analysis of the wealth of candidates of the Lok Sabha election shows, that in most of the 543 constituencies either the richest or the second richest candidate won. The probability of winning goes up with your wealth.


 The members of Parliament are people's representatives. The people of India are far from being rich. The Planning Commission estimates that 37.2 per cent of the people of India are below the poverty line, i.e. cannot get even one square meal a day to meet minimum nutrition. This is a very conservative estimate. There is another way to define poverty, not based on food intake, but in terms of how much you spend. If you define anyone who cannot even spend Rs 20 a day as poor, then according to the Arjun Sengupta committee, a whopping 77 per cent of India is below poverty line. If you use the World Bank norm of $ 1.25 per day then too you get a very high poverty percentage. Hence whichever way you look at it, a majority of Indians are poor. After 20 years of economic reforms, poverty remains stubbornly high in modern India. And the people's representatives continue to grow richer. Can this increasing disparity between representatives' income profile and the average electorate that they represent be healthy? Are we heading into the next Lok Sabha when all 543 members will be crorepatis and the poverty ratio would still be close to 40 per cent?


 It is no use denying the poverty numbers, and not just because they come from Planning Commission. There is enough evidence of it even otherwise. It comes from the forests of Dantewada, and it also comes from ever-expanding urban slums. It comes from stories of farmer suicides and of malnourished children. It comes from 50,000 youth seeking a few hundred lowly jobs as police havildars. It's not IPL involvement of politicians, it's their neglect of poverty and governance which is the bigger scandal.

 

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

EDITORIAL

METAPHOR OF THE TIMES

IPL IS NOT AN EXCEPTION, AN ABERRATION IN AN OTHERWISE WELL-ORDERED AND TRANSPARENT SYSTEM; RATHER, IT IS A METAPHOR OF THE TIMES

T N NINAN

Suppose the Maoists were to capture the government in New Delhi, and launch a widespread investigation into the doings of the country's power elite — investigation of the kind that has been launched into the affairs of the Indian Premier League (IPL). What would they find? It is a fair bet that what they unearth would keep TV channels breathlessly excited and the front pages of newspapers booked for several weeks at a stretch. IPL is not an exception, an aberration in an otherwise well-ordered and transparent system that plays by clear rules; rather, it is a metaphor of the times.

 Consider the different directions in which the IPL saga now stretches: hidden franchise owners, secret transactions overseas, blatant conflicts of interest, tax evasion, politicians and their families mixed up with the mess, unilateral cancellation and renegotiation of contracts, fixing of auction bids, suspicions of match-fixing and illegal betting, and much more. But why would anyone think that all this is unique to IPL, except as a form of escapism?

Look at how the telecom minister handed out licences and spectrum; the arbitrariness of Lalit Modi has a precedent, the sums involved are much larger, and the chutzpah is comparable. Look too at the links of politicians and the mining mafia, not just in Bellary but also in Madhu Koda's Jharkhand. What about defence contracts, and the commissions paid on them? How many scandals are waiting to be discovered about the way in which the Commonwealth Games are being organised? Can it really be true that Rahul Bajaj is the richest member of the Rajya Sabha because he declares wealth of just Rs 308 crore? Where did the money for Mayawati's rupee-garland come from? Or for Ram Vilas Paswan's burnt Audi? Was any commission paid on the orders for new Air India planes that have effectively bankrupted the airline? And, for that matter, why did the government sit tight for several months on its investigations that suggested that all was not right with IPL and Lalit Modi?

This is not to bemoan the present and the future of India, but to point to the urgent need for correctives, because the problem goes beyond IPL. If one were serious about looking for correctives, it would not be difficult because the problem patterns are easily recognisable. First, politicians get mixed up with businessmen (see how quickly a neophyte like Shashi Tharoor learnt the game), and with decisions on who gets or does not get something that is either naturally or artificially scarce (a licence, fresh spectrum, a mining right). Second, the business exists in some opaque periphery of the national consciousness — like the lottery businesses run by state governments; or real estate deals — on which it is difficult to throw light. Third, the real money is made or paid overseas — and usually routed back into the country through participatory notes and other subterfuges like cell accounts run by foreign institutional investors.

This is not to suggest a return to V P Singh's "raid raj" of 1985-86. Far better to look for systemic solutions. Like independent investigation arms that are free of political control, so that coalition partners in a government do not have immunity from the law; a sample check of the wealth statements filed by politicians, in the manner that the income tax people do sample checks on tax returns; proper audit and disclosure of political party accounts and balance sheets; fast-track courts for elected representatives who have criminal cases against them, so that legislatures are quickly freed of those who are, in fact, guilty. These would be good starting points.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

IPL OR SCAPEGOAT MODI?

THE BCCI IS PROJECTING ITSELF AS THE GOOD MOTHER WITH AN ERRANT MODI CHILD. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH

SURJIT S BHALLA

The advantage of a story breaking out much before the time due for the fortnightly column is that it provides time for reflection, and synthesis. Collating all the pieces together, this is what emerges.

 First, neither the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) nor Lalit Modi is the creator of the Indian Premier League (IPL) concept. Both have been credited with this innovation, and some have even called Modi a genius in this regard. By doing so, analysts and commentators are missing out on a critical element in this seedy and sorry saga. The IPL concept was introduced in India by the Indian Cricket League (ICL). ICL contracted players, Packer-style, and the T20 league was on. Somewhat later, BCCI woke up and muscled its way into the concept, and ICL was muscled out. ICL was promoted by Zee Sports, so the question arises as to why did they just roll over when BCCI said boo? Because BCCI was exercising its monopoly power as the sole promoter of cricket in India.

BCCI said, quite simply, that a player who played in ICL would not be eligible for playing for the national cricket team. The often holier-than-thou but equally monopolistic ICC backed BCCI and supported the decision that any player playing for the "rogue" league would not be eligible to play for national teams. And where were our much-vaunted politicians who are so eager to clean up the Modi, nay BCCI mess? In full support, lined up behind BCCI, with 17 of the 23-odd cricket associations in India headed by their multi-faceted tribe. These office-bearers belong to all the parties and my guess is that the "ownership" of these district cricket associations, and BCCI, is distributed as the seats in the Lok Sabha, i.e. the Congress/UPA and the BJP/NDA have the largest ownership of cricket in India.

Why, one might ask, are the Indian politicians so bothered about promoting cricket in India when they, by their own admission, are overburdened with work and especially work that is in the service of the nation? Because BCCI was, until last year, treated like an NGO by the Indian government, i.e. its earnings were not taxed, because, like the Ministry of Defence, the work that BCCI did was paramount to national interests. This meant that all income of BCCI, as long as it was ploughed back into the development of cricket, was not taxable. In 2000, in a landmark judgment, the court ruled in the case of Rahul Mehra et al vs the Union of India, BCCI and DDCA, that BCCI was accountable to the citizens of India regardless of the "pioneering" ways in which it served the cause of India. This suit also contained this nugget of information: in at least some years preceding 2000, DDCA received more revenue from the sale of old liquor bottles on its premises than it spent on coaching facilities! There is a partial happy ending to this horror story: last year, the Government of India ruled (give credit where it is due to the bureaucrats in the Ministry of Finance and some upright politicians) that BCCI was no longer eligible for tax-free status.

In the meantime, BCCI has become the world's fattest cricketing body, and in the wake of the IPL scam, the pertinent question is: what should the Government of India do to make the right the several wrongs of the past? That is not possible. But something can be done for the future of Indian cricket, for the future of justice and fair play, for the future of institutions in India. The solution is as straightforward as it is transparent. It is to denationalise BCCI, yes, denationalise. At present, it has all the monopoly advantages of being a government body without any responsibility or accountability. There is also precedence for such a policy elsewhere in the world, especially in soccer. Teams are publicly listed companies and the people are the shareholders. Let us see how many politicians want to get into the rough and tumble of competitive markets, as opposed to the hiding behind the veil of serving the cause of the nation via a monopoly.

The IPL crisis should be viewed as a Modi-given opportunity for cleaning up the stables. At present, BCCI is behaving like a good mother disciplining an errant child. As late as now, Modi wanted to reveal the names and details of ownership of the teams. Where was Modi for the last three years? As late as now, BCCI wanted to study the legal implications of making the ownership public before making it public. The point of view of both the mother and child is laughable, but here the mother is clearly much more in the wrong. This fact should not go unnoticed.

Also, a final plea as a cricket fan. How come no one has really protested about the absolutely shoddy nature of the "new" Ferozshah Kotla stadium. No matter whether you view the cricket from the cheapest or the most expensive seats, the stadium is an embarrassment. Couldn't some of the "in the name of promoting cricket" money have gone into building a stadium that is representative of the Capital city of the new India? Does it not matter that there is only one scoreboard at the Kotla grounds and that half the stadium cannot see it? Something about the oh-so cricket loving corporate sponsors: you cannot see the scoreboard (remember there is only one) from their cushy seats. Does it not matter that no attempt is made to create an environment where one can go to enjoy the experience of watching cricket, even the IPL? Has any member of BCCI, or for that matter the Lok Sabha, seen a worse stadium in the world, let alone in India? Why has this gone on for so long without question or accountability? A legitimate question: Where has all the revenue from selling old liquor bottles gone?

The author is Chairman of Oxus Investments, an merging market advisory and fund management firm. Please visit www.oxusinvestments.com  for an archive of articles et al; comments welcome at: surjit.bhalla@oxusinvestments.com

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

 

 A LESSON FOR BCCI TO LEARN

GIVEN THE NUMBER OF SECRETS HE IS PRIVY TO, HUMONGOUS DAMAGE COULD RESULT BEFORE MODI GOES DOWN

DEVANGSHU DATTA

Game theorists coined the term Bushido Endgame to describe a situation where a nation losing a war uses its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and exits in a blaze of glory. Lalit Modi seems to have embraced the concept. Given the number of secrets he is privy to, humongous damage could result before he goes down.

 Cricket is unipolar. India generates about four-fifths of global revenues and, therefore, calls the shots. The Indian Premier League (IPL) generates most of Indian cricket's revenues and one-man controls IPL. On Monday, that man is likely to be removed, and he is evidently not prepared to go gentle into the night.

The surprising thing is how fast this situation developed and how utterly unnecessary it was. Just over a month ago, two new franchises had been inducted with bids that far exceeded the most inflated expectations. Everything seemed hunky-dory.

Then Lalit Modi started tweeting and Shashi Tharoor, counter-tweeting. They opened many cans of worms. Modi's decision to ventilate the ownership structure of the Kochi franchise seems to have been motivated mainly by pique. It set off a chain reaction. Questions were naturally raised about other ownership structures and about IPL's revenue management model.

Glasshouses, stones. In order to embarrass Tharoor, Modi put his entire empire in jeopardy. Yes, Modi may have had a sweetheart deal with one (or more) of the disappointed bidders, as has been alleged by a member of the Kochi consortium. It still doesn't make sense.

Now that the IT department is in the act, it's anyone's guess whether IPL will go into season IV at all. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is trying to undertake a damage-limitation exercise and may be able to distance itself. But until the IT department does unwind the IPL tangles, if it can do so at all, the league's future will be uncertain.

The damage to the game could go beyond that caused by the collapse of Allen Sanford's Ponzi schemes. An entire generation of cricketers and cricketing support staff may see their paycheques disappear into the ether along with Modi's tweets. Hell, cricket as we know it, could disappear into the ether if the IPL bubble implodes with sufficient force. Would the game survive if more than half its revenues disappeared?

It has never been a secret that IPL's revenue streams and franchise-ownership patterns are murky. The key to understanding that lies in the convoluted mind of the man who put it together. The central broadcasting and sponsorship deals went through him; he conceptualised the bid-award system for franchises and he dreamt up the player auctions. Things had to be convoluted to obscure any incentives for himself that Modi wove into the financial structure.

Analysts have broken their heads trying to understand how IPL works. Only two franchisees are said to have made money in Season-I. According to some analysts, season III would have been very profitable for most franchises. According to other analysts, most franchises will lose pots of money in Season-III and continue to lose large sums for years to come.

Cynically, IPL works. Somehow it generates positive cash-flows or at least, the promise of positive cash-flows. The existing franchises are owned and run by people noted for their business acumen. They would not have continued to support their teams with the open-handed enthusiasm they display, if it was a losing proposition. What is more, nobody would have been willing to bid outrageous amounts for the two new slots.

Between them, BCCI and the franchises have enough political clout to survive this crisis. IPL is too big to fail. It would be too much to expect a complete clean-up. But it is very much in BCCI's interest to ensure that power is never centralised in this fashion again.

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

MAIDS OF HONOUR

SUBIR ROY

My friend Shubhalakshmi was ecstatic over the phone from Bangalore. Shantamma is an angel, she declared. The angel in question is our part-time maid in Bangalore and Shubhalakshmi and her husband, my friend Partha, were using our flat there for a short vacation as we took a longer vacation in Kolkata. What swept her off her feet was the way Shantamma did her work — quickly, quietly, with great care and apparently quite happily. This was a big change from the general run of maids in Kolkata who were not just sloppy, lackadaisical and disgruntled but also physically undernourished and lacking in stamina.

Shantamma, well into her middle age, had come into our lives about three years ago, as a budlee for the regular maid who was going off to the Middle East on what was to her a fabulously well-paying job. But she was back in a couple of months, didn't like the place, and was ready to take back her old job. But we put our foot down. We had discovered right then that Shantamma had some angelic qualities and were not going to let her go. In these years, her salary has grown, but her back has been acting up and so we have given her a swab with a long handle rather than a piece of cloth with which maids in India usually wipe the floor.

 When Shubhalakshmi and my wife compared notes they found that Shantamma and maids in general in Bangalore earn about twice as much as their counterparts in Kolkata do. And quietly as she works, she has not failed to gently tell my wife recently it is time for another raise. To all her other pluses, she has added one more over time — she is never absent without notice, very occasionally letting us know beforehand that she won't be coming the next day because of some festival or family event.

Her economic status and the social mobility that her family has been able to achieve are a good couple of notches above that of the average maid in Kolkata. One day when she was in a hurry, a girl in her early teens whom she introduced as her granddaughter came to help her. This smart young girl was in high school, spoke perfect English and was as quiet and well-mannered as her grandmother.

The only time we have any problem with Shantamma is when we have to explain something complicated as she speaks only Kannada and very little Hindi. But her thrityish son, who now washes my car, speaks good Hindi. (He can also drive but can't do the job of a driver as he doesn't have a driving licence.) So, there you have the path of generational progress — monolingual (Kannada) to bilingual (plus Hindi) to trilingual (plus Hindi plus English) — and the corresponding rising levels of skill and income.

When I compare the maids who have worked for us in different cities, I find they are a good proxy for the level of economic and social development in different parts of the country as also the varying productivity levels. When we first moved to Delhi from Kolkata, there was Bimla — hardworking, regular and using every trick in the book to raise her salary, including every time bus fares went up (You know how much it costs to come to work from Jamnapaar, she would ask quite theatrically.) By the time we moved house to go to Gurgaon, she had become part of our family, particularly after I had used journalistic influence to get her two young sons admitted to a Kendriya Vidyalay. The only sad note was that her daughter was so upset in being unable to go to a good school like her brothers (my clout ran out after two) that she rebelled and stopped going to her local school. The point is that Bimla was sending all her children to school, good or bad.

The next maid in our life was Kiran, who came to work for us in Gurgaon straight from a backward West Bengal district. It was amazing how well and quickly she picked up the ropes of survival, though her quality of household work remained indifferent. Soon she got a job in another house in our development and moved on, keeping in touch with us but not letting sentiment get in the way of raising her income. Thereafter she has changed many many jobs and managed to take her income to levels she would not have dreamed of in her village. The way she has manoeuvred herself between job situations and other maids, earned her a striking comment from the wife of a friend in the development. If Kiran were educated, she would have become a little Indira Gandhi, she observed. Kiran also knows the value of education. Her son, who is now in college reading political science, called me the other day to gently ask if I could find him an opening.

From friends in Mumbai my wife and I have gather that the maids there are about the most professional in the country. They come precisely at the appointed hour, do precisely the jobs they have to do and not an iota more or less, and their rates are clearly defined, removing any room for haggling. Delhi maids are also professional but happy to charge you above the market rate if they can. If I were to try for the social uplift of maids who come to work in Kolkata households by commuter train from South 24 Parganas, the first thing I would do is make sure they ate better. They look so spiritless as they drag themselves through their work. Skills and productivity would come later.

subirkroy@gmail.com  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

WHEN HISTORY MEETS FICTION

V V

A fact is like a sack — it won't stand up till you put something into it. —Luigi Pirandello: Six Characters in Search of an Author

When you go beyond the confines of nursery history of kings and emperors, you are confronted with a plethora of facts, or an absence of them, which make history part-fact, part-fiction. All history then becomes a selective process, the selection and arrangement of appropriate "facts" or what passes off as "historical facts". But the selection and interpretation, that enters into every aspect of history, always devolves on a question of values which often leads a historian to put his own gloss on facts. There is then a distinct relationship between history and fiction, "two distinct and competing truths of evidence and imagination, one shared enterprise to find meaning through narrative", as Professor Beverly Southgate puts it in History Meets Fiction (Longman-Pearson, £14.99).

 This book, which has the flavour of the student handbook, has spelt out the relationship between history and fiction over eight chapters which are further subdivided into smaller units. The main chapters are: History and fiction; History: fact or fiction?; Some fictional representations of historians; Fiction, history, and memory; Fiction, history, and ethics; Fiction, history, and identity; Fiction and the functions of history; and finally, Endings, which rounds up the debate on fiction and history. Southgate's basic thrust is to examine history's claims to objectivity which are tested through the novel, as well as the reliability of primary and eyewitness accounts, and the connections between events which is, in many senses, the main task of historians.

In the chapter Fiction, history, and memory, Southgate highlights that the important meeting point for history and fiction lies in their respective attention to, and use of memory. Memory is central to the activities of both novelists and historians; in fact, Evelyn Waugh's definition of fiction was "experience totally transformed". So, also it is for historians who are concerned with "a chronology based story leading from an early beginning to a later end". This is the only tool for gaining any access to the past, and for giving an account of what happened before the present moment. Memory is the glue that sticks together our past and present and thus enables us to understand the chaos of the present.

But the crucial question that we need to ask is how reliable can memories be and whether they can be used to reconstruct the past. For novelists who can manipulate their experiences to tell their "story", it is legit, but the historian doesn't have the same licence to do so if he has to have the same credibility. These relativities that lie at the heart of the relationship between history and fiction are examined in Fiction, history and ethics through some seminal novels — Tolstoy's War and Peace, Proust's Remembrances of Things Past, Andre Gide's The Immoralists and some other modern novels.

In their attempt to embrace "a scientific model", historians have traditionally repudiated any ethical involvement. But novelists, conscious of the fact that a great deal of ancient history where sources are scarce has been manufactured, offered a critique of "detached history" through a novelist's interpretation of the past. Tolstoy, who was critical of both the nature and purpose of history, injected an ethical dimension — a pacifist message, opposing rather than glorifying war.

It is Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812 that is at the centre of Tolstoy's characters within a closely observed and detailed historical context which makes the work hard to define in terms of conventional disciplinary categories. Tolstoy rejected the description of both "novel" and "historical chronicle" despite being set within a specified historical context and despite having far-reaching philosophical and ethical concerns. But looked at in a broader perspective, it clearly is a work of fiction with strong ethical overtones. This was because Tolstoy's basic concerns were "man's inhumanity to man". Any discussion of the extent to which Tolstoy borrowed his materials from history is purely of an academic nature.

Much the same could be said of Proust's Remembrances that draws heavily on literature: as he said, "I understood that all these materials for a work of literature were simply my past life; I understood that they had come to me, in frivolous pleasures, in indolence, in tenderness, in unhappiness, and that I had stored them up without divining the purpose for which they were destined or even their continued existence any more than a seed does when it forms within itself a reserve of all the nutritious substances from which it feeds a plant." In fact, all memory is grist to the storyteller's mill, as it is for the historian who has to leap over formal records to tell his story.

In the book, Southgate leans heavily in favour of novelists, at the expense of historians as they grapple with dubious sources and fill in the gaps with their own imaginative interpretations of the past as it might have been. All the same, it is a useful contribution for us who are down, bogged with the myths and legends of literature and history.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

CENTRAL BANKS UNDER FIRE

BIMAL JALAN

The Economist recently (January 16) carried a story about stand-offs between central banks and politicians in places as far afield as the US, Argentina, Japan, and South Korea. Such stand-offs are by no means new. What is new is that even in countries like Japan and South Korea, where political leaders are otherwise circumspect, they have come out openly against central banks' views on monetary tightening.

There are several reasons for this. The first is, of course, the severe impact of the financial meltdown in the US and the failure of central banks to take timely preventive action. Subsequently, interest rates were cut to near-zero and vast amounts of money were pumped into the economy. This helped, but not enough to revive the economy.

 An equally important reason is popular disillusionment with government in power. This is most evident in industrial countries like the US, the UK, Japan and Germany. Unemployment rates are at unprecedented levels. Despite some recovery, there is no commensurate increase in jobs. Less well-off sections are finding it difficult — for the first time after the Great Depression — to pay for bare necessities, including food. They blame their elected leaders for this and they, in turn, pass on the blame to central banks over whom, they say, they have no control.

Finally, questions are raised by experts on whether in a globalised financial system, independent decision-making by individual central banks makes any sense. Some banks are more conservative than others and their orthodox views about the linkage between interest rates and inflation may affect not only their economy but also markets in other countries.

All the arguments are partially valid. At the same time, it is extremely important to avoid taking any precipitate action to either politicise central banks or make them subordinate offices of the government in power. Just as the so-called "independence" was overdone in some countries by fixing a single target for inflation for their central banks (as in the UK), hasty action to reduce their autonomy may lead to perverse outcomes for growth as well as financial stability.

This is not because central banks are always right. At times, they can be too complacent, for example, in the US prior to the recent financial crisis. The Fed, led by the universally-applauded Alan Greenspan, was certainly wrong in declaring that the emerging asset bubble did not matter. But, suppose the Fed was not autonomous, could political leadership have taken the unpopular decision to check "over-exuberance"?

I doubt it. Action to prick a developing bubble by, say, raising interest rates is naturally unpleasant and unacceptable to corporates, investors and market operators. Widespread financial losses would have inevitably led to a media campaign that premature action by authorities had caused immense problems for the ordinary investor and resulted in recession. The US was, of course, not alone in letting the asset bubble grow until it burst. Interestingly, India also experienced a similar bubble in 2007 (for reasons which were different from the US, such as, excessive tax-free foreign capital inflows in stock markets) — the Sensex rose by nearly 100 per cent, while the real economy was rising at 9 per cent. The economy was certainly showing a high rate of growth, but growth in financial assets was as much as 10 times higher. While we were celebrating India's "decoupling" with the global economy, there was a reversal and the Sensex fell sharply!

After decline in the real economy in 2007-08, the US and several other governments were quick to respond. Fiscal stimulus packages were introduced. As these measures were politically popular, there was no hesitation on the part of governments to act decisively. The real lesson emerging from the "disconnect" between the behaviour of financial markets and growth of the economy is simply that it is easier to take political action to "stimulate" the economy by creating high deficits and lowering interest rates than other way round, i.e. tightening monetary and fiscal policies to curb over-exuberance. Earlier this year, RBI Governor D Subbarao was absolutely right when he observed that "getting out of an expansionary policy is incredibly more complex than getting in... You know how to get in but it is very difficult to know how to get out".

To handle the political asymmetry in doing what needs to be done in order to "get in" vis-a-vis what is necessary to "get-out", there has to be a clear division of responsibility between the government and the central bank. The government should decide on the overall policy framework and trade-offs between different outcomes. Central banks should be free to decide on monetary and credit policy.

In India, unfortunately, the recent dispute between Sebi and Irda has cast a shadow over relative roles of regulatory agencies and the government. Without going into merits of the case, it needs to be emphasised that macro-economic role of central banks is far more important than their role as regulators of financial institutions. Central banks have the overall responsibility of managing liquidity as issuers of currency and lenders of last resort. Further, they are responsible for managing exchange rates as well as determining interest rates. The macro-economic role of central banks is thus more crucial than their regulatory role. In fact, the word "independence" is really a misnomer. It is often loosely used to describe what is actually not the case. The country is one, but we need different agencies at the national level to decide on possible "trade-offs" and optimal policies in different areas (for example, internal security and fiscal balance or growth and financial stability).

The author is Chairman, Centre for Development Studies, and former RBI Governor

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

SUBJECTS STRIKE BACK

SUNANDA K DATTA-RAY

So lovely to be able to hate the British state, but live off its welfare.

My friend Dilip, who has taught in a small London college for nearly 30 years, heartily endorses every word about Britain's broken-down economy that is uttered in the pre-election debates. "This is a threadbare country with a bankrupt exchequer," he said on my last visit. "One of these days, it will go bust. That'll teach them a lesson." Dilip is packing his bags to return to India.

 He exploded scornfully when I asked if he had British nationality. "You must be joking. Become a citizen of a played-out, third-rate, little island off the European coast tied to America's boot-strings?" He is proud of his Indian passport but would be prouder if India stood up to the West. Asoka ruled Afghanistan; so did Ranjit Singh. How dare Barack Obama franchise an Indian province to Pakistan!

"The British are colonial exploiters," he repeated. "Now that we've kicked them out, they're exploiting these Balkan refugees who slave away for a pittance." Iraq and Afghanistan also sicken him. Not only are the wars imperialistic but they represent imperialism at second hand. If Tony Blair was George W Bush's poodle, Gordon Brown is Obama's sheepdog. David Cameron and Nick Clegg are no better. No one with self-respect can live in Britain.

But what about his college? Oh, he said, he had reached superannuation age and will retire this year. Then, the somewhat tactless admission, "The buggers didn't even have sense enough to give me an extension. I don't want to have anything more to do with them!" What about the privatised two-room council flat that Margaret Thatcher's government let him buy cheap to live in? Would he sell that? "Of course not." Dilip had already found a tenant, an Indian businessman, who would pay a good rent and pass off as family. No question of paying income tax.

Dilip chuckled at my naivete for suggesting that converted into rupees, the rent would mean a comfortable income in India. "I'll do no such thing," he announced. "My state pension will be quite enough to live on there." State pension? Did he mean the college's retirement benefits? No, that's quite separate. He meant the old-age pension Britain gives everybody. There was another chuckle when I inquired if he didn't have to be a British subject for that. "How did Nirad Chaudhuri get it?" he retorted.

Apparently, on his 60th or 65th (I forget which) birthday, Dilip received an automatic pension notice. He had been drawing the money every week since then. How much? He was cagey. "Not much, they're mean buggers here, y'know." He dismissed the subject airily.

There's no means test either. Even Sir Mick Jagger was a pensioner. I remembered reading many years ago that Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein had climbed into his chauffeur-driven Rolls and been driven to the pensions office to claim his due.

We were chatting in Dilip's flat but he proposed moving to a pub. Not the one down the road but a pleasanter hostelry by the river a short bus ride away. I had my season ticket but Dilip tapped the meter with a little red plastic folder. What's that? I demanded. "Freedom Pass" was the terse answer. The local borough issues it to anyone over 60 or 65 — again, I forget the qualifying age — for unlimited travel by bus or underground without paying a penny. There are overland railway concessions too.

I wondered how much Dilip saved on travel. He didn't know and didn't care but I ferreted out that more than 10 million oldies gad about on Freedom Passes. As for pension, in 2005-06, the state paid a single man about £90 a week and £140 to a couple. Add free health care, travel and other benefits, and it totted up to £260 for men and £230 for women. That was five years ago. They get more now plus a £200 fuel allowance at Christmas. Once Dilip got another £250. When he inquired why it wasn't repeated the following year, the welfare office explained it was a one-off bonus. "How stingy can you get!" Dilip snorted.

He's glad to shake British dust off his feet while Alistair Darling, George Osborne and Vince Cable argue about banks, bankruptcy and budgets. His college pension and rent will accumulate there. But he's bringing with him his state pension, fuel allowance and other cash gifts. He must forgo benefits in kind like medicare and free travel which are only for residents in Britain. As Dilip says, they're a mean lot.

sunandadr@yahoo.co.in  

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

STRONGER AND LESS VOLATILE

POONAM MUNJAL

The recovery is a lot more robust than in even the 2003-07 high-growth phase. Non-durables are the exception but this could be due to food items like sugar, says Poonam Munjal.

The industrial sector has rebounded sharply after recording a weak performance in 2008-09. From 2.1 per cent in May 2009, the IIP hit double-digit growth in only two months, posting an annual growth of 10.6 per cent in August 2009. In the last three months (December '09 to February '10), industrial growth averaged around 16 per cent. In 2009-10, when farm output contracted, industry emerged as the key engine of growth.

 The lost ground in industrial output during the peak crisis period has already been recovered in the current rally. The improved performance of industry was initially a result of government stimulus which is now being increasingly complemented by a pick-up in private demand. Improving global conditions and the weak base of last year also supported industrial recovery. Our analysis shows that industrial recovery is getting broad-based with reducing volatility.

Within industry, the fastest-growing sectors are consumer durables and capital goods; surprisingly, the consumer non-durables segment has been a laggard. While focusing on these segments, we have analysed the patterns of the current industrial resurgence in terms of its broad-basing and volatility. The volatility has been captured by Coefficient of Variation (CV) — a measure of dispersion of data-points in a data series around its mean value. We examine the characteristics of industrial recovery for upturns and downturns in the last decade to put the current recovery in context.

Within use-based categories, capital goods and consumer durables have contributed the most to industrial growth. Capital goods, which had grown at an average rate of 15.9 per cent during the high-growth period of 2003-04 to 2007-08, saw a deceleration in growth to 8.1 per cent during 2008-09. However, the segment subsequently picked up during 2009-10, growing robustly at an average rate of 37.5 per cent during November 2009-February 2010. The CV shows relatively greater volatility during the recovery period of 2009-10 as compared to the crisis period of 2008-09. However, the lower CV of 0.5 during November 2009-February 2010 is closer to the CV of 0.41 during the high-growth period from 2003-04 to 2007-08. This shows that the current growth in capital goods is gradually moving on the path of high growth which is less volatile.

Of the total 55 industries within the capital goods category, 43 posted positive average growth from November 2009 to February 2010 (see table). This is lower than the number of industries (50) which posted positive average growth during the high-growth period. During the downturn in 2008-09, this number had slipped to 33 as demand for capital goods had slowed considerably due to short-term uncertainties. However, as the economy started displaying clear signs of recovery, industries regained confidence to invest in capital goods, giving way to higher capital goods production. Interestingly, the number of industries that recorded robust average growth of over 20 per cent during November 2009 to February 2010 stands at 25, much closer to 26 industries during 2003-04 to 2007-08. This number had gone down to 14 during 2008-09.(See table)

Consumer durable goods, another growth driver, had expanded by an average 10 per cent during the high-growth period. The growth fell to 4.5 per cent during 2008-09 due to slack demand and shortfall in availability of credit. However, the hike in salaries of government employees and arrears after the implementation of the Sixth Pay Commission recommendations boosted demand for consumer goods. Besides, lower interest rates under expansionary monetary policy led to cheaper credit during 2009-10. The sector grew by an average 25.8 per cent during 2009-10 (till February 10), recording an average growth of 36.4 per cent during November 2009 to February 2010. The CV works out to be 0.2 for the period November 2009 to February 2010, which is even lower than that during 2003-04 to 2007-08, at 0.8. In fact, the CV for the entire 2009-10 (till February 2010), at 0.38, is also lower than that during the high-growth period. This shows that consumer durables began displaying consistent growth from the beginning of 2009-10.

At the disaggregated level, of the total 27 industries within consumer durables, 19 posted positive average growth during 2009-10 (till February 2010). The same had stood at 22 during the high-growth period of 2003-04 to 2007-08 before falling to 11 during 2008-09. However, most of the 22 industries which recorded positive growth during 2003-04 to 2007-08 clocked slower growth compared to those in the current recovery period of 2009-10. This is evident from the fact that the number of industries registering average growth of over 20 per cent stands at 14 for 2009-10 (till February 2010), while the same was at only seven during 2003-04 to 2007-08. Clearly, growth in consumer durables during the current recovery period is much more robust and consistent as compared with that in the previous high-growth period.

On the other hand, consumer non-durable goods continue to lag behind in performance. Their poor growth appears inconsistent with the industrial pick-up during 2009-10. This sector grew by an average of 1.6 per cent during 2009-10 (till February 2010), while it had clocked an impressive growth of 9.4 per cent during 2003-04 to 2007-08. The high CV of 3.7 during 2009-10 (till February 2010) reflects the sharp volatility in its growth pattern. The reason could be food items like sugar which performed poorly during 2009-10.

Sustained growth in capital goods, which is a key indicator of increased investment activity, augurs well for overall economic growth. Similarly, growth in production of consumer durables, which has been more robust and sustained as compared to the previous recovery period, mirrors the improvement in public sentiment. Among other use-based categories, basic goods and intermediates have also recorded higher and more consistent growth during 2009-10 (till February 2010). Overall, industry appears to be moving on to the path of continued recovery.

While year-on-year growth continues to be high, the month-on-month momentum in the de-seasonalised IIP data is moderating. So, the 16 per cent growth achieved in last three months will not be sustained, high single-digit growth industry (9 per cent) is the most probable scenario over the next year.

The author is an economist with Crisil. Views expressed are personal

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NETA NEXT DOOR

 

We expect our politicians to boldly flaunt their power, position and privileges. We have not elected them to Parliament to be like one of us, after all, worrying about daily electricity and water woes, traffic jams, the rising prices of vegetables and the like.


In fact, we feel sorry when they occasionally venture out to do battle for us in the midday sun and then faint. They aren't used to the heat and dust like us and therefore it's so nice of them to empathise once in a while, right? We feel immensely gratified by their concern .


But look at what is happening in the country whose parliamentary system we emulate. Recently, all three candidates aspiring to become the next prime minister of Britain were so abjectly aam aadmi that they practically admitted their guilt pangs about not doing the dishes after dinner, not mowing the lawn and not skimping to save for their kids' education. Well, almost.


In the second televised debate on Thursday, among the questions chosen for the three gladiators to show off their prime ministerial potential , was, "What are you doing personally to tackle climate change?" Gordon Brown listed solar power in his modest Scotland abode and using mostly trains for his campaigning , David Cameron mentioned insulating the windows of his home, and Nick Clegg prevaricated by earnestly admitting that he doesn't do enough.


Sadly, all three forgot to add that they send their newspapers for recycling and separate trash from garbage, thereby cementing their links with the aam Briton.


Indian politicians, however, draw a pragmatic laxman rekha between their ardour for the common man and their personal lifestyles, and we stick to it. We don't look askance when a gas-guzzling luxury car inexplicably burns up in the bungalow of a former minister or insist on inspecting the bills of newly refurbished offices and residences of politicians as the Brits did last year, with devastating consequences.


Our netas should advise the British PM-hopefuls that by blurring the line between the people and their political masters, they are heading for danger!

 

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

CALLING FOR INCLUSIVE POLITICIANS

 

The torching of Dalit homes by a group of upper-caste Jats in a village in Haryana, which led to the death of a 17-year-old girl and her father, is a slap in the face of 'inclusive growth' and the Constitution's promise of liberal democracy.


It is also a searing indictment of the sort of politics practised in India, in which politics focuses on power and pelf, leaving the task of bridging the gap between the reality of a divided, hierarchical society and the ideal of democracy to no one in particular.

Since the dominant paradigm of politics continues to be competitive identity management , social fissures are reinforced and more powerful groups, with the collusion of elements within state institutions , often resort to violence against weaker sections who might be seeking to assert themselves.


True, there has been a significant change with the rise of Dalit politics. Dalit assertiveness and political agency are no longer mere catchphrases. But the way caste politics has played out — with almost every political party — has also meant a deeper sectarian polarisation. And in states like Punjab and Haryana , attempts by the under-privileged communities to seek an alternative space and agency have often led to large-scale violence against them. The proliferation of Deras and the conflict that has generated illustrate the point.


This incident in Hisar district in Haryana posits elements of that same situation. A petty fracas, with a bunch of Dalit youths seeking to assert themselves vis-à-vis their Jat counterparts, and the latter's fury at such 'effrontery' and the consequent organised attack on the Dalit villagers. After allegations of collusion, the police have made arrests.

The culprits must clearly be punished. Yet, in the larger sense, given that such crimes keep happening 21 years after enactment of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, eliminating atrocities against marginalised groups is clearly not solely about the law. The wider social and economic order has to change. And a new, genuinely inclusive and participatory form of politics alone can deliver that.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

NOT ONE MORE COMMITTEE!

 

When in tight spot, appoint a committee! That seems to be the government's motto. So it was that when faced with the tough job of de-regulating oil prices, it appointed a committee — the Parikh committee. And so it is now, when faced with another tough decision on deregulating interest rates on small savings instruments, the government is reportedly toying with the idea of appointing a committee.


Never mind that we have had many such committees in the past, never mind that each of them has been an 'expert' committee; never mind also that their recommendations are all more or less in the same vein. Indeed as far as small savings go, there is not even the fig leaf of contradictory recommendations to justify setting up yet another committee.


The problem is well-known ; as is the solution. The rate of interest on small savings is fixed at present by fiat and often bears no relation to market rates of interest. When rates are on the downswing, the implicit subsidy (the difference between interest rates on small savings and the market rate of interest) rises. And when rates rise, savers with money in small savings lose out.


Since over the past decade or so interest rates have trended down, those with money in small savings instruments have enjoyed an implicit subsidy. All earlier committees have suggested ways of correcting this anomaly of the relatively better-off middle classes enjoying yet more subsidy by linking interest rates on small savings to the market, as with other savings instruments.


However, since the beneficiaries are the vocal middle class, successive governments have baulked at withdrawing the subsidy. Preferring instead to buy time!


The blueprint is there. But the government lacks the political courage to act on it. So we are now to have one more committee follow on the heels of its predecessors, committees headed by R V Gupta back in the 1990s, Y V Reddy and Rakesh Mohan later.


All three had come to much the same conclusion: scrap the present anachronistic system of administered interest rates and link interest rates to some market-determined rate. But their reports have all been moth-balled . That is what we need to change.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

AS YOU SOW, SO SHALL YOU REAP

VITHAL C NADKARNI

 

Life imitates art in strange ways. In the unfolding saga of Indian Premier League what began as a twitter has morphed into a typhoon. The ensuing probe into IPL's alleged shenanigans is now threatening to engulf not only the original contestants but also powerful behind-the-scene patrons .


This brings to mind a story of a seemingly innocuous prank from the Mahabharata which led to unforeseen, catastrophic consequences : During an arduous hunting expedition in the forest, Arjuna's grandson Parikshit becomes exhausted and thirsty.


As he stumbles into an ashram in the aranya looking for water, he finds the master of the hermitage lost in meditation. His entreaties go unanswered and the king becomes so upset that he picks up a dead serpent lying nearby and loops it around the Rishi's neck before retreating.


When the Rishi's son sees the snake around his father's neck upon his return, he becomes enraged and curses the king to death by snakebite within seven days. It's not any old snake, but the great Takshaka, the arch enemy of the king's grandfather , Arjuna, who has been bound to do the dastardly deed by the Rishi's mantrik power.

To cut a long tale short, the king dies and the enraged prince Janamejaya declares genocide against snakes of the world. The first moral of the story is: do not take pangawith powerful people, not even in jest. And if you must sow dragons' teeth, be prepared to reap of a harvest of hurricanes.

Meanwhile, Takshaka flees to Indra's court for protection after killing Parikshit. Although Indra is Parkshit's great-grandfather , he is completely in cahoots with Takshaka and thus allows the chief of snakes to hide behind his own throne. That brings only temporary respite to the beleaguered serpent. So powerful are the imprecations of the Brahmins that Indra , the chief of the gods himself begins to feel the heat.


As a consequence of sheltering the guilty snake, the snake-bearer himself is all set to be burnt in the sacrificial fire along with his protege. This explains the proverbial phrase — Indraya svaha Takshakaya svaha (let Indra be swallowed by fire and Takshaka be swallowed too) indicating perils of keeping questionable friends even for the gods! The drama ends abruptly with sage Astika's entry. He arranges for peace between snakes and men. Indra is saved as is Takshaka. That could be the real moral for our modern times.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

'INDUSTRY MAY GO BACK TO 30% GROWTH LEVELS'

DEEPALI GUPTA AND PANKAJ MISHRA

 

Wipro seems to be the first IT company to go after business from the recently-passed US Health Bill this year. It marks the recovery for India's $60-billion IT exports industry. Suresh Vaswani & Girish Paranjpe, joint CEOs of Wipro's IT business and members of Wipro, spoke to ET's Deepali Gupta & Pankaj Mishra about the environment, industry trends, and the company's plans. Excerpts:


What is the evidence of real recovery in the business environment?

Suresh Vaswani: Volume growth has driven our growth during the past few quarters. The guidance reflects market recovery. We have won four $100-million deals, 15-16 $50-million deals last year. None of them are staff augmentation projects, but more of transformation and IT plus BPO kind of deals.


Is this recovery here to stay?

Girish Paranjpe : Till now, we are only seeing prudent growth, but if we go back to the 2006 levels where everyone (clients) was growing, big development projects will come. So, I wouldn't rule out the earlier growth rates of 25-30% in the Indian IT industry.


Suresh Vaswani : If you talk about the broader economic recovery, it may be too early to comment on whether the world has moved on. Recovery is slow, some markets are slower to recover and businesses are challenged with high unemployment rates. Why we are seeing a different picture is because the customers have started acting.

Where do you see the best opportunities coming from?

Suresh Vaswani : The pipeline is good, it's been improving over the past two quarters. Some business units hold better promise. Healthcare business in the US, with electronic healthcare records work, is one such area. Healthcare is a big game for us, we have carved it out as a separate business unit and second, we have got a ood mix of competencies, including BPO.


We do a lot of work for the State of Missouri, medicare, mediclaim, which is back office processing. We have made substantial progress, some of the larger over $50-million deals that we have won are from healthcare. In terms of sequential growth, healthcare is at the top end for us. It contributes 8.5% in terms of overall business. Last quarter, healthcare grew the fastest — it was double digit growth sequentially, which was very good.


Three quarters ago, Wipro's earnings were like soothsayer of better times, but this quarter's revenues do not seem to outperform its peers at the same rate. Why?

Suresh Vaswani : First of all, we have always guided accurately, neither here nor there. We guide the reality. At the end of the day, Wipro, TCS and Infosys are big companies, you see any large customer shortlist today and you will find two, or three out of them to be us. All of us are ambitious companies, so the growth rates would tend to converge. It could be a difference of a percentage or two, when somebody wins a large deal.

The reality is that the growth is back and the Indian IT industry is projected to grow at 13-15%. From our perspective, we want to outgrow the industry. I also think there is consolidation taking place, customers want to be with larger players, they are looking for holistic partnerships. Therefore, the overall tier one industry will benefit.

Is Europe lagging the US in recovery?

Girish Paranjpe : Europe has taken some time, but we are seeing some signs of it recovering. While new spend is affected, companies are looking at outsourcing. The regulatory issues in Europe are much stronger. Revenues from continental Europe should look up in two to three quarters.


What gives you the confidence to say that there is headroom for improving margins?

Girish Paranjpe: Clients are now more comfortable with outcome-based contracts, which makes the non-linearity model stronger. We have won more multi-year, larger outcome-based deals in the recent past. The aim is to double fixed, outcome-based, platform kind of revenues in the next 12-18 months. Consulting, more than a role of advisory, is giving us downstream revenue. While it's only about 4% of our topline business, its downstream contribution will be three or four times that.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

BABUS WATER EXERCISE

 

For ordinary mortals, HMWS&SB water may still be a luxury, but for our bureaucrats and politicians it's not fit for consumption. At any public function or meeting chaired by politicians and officials, there will be a row of packaged drinking water bottles on the table. It would be interesting to know just how much the government spends on bottled water.

When it comes to ordinary government employees, however, installing even one water purifier is an elaborate, time consuming process. At the Secretariat, the seat of administration, employees' request for a water purifier in J, K, L, A and B blocks has just been okayed.

First, a series of meetings were held by the GAD department with concerned departments. After an elaborate exercise, three alternative proposals for providing potable drinking water through separate piping and taps were tabled. Finally proposal No. 3 was considered viable. The government sanctioned Rs 21.37 lakh and began trials on L Block.

It's anyone's guess when, and if, all ordinary citizens will get safe municipal water.

Golden rule keeps jagan-Rosaiah at arm's length

Who said the rift between the Chief Minister, Mr K. Rosaiah, and the Kadapa MP, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy has been mended and they are now friends?

During his consolation tour, Jagan repeatedly assured people that he would bring back the golden rule of his father, Dr Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy. (YSR himself used to assure people that he would bring Indiramma Paalana -the rule of Indira Gandhi). While Jagan's reference to his father's 'golden rule' may just be the utterance of a loyal son for his father's memory, it does imply that the present rule in the state is of a rather more inferior kind.

This seems to have struck Mr Rosaiah too. During a meeting with ministers to review the Praja Patham programme, he spotted two ministers from West Godavari district, Mr Vatti Vasanth Kumar and Mr Pitani Satyanarayana, and asked them: "You were there when Mr Jagan Mohan Reddy was referring to YSR's golden rule. What about the present rule? Is it demonic rule? Why did you not intervene and ask him about this?"

The ministers thought it best to keep mum, caught as they were between the devil and the deep sea.

IT MINISTER GETS A 'RATNA' IN PRABHA

The IT minister, Mr Komatireddi Venkata Reddy, has a new friend in senior IAS officer, Ms Ratna Prabha. The minister has been fighting to get his department a share in all IT related projects. During YSR's regime, Venkata Reddy was fortunate enough to have his way. But after Mr Rosaiah took over the reins, there have been several changes in the IT department.

For one, the minister has not been included in finalisation of IT-related projects in the state.

Ms Ratna Prabha made it clear that all IT projects worth over Rs 5 crore should come to her department and insisted that the minister's directive should be followed in toto. What more can a minister want from his principal secretary?

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

IMF GETS MORE BULLISH ON INDIA

 

The International Monetary Fund has really surpassed itself in projecting India's growth rate at 8.8 per cent in 2010, and 8.4 per cent in 2011. This is even higher than what India itself projects. The Reserve Bank of India has projected growth for 2010 at eight per cent, with an upward bias. The IMF sees growth fuelled by rising domestic demand, increase in consumption due to growing employment opportunities and investments boosted by strong profitability. It sees the fiscal deficit as the key challenge for India, saying it should ensure durable fiscal consolidation, including implementing fiscal and other structural reforms. It also notes India has higher inflation than most of its Asian neighbours, saying the country is on the right path by tightening its monetary policy to tackle this. The IMF's projection showing bullishness on India is a welcome change — earlier it consistently underplayed or downplayed India. Now it has gone in the other direction. The Planning Commission deputy chairman has shrugged off the IMF projection, preferring to stick to the RBI's figures. Perhaps increased recognition at the G-20 and G-8 levels has something to do with the IMF's turnaround. It is a fact that its India projection appears awesome compared to that for Europe (a little over 1 per cent) and West Asia (2.5 per cent). It might also be that Fund mandarins are paying greater attention to the views of Indians at the IMF than earlier. The IMF's views converge with those of the RBI on the challenges that developing economies face from the global financial environment. Both developed and developing countries are largely interlinked — as the IMF points out, while developed nations might want to depreciate currencies to encourage exports, this would directly impact developing nations, particularly the export-driven economies. China has seen ahead and is concentrating on pushing domestic consumption so that its dependence on exports decreases. It also has the advantage of a high domestic savings rate. The impact on India will be greater if the developed world currencies are depreciated. It already faces a problem with the rupee strengthening against the dollar. The RBI is, of course, aware of the problems that will arise as the developed countries deal with the recovery of their economies — about which there is still a lot of uncertainty. It has pointed out that as the global recovery gains momentum and demand increases, commodity and oil prices are likely to harden. This could lead to fresh inflationary pressures. Also, as governments of developed countries continue to rely on stimulus packages to fuel growth, there is the danger of large capital flows coming to emerging economies, particularly India and China. This, as the RBI governor said, will pose a challenge for the exchange rate and monetary management. One nagging question at that point will be how strong should the rupee be allowed to grow. The news that this year's monsoon will be a normal one is very welcome. So if the rain gods continue to smile on us, the RBI's projection of eight per cent growth is likely to materialise. Inflation, however, remains one of the biggest worries, along with fiscal consolidation. The latest inflation figures show an increase in food prices, while fuel and power prices have also gone up. The signs are not good on this front, and could prompt RBI to further increase policy rates.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DEBATEABLE ISSUES

BY BY FARRUKH DHONDY

 

 "I couldn't make the sonnet rhyme

So I wrote you a song —

It says the night is starless —

Without you — and long..."

From The Epigraphs

of Bachchoo 

Arguing with a Pakistan-leaning friend I conceded that Indians should stop insisting that Pakistan rejoin India — it would be best if India rejoined Pakistan. Subsequently, I thought but didn't say, the majority could decide on the nation's name, capitol and secular Constitution. She didn't quite know what to make of it, having strenuously and consistently opposed the proposition that Pakistan had proved itself unviable by being ruled by its Army for most of its existence and by now 60 years on having to fight a major internal war to settle the nature of its statehood.

What then could I say for India? It is corrupt and has demonstrably sidelined and even murdered sections of its minorities, is still defaced by poverty, inequality and has its own brands of fanaticism...! I fell back, not disingenuously, on the usual suspect arguments: that India is dynamically, if unfairly and corruptly, capitalist (which of course raises the question of whether any transition to capitalism has been without its concomitant cruelties, mass slavery, enclosures, gulags, state terror, starvation and revision of all morality) and that it is a rambling democracy. I pointed out that the rise to power of a party that represents the dalit population (and the politically-correct outlawing of any reference to the former designations of these communities) is a massive achievement of the democratic process. The same process has, in waves, given voice to sections of the population which, for hundreds of years under conqueror and colonial rule, have suffered, at best, neglect and at worst an imprisonment in an unsustaining form of existence.

Democracy was the hero of my argument, along the lines of the best-worst system the human race has invented. The irony, which didn't escape me, was that when I had the opportunity to vote as an Indian citizen, I didn't. I abstained, and with others of my small and pretentious tribe, argued against parents, teachers and others that parliamentary democracy was a bourgeois sham, an opiate of the people and other unacceptable things.

I continued in that view when I became eligible to vote in British elections. As a student first and then an immigrant it seemed that the arguments of national policy didn't concern me but were for or against me and my presence — mostly against.

It was an era of what has been labelled "mass immigration" from the ex-colonies of Britain, successively independent nations in the subcontinent, Africa and then the West Indies. The adjective "mass" wasn't quite justified. Even today, three or four decades later, the number of people and their descendants from those ex-colonies is at the most 3.5 million out of a population of 62 (different quotes for different votes, of course. The British fascists double and treble the figures).

In '68 a powerful Conservative politician called Enoch Powell gave a speech in which he said he saw "rivers of blood" staining the Thames. It was demagoguery of the worst sort and, what's more, didn't work. He thought he would ride to the leadership on the winged horse of prejudice. The winged horse in the Britain of the day turned out to be a cabined and confined lame donkey and carried poor Enoch out of British politics. At the same time, a Labour government with James Callaghan as home secretary passed, on the hoof, emergency legislation to deny East African Asians who held British passports the right of entry into the UK. Idi Amin was expelling Asian settlers from Uganda. When they arrived here they were put in detention camps to ensure "orderly release" into settlement.

Enoch's well-chosen inflammatory phrases and Callaghan's hasty ban may not have had any lasting impact on British history, but they certainly defined and exacerbated racial tensions at the time.

Who then could one vote for? Better to join and work with extra-parliamentary agitational groups. I did and so did thousands of others, but that's another story.

The general election takes place in Britain on the 6th of May. For the first time in any UK election, the sitting Labour Prime Minister has agreed to televised debates against the leaders of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Opposition.

The first of these debates, watched by an estimated 10 million people, took place on April 15. What has hitherto been a lacklustre election suddenly took on interesting possibilities as the public opinion polls immediately after the debate pronounced that Nick Clegg, the leader of the minority Liberal Democratic Party, had emerged as the favourite, above Prime Minister Gordon Brown and David Cameron the Conservative leader. The subsequent opinion-surveys put the Liberal Democrats a clear second above the ruling Labour Party.

A Liberal Democrat challenge to either of the main parties in select constituencies will result in a Parliament with no clear majority party and then, as in recent Indian general elections, the horse-trading will begin. This will entail, as in all moves towards coalitions, a trade-off of power and policies.

As of now, the Labour Party is willing to concede to the Lib-Dems a constitutional change which will bring in the system of proportional representation in subsequent elections, replacing the first-past-the-post, winner-takes-all system that obtains today.

For the first time in the run-up to this election the Conservatives have reason to worry. Their calculations had put them far ahead of Labour and they had assumed that the Lib-Dems would be marginalised in an election in which the population would entrust the precarious economy to one of the experienced parties. Mrs Cameron was virtually looking through Harvey Nichol's catalogues to choose curtain colours for 10 Downing Street.

It may be that Mr Clegg's popularity is temporary and a reflection of the disgust that the general population feels for politicians — the Lib-Dems can still maintain that the other two parties have made the mess from which they will extract the nation and that they are the only ones not in thrall to capitalist forces on the one hand and union influence on the other. It's a persuasive contention and is flying at present, but could crash in the volcanic ash thrown up by the debates to come.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE GAMES THAT BIG BOYS PLAY

BY SHOBHAA'S TAKE

Oh! Oh… Should I be worrying about the price of wheat or the future of cricket? "Sports should not be politicised", said Nationalist Congress Party ka aadmi D.P. Tripathi with a straight face, and I almost fell off my chair with laughter. Politicians have a stranglehold over every marketable game going… it is only about political monopoly. And this guy had the gall to say this at a press conference! He also added sweetly, "Truth needs no furniture!" That was priceless, given the "furniture showrooms" his party owns. He glibly told reporters that Sharad Pawar met his Cabinet colleagues on that crucial Lalit Modi-bombshell morning, not to discuss cricket… but to talk about the price of wheat. Yeah, right! He went on and on about there being no saboot to nail anybody at this stage… and I said to myself, why are we wasting our time on this rubbish? Kuch nahi honewala! Guaranteed. So, don't be bloody naïve and expect a bloodbath, with mighty heads rolling and the guilty being marched off to jail. It ain't happening. This is how it works in India — always has, always will. It's like asking the Godfather to set up a commission to look into the Mafia's misdeeds. In reality, our "investigations" are like a romp in the woods. A naughty teddy bear's picnic. The main players involved (and I mean players) have finished laughing all the way to the bank (several banks in strange destinations across the world, actually). They know there is going to be no fallout. And by this time next week they'll be singing ''Aaal eeez welll". The only idiots who will be left scratching their heads will be the citizens of India.

This is precisely what the Big Boys have been banking on. All that sho-sha about fixing this one and fixing that one, resignations, enquiries, investigations, raids… don't we know how this works? A great deal of noise was made all of last week. Every television anchor worth his pinstripe (and her kurtis) went hoarse following the hot, hot, hot story that finally ended not with a bang (ooooh!!! Sorry Tharoor!!!), but a whimper. It suddenly went phoos — kaput! Strange… in any other country, this would have signalled the beginning of a very thorough and detailed investigation, leading to arrests. That magic word — arrests! Nothing turns us on as much as watching the high and mighty in handcuffs. At the end of the day, we are voyeuristic spectators in a packed arena — we want to watch those gladiators bloody themselves and maul one another. We want action… lots of it! As it is, the Indian Premier League (IPL) had become the best reality show on television. With trusting cricket lovers playing judges. Just when the elimination rounds were starting to get exciting, a few wet blankets ruined it all by declaring a truce. Since viewers have been kept in the dark about the details of this truce, naturally we are thirsting for more — more of the adrenaline-pumping moments that had us mesmerised all of last week, with a Breaking Story every hour. What followed has been an absolute anti-climax! At the time of writing, Modi was still gassing big time, while his ardent supporters were trotting out that annoying line — ''Let the law take its course". We know what that means — "Let's buy time".

I loved the new, improved Shilpa Shetty appealing to the media to show restraint since Modi "has done such a great job". No doubt, he has. Only a Modi could have pulled off such a mega plot. For plot it is. In terms of sheer brilliance and outstanding ingenuity, Modi deserves a medal. Roping in the right partners (money bags of varied hues and ambitions) was step number one. An obvious step, but an invaluable one (it helped that Modi's own family members were only too delighted to oblige). Working around government roadblocks seems to have posed zero problems for this master strategist. He used his old connections and clout to flatten any opposition. With the cunning of the world's sharpest traders, he struck deal after deal, secure in the knowledge that the mega returns he had promised investors would seal their mouths. Crazy how easily this worked — he had stuff on them, they had stuff on him. Everybody had stuff on everybody else. So, nobody could squeal. Nobody did. Till that blessed Twitter war got going. And that was it.

Well, guess what? There were disgruntled elements in Modi's carefully-protected paradise. And they were the ones who eventually ratted on the self-appointed IPL commissioner (or The Great Dictator). Sick of his arbitrary, arrogant, high-handed style of functioning, they decided to whisper in the right ears. Some of those ears were out to get Modi, even while pretending to be his best friends. Too many egos had entered the picture, while in Modi's vision there was place for just one — his own. Everything would have gone tickety-boo had another ambitious upstart not ruined the cozy party. Enter Shashi Tharoor — the political rockstar who richly deserves a shot at playing himself in a Bollywood blockbuster. Shashi was easily dealt with, and as of now the guy is cooling his heels and waiting it out like a penitent schoolboy after a caning. Shashi is the least of anybody's problems. He is seen as a chhota mota nuisance valuewalla — his bite no more lethal than a machchar's. People are openly laughing at his many indiscretions, and even more at Kofi Annan's rather juvenile attempt to link India's democracy to this mosquito bite.

The most serious error made by us Indians was in believing this entire mess has to do with cricket! What absolute chumps we were to fall for this. The IPL was never about cricket. It was always about money. So today, when one hears earnest cricket lovers talking about how this gentleman's game has fallen so low, one doesn't feel like consoling the mourners. You want to yell, "Wake up, you morons". See it for what it is — a monumental scam. In the same league as all those other multi-crore scams — and look where they are today. Buried deep, somewhere inaccessible and mysterious. It's the standard game government agencies are so adept at — keep delaying the investigative processes till people either forget… or die. Officialdom is vastly amused by all the fuss being made over Sunanda ("call me Sue") Pushkar's piddly Rs 70 crores! Come on… 70 crores? Are you kidding? What's the big deal? It doesn't even count as petty cash.

Ab kya hog? Kuch nahi. There will be more chest thumping and fire breathing. Assorted political bods will be accosted by hysterical TV anchors and lie through their teeth. They will do it in a manner so brazen and besharam, we'll be left gasping. Perhaps, in a fake show of "we mean business", Modi will be asked to back off for a bit and Tharoor to cool it in the backwaters of Kerala. This will give the much needed time to the asli fixers to do what they do best — fix. Which is why I say, tenshun mat lo, yaar. Aish karo. Par sirf cricket se.

- Readers can send feedback to www.shobhaade.blogspot.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

PUNTING ALONG IN BRITANNIA

BY KISHWAR DESAI

 

The Shashi Tharoor episode finally put Indian politics on par with politics everywhere else in the world. So far the personal lives of Indian politicians have been off-limits for the media. And though Delhi is always rife with gossip about who is sleeping with whom, no one has as yet been interested in publishing anything about any activity between the bedsheets. In sharp contrast, the UK media has no such inhibitions. It is often filled with alarmingly salacious details of people's private lives. In India, on the other hand, MPs and ministers are like demi-gods and so this fracas was an absolute bonanza for everyone. No one's feelings were spared as Shashi-Sunanda became a metaphor for the "sweetheart deal".

But the other big difference between the reportage will be revealed fairly soon, as it is doubtful whether the Indian media will succeed in publishing all the facts behind IPL-gate. Whilst here the media becomes a bloodhound, refusing to give up till all is revealed, one fears that the IPL story is likely to turn into another Bofors, a political game where the media is too dependent on government leaks to get to the truth. In the UK, by now, some tabloids would have managed to blow everyone's cover, even by paying someone a huge sum of money to get to a list of stakeholders. It is definitely not ethical journalism, but when investigations reach a roadblock, the media (especially the tabloid press) in the UK is known to employ every trick in the book. But for the IPL story it may already be too late. Remember, files are disappearing very fast…

However, another big difference which has emerged in this entire unhappy episode is the persistent sanctimonious attitude of the Indian government on the issue of betting. It is a mystery why betting remains illegal, even though it is carried out all over India, albeit surreptitiously. In the UK betting is a national pastime, and right now bets are being placed (even in the Guardian!) about who is going to win the next election! In fact, on the night of the televised leadership debate on April 15, between the three main contenders for prime ministership, bets were being placed on:

* Who would be the first to perspire, when the pressure built up.

* The number of times Gordon Brown (the leader of the Labour Party) "agreed with Nick Clegg" (the leader of the Liberal Democrats).

* The number of times David Cameron (the leader of the Conservatives) said "change".

* Who would be the first to mention the recent volcanic eruption.

* Who had the last word.

* Who was the first to interrupt.

* Who was the first to raise their voice.

And, of course, for the "debate winner" there was live betting throughout the television broadcast. If nothing else, the positive fallout of this has been that the disinterested UK population (and, indeed, anyone watching the debate) is now watching the election process as keenly as they would a football match. And by default they have become engaged in the process of selecting their Prime Minister. The betting stakes also mean that pubs are full of viewers who are following the political debates — and egging their own candidates on. What could be possibly wrong with that?

Of course, in India the government feels that the poor must be saved from themselves because betting is an evil addiction. Alas, we forget that the stock market is nothing but glorified betting. But because in the latter case the well-to-do benefit, they are permitted to feed their "addiction". It's a contrarian policy which encourages corruption as betting is pushed underground. In fact, if it came out in the open, as in this country — for a small amount of money — people would have a lot of fun, in the bargain. And some, of course, would legally make money too.

However, in the leaders' debate, the odds were on Mr Clegg keeping up his initial bravura performance. Nothing much was expected from either Mr Cameron or Mr Brown — but to everyone's surprise, Mr Cameron has managed to pull back the Tories from the brink of defeat and push his party back onto a winning streak once more. So now we are waiting for next week's clinching (we hope) debate on the economy. Perhaps the Indian electorate should encourage these televised face-offs as well. It is a superficial game show format, but it definitely has forced people back into examining their leadership. The interest it has generated, especially in the younger voters, may even result in a higher voter turnout this year.

MEANWHILE, AS a struggling author, I have often wondered how one could get onto the bestseller list on Amazon. Well, it seems that one way to do it is to get your spouse to post anonymous reviews trashing all your rivals. This unique methodology was revealed recently when Dr Rachel Polonsky, a Cambridge don, spotted a rather scathing review by a mysterious "Historian" of her book on Russian culture, Molotov's Magic Lantern, on Amazon. "Historian" dismissed Dr Polonsky's efforts as being dense and pretentious — wondering why this book was ever published. However, "Historian" also showed a marked preference for the work of another Russian expert, a Professor at Oxford, Orlando Figes. Putting on her sleuthing cap, Dr Polonsky began trawling through the other reviews posted by "Historian" and found that "Historian" had also been similarly agitated when Professor Figes had lost out to Kate Summerscale's The Suspicions of Mr Whicher over a literary award. She also recollected a rather bad disagreement with Prof Figes about a critical review which she, in fact, had written of one of his previous books.

Digging deeper, she was convinced that the trail led to Prof Figes' doorstep. However, when he was accused of having a hand in these nasty reviews, Prof Figes denied it all. Accusations and legal notices began to fly around — till suddenly, Prof Figes apparently discovered that it was his loyal wife, Dr Stephanie Palmer, a lecturer in Law from Cambridge University, who had been posting these reviews. Oh, the joys of having a loving but somewhat overzealous spouse!

- The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com [1]

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

UNYIELDING ANGST OF ISRAEL

BY ROGER COHEN

JERUSALEM

For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his people are not traumatised by some wild delusion. No, there are facts: the rise of Iran, the fierce projection of Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and the rockets that have been fired by them.

Netanyahu is firm in his core self-image as the guarantor of threatened Israeli security. Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza, led only, in his view, to the insecurity of life beneath a rocket threat.

The question he poses himself, contemplating the West Bank, is how to stop this happening a third time.

To enter Israel is to pass through a hall of mirrors. A nation exerting complete military dominance in the West Bank becomes one that, under an almost unimaginable peace accord, might be menaced from there.

A nation whose Army and arsenal are without rival in West Asia becomes one facing daily existential threat. A nation whose power has grown steadily over decades relative to its scattered enemies becomes one whose future is somehow less secure than ever.

It's not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in this pervasive Israeli narrative. I arrived on Independence Day, the nation's 62nd birthday. Blue and white flags fluttered from cars on the superhighways. A million festive picnickers were out. "If a war takes place, we will win", the chief of the Israel defence forces assured them. Did annihilation anguish really spice the barbecue?

I guess so. The threat has morphed since 1948 — from Arab armies to Palestinian militants to Islamic jihadists — but not the Israeli condition. The nation "wallows in a sense of existential threat that has only grown with time", the daily Haaretz commented. Netanyahu, in a 20-minute interview, told me of "the physical and psychological reality" of a nation whose experience is that "concessions lead to insecurity".

Part of the insecurity right now stems from the troubles with Israel's ultimate guarantor, the United States. US President Barack Obama, for all his assurances about unbending American commitment, has left Israelis with a feeling of alienation, a sense he does not understand or care enough. Has he not visited two nearby Muslim states — Turkey and Egypt — while snubbing Israel?

I think what is really bothering Israelis, the root of the troubles, is that Obama is not buying the discourse, the narrative.

Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with little Israel against the jihadists, he's talking of how a festering West Asia conflict ends up "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure". Instead of Iran, Iran, Iran — the refrain here — he's saying Iran, yes, but not at the expense of Palestine. Instead of Israeli security alone, he's talking of "the vital national security interests of the United States" and their link to Israeli actions.

This amounts to a sea change. I don't know if it will box Israel into a defensive corner or open new avenues, but I do know an uncritical US embrace of Israel has led nowhere. For now, Israeli irritation is clear.

For Ayalon, the proximity talks with the Palestinians that the Obama administration is struggling to revive are a "waste of time" and should be replaced by direct talks without pre-conditions. As for Obama's demands, believed to include a complete Israeli building freeze in Jerusalem, Ayalon said, "Any demand without a quid pro quo is a mistake. Why should the Palestinians negotiate if others negotiate for them?"

So here we are, 62 years on, negotiating about negotiations whose prospects of leading anywhere seem fantastically remote. I think Ayalon's right about getting to the table, but peace involves embracing risk over fear, no getting around that, and with the Iranian nuclear programme rumbling, Israelis look more risk-averse than I've ever seen them. Life's not bad in affluent, barrier-bordered Israel even if threats loom.

The Prime Minister insists that he is ready to move forward, that he will not use the Iran threat as a delaying tactic, and that he and Obama respect each other's intelligence.

What is imperative for him right now is that the United States and Israel talk to each other.

But about what exactly? The trauma of 9/11 bound the Israeli and American narratives. They have now begun to diverge with putative Palestine hanging in limbo between them.

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

REACTIVE SECURITY

DOES 'DEATH' AFTER 14 YEARS DETER? 

 

WHOSE concerns were sought to be addressed by the home ministry's calling in the commissioner of the Delhi police to review security arrangements following unfavourable travel advisories from the British, American and Australian authorities? Was that done for diplomatic reasons, or just to put on a show? Such questions arise because there were few signs of augmentation of preventive measures in the areas specifically mentioned (perhaps for the first time) in one of the cautions. Not that there is anything particularly "new" to threats to crowded market areas frequented by tourists and locals alike, some have been "hit" in the past.


  The ministry could well argue that security in the Capital is under periodic review: then how come this meeting was publicised? At the local level it could be pointed out that any curbs on movement in popular shopping areas would invite all-round resentment, that market associations hardly cooperate, etc. Yet the "message" of the advisories cannot be trivialised. Had the IPL scandal not exploded, the display in the foreign media of the blasts near the cricket stadium in Bangalore would have confirmed enhanced apprehensions over security at the Commonwealth Games and ICC World Cup next year. We in India have got somewhat immune to such incidents, life simply has to carry on, but that is not so elsewhere. However, easing external worries is not the prime issue: boosting security ~ for everybody ~ is what matters. And that will not be achieved by elaborate bandobast, preventive intelligence is crucial.


The timing of the advisories is not irrelevant. Coming as they did when a local court was due to pronounce sentence against some Kashmir-linked terrorists, the possibility of reprisal would not be ruled out by alert, sensitive security monitors. Did our agencies assess the situation on similar lines? While that judicial action is under focus it is important to ask if even the death penalty to three of those convicted will serve to deter: that has come 14 years after the incident. How many recall the serial-explosions in Lajpat Nagar market in May 1996? Family members of the 13 killed are not convinced that justice has been delivered. Speedy judicial action is as necessary as efficient policing to counter terrorism. We fall short on both counts.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

JOLT FROM WITHIN

PARTY REBEL CONFIRMS POPULAR PERCEPTIONS 

 

There are no prizes for guessing what the CPI-M would have done with a renegade who had threatened to unmask rivals in his own party after being unceremoniously dumped for the municipal election. While the chairman of the Salt Lake Municipality, Biswajiban Majumdar, had nothing to lose after being despatched to the sidelines, the CPI-M could never have gone into the campaign with one of its leading figures taking potshots at his own party. It is difficult to depict someone whose family has had long-standing communist credentials as a rebel with a cause.


  A last-minute patch-up may produce an uneasy silence but will not dilute the thrust of his protest. He has disclosed so much about the manner in which the CPI-M has put key positions in the administration in the hands of stooges that it would be difficult to tell voters that all that was just an irrelevant outburst. A "besieged and beleaguered'' party could never have imagined that someone holding a vital position would deliver another jolt from within suggesting that the party is not just torn apart by factionalism but has taken corruption to new heights. That the renegade is now seen to have been "reformed'' after an apparent patch-up with one of his rivals does not change popular perceptions that he himself had confirmed. 


On the contrary, the perceptions of a party that has politicised every department of the administration could get stronger. Where Alimuddin Street interferes in everything from recruitment and promotion of teachers to asking the municipality chairman to provide illegal sanctions to favoured applicants, there is one inescapable conclusion to be drawn from what the rebel had said prior to being persuaded to fall in line ~ that his disclosures are only the tip of the iceberg. It would be impossible for him to swallow his words and hit the campaign trail to flaunt his love for a party that has leaders he has roundly condemned. It is more significant that instead of disciplinary action, the CPI-M has had to climb down pretending that its coherence is intact. Even the old faithfuls would concede that the election turf is far too slippery for the party to start cracking the whip. 


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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

LAPANG GOES

LEAVING SANGMA WITH CRONIES TO PLEASE 

 

DD Lapang's resignation as Meghalaya chief minister came as no surprise because this had been on the cards ever since dissidents headed by the Congress Pradesh Committee chief, Friday Lyngdoh, rebelled against him. True to form, Lapang kept his word that he would quit only if it could be proved that he had lost the majority. He had to go because he could not meet the dissidents' demand to remove two Independent ministers from the cabinet and another from the Khun Hynniewtrep National Awakening Movement to make room for Congress aspirants. The Congress has 28 members in the Assembly and in May last year Lapang formed the government with the support of nine MLAs from the United Democratic Party, Independents and the KHNAM. In little more than two and a half years since the 2008 Assembly elections, Meghalaya has had three governments ~ two led by Lapang and one by the UDP. Lapang has been chief minister on five occasions since 1992 but has been unable to serve a full term, his longest stint lasting two years and three months.


Given that the durability of a government depends entirely on the whims and fancies of legislators who are extraordinarily adept at switching allegiance to the highest bidder and eye plum portfolios, there is no guarantee that the new chief minister, Mukul Sangma's government will run its course. After the mandatory ministry downsizing, only 12 can be accommodated in the cabinet, so he faces the task of pleasing all his cronies. A doctor by profession, Sangma is from the Garo Hills and, at 45, is the youngest chief minister in the North-east. The Congress usually favours a competent and experienced man at the helm of affairs before the Assembly election and the next exercise is due only in 2013. Who knows, Lapang may bounce back to power before that if the past is any indication.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

THE SORDID STING~II

REGRESSING FROM THE PROCESS OF CIVILIZATION

MADHAVI GORADIA DIVAN


THE Delhi High Court deprecated the use of entrapment methods to induce the commission of a crime. The court followed the judgment of the US Supreme Court in Keith Jacobson v. United States, (503 US 540) in which it was held that where the government or its agents induce the individual to break the law, the prosecution must establish that the defendant was pre-disposed to commit the criminal act prior to first being approached by government agents. 


The Delhi High Court upheld the media's right to use tools of investigative journalism including sting operations to expose public wrongs, but declared as impermissible active inducement to commit a crime. However, Uma Khurana, victim of a manipulated sting, was left to her own devices to make claims for damages for defamation and violation of her privacy. Such claims typically drag on for years on end before they can be decreed, defeating the very purpose of legal redress. The absence of an effective regulatory body, self-regulatory or otherwise to summarily inquire into claims for damages due to the victim for defamation or violation of privacy has only emboldened snoopers on the prowl for a salacious story. 


Legal limits

What are the legal limits for sting operations? The substance of the law in India appears to be this:  Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution guarantees as a fundamental right, the right to free speech and expression. This includes the right to broadcast. Article 19(1)(a) has also been interpreted as entailing the right to receive information. Therefore, sting operations may be justified in the interest of the public's right to know the manner in which public servants conduct themselves. Interestingly, the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 provides for the laying of a trap to apprehend a public servant demanding a bribe. That is not very different from a sting operation, other than the fact that in this case the trap is being laid by the State at the instance of a private party and not directly by a private party.


The freedom of expression under Article 19(1)(a) may be restricted on grounds more specifically set out under Article 19(2) ~ a host of exceptions which include restrictions in the interest of public order, decency, morality, and defamation. Quite apart from this it is argued that sting operations effected through secret filming, by their very nature, grossly violate individual privacy. Although privacy is not one of the enumerated exceptions to the freedom of speech under Article 19(2), it is nevertheless a right carved out by the courts from Article 21, the right to life and from Article 19(1)(d,) the freedom of movement. Having said that, privacy is not a defence in sting operations on public servants acting in the course of their public duties. 


In the landmark judgment, Auto Shanker (R Rajagopal v State of Tamil Nadu 1994 (6) SCC 632) the Supreme Court held that the defence of privacy is not available to a public officer acting in the course of his professional duties, although what the public officer does in the purely private domain cannot be subject to public scrutiny.
The sting operation on former Governor N D Tiwari is an interesting case in point. It may be lawful to secretly film Tiwari's misuse of Raj Bhavan, his official residence as Governor of the State to engage the services of women said to have been procured from brothels (even though it is unlikely that a public telecast of such a film would be legally permissible). It is doubtful that the defence of privacy would be available to Tiwari (even though it may be available to the women he was filmed with).


Private life

THE same standards cannot, however, be applied in the case of Professor Siras. Not only did the professor not occupy public office, his conduct fell within the domain of the private life of consenting adults.  Homosexual activity within the private confines of one's home cannot be described as illegal or immoral, particularly after the judgment in the Naz Foundation case decriminalized homosexuality. [(2009) 160 DLT 277)]


Sting operations are no longer confined to the exposure of crime or public wrongs. They are used even in reality shows to expose the waywardness or infidelity of a spouse. Such matters lie purely within the private domain and it would not be legally permissible to telecast such activities without the active consent of the exposed partner or by maintaining complete anonymity by concealment of identity. If sting operations as a method of investigative journalism are to retain their credibility, they must be conducted sparingly, with caution and responsibility, with a public purpose rather than casually or for entertainment.  Ayn Rand said in The Fountainhead: "Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men."


If secret cameras and stings are going to be used indiscriminately and recklessly, we will be regressing from that 'process of civilization'. And this is something of an irony given that while technology makes rapid strides, 'civilization' takes a step backwards. 

(Concluded)

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

'BJP HAS DESTROYED OPPOSITION UNITY'

 

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh is known for his lung power. The RJD vice-president and deputy leader of the party in the Lok Sabha, he was the rural development minister in Dr Manmohan Singh's UPA 1 government from 2004 to 2009. He claims that he steered the UPA's flagship scheme National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). Now, he sees himself and the RJD, led by Lalu Prasad, at "war" with the Congress-led UPA II. It is not just the Women's Reservation Bill; there are many other issues, he says, that have caused differences. The MP from Vaishali in Bihar spoke to NIRENDRA DEV:

 

Where is the RJD heading now? The Congress, particularly Rahul Gandhi, is seriously trying to revive its past glory in Bihar. They also pushed through the Women's Reservation Bill aggressively.


Politics is always in the hands of the common people. The Congress might be doing well in power management during the last few years. But where is their core aam aadmi. The Women's Reservation Bill was just an example of how influenced by the upper castes they are. Look at the price rise. The common people are just not able to live peacefully. We will fight all this tooth and nail.

 

While you are dismissing the Women's Reservation Bill as being a pro-upper caste legislation, there is a general feeling that it has gone down well, especially in middle class and urban pockets.


This section you are referring to is the television crowd and the English speaking one. They hardly have anything to do with core issues of the people. Price rise is a major issue, you are not discussing that in television and in the other media. And even if you are discussing it, you are not doing it comprehensively. The women's Bill is anti-Dalit and anti-Muslim. In fact, both BJP and Congress have only exposed their upper caste inclinations. We will take the battle to the streets. Our party has drawn up some figures, only 14 Muslim women have been elected out of the 7,906 people voted to the Lok Sabha so far from 1952 to 2009. Even when Muslim women are winning, it is hardly on their individual merit. In the 2009 polls out of four women, two got in on BSP tickets winning basically on Mayawati's name. There is a member from Assam married to an Adivasi and one from Malda in Bengal is a relative of the late Ghani Khan Chowdhury.

 

You mentioned BJP and Congress joining hands to push their "upper caste" inclinations. But as the Opposition you were with the BJP against the government on the fuel price hike?


Actually it's the BJP which has destroyed Opposition unity. BJP is not at all sincere in fighting the Congress. It is the saffron party that shattered the united Opposition tempo on fuel price during the first part of the Budget session of Parliament. We (Opposition parties) have lost a great opportunity to beat the government. The Opposition unity in the wake of the fuel price hike announced by the finance minister, Mr Pranab Mukehrjee, on February 26 while presenting the budget was exemplary. It is a big loss that we have let the initiative go out of our hand. It was a case of BJP's double standard.

 

That's interesting, why do you think BJP is doing all this? They have no reason to be soft towards the Congress?


BJP is a house in total chaos today. It is scared of a mid-term election. They are not ready for a showdown with the Congress. If the UPA government falls today and there is a mid-term election, it will be a nightmare for BJP. The party may split and their numbers will come down further.

Moreover, there is always an upper caste inclination of both parties. It was that factor which made both Congress and BJP unite to pass the Women's Reservation Bill. We need to expose them.

 

But even the Left parties supported the Bill. There was a whip in the Rajya Sabha and there was no whip violation. In fact, the Sharad Yadav-led JD(U) members in the Rajya Sabha supported the Bill.
I am glad you raised the issue of parties issuing whips to members. I personally feel that this system should go. The Women's Reservation Bill has only exposed the big lacuna in this law. It means the will of the party shall prevail and individual MPs can never have their say. Otherwise, why do you think most MPs from all parties, including BJP and the Congress, have approached Sharad Yadav, Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav to campaign against the Bill. They told us, please save us from signing our own death certificates. Look, people like Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav are self-made leaders. They did not inherit it from anyone. The Bill to do away with their right to contest from constituencies of their choice is simply too dangerous and unacceptable.

 

During the Parliament recess, what was the Yadav leaders' campaign against the Women's Bill?
We have already said if the Congress and the UPA alliance and BJP are serious about women's empowerment, let them prepare a wholesome package for women wherein reservation is ensured in IIMs, civil service and banks. That they will not do. They want politics to be confined to a few selected families.

 

What will be RJD's strategy in view of coming elections in Bihar?

In my view, Bihar elections will be a watershed in many ways. Nitish Kumar has to make up his mind. He sided with BJP on the women's Bill only because of the Bihar elections. The Congress will be at war to regain its ground. We also have an important role to play and it will be an interesting challenge too.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

ON RECORD

 

My conscience is clear and I know that I have done nothing improper or unethical, let alone illegal.
Shashi Tharoor, after quitting as Union minister of state for external affairs.

 

I am shocked to find how easily certain parties with vested interests questioned my credentials merely because I am a woman.

 

Sunanda Pushkar, offering to return the sweat equity.

 

I am from Rajasthan and what I know (about Lalit Modi) is not speculative. He was the real chief minister (when the BJP was in power).

 

Jaswant Singh, expelled BJP leader

The IPL is under the radar, we are watching very carefully. Its affairs are being looked into with great deatail.
MS Gill, Union sport and youth affairs minister.

 

No quarter can be given to those who have taken upon themselves to chllenge the authority of the Indian state and the fabric of our democratic polity.

 

Manmohan Singh, on Left-wing extremism

I am determined to continue providing leadership to the Home Ministry and the paramiliotary forces. I am determined to provide assisatnce to states to fight the menace of Naxalites.

 

P Chidambaram

A number of high-rises (in Kolkata) are not adhering to mandatory fire norms. Business and trade are being run from these buildings illegally. We have to bring the situation under control.

Buddhadeb Bhatacharjee, West Bengal chief minister.

 

Obvious political motivations have led the CBI to adopt double standards in dealing with identical disproportionate assets cases against me and those against (Samajwadi Party leader) Mulayam Singh Yadav and (former railway minister) Lalu Prasad Yadav.


Mayawati, in an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court claiming that the disproportionate assets case against her was baseless.

 

I was puzzled when asked to campaign for the party. I did not know how to address voters after I spoke publicly about my unpleasant experiences within the party.


Biswajiban Majumdar, Salt Lake municipality chairman.

 

There is a new development in Bengal politics. Basudeb Acharya in Lok Sabha and Arun Jaitely in Rajya Sabha were singing in chorus against the Maoists.

Sudip Bandopadhyaya, Trinamul chief whip

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

DELHI DURBAR

DENIALS GALORE

In the beginning was the word from Shashi Tharoor who vehemently denied any deal-making in the Kochi IPL franchise. Then came more denials from Supriya Sule, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar's daughter, who "crossing her heart" said she and her entire family had nothing whatsoever to do with IPL. There was a similar refrain from Praful Patel who swore that he was totally innocent of any wrongdoing. 


Tharoor's maudlin denial led to revelations of a Rs 70-crore sweat equity for his "friend" Sunanda Pushkar. Next came a disclosure about Supriya Sule's husband's  proxy equity which she immediately clarified "would not get him any money". And soon Patel was at pains to defend his role, and that whatever information he mailed to Tharoor was not classified. Naturally, nobody who is caught with his hand in the till will ever admit his guilt till proven guilty in a court of law.


Having made denials which are slowly being dented, further damage was sought to be controlled. How? By crucial files disappearing into thin air. The files are supposed to have details of the involvement of two high-profile ministers of the UPA Government.


Disappearance of files is nothing new. Following an RTI petition, the government recently said tender documents and minutes pertaining to the Rs 5,51.5-crore disinvestment of Bharat Aluminium cannot be traced by the Ministry concerned.


Is it not an irony that all this takes place when a person of great integrity is the head of government? And if so, what price his much-vaunted integrity?


WHAT A FALL

As it is, the selection of a PSU chief is not only a long-winded process, like going through the PESB, the ACC (Appointments Cabinet Committee), etc, but also time-consuming as the file journeys through the labyrinths of power. In the meantime, the aspirants run from pillar to post canvassing their pre-eminent suitability. But of late, there is a new port of call where oil companies are concerned. Recently, one of the frontrunners for the chairmanship of IOC called on the presiding deity of a huge private sector oil company. One does not know what transpired and whether they saw reliance in each other. But the stranger part was that the appointment was  fixed by none other than the minister concerned. Getting a top slot, retaining it and landing a  lucrative post-retirement job needs the blessings of barons!

 

PM'S SHARP RIPOSTE

It was at an august gathering and PSU chiefs had lined up to greet the Prime Minister. Not wishing to let go of this opportunity, an over-smart CMD got ahead of his line and, rather inappropriately, took the fleeting moment to inform the head of government of the rapid strides made by his Navratna. Not to be outdone, the suave, soft-spoken Dr Manmohan Singh turned around and perspicuously said: "At the cost of rising steel prices".  His remark, as they say, pierced through the festive atmosphere.


TAX HOLIDAY

There's been a lot of sound and fury about the IPL (India Paisa Loot). Like all scams and scandals, they started with a bang. The glitz and glamour provides grist  to the mills. The post-match parties would put Playboy's Hugh Hefner to shame. Anyway, forget the razzmatazz  and focus on the burning issue.
Why have many states with mounting debts waived taxes for this purportedly charitable institution called IPL whose team owners are either Forbes' billionaires or Bollywood millionaires? Why has a PSU co-sponsored a team owned by the fourth richest man on the planet?


 When the country's rulers want the subsidies to the poor reduced -- slashing food subsidy when poverty is rising -- where was the necessity to provide them with cheaper leases, rentals and low cost security?  Sports Minister M S Gill did raise his feeble voice against what called "letting off tax". But it was buried in the din.
Well, cricket is a passion for many, but it is not realised that their money is being cleverly transferred to the deep pockets of the manipulators. There are other questions. Why not play in daylight particularly when many parts of the country are suffering from massive power cuts? There is Right to Education but not to basic needs like electricity!


A NEW CLASS

Is caste giving way to a growing class culture?  Seems so. For the elite club, there are new trendy symbols that cement their association. Remember during Rajiv Gandhi's rule, the DOSCOS, (Doon School students)  had a chip on their shoulders. Subsequent regimes fell back on caste lines. But now under the banner of the Crown Prince, there is a distinct class of highly educated  scions, be it in politics, business or media. Not all of them speak English with a twang. They have a cognitive bias of superiority, a kind of cocksure arrogance which binds them although they may represent rival interests.


This came into play during the Shashi Tharoor controversy. The St Stephen's patina was bandied about. A comparison was made among Natwar Singh, Mani Shanker Aiyar and Shashi Tharoor -- all Stephenians and erstwhile ministers of the UPA. One glaring example of the prevalent club class -- as different from cattle class -- culture was an editorial comment that the writer repeatedly defended Tharoor, being a fellow Stephenian, "despite his immaturity". What took the cake was another which read: "For the honour of the class, step down." Are there different honours for different classes? 


TWO ERRANT MINISTERS

In a game where numbers count, the tail sometimes can wag the head. Two ministers of UPA are proving this point. One skips office, the others goes to cooler climes without as much as by the PM's leave. And neither is burdened by virtues of any kind. It is not difficult to guess who these two truants are. In a patronage-based political system, each coalition partner conducts its own dealings and businesses. One of the two belongs to a powerful political dynasty and is part of an on-going soap opera playing out their quarrels on the national stage. The other is major domo of a hard-nosed Maratha supremo and enjoys a unique status vis-a-vis industrial barons of the country. 


Both have one thing in common: Like Lenin, they don't believe in making the right decisions. They take decisions and then make them right.


HEARD ON THE STREET

It can happen only in India. The indiscretion of a junior Minister dominated the political scenario for well over a week. Endless debates, prolonged high level meetings to decide the political future of a paratrooper. In any other democracy, the Prime Minister, in whichever part of the world he is, would merely have to call for his resignation. That would be final.  

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

CRISIS AS OPPORTUNITY

 

There exists a perfectly valid model to run an organization like the Indian Premier League, which is a subsidiary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India. From the very beginning, it should have been run by a salaried professional who would be a full-time employee of the BCCI. In other words, to be the commissioner of the IPL, Lalit Modi should have given up all his business interests and become an employee of the BCCI with the responsibility of running the administration of the IPL. This model works on a simple assumption: the stockholders of a firm should not have the responsibility of executive functions. Stockholders should ideally meet at regular intervals to oversee the functioning and to lay down the broad parameters of policy. The responsibility of looking after the business should be vested completely with the executive head who ought to be a professional. There are sports bodies across the world that operate on this model. In Indian sports, especially in cricket, this model has not caught on. The BCCI is the best example of a body that is not administered by professionals but by politicians, lawyers, accountants, businessmen and what have you. These people decide who should be on the selection committee or even who should be the captain of India.

 

The reluctance — indeed refusal — of the BCCI to professionalize itself despite no lack of resources is somewhat inexplicable. It could easily take a page from the manner in which CII and FICCI have refashioned themselves. Both these organizations can, with all justification, be described as representing the interests of business and industries. On their respective boards, they have powerful businessmen and industrialists but they are run by professionals. The CII professionalized itself under the leadership of Tarun Das, who, for a number of years, served as its director-general. The FICCI followed suit by appointing Amit Mitra as the secretary-general, and he has earned respect for the firm way in which he has brought about changes in the administration of FICCI, which is now run completely by professionals. All critical decisions in CII are taken by the director-general and in FICCI by the secretary-general. These decisions are then implemented by a team of professionals. Behind the respect that CII and FICCI commands lies the professional leadership of both the bodies.

 

What both the BCCI and the IPL need are individuals like Messrs Das and Mitra to be at the helm of their affairs. This is not an impossible or an inconceivable thing to do; all it needs is the will to do it. This will has so far been absent. The controversy that surrounds the IPL provides a great opportunity to clean the stables and to begin anew with a different model and a different organizational set-up. Able professionals will help in the cleansing process and also put in place best practices and safeguards. Will the BCCI wake up?

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

IF SHASTRI HAD LIVED

 INDIA'S HISTORY TOOK AN UNEXPECTED TURN IN TASHKENT

RAMACHANDRA GUHA

 

In the second week of July, 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri left Delhi for a meeting of Commonwealth prime ministers in London. En route, the plane stopped for refuelling in Karachi, where the President of Pakistan, Field Marshal Ayub Khan, was at hand to welcome the Indian visitor. There is a photograph of the two men together, the tall Pathan in his military uniform, towering over (in all senses) the tiny Kayasth in his dhoti and kurta. The contrast was noticed at the time, and by no less than the Field Marshal himself. "So this is the man who has succeeded [Jawaharlal] Nehru," said Ayub to an aide, contemptuously.

 

That brief encounter was fateful, for it prompted the Pakistani leader to initiate armed action against India the following year. In August 1965, infiltrators were sent across the line of control into Kashmir. Soon afterwards, they were followed by regular troops of the Pakistan army. A full-fledged invasion was under way that sought to forcibly detach the Valley from India. It was thwarted by a brilliant counter-stroke, namely, the opening of a second front on the Punjab border. Fearing for the safety of their first city, Lahore, the Pakistanis now withdrew troops from Kashmir to defend it. By doing so they had lost the initiative, never to regain it.

 

The idea of marching across the Punjab was said to be that of Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh, but had the prime minister not approved it would not have been put into practice. In a comparable situation, during the war with China in 1962, Jawaharlal Nehru had refused to sanction the use of the air force. Altogether, Shastri proved to be an effective leader in times of war — far more so than his predecessor. There is another picture that is revealing. Taken at the end of hostilities, it shows Shastri, clad as ever in his dhoti and kurta, on top of a Patton tank that had been captured by the enemy. It was a gesture that would not have come easily to Nehru.

 

In his lifetime, Lal Bahadur Shastri was grievously underestimated by the Pakistanis. After his death, he has been all but forgotten by his compatriots. If some Indians do remember him, it is only for his leadership in the 1965 war. But in fact his contributions to the nation were more substantial. Thus it was Shastri who laid the foundation of the Green Revolution. The first few Five Year Plans had neglected the agrarian sector, leading to a serious shortage of foodgrains. No sooner was he made prime minister that Shastri shifted his able colleague, C. Subramaniam, from the then prestigious steel ministry to the agriculture portfolio. With the prime minister's backing, Subramaniam set about reorganizing the system of agricultural research, orienting it towards the selection and promotion of high-yielding varieties. These moves were consistent with the stirring slogan invented by the prime minister — "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan". Meanwhile, Shastri had also initiated moves to free industrial enterprise from the shackles of State control.

 

A somewhat less important member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet was Indira Gandhi. She had been put in charge of information and broadcasting, a ministry which, in a pre-satellite and pre-cable age, had far less power and reach than it does now. She was somewhat discontented, writing to a friend in 1965 that she was thinking of giving up politics altogether to go and live in London. Both her sons were then studying in the United Kingdom, so it made some sense for her to go join them.

 

Anyway, in the first weeks of 1966 Shastri died of a heart attack in the city of Tashkent, which was then part of the Soviet Union. The Indian prime minister had gone there, at the invitation of the Soviets, to forge a peace treaty with Pakistan's Ayub Khan. There has been some speculation about whether Shastri died of natural causes — speculation that continues because the government of India has (typically) refused to release the official report on his death. But perhaps there was no hanky-panky — perhaps it was just that his traditional apparel did him in, a dhoti and kurta being inadequate protection against the harsh cold of an Uzbek winter.

 

Shastri was only 63 when he died. The question one must ask is not how he died, but what if he had lived another five or even 10 years. His conduct during the war with Pakistan had greatly elevated him in the minds (and hearts) of his countrymen. Had he lived, he would have assuredly led the Congress to victory in the fourth general elections in 1967. With a solid majority behind him, he might have undertaken to find a final resolution to the Kashmir dispute. A further five years in power would also have allowed him, and his colleagues, to deepen their programmes of economic reform.

 

In the event, Shastri died, and Indira Gandhi became prime minister — not because she was the most able and experienced member of the cabinet, but because the Congress bosses thought they could control her. She led the party to a less-than-convincing victory in the 1967 elections, but then asserted herself by taking a sharp turn to the left — nationalizing the banks, abolishing the privy purses, adopting the slogan "Garibi hatao". By the end of the 1960s, India was beginning to achieve self-sufficiency in food production. Naturally, the credit accrued to the incumbent prime minister, rather than to her dead predecessor. Meanwhile, she had also enjoyed a success that could be more directly attributed to her own initiative and drive — namely, the victory over Pakistan in the war of 1971.

 

But what if Lal Bahadur Shastri had lived? Then it would have been he, not Mrs Gandhi, who would have been praised for the benefits of the Green Revolution; he, not she, who would have been given credit for any battles won against Pakistan.

 

Had Shastri continued as prime minister until the end of the 1960s, or beyond, the economic history of India might have turned out very differently. In the 1950s, under the direction of the State, India had nurtured a reasonably robust domestic industry. It was now time to allow for the freer play of market forces. In speeches made in 1965, Shastri clearly indicated that he would like to take the economy in that direction. Sadly, he died soon afterwards. Instead of trusting to the energy and enterprise of the private sector, his successor strengthened the control of the State over the economy. The consequence was the continuation of low rates of growth, a situation that began to change only after the reforms of 1991 and beyond.

 

Had fate given Lal Bahadur Shastri a longer innings as prime minister, then the Indian economy may now have been more robust and resilient. For he was both a pragmatic reformer and a man of conscience. Had he freed the processes of production from State control, he would simultaneously have initiated welfare measures to ameliorate poverty. As a man of vision and integrity, he would also have sought to improve the performance of public institutions.

 

Had Shastri lived, Indira Gandhi may or may not have migrated to London. But even had she stayed in India, it is highly unlikely that she would have ever become prime minister. And it is certain that her son would never have occupied or aspired to that office. Had Shastri been given another five years, there would have been no Nehru-Gandhi dynasty. Sanjay Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi would both be alive, and in private life. The former would have been a (failed) entrepreneur, the latter a recently retired airline pilot with a passion for photography. Finally, had Shastri lived longer, Sonia Gandhi would still be a devoted and loving housewife.

 

ramachandraguha@yahoo.in

 

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

EDITORIAL

JUSTICE IN JEHANABAD

"NOT A DAY PASSES WITHOUT DALITS BEING HARASSED."

 

Thirteen years after 58 Dalits, 37 of them women and children, were killed in Laxmanpur-Bathe village of Jehanabad in Bihar, a Patna court has sentenced to death 16 of the accused and awarded life sentence to 10 others. The accused were members of an upper caste militia, the Ranvir Sena, which was behind scores of caste killings in Bihar in the 1990s. The conviction and sentence of the accused is reassuring. It signals that even the most deprived sections of our society, which Dalits are, can get justice by moving the courts. Yet, the sentencing of the accused in the 1997 Jehanabad massacre is a flash in the pan. It is among a very few instances in the country where Dalits have been able to secure justice. Dalits and Adivasis continue to be vulnerable to horrific levels of violence even after two decades of enacting the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Early this week, Dalits in a village in Hissar district in Haryana were attacked by dominant caste Jats who burnt down around a dozen of their homes. An 18-year-old physically challenged Dalit girl, who was unable to flee her burning home, was burnt alive. It is believed that a mere spat over a dog turned into a scuffle that was enough to provoke the Jats to burn down Dalit homes. Anticipating violence, the Dalits had apparently approached the police for help but that was not forthcoming.


Not a day passes without Dalits being harassed, humiliated, beaten, exploited or killed in this country. It was to prevent this that the SC and ST Atrocities Prevention Act, 1989, was enacted. But 20 years on, there are few signs that it has succeeded. The National Crime Records Bureau figures actually show that the number of atrocities has increased since the law was enacted in 1989.


Often, Dalits are unable to even register a complaint against their upper caste tormentors as the police refuse to perform their duty. In the few that do get registered, police close the case soon after, thus allowing assailants to get away. If the case is taken up for trail in the court of law, witnesses are intimidated. Will this happen in Hissar as well? The reluctance of police to protect the Dalits in the run-up to the violence indicates it will, unless the government and civil society intervene.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THIRD ANGLE

"THE LIBERAL DEMOCRATS ARE FAST PICKING UP."

 

 

With about a fortnight to go for the general elections, Britain may be poised to break out of its traditional two-party system that alternated between Labour and the Conservative Party. The electorate seems to be looking for a wider choice, with the Liberal Democrats, who have most times been only a non-decisive third force, gaining fast in popular reckoning.  According to the latest opinion polls, the Liberal Democrats  are now second to the Conservative Party in popular votes and Labour has been pushed to the third position. The Conservatives, under David Cameron, till a few weeks ago had a decisive 45 percentage support against Labour's 30 per cent, but now they are leading the Liberal Democrats narrowly with 33 per cent against about 30. The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg's performance in a TV debate between the three leaders — Prime Minister Gordon Brown, David Cameron and himself — is said to have a given a boost to his party's prospects.


Labour, which had three consecutive electoral victories, has declined over the years. Britain is still struggling to get out of its deep economic troubles. New Labour icon Tony Blair was discredited and his successor has been unimpressive and unpopular even in the party. The party was tainted by scandals over MPs' and ministers' conduct, and the government's involvement in the Iraq war, based on misrepresentation and a perceived servility to the US, has been widely unpopular. While Labour has to contend with voter fatigue, the Conservatives repackaged themselves under a new young and articulate leader and tried to tone down some of their rightist positions. Labour too has tried to project itself as more competent than others to manage the economy and to protect important public services. The Liberal Democrats have stuck to their known centrist and moderate positions, and since they have no negative baggage, have looked convincing and credible. The prospects of the two main parties may be affected not only by a surge of the Liberal Democrats but by other small parties too. The Green Party, for example, which performed creditably in the European parliament elections, is expected to do well.


All this points to a hung parliament, the first after 1974. But a fortnight is a long period in election campaigns where voter perceptions can swing any way. In British elections, tactical voting in closely-fought seats has also been crucial in deciding outcomes. But a decisive majority for any party still seems unlikely.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE ICE HAS BROKEN

BY MIKHAIL GORBACHEV


The problems the global community faces are real and getting worse, many seemingly intractable, with no signs of progress.

 

 

A remarkable sequence of events in April has turned the spotlight on nuclear disarmament and global security. I am referring to the signing by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitri Medvedev of the new Start treaty, the Obama administration's presentation of its nuclear doctrine and the nuclear security summit meeting in Washington attended by leaders of several dozen countries.


The ice has broken. The situation today is dramatically different from just two years ago. But has it changed enough to say that the process now under way is irreversible?


Let's first look at the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which has already come under criticism. It has been deemed irrelevant and the reductions it calls for described as 'creative accounting'. Though the cuts are indeed modest compared to those made under the treaty President Bush and I signed in 1991, the new treaty is a major breakthrough.
First, it resumes the process initiated in the second half of the 1980s, which made it possible to rid the world of thousands of nuclear warheads and hundreds of launchers.


Second, the strategic arsenals of the United States and Russia have once again been placed under a regime of mutual verification and inspections.


Third, the US and Russia have demonstrated that they can solve the most complex problems of mutual security, which offers hope that they will work together more successfully to address global and regional issues.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, with the new Start treaty the two biggest nuclear powers say to the world that they are serious about their Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligation to move toward eliminating nuclear weapons. By reviving the goal of a world free of nuclear weapons, the treaty is a powerful tool for political pressure on those countries, particularly Iran and North Korea, whose nuclear programmes have caused legitimate concern.


I have often been asked, in Russia and elsewhere, whether the process of nuclear disarmament could be scuttled by a build-up in the arsenals of other countries, for example China, Pakistan and India. This is a legitimate question. The least that the other members of the 'nuclear club' must do now is freeze their arsenals.
Further progress along the path of disarmament and nonproliferation would be facilitated by a statement from nuclear powers saying that the sole purpose of nuclear weapons is to prevent their use. Unfortunately, the new US nuclear doctrine does not go that far.


The new US doctrine emphasises that Russia is no longer an adversary. It declares the Obama administration's intent to secure ratification of the treaty banning all nuclear testing and states that the US will not develop new nuclear weapons. The Obama administration has proposed bilateral dialogues on strategic stability with Russia and China.


Missile defence issues

Such a dialogue must include missile defence issues. After all, the interrelationship of strategic offensive arms and missile defence is recognised in the new Start.


The dialogue on strategic stability is certainly in Russia's interest. To conduct it with confidence, we in Russia need a serious debate on the problem of missile defence, involving experts, members of parliament and the military. What kind of missile defence does Russia need? Should it be linked with the US missile defence system? These are political rather than 'agency' issues. Decisions on such issues will be with us for decades to come.

The US national security strategy, adopted in 2002 and still in effect, clearly proclaims the need for US global military superiority. This principle has in effect become an integral part of 'America's creed'. It finds specific expression in the vast arsenals of conventional weapons, the colossal defence budget and the plans for weaponising outer space. The proposed strategic dialogue must include all these issues. Reaching mutual understanding will take a sense of realism and long-term vision.


NATO is now discussing a new 'strategic concept', and for the first time it is consulting with Russia. I welcome this. Does it mean that NATO is ready to renounce the claim to include the entire world in its 'zone of responsibility' and instead work together with others within multilateral institutions vested with real authority and powers? I am sure Russia is ready to engage in such a discussion — and not Russia alone. For, whether we like it or not, the world today is multipolar.


The problems the global community faces are real and getting worse, many seemingly intractable, with no signs of progress. The West Asia settlement process is in a deep crisis. The world is still paying for the mistakes of US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Efforts to agree on a global climate policy are stalled. The mechanisms for fighting poverty and backwardness are dysfunctional.


In the final analysis, it all comes down to the lack of political will and failure of leadership. We need collective leadership. We have recently seen examples of what it can achieve. But what remains to be done is much more than what has been done.


Too much time was wasted after the end of the Cold War. The legacy of mutual suspicion, narrow self-interest and domination is still very much with us. The struggle between this legacy and new thinking will define international politics in the 21st century. We have not yet passed the point of no return.
(The writer was the leader of the Soviet Union from 1985 until its collapse in 1991)

NYT

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

 

BLOOD RELATIONSHIP

POOR DEVAYANI HAD TO PAY A HEAVY PRICE FOR HER LOVE AND KINDNESS.

BY RADHA PRATHI

 

Everyone around was highly amused when a naïve, young wife of a dying husband refused to donate blood to her life partner very earnestly. After much goading for explanation, she spilled the beans albeit a little shyly. She said, that if she did donate her blood, she would soon share a 'khoon ka rishta' (blood ties) with her husband which would simply undo her conjugal vows.


When I heard this 'joke', I was amused initially but could not help feeling sorry for the young lass. If she had been an Egyptian of royal lineage, she would have given her blood more than willingly. After all sibling marriages were more or less the order of the day in that part of the globe for political reasons.

 

If she had read her fair share of John Donne, she could not have denied her hubby. Her reading of his naughty romantic poem 'The Flea' would have inspired her to pass on the 'life saver' without batting an eyelid. In this poem, the poet forbids his unrelenting ladylove teasingly not to kill the flea which sucked him first and then sucked her, by saying,

"O stay, three lives in one flea spare,

Where we almost, yea, more than

married are.

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage bed, and marriage

temple is."


However, the heroine of our subject had eons of Indian culture embedded in her genes which made her dismiss the idea vehemently. It was anathema to her.


She probably relived with the tragic love story of Devayani the daughter of the 'asura' guru Shukracharya, who fell hopelessly in love with Kacha the son of 'deva' guru Brihaspathi who had come to her father as his disciple to learn the art of immortality.


The 'asuras' who felt mighty insecure about Kacha killed him several times but he was invariably brought back to life by Shukracharya at the behest of his daughter by using the 'Sanjeevani — the immortality mantra'. The demons who were sick of this disgustingly sick routine burned the body of Kacha, mixed his ashes in Shukracharya's liquor and made the preceptor consume it.


This time around the teacher was foxed into teaching Kacha the invaluable mantra before restoring the latter's life by allowing him to tear open his stomach.


Kacha, who emerged alive from his teacher's belly brought his mentor back to life and went away, but not before rejecting Devayani's love for he chose to look upon her as his sister as he had resurfaced to life through her father. Poor Devayani had to pay a heavy price for her love and kindness.


Perhaps this latent logic put off the young woman who could not bear the idea of losing her loved one in the name of co-sanguinity!

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

FATIMA BHUTTO

'I HAVE BEEN TO DOZENS OF BOOK LAUNCHES, BUT I HAVE YET TO SEE ONE ON AS GRAND A SCALE AS THIS ONE,' SAID MY DAUGHTER MALA DAYAL AS SHE CAME HOME FROM THE LAUNCH OF FATIMA BHUTTO'S 'SONGS OF BLOOD & SWORD' (PENGUIN VIKING).

BY KHUSHWANT SINGH


She continued: "There must have been nearly 1,000 guests: it was a packed house. On the stage sat William Dalrymple in white kurta-pyjama and the Bhutto girl. She is a stunner. She was very craftly dressed to please her Indian audience and also maintain her Pakistani identity. She was draped in a sari instead of salwar-kameez and wore red bindi on her forehead. That warmed the hearts of her Indian audience. (She is also vegetarian). Her sari was green — the colour of Pakistan. She spoke flawless English about her country. The audience was spell-bound."

My daughter had not read her book. No one in the audience had till after the launch. She introduces herself on the jacket of the book in few lines printed in red:

Grand-daughter of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto... Executed 1979

Niece to Shah Nawaz Bhutto... Murdered 1985

Daughter of Mir Murtaza Bhutto... Assassinated 1996

Niece to Benazir Bhutto... Assassinated 2007


On the four-boned skeleton Fatima Bhutto fleshes out of the saga of the Bhutto from the fore-father Sir Shahnawaz Bhutto, Diwan of Junagarh who migrated back to his ancestral home-town Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in district Larkana; his son Zulfiqar Ali who rose to power in Pakistan, to his daughter Benazir who out-manoeuvred her brother to grab her father's political legacy and acquired vast amounts of real estate in Europe and America to which her husband Asif Ali Zardari added a lot more and came to be known as 'mister ten per cent' because he is said to have charged it as commission for brokering deals between the government and investors.

Assassins of Benazir Bhutto remain unidentified. But Fatima has named Asif Ali Zardari of having committed four murders and having himself acquitted by a subservient judiciary. She has deliberately invited trouble on her head as if she harbours a death-wish. She is as gutsy as she is beautiful. She did me the honour of calling on me before she took her flight to Karachi. I could not take my eyes off  her. I kept gazing at the pin-head of a diamond sparkling on the left side of her nose and her long, jet black curly hair falling on her shoulders. I hoped I'd see her at least once before my time is up.


Fatima ends her book in memorable prose: "Amidst all this madness, all these ghosts and memories of times past, it feels like the world around me is crumbling slowly, flaking away. Sometimes when it is late at night, I feel my chest swell with a familiar anxiety. I think at these times, that I have no more place in my heart for Pakistan. I cannot love it any more. I have to get away from it for anything to make sense, nothing here ever does. But when the hours pass, and as I ready myself for sleep as the light filters through my windows; I hear the sound of those mynah birds. And I know I could never leave."


Incidentally, I also added a new word to my vocabulary which fits both Pakistan and India: It is saprophytic which means feeding on decaying organic matter. Both nations rely on all that is rotten in their past.
Unforgiven:
Unforgivable errors that

deserve no excuse!

Sania's marriage!

Shah Rukh's statement!

Husain's paintings!

Something's terribly amiss!

You should have known better Sania

Than to choose a Pakistani miyan!

Mr Shahrukh how could you even

In word support Pakistan!

Mr Hussain

Your vision of India is flawed!

Even venerable old

Mr Thackeray

Had to kindly step in

To stop this lunacy

Of sleeping oops! Sorry

Supping with the Pakis!

(Courtesy: Sami Rafiq, Aligarh)

Why?

If swimming is a good exercise to stay fit, why are whales fat?

Why is that everyone wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die?

Shall I say that there is racial discrimination in Chess as White piece always moves first!

In our country we have freedom of speech, then why telephone bills?

If money does not grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Why does a round Pizza come in a square box?

Why doesn't glue stick to its bottle?

Why do you still call it a building when it is already built?

If it is true that we are there to help others then what are others here for?

If you are not supposed to drink and drive, why do bars have parking lots?

Very funny people living in a very funny world...

(Contributed by J P Singh, Waterford, Ireland)

 

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

EDITORIAL

GREECE AND WHO'S NEXT?

 

As Greece careened ever close to default this week, frightened investors also rushed to dump bonds from financially troubled Portugal, Spain and Ireland. But while the markets increasingly see this as a euro zone crisis, many European leaders are in denial.

 

Unless the European Union and the International Monetary Fund back up Greece, it could default on its debts. And the roughly $40 billion bailout promised — grudgingly — by Brussels with an additional $15 billion to $20 billion from the International Monetary Fund is unlikely to be enough. Greece has more than $50 billion in debt coming due over the next 12 months alone.

 

Meanwhile, Germany is resisting turning over the money. After George Papandreou, the prime minister of Greece, called on Friday for the bailout plan to be "activated," Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Greece first had to negotiate "a credible savings program." Georg Nuesslein, a lawmaker in Merkel's governing coalition, told Bloomberg the program "has to hurt."

 

Greece's efforts to curtail public spending have not made enough of a dent in its deficit to persuade investors it can bring its debt under control. But amid a severe recession, which is likely to be exacerbated by budget cuts, even the tightest belt-tightening can't eliminate a deficit that amounted to more than 13 percent of its gross domestic product last year.

 

To stop a rout, the European Union must commit to activating the bailout. Then Europe and the International Monetary Fund must start negotiations with Greece for a much bigger bailout package. This would help restore investors' confidence, allowing interest rates on its debt to fall from the punitive heights of nearly 9 percent reached last week. While some economists believe Greece would still have to restructure its debts, it would have space to negotiate the terms.

 

As investors made clear this week, the turmoil doesn't end with Greece. Portugal, Spain and Ireland have seen their deficits balloon as the housing bust and the economic downturn took a toll. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund must put together a pre-emptive bailout package to convince investors of the stability of their finances and head off a flight to dump their bonds on a bigger scale. Speed is essential.

 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and European finance ministers should start working on that during this weekend's International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington. This is mainly a European problem. But Washington must ensure that the fund commits adequate resources. The good news, if there is any here, is that American banks do not own much Greek debt. But the American economy won't be immune if the Greek crisis spreads much further.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

GREECE AND WHO'S NEXT?

 

As Greece careened ever close to default this week, frightened investors also rushed to dump bonds from financially troubled Portugal, Spain and Ireland. But while the markets increasingly see this as a euro zone crisis, many European leaders are in denial.

 

Unless the European Union and the International Monetary Fund back up Greece, it could default on its debts. And the roughly $40 billion bailout promised — grudgingly — by Brussels with an additional $15 billion to $20 billion from the International Monetary Fund is unlikely to be enough. Greece has more than $50 billion in debt coming due over the next 12 months alone.

 

Meanwhile, Germany is resisting turning over the money. After George Papandreou, the prime minister of Greece, called on Friday for the bailout plan to be "activated," Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said Greece first had to negotiate "a credible savings program." Georg Nuesslein, a lawmaker in Merkel's governing coalition, told Bloomberg the program "has to hurt."

 

Greece's efforts to curtail public spending have not made enough of a dent in its deficit to persuade investors it can bring its debt under control. But amid a severe recession, which is likely to be exacerbated by budget cuts, even the tightest belt-tightening can't eliminate a deficit that amounted to more than 13 percent of its gross domestic product last year.

 

To stop a rout, the European Union must commit to activating the bailout. Then Europe and the International Monetary Fund must start negotiations with Greece for a much bigger bailout package. This would help restore investors' confidence, allowing interest rates on its debt to fall from the punitive heights of nearly 9 percent reached last week. While some economists believe Greece would still have to restructure its debts, it would have space to negotiate the terms.

 

As investors made clear this week, the turmoil doesn't end with Greece. Portugal, Spain and Ireland have seen their deficits balloon as the housing bust and the economic downturn took a toll. The European Union and the International Monetary Fund must put together a pre-emptive bailout package to convince investors of the stability of their finances and head off a flight to dump their bonds on a bigger scale. Speed is essential.

 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and European finance ministers should start working on that during this weekend's International Monetary Fund meeting in Washington. This is mainly a European problem. But Washington must ensure that the fund commits adequate resources. The good news, if there is any here, is that American banks do not own much Greek debt. But the American economy won't be immune if the Greek crisis spreads much further.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

THE COURT AND FREE SPEECH

 

When the Supreme Court ruled 8-to-1 this week that a federal law banning the sale of animal-cruelty videos violates the First Amendment, it reaffirmed the right to engage in even highly unpopular speech. And it wisely declined to create another category of expression outside of the First Amendment's protection.

 

With this case and the court's earlier Citizens United decision on corporate speech and political campaign contributions, this could be one of the most important terms in years for defining the constitutional scope of freedom of expression — for better or for worse.

 

Taken together, the rulings give freedom of speech a wide berth in two directions. The animal-cruelty ruling takes a strong and welcome stand that there should be only very narrow exceptions to the general rule that almost all content of speech is protected. That view is broadly accepted by most judges and constitutional scholars, and was reflected in the fact that eight justices from across the political spectrum joined the majority.

 

The campaign finance ruling, regrettably, gave a particular kind of speaker — corporations — a more expansive free speech right to spend than the court has ever acknowledged. The break there with the nation's legal traditions was sharp, and opened the floodgates for big business and special-interest dollars to overwhelm American politics. That was delivered by a bitterly divided 5-to-4 court.

 

The animal-cruelty case involved Robert Stevens, who ran a business that sold disturbing, even disgusting, videos of pit bulls fighting and attacking other animals. Mr. Stevens was convicted under a federal law that criminalizes the sale of depictions of animal cruelty if the acts are illegal in the state where the depiction is sold.

 

The Supreme Court ruled, in United States v. Stevens, that Mr. Stevens's conviction violated the First Amendment. It declined to add animal cruelty to the short list of forms of expression — including obscenity, incitement and defamation — that are not protected by the Constitution.

 

It then went on to rule that the federal law was overly broad, since it swept within its coverage many sorts of images that should be considered core protected speech. For example, hunting is illegal in the District of Columbia, and under the law, selling hunting magazines there would also be illegal.

 

The majority opinion, by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., was a strong affirmation of the importance of freedom of expression, even in the face of substantial societal condemnation of the horrific nature of some of the speech involved. It was gratifying that the court recognized that the right way to protect animals from abuse is through laws aimed at the abuse itself, not at free expression.

 

The court has two more important free speech cases coming up. One raises the question of whether people have a right to keep their identities secret if they signed a petition to put a referendum against same-sex marriage on the ballot. Putting an initiative on the ballot is an important governmental act, and we hope the court does not decide that there is a right to do so anonymously.

 

The court has already heard arguments in a challenge to a federal law barring material support to terrorists, which prohibits some kinds of speech in support of controversial causes. We hope it narrows the statute's scope, carefully sorting through what kinds of assistance are protected speech, and what are the sorts of aid the government can properly prohibit.

 

That respectful treatment of the First Amendment, also reflected in the Stevens case, is what the nation needs from this court — not the recklessness of the ruling in the Citizens United case.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

RUNNING ON EMPTY

BY GAIL COLLINS

 

The election season is starting in earnest, and already one thing is crystal clear. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are hopeless. It seems inconceivable that either party can possibly win anything. This may be the year when the Whigs finally get to make their comeback.

 

The whole world is expecting a cataclysm for the Democrats in November. After all, the economy is still a mess, and the party is still ... the party. In Illinois, which was first out of the box this season, the Democrats have already moved beyond the primary and into buyer's remorse. They've already dumped the voters' pick for lieutenant governor. This week, their question is whether they can get rid of their Senate nominee, Alexi Giannoulias, the son of a Chicago banking family, whose bank failed on Friday.

 

The Democratic disaster scenario would make absolute sense if it did not also require that the Republicans do something right. But in one state after another, they seem bent on nominating the worst possible candidate. The world is one big scavenger hunt, and their clue says, "Find somebody unelectable."

 

In Connecticut, having driven Senator Chris Dodd from the race, the Republicans are racing into the corner of Linda McMahon, whose claim to fame is her role in exporting professional wrestling around the globe. In Florida, they got tired of having their popular governor, Charlie Crist, as the senate nominee even before they actually nominated him. Now Crist is expected to run as an independent, and the G.O.P. will try to live happily ever after with a conservative state legislator who has issues about his use of the party credit card.

 

In Nevada, where Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, appeared to be hopelessly unpopular, the Republicans' favorite, Sue Lowden, got caught up in a controversy over whether she favors returning to the days when people paid their medical bills by giving the doctor a couple of chickens. This is truly not the sort of policy debate you want to use to jump-start a campaign. And Lowden has yet to explain how much poultry it would cost for a colonoscopy.

 

The country may have moved to the right, but conservatives tend to underestimate the amount of blue that's still out there. The new Republican governor of Virginia seemed stunned that his state reacted badly to his call for a Confederate History Month that did not mention slavery. But really, the very definition of a purple state is a place where, when you devote an entire month to recalling the glories of the confederacy, you have to give some time to the bondage angle.

 

In Kentucky, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, intended to take nothing for granted when it came to keeping the Republicans' hold on a Senate seat that's up for grabs this year. His first, and canniest, move was to force the incumbent, Jim Bunning, to retire. Bunning, a cranky ex-baseball player, barely won his last race when he got caught using a teleprompter during a debate and claimed that his opponent, an Italian-American doctor, looked like "one of Saddam Hussein's sons."

 

For Bunning's successor, McConnell picked Trey Grayson, the secretary of state, who looks a little like a younger, larger Mitch McConnell. Unfortunately for the plan, Grayson is currently getting his clock cleaned by the Tea Party candidate, Rand Paul.

 

It is very hard to pick a favorite. Would you prefer the man endorsed by Mitch McConnell and Dick Cheney, or the one backed by Sarah Palin and Jim Bunning? I watched a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce debate on Friday, and Grayson, who opposed wasteful earmarks, but not the good wholesome ones that come to Kentucky, kind of faded into the woodwork.

 

It was the out-of-the-running candidates who were the attention-grabbers. There was a very large, genial man whose slogan was "We need to make a U-turn to God," and a small, gnarled World War II veteran who called the president "a would-be mullah of the most evil kind." This was Gurley Martin, and his answer to a question on cap-and-trade legislation was to croak out "Horsefeathers! Horsefeathers! Horsefeathers!"

 

If Paul holds on to his lead and wins the nomination, the Democrats — who never really felt they had a prayer in Kentucky — will take heart. Paul is going to be hampered by a general impression in many parts of the state that he is sort of strange. This may be because Grayson keeps running ads titled "Rand Paul: Strange Ideas."

 

The Democratic nominee may be the lieutenant governor, Daniel Mongiardo, the same guy who Bunning called Saddam-like six years ago. If he and Paul are both the final candidates, it will be an all-physician Senate election. You do see more and more doctors in the political game. Perhaps they want to get out of the medical business before that payment-by-chicken thing kicks in.

 

Charles M. Blow and Bob Herbert are off today.

 

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

USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

OUR VIEW ON FINANCIAL REFORM (PART I): REIN IN WALL STREET BEFORE HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

 

With the economy finally starting to rebound, it's worth pausing for a moment to recall the roots of the financial crisis that cost millions of jobs and spawned untold misery.

 

No economic downturn in the past century — not even the Great Depression— can be so directly attributed to pernicious behavior by financiers. Lenders put people in wildly inappropriate mortgages, often without even verifying income. The process of securitizing these loans and selling them to institutional investors exposed a bonus-crazed banking culture that amplified risk on a colossal scale.

 

Despite it all, the public remains exposed to risks of a future economic collapse, and possible bailouts, brought on by the very same behavior. That's why financial reform is so important, and why the push-back from major financial institutions suggests that the sweeping proposal pending in the Senate is on the right track.

 

The toughness of the measure is appropriate, even if it is partly the result of election-year calculations. It would force institutions to set aside more cash to cover losses, put risky trades in the open, add consumer protections and set up a process to deal with failing institutions.

 

Perhaps its most amusing — and satisfying — feature is a requirement that large banks plan for their own demise. They would be required to file "funeral plans" making recommendations to regulators and central bankers how best to liquidate them if they fail.

 

One thing the measure would not do, despite what you might have heard, is fund future taxpayer bailouts. That charge — by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell— is a kind of Orwellian doublespeak.

 

The assertion centers on fees that would be collected from banks to fund a $50 billion pool, which would be used to break up and dispose of those that fail. The pool might or might not make it into the final version, as the Obama administration has told congressional Democrats it could be dropped. In any event, all it would do is create a shutdown process much like the one that has been used successfully for decades to close down smaller banks.

 

That is the supposed "bailout." Never mind that no taxpayer money would be involved.

 

The Republicans have more legitimate concerns in making sure regulation does not become draconian and unproductive, but that pitch doesn't sell well in today's virulently anti-Wall Street environment. There are, for example, still too many separate agencies that regulate banking.

 

The legislation has other flaws. It does little to address the fact that bankers' compensation still rewards risk-taking with other people's money. And the issue of what to do with failing banks remains thorny. Further, there's more than ample danger that industry lobbyists — hundreds of them — will succeed in sneaking language into the complex legislation that undercuts its purpose.

 

But the measure does many things needed to limit the chances of another horrific credit crisis and rage-inducing bailout. Members of Congress who think they can just say no to financial reform, the way they did to President Obama's health care overhaul, do so at their own political peril.

 

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

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

POWER PLAN

 

The steps announced by the government to combat a steadily mounting power shortfall that has threatened to paralyse life across the country have been closely followed by concerned citizens. What they wonder though is if it would prove possible to enforce the measures decided on after a high-level meeting in the capital. Certainly, in the past, lack of implementation has been a huge factor in holding up steps put down on paper. There are some indications that such a problem could arise once again. Traders, most notably in Punjab, have baulked at the idea of closing markets by 8pm. This is hardly a surprise. As a consequence of a number of factors that include inflation, terrorism and loadshedding, shop-owners everywhere already complain that they are suffering significant losses. The early shutting down of shopping centres could further reduce the flow of customers who generally shop after sundown when men return home from work. Although the Punjab chief minister has requested the cooperation of traders and they have, for now, complied, yet one must ask what the cost will be in economic terms. This factor will determine if the measure can be sustained. In the past, market committees have defied government orders and kept the shutters open till late at night. In Lahore, the police have already cracked down – rather viciously – on some who are defying official orders. The question is if we are to see more violence in the days ahead or if the provincial government will indeed be able to win support from the people.


The other steps, aimed at cutting the power deficit by 500 megawatts a day and thereby reducing loadshedding by 33 per cent, include a 50 per cent reduction in the use of lights at the Prime Minister's House, the Presidency and other official residences in the provinces. Government offices will observe a two-day holiday. Circular debt is also to be retired, making it possible for power companies to run more efficiently. It is difficult to judge in advance what the impact of this will be, but we must hope the strategy works in coping with the devastating energy situation we face. The central issue here, however, goes quite beyond that of power – and whether machinery, lights and fans can be made to run. Instead it is fundamentally related to the credibility of the government. Doubts have been expressed, and indeed continue to be cast, whether the crisis is quite as acute as it has been made to seem or feel. There are consistent allegations that the extent of the deficit has been exaggerated to pave the way for RPPs and IPPs to be installed. It is hard to say how much truth there is in this. But perhaps the energy summit can offer some reassurance that efforts are being made to solve the crisis. The government though must keep in mind that people will not forgive it if they find – in time – that the power crisis was in anyway artificially manufactured, or that the losses and suffering it inflicted on millions could have been avoided.

 

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

I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

EASING THE FLOW

 

There are agreements on many issues that are voiced from time to time. Track-Two diplomatic efforts between Pakistan and India have in the past resulted in demands that people-to-people contact across the border be encouraged by easing visa restrictions. This issue has been brought up once more by the vice-chancellor of Punjab University, who met a high-powered Indian media delegation visiting Pakistan under the Jang Group's Aman ki Asha initiative. The visa curbs that hamper flow across the border are indeed an impediment in the way of better understanding between our people. The more often this issue is raised the stronger the reminder to the governments to act. As media persons from both Pakistan and India have pointed out, the subcontinent hosts a huge proportion of the world's people. Building peace here can indeed have a global impact.


It is also significant that during the discussions held under the broad Aman ki Asha umbrella there has been a genuine bid to see things through the perspective of people in the other country. Such an exchange of thoughts and ideas is of course essential to the solution of problems. It is true that today many difficulties face the two nations and they have sadly been significantly aggravated since the unfortunate Mumbai events in November 2008. Hawks in both the countries have taken advantage of this. But the tensions that have existed since the bombings make it all the more imperative that efforts to bring people together be stepped up. This can be achieved only by allowing them greater access to each other's countries and ensuring that bureaucratic mechanisms currently in place on both sides of the border do not prevent this.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MOBS IN WARDS

 

Cases of mobs invading hospitals, and beating up staff, continue to be reported at regular intervals from across the country. There is a need to understand why this occurs. In some cases, certainly, the negligence of doctors is a factor in such displays of anger. But this is not always the case. Inevitably, deaths do take place in hospitals. These are not always the result of medical wrongdoing or carelessness. So, what then are the factors that result in the kinds of scenes we see?


The key issue seems to be the lack of any mechanism for accountability. Despite the stir created over the last few months over the need for this, very little has been done to review legislation and set up means to ensure that patients receive the care they are entitled to. This is especially important at government hospitals, to which the bulk of people turn. We need a code of ethics and a means to address complaints. While in theory at least, some of these are already in place; in practice they do not work. As a result people feel they have no option but to resort to the kind of violence we see too often in our society. We need to make a real effort to prevent this – by doing more to guarantee to people the rights too often denied to them.

 

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I. THE NEWS

A NEW CONTROVERSY

ARIF NIZAMI


The week has been cathartic for those who believe in the supremacy of parliament and the rule of law. President Asif Ali Zardari signed the Eighteenth Amendment Bill into law in the presence of all the politicians who matter, with much fanfare and bonhomie. And, finally, the long-awaited United Nations Commission report on the assassination of Ms Benazir Bhutto was also released.


The group photograph taken on the occasion of the signing of the law becoming part of the 1973 Constitution enabling transfer of political power from the presidency to the prime minister published in most newspapers captured the true historic significance of the event. Rarely have politicians demonstrated such solidarity and unanimity in the service of democracy.


As expected, various petitions challenging the constitution of the judicial commission for the purpose of appointing judges to the High Courts and the Supreme Court under the amended Constitution have been challenged in the apex court. As expected, the plea has been taken that the procedure is tantamount to changing the basic structure of the Constitution. The stalwarts of the judges' movement barrister, Aitzaz Ahsan and Ali Ahmed Kurd, amongst others, however strongly disagree.


Aitzaz Ahsan fears another confrontation between the judiciary and parliament if the Supreme Court strikes down the 18th Amendment. However, a senior lawyer and one of the former stalwarts of late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, who played a pivotal role in evolving a consensus on the 1973 Constitution, thinks that parliament has overstepped its mandate by amending the Constitution. He thinks the basic structure of the Constitution has been changed, which cannot be done without a referendum.


Pirzada, who bid adieu to the PPP long ago, is these days perceived to be close to the dictator-in-exile, Gen Musharraf. Maverick lawyer Akram Sheikh and Supreme Court Bar Association president Qazi Anwar vociferously support his view. Hamid Khan, a prominent jurist, a stalwart of Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaf, feels that there is nothing odd about the Supreme Court striking down constitutional amendments, as has happened many times in India.


Notwithstanding the hiccups, all political parties present in parliament rallied around in support of the 18th Amendment in the final analysis. PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who had absented themselves when the National Assembly passed the amendment, were present at the Presidency for the signing ceremony.


Nawaz Sharif, who has come under severe criticism from his own party for supporting the change of name of NWFP to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, was seen being warmly embraced by President Asif Ali Zardari. This was a good gesture, especially in the backdrop of the music Nawaz Sharif has been facing from his self-styled mentors for conceding on the Khyber-Pkhtunkhwa name.


These elements are trying in vain to drive a wedge between the Sharifs by painting Mian Shahbaz Sharif, known for his rather hawkish political views, as "a true Muslim Leaguer," whereas Nawaz is criticised as a deviant for going along with the consensus on the Pakhtunkhwa issue. They have not only castigated Nawaz for attending the ceremony but have also launched a media campaign against him for cosying back to President Zardari.

His being a signatory to the Charter of Democracy with Ms Benazir Bhutto, it would have been sheer opportunistic politics on the PML-N supremo's part if he had done anything but support the 18th Amendment. However, it remains to be seen whether in its anxiety to cash in on anti-PPP constituencies, the PML-N does not waver again from its stance on the 18th Amendment.


The 26-member constitutional committee comprising all political parties under the chairmanship of Mr Raza Rabbani has been officially disbanded .It deliberated for more than nine months to produce a consensual draft of the 18th Amendment. Ishaq Dar and Ahsan Iqbal were representing the PML-N in the committee and obviously enjoyed the confidence of their party and leader. Hence, to say that the constitutional amendment was passed in two days without debate is not only a travesty of truth, it is an insult to the travails of the chairman and members of the committee who toiled for almost a year to produce an agreed draft.


Aitzaz Ahsan has warned about the clash if institutions with disastrous consequences if the apex court strikes parts of the 18th Amendment. Hopefully, better sense will prevail. The chief Justice of Pakistan in his wisdom is well aware of the parameters set by the Constitution. While inaugurating the national judicial conference he aptly remarked: "The role of the judiciary is not that of an opposition to the legislature and the executive but that of a custodian and a bastion of the constitutional rights and liberties of the citizens."


Parliament represents the collective will of the people and, in the case of the 18th Amendment, signifies the consensus of all the political parties. Those who are crying hoarse that only a constituent assembly has the mandate to amend the Constitution kept mum when the 1973 Constitution was maimed and truncated beyond recognition through arbitrary amendments. These amendments were mostly initiated by military strongmen, duly rubberstamped by parliaments and validated by the courts.

 

Admittedly, there are a few downsides to the 18th Amendment. For example, exempting party leaders from holding party elections indeed sounds hypocritical for parties which do not tire of preaching democratic principals like fair and free elections. But their leaders do not want free elections for themselves. I recall one retired khaki complaining about the future of democracy in Pakistan. However misplaced his criticism, his view was: "Is the future of democracy in Pakistan that either Hamza (son of Shahbaz Sharif), Bilawal (son of Zardari and Benazir Bhutto) or Moonis (son of Pervez Elahi) will be our future leader?"


Judging by the dynastic bent of mind of South Asian leaders, as well as the electorate, he is probably right. Unfortunately, the other alternative which has plagued Pakistan for more than half of its existence is another military dictator taking over in the name of saving the nation form corrupt politicians.


Despite the ushering in of the supremacy of parliament and the president voluntarily giving away some of his crucial powers usurped by Gen Musharraf from a rubberstamp Assembly, there is despondency in the air. Owing to the dismal state of the economy, endemic power shortages, terrorism and a pervasive sense of insecurity bordering on a state of anarchy, the common man does not feel good about the future of democracy in the country. Hence, unless our leadership walks the talk by actually moving to give better governance mere constitutional amendments cannot guarantee a stable and a lasting democracy.


The PPP government has finally risen to the need take action against Gen Musharraf and all those mentioned adversely in the UN report. This action should be focused and should not be allowed to deteriorate into a witch-hunt against opponents. The revelation in the report that the follow-up vehicle on the fateful evening of Ms Benazir Bhutto's assassination occupied by Rehman Malik, Dr Babar Awan and others left the ambush site, abandoning Ms Bhutto in a critical state, is absolutely shocking. Despite this damning revelation, how these gentlemen are enjoying the perks and privileges of power and the confidence of the president is a mystery.



The writer is a former newspaper editor. Email: arifn51@hotmail .com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

CONTRA SUFISM

AZIZ ALI DAD


"People know what they do; frequently they know why they do what they do; but what they don't know is what what they do does."

Michel Foucault

 

Amar Jaleel wrote a wonderful article 'Antithesis of Sufism' in this newspaper on April 8. He laid bare the hypocrisy of those who pretend to be Sufis but act contrary to the principles of Sufism. But there is another dimension to Sufism, which is what it does to people who sincerely follow its tenets. After the tragedy of 9/11, Sufism is being flaunted as panacea for religious fundamentalism among Muslims. This article is an attempt to explore the issue of repercussions of following Sufism and its viability in addressing the modern age challenges especially when it gets entangled in power relations.


Nobody can deny the role of Sufism in creating syncretistic tradition in Islam by molding itself according to local cultures and practices. Also, mysticism is an essential element of human psyche. Mysticism in Islam helped in spiritual and moral uplift of the community, but it has essentially remained a subjective domain which could not cater to the challenges emanating from objective world or exogenous factors confronted by Islam in its formative phase.


The emergence of the Mu'tazilite school of thought in the eighth century was necessitated by failure of jurists and Sufis of the time to provide rational answers to some philosophical questions. For example, Wasil ibn Ata parted ways from his Sufi mentor Hasan al-Basari on the issue of free will and determination and sought answers in philosophy. By doing so, he paved the way for the first rational school of thought among Muslims – the Mu'tazalites. It was the enquiring mind and intellectual courage of the Mu'tazilites that enabled them to face squarely the intellectual challenges posed by other religious and philosophical schools of thought. Had they remained in the cocoon of Sufism and dogmatic enclosure of clergy, they would not have been able to engage with philosophical questions of their time.


It is a common practice among liberal Muslims to attribute the current intellectual poverty of Muslims to the clerical class. True that the clerics have become thought police, but Sufism is also a culprit to some extent. Historians of Muslim intellectual thought agree that it was Imam Ghazali who ended the conflict between Sufism, scholasticism and jurisprudence and made these acceptable to Muslims by rejecting philosophy and robbing it of legitimacy in the Islamic discourse of knowledge. The Ghazalian standardisation resulted in intellectual impoverishment of Muslims. Although, philosophy survived for a century after Ghazali, it gradually disappeared from Muslim societies.


Philosophy flourishes in a culture of critical reasoning in which people dare to challenge received wisdom. What it means is that when a society has full confidence in itself, it raises questions. Thereby produces philosophy. Those who lack the confidence take refuge in the dogmatic enclosure of orthodoxy and cocoon of mytho-poetic subjectivity of mysticism. Sufism in Islam emerged in a particular historical context. It played an important role in Muslim history, for it provided a framework of meaning for Muslims in the time of crisis. But the current Sufism is shorn off its historical context and cultural ambience. Under the pressure of modernity Sufism lost its organic link and got entangled in the modern power relations. Existence of large number of successor pirs in the political arena testifies it.


The current vogue of Sufism among secular Muslims is connected with the power politics of our time. It is propagated that in the post 9/11 period Jalal ud Din Rumi has become one of the best-selling poets in America. The emergence of the Rumi phenomenon for 'spiritual consumption in the United Stated' has deep affinity with the propagation of Jihadi Islam in the decades of 1980s when the Afghan mujahideen were declared as "the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers". During this period, Sufism did not get support from power because it was not conducive to the power politics of the time.


After 9/11, the tectonic plates of power politics shifted and brought drastic changes in every sphere of life, including sociology of the production of knowledge. As a result, Sufism is being picked as a viable instrument to curb the rising tide of extremism among Muslims. The former president Gen Pervez Musharraf employed Sufism as a tool to serve the interest of power. Therefore, it can be said that the current support to Sufism is not necessitated by its essence but by the changing requirements of power politics in the world.


I am a fan of Sufi poetry, music, art and dance. What I am against is the employment of Sufism by power, in the words of Antonio Gramci, to maintain its dominance by securing consent through manufactured consensus on the one hand and total reliance of Muslims on Sufism at the expense of critical and philosophical thinking on the other. The latter has created bad faith among Muslims, which in turn causes Muslims to evade some of the intractable issues of philosophical discourse of modernity and post-modernity.


Some people may object to these views about Sufism on the basis that it disseminate message of love, and anything against it is tantamount to hatred of humanity. I think this is symptomatic of the mentality which has failed to cope with the challenges of the world and wallows in the ecstasy of subjectivity. Frederic Nietzsche finds origin of such attitude in the resentment of those who fail to change their world and develop an attitude that dubs antithetical action as bad. Philosophy has been coerced to remain in permanent exile from Muslim societies precisely because it was deemed against jurists, mystics and clerics. To get rid of intellectual poverty, it is the need of the hour to embrace philosophy as a legitimate knowledge to bring about a paradigm shift.

Sufism can still be relevant for us in the domain of art and aesthetics. At the same time we need to diversify our means of knowledge to comprehend the increasing complexity of the modern age. Unfortunately, philosophy has been stifled by the Muslims who are at home in certainties of jurisprudence, Sufism and scholasticism. Employing hundreds of years old ethos and tested formulas will not work in the post modern age. When Wasil ibn Ata got dissatisfied with his mentor's answer he sought answers in philosophy. Instead of learning from Wasil we are reverting to Sufism for the solution of our current problems. This shows failure of the imagination of Muslims to address contemporary challenges with new paradigm.


In order to get out of the current intellectual impasse, it is imperative for intellectuals in our country to get engaged with the philosophical discourse of modernity and post-modernity. Remaining in trance of mysticism will make us idles whose minds are disconnected with the world but hearts throb in it. Keeping our minds philosophically disengaged will make us intellectually poor, leading to cognitive dissonance. It is this which causes failure of the Muslim world to make sense of the modern order of things.


The writer is associated with a rights-based organisation in Islamabad. Email: azizalidad @hotmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

PARLIAMENTARY EMPIRICS

SANIA NISHTAR


The 18th Amendment is being hailed on a two-fold premise: one, that it will proclaim and empower parliament as supreme; and two, that it will fundamentally redress the basic anomaly of Pakistan's parliamentary system of government, which has been presidential in substance after the 17th Amendment and, therefore, configure its true parliamentary form.


It is acknowledged that the amendment has rectified a fundamental distortion in the constitution. Its importance notwithstanding, the amendment does have its limitations in upholding the supremacy of parliament in a context where distortions are pervasive. A snapshot of the available empirical details about parliamentary performance can be insightful in this regard.


Pakistan's bicameral federal legislature comprises the president, the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly has technically been fulfilling the constitutional requirement of holding sessions for a certain number of days per year for sometime now. However, as the key institution of democracy, it has not performed optimally in relation to some of its key functions, particularly with regard to holding the government accountable for actions, scrutinising its performance, monitoring the expenditure of public funds, and providing an effective forum for deliberations on matters of national interest and for addressing substantive grievances.

The assemblies have had almost no role in deliberating upon, scrutinising, and therefore holding the government and its policymakers responsible for decisions in some key public policy domains and the impact as a result thereof. Foreign policy and substantive economic issues are seldom the subject of debate in the assemblies. The fiscal policy is discussed as part of the budget deliberations, where a complex package of policy decisions are bundled in a single cumbersome instrument which is conventionally scurried through the process in an unnecessarily tight timeline. The recent change in the budget time-cycle is positive but given the limited analytical ability of parliamentarians, lack of indigenous research and technical capability and disconnect from policy agencies outside the state sector, it is unlikely to transform the process outright. In any case, the frameworks that determine fiscal directions and planning at an overarching level - Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, Medium Term Development Framework, the International Monetary Fund frameworks and agreements, and stipulations of bilateral and multilateral agency grants and loans -- are never placed in the parliamentary domain for discussion, nor are their implications highlighted in layman's terms for public representatives to comprehend. These have huge immediate and long-term impacts, both within and outside of the fiscal rubric, but are never the subject of public scrutiny.


Similarly, whilst it is acknowledged that policymaking is the government's mandate, there is a lot of value to be added when policy positions are deliberated upon in parliament. This becomes all the more important when the executive is drawn from the legislature, and also since laws can be instruments of policy in their own right. However, that is seldom the case and formal policies are usually channeled from the executive to the cabinet for approval, bypassing the assemblies.


The parliamentary committees, where parliament is meant to be 'at work,' have limited capacity and no substantive research fallback. Hence, one of the potential strengths of parliament, which has to do with providing a platform for deliberations, oversight, and scrutiny, is not being appropriately harnessed in Pakistan's parliamentary system. As a result, the executive remains largely unchecked in its decision-making prerogatives.

These anecdotal insights and observations have been substantiated by evidence from a recent study conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT). The evaluation of parliament in Pakistan was based on an analytical framework developed by the International Parliamentary Union, the international apex body of parliaments of sovereign states and was centered on six domains.


In the 'representativeness' domain, the study results show that the weakest aspect of representation of the National Assembly is the near impossibility of a person of average means to get elected to parliament. In the 'effectiveness' stream, the weakest aspect of parliamentary oversight over the executive is reported to be its inability to scrutinise executive appointments. With reference to the 'effectiveness of legislation,' the capacity of the National Assembly and weak processes for consulting various interest groups are highlighted as the main constraints. The weakest aspect of 'transparency' is related to lack of opportunities for citizens' involvement in legislation through citizen-based initiatives.


In the domain of 'accountability,' gaps in transparency of procedures to prevent conflict of interest in the conduct of parliamentary business and limited oversight of funding to candidates and political parties have been flagged as issues. In terms of 'effectiveness of the National Assembly's involvement in international policy', the following constraints have been highlighted: limitations of parliament to scrutinise and contribute to the government's foreign policy; lack of availably of information to parliament on ongoing negotiations with international entities; and inability of parliament to influence the government's development policy as a donor and recipient, and international relations in general. However, the report also acknowledges some plus-points with reference to representation of women in parliament and freedom to journalists in reporting on the National Assembly and its members.


Despite many constraints, some recent improvements in the performance of parliament must be acknowledged. These include the prime minister's respect for parliamentary etiquette, appointment of the leader of opposition as chair of the Public Accounts Committee and increase in the time-cycle of the budgetary debate, as already mentioned. Similarly, the Acts to Ordinance Ratio has been improving. In the 12th National Assembly, the Acts to Ordinance Ratio was 42:73. In the first year of the 13th National Assembly, the ratio remained likewise, 4:17, but an improvement has been evident in the second year with an Acts to Ordinance Ratio of 29:27. The recent constitutional amendments impose a limit on the number of times an ordinance can be renewed and hence there will be safeguards against a pattern that was established earlier -- three ordinances were re-promulgated ten times during the tenure of the 12th National Assembly.


Whilst these changes are welcome, we must be realistic about our expectations in view of what has been stated previously. The reform process, which has begun with constitutional amendments, has a very long way to go. It is imperative that we mitigate the influence of feudal and business interests in parliament, counter the role of big money in politics, and prevent conflict of financial or other interests. This is a Pandora's box in its own right as it has to do with reform of the political process itself. The unfinished business of 17(4) and 63(A) does not inspire confidence in this respect. It also requires a transformation in the capacity of parliament and its institutional culture with reference to transparency, openness, disclosure and harnessing the capacity of the non-state sector.


It must be recognised that the problems in parliament are not amenable to technocratic fixes but are related to some deep-seated problems in the manner in which the executive operates in relation to legislature, particularly with reference to the latter's scrutiny-related function. Many loopholes exist to bypass processes and protocols, as and when the need arises. With the president as the head of the ruling party, the avenue to wield influence over the executive remains open even after the 18th Amendment. Only time will tell if that power is exploited or not. Meanwhile, we have to be cautious about our expectations of parliament in a very complex space.



The writer is the founder and president of the NGO think-tank, Heartfile. Email: sania @heartfile.org

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHOSE PROVINCE IS IT ANYWAY?

FAIZA MOATASIM


Even though I am about to represent the resentment of the people of Hazara over NWFP's recent renaming issue, I would first like to declare myself a non-practicing hazare'waal. Despite the fact that both sides of my family hail from the city of Abbottabad, thus defining my ethnicity, I have only spent brief periods of my life there and visit it a few times a year to meet my nani jaan or attend to other usual family obligations. I understand that by declaring my loose association (no reference to the psychiatric disorder!) with Hazara over the years early on in this piece, I have already risked the merit of my opinion on the recent provincial renaming issue. However, my written response is mostly for personal reasoning, as I try to explain my feelings of hurt and frustration over the renaming of our province, like many other 'genuine' hazare'waals.


Before now, I had always wondered about the dark periods in our post-colonial history (1947 Partition or separation of East Pakistan in 1971), which turned common people, friends and neighbours, into worst of enemies, capable of inflicting unimaginable harm on others through acts of violence. Just like I am wondering at this very moment as to how the people of Hazara, who through their nature, mannerism and even language exemplify peacefulness, can transform into an aggressive group of protesters?


Their call for a separate province of Hazara in reaction to NWFP's renaming issue is ironically another example of history repeating itself. One of the reasons for the estrangement of East Pakistan from its western part was differences on the basis of language. Even though the Bengali-speaking population constituted the ethnic majority in Pakistan at the time of partition, however, as we all know, Urdu was declared our national language. Isn't it amazing that the card of representing the ethnic preferences of the majority population was not played back then while making major national decisions? Similarly, today by marginalising the population of Hazara as a minority in the NWFP province and by neglecting its ethnicity while redefining our provincial identity, we stand again at the juncture of further segregation within our society. This moment could not have come at a worse time in our history when the entire country and more specifically, our very province, are struggling to restore peace and security.


The question that evades me is how an issue, which creates further rifts within NWFP, can be justified on any grounds, whatsoever, when the need of the hour is to be reunited in our efforts to curb terrorism from our province. Maybe the provincial government also believes in the supernatural powers associated with a name change, which according to some believers can ward off evil spirits and bad fate!


But the question remains: why do 'I' feel resentful and aggrieved? It's not like I have lived or studied or worked all my life in Hazara or plan to do so in the future, unlike its 'genuine' 4.5 million population (a wikipedia estimate). I guess the root of my personal angst lies in what eminent anthropologists, John and Jean Comaroffs, have referred to as the claim to one's 'natural copyright' over ethnicity, religion, or nationhood, etc., much like one's right to joint property. Customs, traditions, values, belief, heritage, etc., constituting one's ethnic identity, like religion, are collectively owned, possessed and bounded off by others. An individual can choose to disown his or her ethnic identity based on personal preferences, however, to enforce these preferences influencing the collective ethnicity of others is not up to any one person or even a group to decide and make into a law through votes or any other political means. And, it is in this disregard of my existence and identity, which the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa name-change has affected, that I find my answer to feeling wronged and short-changed!



The writer is an architect by profession. Email: faiza. moatasim@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

CONSTITUTIONAL REVIEW?

BABAR SATTAR


The writer is a lawyer based in Islamabad.


It is unfortunate that within a year or so of the restitution of an independent judiciary, the Supreme Court Bar Association and a few senior lawyers wish to throw away the gains of the lawyers' movement by engendering a confrontation between the legislative and judicial branches of the state. They have filed petitions challenging the 18th Amendment before the Supreme Court largely on the basis that (i) the apex court has the authority to consider amendments to the Constitution on their merit and strike them down if they are found inconsistent with the Constitution's "basic structure," and (ii) the new mechanism for appointment of judges undermines the independence of the judiciary and should thus be declared invalid.


While reasonable minds can disagree over the merit of legal arguments, the grounds taken in the petitions challenging the 18th Amendment derive no support from logic or Pakistan's settled jurisprudence. It is unfortunate that senior advocates of the Supreme Court, who ought to be aware of the plethora of unambiguous case laws generated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan over the past three-and-a-half decades (refusing to incorporate India's basic-structure theory into Pakistan's constitutional law), are unashamedly presenting their case as that of upholding the existing law of Pakistan as opposed to what it really is: an attempt to change it.

The point is not that the court cannot change its mind on a matter involving constitutional interpretation. But seasoned attorneys such as Hamid Khan, Qazi Anwar and Akram Sheikh, while vociferously presenting their case before the media and the people of Pakistan, should have exhibited intellectual honesty and acknowledged that they are once again asking the court to do what it has refused umpteen times over the last 35 years: make India's basic structure theory a part of Pakistan's constitutional doctrine and strike down constitutional amendments on its basis. (See, for example, PLD 1973 SC 49, PLD 1977 SC 397, PLD 1996 SC 426, PLD 1998 SC 1263, and PLD 2005 SC 719.)


India's basic structure theory – extremely controversial even within India, which led to a simmering confrontation between parliament and the court for almost two decades – is a flawed and inherently confused judicial concoction. The argument in simplistic terms is this: the constitution can be amended by parliament through a super-majority in accordance with its provisions, but parliament's amendment powers do not give it the right to alter the basic structure of the constitution as determined by the judiciary. This theory raises two fundamental questions: (a) how is a written constitution to be amended, and can a parliament bind successor parliaments; and (b), what are the limits of judicial review powers and whether judges make law or interpret it.

In Pakistan's case, Article 239 unequivocally states that (i) there is no limitation on the authority of parliament to amend the Constitution, and (ii) the court must not entertain legal challenges against constitutional amendments. Now, incorporation of the basic structure theory would require that the court disregard unambiguous provisions of Article 239 under the garb of constitutional interpretation, inject judicial assumptions into the Constitution that are not backed by its explicit words or provisions, and call such reliance on the personal likes and dislikes of individual judges comprising the court in giving meaning to our fundamental law as the will of the Constitution.


In doing so, it would be affirming at least three unconvincing propositions. One, the legislative assembly that promulgated the Constitution of 1973 was omnipotent, and some of the provisions that it has inscribed into the Constitution are akin to divine pronouncements that can never be altered by parliament. Two, the Constitution of 1973 is an inflexible document that cannot be changed in certain respects, even if that is what the people of Pakistan wish to do through their chosen representatives. And, three, while the judiciary derives its authority to interpret the words of the Constitution from the Constitution itself, it also has an inherent power to disregard unattractive provisions of the Constitution or determine at will that some of its provisions will trump others.

What was so special about the parliament that drew up the Constitution that its word should bind successive parliaments? The fact that we needed a constituent assembly to draft the Constitution of 1973 after the break-up of Pakistan was a historical need, and not a legal one. The constituent assembly was no more representative than the parliament presently in place. More importantly, the constituent assembly did not presume that it was omnipotent. It thus incorporated Articles 238 and 239 in the Constitution to specifically empower future parliaments to facilitate the evolution of our fundamental law in accordance with changing needs and wishes of the society.

If the basic structure theory is to be accepted, were our constitution-makers so mindless that they neither specified the basic features of the Constitution that were to be protected for all times to come nor created a mechanism to convene a constituent assembly in case the basic structure needed to be reconsidered? If this fable is to be believed, irrespective of how unsuccessful our experiment with parliamentary democracy might turn out, can we never switch to a presidential system? Or if ten, 20 or 50 years down the line an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis believes that religion should be separated from law and politics, would the only way out be to bring a revolution, overthrow the Constitution, convene a new constituent assembly and alter the court-determined "basic structure"?


It would be unfortunate if the court contrived the power to declare certain features or provisions of the Constitution as immutable and then assumed the sole right to determine what they are without any backing from the text of the Constitution. Within our constitutional system of separation of powers, the legitimate power of judicial review cannot be confused with the non-existing right to undertake a constitutional review. The court can strike down laws in exercise of judicial review powers not because a law is good or bad, but only if it is in conflict with provisions of the Constitution. But when parliament exercises its authority to amend the Constitution itself, the court's role is limited to interpreting the words inscribed therein, and not whether or not they should be in there in the first place.


In refusing to uphold India's basic structure theory, our Supreme Court has laid out a two-fold salient feature doctrine: (i) the court has no authority to strike down a constitutional amendment, and while parliament has limited authority to amend the salient features of the Constitution, it is not for the court but for the people of Pakistan to enforce this limitation; and (ii) the court would apply the rule of interpretation to reconcile seemingly conflicting provisions of the Constitution, instead of using a basic structure theory to strike down one part of the Constitution for being in contradiction with another part. Even the first leg of this salient features doctrine – that parliament's authority to amend the Constitution is limited – has no textual basis. But this doctrine is still better than India's basic structure theory where the court has usurped the right to regulate parliament's constituent powers.


Whether it is to protect the vested interest of certain lawyers groups to sponsor individuals to the bench (that the previous arbitrary judicial appointment system afforded them), the sycophantic urge to convince the apex court that it has the right to lord it over parliament, or misconceived notions of judicial independence, the petitions challenging the 18th Amendment threaten to drag the court into a political thicket.


If the court doesn't tread with caution and exercise restraint at this point, it will not only cut itself down to size and compromise its credibility due to a swing in public opinion presently backing the court, but will also inflict lasting damage on Pakistan's constitutional jurisprudence.


Email: sattar@post.harvard.edu

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

IT'S TIME

SALMAN IJAZ


It's not seldom that I find people - educated people - doing the most backward things. Only yesterday I saw an adolescent driving a Corolla lower his window and toss out a shopper full of leftovers from his McDonalds meal. Environmental preservation is becoming an increasingly pertinent issue, and it is disheartening to see that even our educated class is not ready to take a step towards making it a reality.


The times when people rejected the notion of global warming are far gone. There is no denying the fact that even here in Pakistan, we are experiencing some of the hottest days in centuries, and the problem is most certainly not going to solve itself. Far from it in fact.


It is predicted that even if the global community somehow manages to cut its carbon footprint by half it will still take another ten years to bring the CO2 levels back to their pre-warming stage. That's the best we can hope for.


In such times, there is a desperate need for revolutionary measures. Recently, a group of university students began a movement to motivate the common man to take the preservation of the cityscape into his own hands. It has gained popularity as the 'Zimmedar Shehri Movement', and although its intentions are noble, the scale at which it is operating and the number of people it is reaching out to is meagre.


Similarly, a cycling group by the name of 'Critical Mass' takes to the streets of Lahore regularly, hoping to promote the use of environment-friendly transport. But again, what are their efforts compared to the 150 million or so people going in the opposite direction? Although such moves by citizens will continue to sprout up all over the country, they will always lack the resources and momentum. Here's where the government needs to take more interest.


In an interview, Murtaza Khwaja, one of the founders of the Zimmedar Shehri movement, said that there were insufficient waste disposal facilities in even the busiest areas and that even if people wanted to dispose of their trash in an orderly manner, they couldn't do so because of absence of trash bins.

 

This situation can be witnessed all over in Lahore, where the existing disposal units are overflowing with trash and have been left that way for months. Where are the sanitation workers and the trash collectors? Nobody knows. And that is the problem.


Now here's what the government can do. It won't cost it a dime more, but it could effectively change the direction the entire nation is going in. Making it compulsory for every car to have catalytic converters would reduce emissions staggeringly while not affecting the cost of automobiles by more than two per cent.


The tanning, iron, chemical and mining industries pump millions of tons of untreated toxic waste into the Indus River. A hefty fine on dumping can be an effective deterrent. On a smaller and more grassroots scale, fines may be imposed on public littering and spitting on streets.

 

Much needs to be done to increase public awareness on issues related to environment. After all, we have nowhere else to go.

The writer is an A level student at Aitchison College, Lahore. Email: sal.ijaz@gmail .com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ENERGY STRATEGY TO MAKE SITUATION MORE CHAOTIC

 

AFTER a lot of deliberations, the Government has come out with yet another strategy to conserve energy as part of the measures to overcome the crippling shortage of electricity. The four-point plan announced by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, along with the Chief Ministers, envisages reintroduction of two-day weekend, closure of markets at 8.00 in the evening, restriction on usage of air conditioners in Government offices and fifty per cent cut in power use by top government functionaries.


In the present dismal situation, these steps seem to be unavoidable as there is need to take maximum advantage of the available power without disruption of the life of the ordinary citizens or commercial and industrial activities. However, it is understood that the entire plan is retrogressive in nature and amounts to self-deception and that is why it has evoked country-wide adverse reaction especially from the business community, meaning thereby that it would add to the chaos. It is regrettable that even after hectic brain-storming sessions, the federal and provincial leadership could visualize a strategy that will have either no or negligible impact in addressing the grave situation. As for two weekly holidays in Government offices, it seems that the holiday mafia has successfully exploited the situation to force the Government to introduce a step that did not pay in the past. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that closure of offices for another day would help save any significant amount of power that could have any impact on the overall load-shedding situation. This is because on Sunday, which is already a closed holiday or other public holidays that we have the luxury to enjoy frequently, we never witnessed reduction or relaxation in load-shedding, meaning thereby that the problem lays elsewhere. Instead, increased working hours would require prolonged usage of electrical appliances in the offices, adding to the existing mess. Otherwise too, there is no culture of hard work in our Government offices and instead of using available time to address the problems of the people, most of the employees attend the offices just to mark the attendance register, indulge in gossip, sip cups of tea and make telephone calls to friends and relatives. Now, we are giving them another full holiday and it is quite obvious that they would run away to their native villages and towns early on Fridays. The goal of delivery and good governance would, therefore, remain an elusive dream for the foreseeable figure. As for closure of markets at 8.00 p.m., here again most of the shopkeepers have their own generators to cater for their requirements as they can hardly afford power outages on alternate hour basis. Therefore, forcing them to close down their businesses is understandably creating resentment among the trading community. As for restriction on use of AC or reduction in energy consumption in offices of the top Government leaders, it is unlikely to be implemented in letter and in spirit in a country where enforcement mechanism is almost non-existent even to check adulteration and spurious drugs. We believe that instead of resorting to these cosmetic measures and publicity gimmicks, the Government should have announced practical steps to increase power generation with greater emphasis on economical and cost effective alternative energy resources. But who cares in a country where energy saver bulbs worth Rs 5.5 billion have been procured for free distribution but no one knows who were the recipients.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

FRANCE TO BAN WEARING OF VEIL

 

IN a shocking development, the French Government has announced its intention to ban Muslim women from wearing a full-face veil in public, despite a warning from experts that such a law could be unconstitutional. A spokesman for President Nicolas Sarkozy said a bill would be presented to ministers and would seek to ban the 'niqab' and the 'burqa' from streets, shops and markets and not just from public buildings.


Public debate is going on in France since long about restrictions on wearing of veil with its Muslim community strongly agitating the issue describing it as violation of their fundamental rights and interference with their religious beliefs. The ban is viewed by Muslims across the globe as part of the anti-Muslim tirade in Europe where tolerance level for believers of Islam has reached to its lowest ebb, thanks to the discriminatory measures approved by several of the Western countries and venomous propaganda unleashed by the highly biased media. The hatred against Muslims is so widespread that there have been numerous incidents of the like of spitting at Hejab wearing women right in the streets and public places. Muslim girls are not allowed to cover their heads in schools and educational institutions in countries that claim to be champions of human liberty and values. No one can understand in what manner a Hejab or veil can clash with the values of the Western societies where believers of religions other than Islam are allowed to lead life according to their beliefs. The dress code is also an issue of personal liking and disliking, which is given due importance and respect in Western societies, as is also reflected in practices that are nothing but sheer obscenity and nudity but respected there. It should not be the function of the Government to interfere with the personal choices of individuals but indulgence in such discriminatory measures by France, which is rightly perceived to be perhaps the most civilized country and President Sarkozy, who is considered to be moderate and liberal. We hope that the Government of President Sarkozy would give a second thought to the decision, which, if implemented would send negative signals to Muslims across the globe and hasten the process of clash of civilizations.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN REFUGEES GO BACK TO RETURN

 

ACCORDING to a report, the UN refugee agency on Thursday resumed voluntary repatriation programme for Afghans after winter recess, through two of its centres in Peshawar and Balochistan. As per these reports, more than 22,000 Afghans returned home in the first month of voluntary repatriation programme from Pakistan this year.

No one would doubt that the Afghan refugees do go back to their country under a tripartite arrangement among Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UNHCR. However, there is no evidence that they repatriate for good and the static number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan confirms this reality, as there are still over three million of them on this soil despite years of repatriation. This is because the refugees opt to go just to receive cash grant and food and return to Pakistan on the first available opportunity. Pakistan has suffered immensely both in terms of security and economy due to presence of a large number of Afghan refugees and an unspecified number of illegal immigrants. Apart from being burden on its scant economic resources, many of them are engaged in illegal activities and even crime, threatening life and property of the citizens. There are also instances of their involvement in acts of terrorism and sabotage and it was because of this that Pakistan has repeatedly been urging the international community to take steps to normalize situation in Afghanistan that could encourage refugees to re-settle in their country on a permanent basis. There is also a need for relocation of all the existing camps of the refugees in safer areas on the other side of the Durand Line.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WHAT THE TRUTH IS?

NEWS & VIEWS

MOHAMMAD JAMIL

 

Addressing a function on the Civil Services Day in New Delhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said that those challenging the state's authority and country's integrity would not be given any quarter. Referring to the 6th April massacre of 76 security personnel by Maoists in Chhattisgarh's Dantewada district with the looted weapons from the police, Manmohan Singh said: "I have mentioned time and again that leftwing extremism is, perhaps, the gravest internal security threat that we face. Recent events have underscored the need for urgent and considered action to root out this problem." One would not know what the truth is, and whether Manmohan Singh has changed his opinion because till recently he has been reiterating that the gravest threat to internal security of India is terrorists from Pakistan. His real intentions would be known when Indian and Pakistani prime ministers meet at the SAARC summit next week. Will they exchange pleasantries in the SAARC conference or will they hold a detailed meeting on the sidelines of the conference.


Quoting Indian officials, a media report said: "With SAARC summit in Bhutan only a week away and India and Pakistan still unable to agree on talks about talks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines will have the limited but important aim of preventing further deterioration in an already fraught relationship". Pakistan has indeed made it clear that there is no point in holding secretary-level meetings unless these are followed by resumption of stalled composite dialogue. Pakistan has reportedly, refused to invite Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to make a return visit to Islamabad nearly two months after its Foreign Secretary, Salman Bashir had gone to New Delhi, unless India accepts this condition. On the other side, India says resumption will not be possible till more is done on the terrorism front but is willing to discuss "humanitarian and other issues." In fact, from 2004 to 2008, India and Pakistan have been discussing humanitarian and related issues only, and could not make any progress on the Kashmir issue, Sir Creek and Siachin. India perhaps would like to mend fences with Pakistan so that Commonwealth games are smoothly and successfully held in October 2010. Analysts however are concerned that if any mishap occurs, India would blame Pakistan to bring it into disrepute. There is another possibility that India itself may stage a false-flag operation. Anyhow, with the rising insurgencies by the Maoists, Australia and the UK advised their citizens to avoid some shopping areas in India's capital, New Delhi, after the US had warned that city markets frequented by foreigners were vulnerable to terrorist assault. "There are increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in New Delhi. Terrorists have targeted places in the past where US citizens or Westerners are known to congregate or visit," according to a statement posted on US embassy's website in the capital. About half a dozen markets may be "especially attractive targets," it said.


Despite insurgency in eleven northern Indian states, Indian leaders place all the focus on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Pakistan. They suffer from LeT-phobia and insist on action against it though it is already a banned organization. They also want trial of Hafiz Saeed who is in no way associated with this banned organization. In fact, India has to decide whether it wants to live with obsession of LeT or it wants to resolve the disputes with Pakistan to bring prosperity to the impoverished people on both sides of the border. India should evaluate the merits and demerits of both the options and then make a choice. By resolving disputes with Pakistan, India could have access to Afghanistan and Central Asian republics by road, and being industrially developed country it stands to gain more than other countries of the region. Even the SAARC has remained a non-starter because of non-resolution of the disputes between the nations of the region. India has problems and disputes with Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. However, Bhutan and Maldives are too small to offer any palpable threat to India, who considers Pakistan as the only stumbling block in its plans for hegemony over its neighbours.

The future of South Asia, as an engine of growth for the rest of the world and prosperity of its people or the region marred with the threats of war, depends on the leaderships of the countries of the region, especially India and Pakistan. They have to display statesmanship, vision and should not become victims of their egos.


Last year, in a testy reaction to the joint statement issued by the US after President Barack Obama had met his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao recognizing China's role in improving relations between India and Pakistan, India's External Affairs ministry said that India was committed to resolving all outstanding issues with Pakistan through a bilateral dialogue, and did not envisage a role by a third party. But recently, India has been persuading the US and the West to exert pressure on Pakistan to take action against terrorists and masterminds of 26/11 Mumbai attacks, which is a tantamount to asking for interference by the US. But the problem is that despite many rounds of bilateral talks in the past no progress could be made on the core issue of Kashmir. During the third round of confidence building measures India had rejected Pakistan's proposal to demilitarize Kashmir stating that it was its sovereign right to keep troop formations in the state. It also turned down Pakistan's offer for no-war pact. The only significant achievement was that Pakistan and India would not set up any new military posts along the heavily militarized Line of Control; otherwise there was nothing to write home about the other CBMs on avoidance of conflict. Even during the fourth round of talks India had refused to reduce troops, tanks and other arsenal in Kashmir, claiming its sovereign right to deploy any number of troops in the state. In words, it is a reminder that Kashmir is an integral part of India. The ground reality is that the chances of war between the two nuclear states are almost non-existent; and since India has an edge over Pakistan with regard to the size of army and conventional military hardware, it is not likely to consider any proposal that could result in her losing the control over IHK.


Having that said, let us look at the brighter side also. In 2005, the representatives of Asian countries participating in a seminar in Islamabad on 'Economic Cooperation in Asia' had stressed the need for introducing a common currency, constituting a monitory fund and liberalizing Asian bonds market and trade. There is, indeed, a common desire of the countries to open a new chapter of Asian prosperity where teeming millions living below the poverty line, especially in South Asia, could benefit from the proposed economic partnership, and also improve the living standards of their people. So far as Africa, Europe and America are concerned they have formed such institutions for their benefit but Asia is lagging behind. Asian leadership, therefore, should rise to the occasion with a view to giving practical demonstration of its will to resolve all political disputes festering the continent, which is sine qua non for converting the dream of Asian Economic Union into a reality.

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

AMERICA'S DISCRIMINATORY NUCLEAR POLICY

ASIF HAROON RAJA

 

The US has a history of supporting military dictators, monarchy or sham democracy and has never favored real democracy and a popular leader loved by his people. Morals, ethics and values are of no concern to US when it comes to serving its self interests. It breaks international laws, defies international institutions and never hesitates from using brute force or secret wars to protect or achieve its interests and objectives. It patronizes its two strategic partners Israel and India having similar traits. The US is the only country that has used nuclear bombs in 1945 to force Japanese forces to surrender. It suffers from no remorse or guilt for the devastation it inflicted upon the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Israel and India acquired weapon-grade nuclear capability clandestinely but their nukes or gross human rights violations doesn't ruffle the feathers of US leaders who otherwise raise a storm on minutest slip by any other third world nation particularly Muslim nation.


The US has helped UK, France, Israel and India to further develop their weaponised nuclear capabilities. USA, Israel and India are the only nuclear countries who threaten to employ nuclear bombs against other countries. The US while framing its new nuclear policy has put Iran, Syria and North Korea on its hit list. Israel has several times threatened to use low yield tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) against Iran's nuclear facilities. Likewise, India has threatened to start a limited war with nuclear overhang against Pakistan. TNWs are part of its Cold Start doctrine, authorizing operational commanders in the field to use them if required. Both Israel and India can launch TNWs using ballistic or missiles, or submarines. Iran, Pakistan and North Korea have only verbally responded to the threats asserting that if attacked they have the right to retaliate in self defence. Under the circumstances the real nuclear threat is posed by strategically aligned USA, Israel and India having offensive and ambitious designs and a blood-spattered history.


The nuclear threat posed by the three expansionist powers will become more menacing once the US installs nuclear defence shield and take its two strategic partners under its cover. America and Russia possess over 90% of world nuclear stockpiles. It has taken the two powers two decades to finally arrive at a decision to reduce respective nuclear stocks and will take many more years to implement SALT. Rather than deciding to get rid of self-destructive nukes altogether, the two big powers have contended to reduce the size. Having thousands of nukes and diverse delivery means at its disposal which can destroy the world several times, cutting down its arsenal slightly will be cosmetic.


Instead of vowing not to ever use nukes against any other country, the US brazenly announced its intentions of targeting the so-called axis of evil thereby provoking smaller states to take appropriate safety measures. Rather than addressing their security concerns, the three states are being coerced, provoked and denied the right to defend. Taking a cue from Obama's speech in which use of nukes against specified countries has been declared as a policy option, it can be said that the US qualifies to be an irresponsible and reckless state and not a responsible state. In the face of nuclear threat posed by the trio, to say that dirty bombs in possession of terrorists pose biggest threat to world security sounds farcical and devoid of truth.


India and Israel are defying UN resolutions on Kashmir and Palestine respectively since 1948 but no action has been taken by the UNSC or world powers against the two errant states. Non-resolution of the two disputes and continued ruthless persecution and injustices of Israel and India against the Palestinians and Kashmiris, duly patronized by USA and western world has bred extremism and terrorism. In case of Iran and North Korea, USA has threatened to use nukes on the plea that they have defied UN resolutions on nuclear program. Iran is signatory to NPT and has repeatedly said that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. India is not a signatory to NPT or CTBT and also harbors hegemonic designs; yet the US has given it unlimited access to civil nuclear technology and is also building its conventional capability. Pakistan has suffered the most in fighting US war on terror but has been denied this capability, while its modest nuclear program meant to deter Indian nefarious designs remains under intense pressure.


In the recently concluded nuclear summit in Washington, Obama has vowed to cleanse the world of nuclear weapon producing fissile material within next four years to make the world safe from nuclear terrorism. If the world leaders are genuinely interested in saving the world from nuclear threat, the preliminary step would be to totally cleanse the world of nuclear weapons and fissile material. The five leading nuclear states should take the lead in this regard to set an example for smaller nuclear states.


In addition to making the world nuclear free, world powers suffering from megalomania should bring a change in their attitudes towards the Muslim world and work towards building inter-faith harmony. They must realize that extremists are not confined to Muslim world only but extremism and intolerance are common to all religions. Going by the tenets of history, Islamic rulers have been much more benevolent towards other faiths than others. It is high time non-Muslim world imbued with xenophobia should tone down its arrogance and hatred and start treating the Muslim extremists as human beings rather than continuing to kill them like partridges. Rulers of first world should collectively try to redress genuine grievances of aggrieved residing in third world and try to balm their wounds and make place in their hearts to avert nuclear terrorism in future. Failure to do so would be catastrophic. The hunted Islamists are going through virtual hell for 11 years. Taking into account their rising strength and pent up anger against USA indulging in unending brutalities and injustices, that day is not far when the terrorists will either steal or acquire know-how to construct dirty bombs and carry them in suitcases or strapped to their bodies for detonation at chosen targets. Having been shunned and deprived of everything, they are in a vengeful mood to blow up the materialistic world. No matter how much security is tightened and safety measures taken, they will keep creeping forward like phantoms in total disregard to threat to their lives. This is evident from the never ending phenomenon of suicide and terrorist attacks by the faceless enemy despite the power of the whole world pitched against them. Worst affected countries will be where war on terror is being fought on behalf of USA. Robert Galluci says, "Risk of a militant group getting hold of nuclear material and building a bomb with it is possible, plausible, and probable".

The problem however is likely to get more complex in the light of rising number of extremists within western world and sharp rise in conversion to Islam in western countries including USA where conversion rate is highest. The US had sent its forces to Asia to fight al-Qaeda to make its homeland secure from Islamist threat. It is now faced with a bigger threat from within since al-Qaeda has recruited large number of westerners to fight the chief Satan. <

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

PAK'S LEGITIMATE CONCERNS IN AFGHANISTAN

SAJJAD SHAUKAT

 

On April 1, this year, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, while giving a statement on the recently concluded Pak-US strategic dialogue said that Islamabad "has conveyed to the US that it has legitimate concerns in Afghanistan to which the country could not remain oblivious." He further clarified, "Pakistan does not want to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan…we want a stable, peaceful and friendly Afghanistan." Recently, Washington Post reported that India and Pakistan are "competing for influence in Afghanistan." The post further explained, "For US officials, India's increasing presence in Afghanistan is causing new security and diplomatic problems in a country where more than 1,000 American troops have died…Washington also fears upsetting the delicate balance in its relations with Islamabad".


In fact, the controversy exists between India and Pakistan because of difference in interests of the two nuclear countries in Afghanistan. In this connection, by availing the golden opportunity of the 9/11, India left no stone unturned in getting its hold in Afghanistan under the cover of the US-led NATO forces. In this regard, stiff resistance of the Taliban militants against the occupying forces created unending lawlessness in the country which has become a most suitable place for India so as to prepare conspiracy in order to fulfill its secret strategic designs against Iran, China and especially Pakistan.


Under the pretext of Talibinisation of Afghanistan and Pakistan, secret agencies like Indian RAW and Israeli Mossad have well-established their networks in Afghanistan. Particularly, India has been running secret operations against Pakistan from its consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Kandhar and other sensitive parts of the Pak-Afghan border. It has spent millions of dollars in Afghanistan to strengthen its grip on the country, and to get strategic depth against Pakistan. New Delhi has not only increased its military troops in the counry, but has also decided to set up cantonments.


Indian RAW, based in Afghanistan has been sending well-trained agents in Pakistan, who have joined the ranks and files of the Taliban. Posing themselves as the Pakistan Taliban, they not only attack the check posts of Pakistan's security forces, but also target schools and mosques. They are continuously conducting suicide attacks in our country. In this context, India has also arranged some Madrassas in Afghanistan where highly motivated and RAW-paid militants are being trained with the help of Indian so-called Muslims scholars. Now, Indian support to insurgency in the Frontier Province and the Baloch separatism has become a routine matter. Besides backing terrorism in Pakistan, India is also in collusion with the Balochi separatist leaders who have taken shelters in Afghanistan. For example, Akber Bugti's grandson, Brahmdagh Bugti has been operating against Pakistan from Kabul. On July 23, 2008, in an interview with the BBC, Brahmdagh Bugti revealed that they "have the right to accept foreign arms and ammunition from anywhere including India."


While Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Quereshi have also repeatedly indicated that Islamabad has strong evidence of Indian intervention in Pakistan, and the same would be shown to the foreign countries. Apart from Indian investment in order to achieve secret designs against Pakistan, drug and kidnapping are some other source of Indian income. According to an estimate, world's 90% heroin is cultivated in Afghanistan.


So money earned through drug-smuggling and hostage-takings is utilised in buying weapons, being sent to the foreign agents and the insurgents in Pakistan. Nevertheless, Afghanistan has become a hub of anti-Pakistan activities owing to Indian influence. In the past, some American officials had also suggested to engage India in Af-Pak strategy. But while realsing the ground realties, a shift started in the US strategy in the end of last year. In this respect, on September 20, 2009, NATO commander, Gen. McChrystal had clearly revealed: "Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan including significant development efforts…is likely to exacerbate regional tensions." During his recent visit to India, US Secretary of Defence, Robert Gates, while discussing Afghanistan with Indian leadership, has urged India to be transparent with Pakistan about their activities in Afghanistan.


Regarding Indian undue incursion, even Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani assertively stated in the NATO meeting at Brussels last year that the NATO countries, which have greater stakes in Afghanistan, should pay heed to the concerns raised by Islamabad particularly regarding Indian interference in Pakistan through Afghanistan. On his return from Brussels on February 1, 2009, Kayani denied that Pakistan wanted a "Talibanised" Afghanistan, and said that his country has no interest in controlling Afghanistan. He further pointed out that peace and stability in Afghanistan were crucial to Islamabad's long-term interests.


Notably, some rapidly changing developments show that India will have to withdraw its networks from Afghanistan in future. America has already decided to withdraw it forces from Afghanistan in the near future. On the other side, India wants to entrap the US permanently in Afghanistan in order to achieve its secret designs against Pakistan and China—in the Indian-held Kashmir by damaging American global and regional interests. After the withdrawal of the US-led NATO forces, India will not be in a position to maintain its network in wake of the successful guerrilla warfare of the Taliban. Therefore, India is doing its utmost to convince Washington to have a long stay in Afghanistan. Failed in this objevtive, it can even act upon dirty tricks to get the foreign forces entangled in Afghanistan. In this context, with help of some so-called Indian Muslims, Indian RAW will increase attacks inside Afghanistan, targeting especially American soldiers with the sole aim to revive old blame game of the west against Islamabad for cross-border-terrorism.


Meanwhile, to what extent, India has been creating lawlessness in Afghanistan by using Afghan soil for terrorist activities against Pakistan as well as Iran could be judged from the fact that on January 16, this year three foreign ministers of Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan committed to non-interference in the internal affairs of each country, ensuring that their territories were not used for activities detrimental to each other's interests. On January 29, in their final communique, world leaders of the London Conference agreed on a timetable for the handover of security duties to the Afghan forces in late 2010, while backing Afghan President Hamid Karzai's plan to reintegrate the willing Taliban to pursue political goals peacefully.


While India was interested in the training of Afghan security forces, and was covertly making strenuous efforts in that respect, but no country in the London Conference considered New Delhi's case. On the other side, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi remarked that Islamabad was ready to train Afghan forces on is own soil. However, unlike India, Pakistan has been paying a huge price in the war against terrorism in relation to Afghanistan. It has faced huge losses such as political

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

MILITARY EXERCISE AZM-E-NAU

ALI SUKHANVER

 

We were in a state of war. All around blazing particles of sand and pinching dust, unkind gushes of fire-like wind, no water, no trees; with a group of journalists I was in Khairpur Tamewali , the part of the Cholistan desert , about 70 kilometers from Bahawalpur , the great historical city of Pakistan. We were invited there by the Directorate of Inter Services Public Relations; a department of the Pakistan Army. The purpose behind this visit was to observe the military-exercise going on in this area for the last many weeks. 18th of April, 2010 was the most important day with reference to these exercises because the Prime minister of Pakistan, Excellency Yusaf Raza Geelani along with the Chief of The Army Staff General Kiyani and other dignitaries was there to appreciate the courage and determination of the soldiers busy in these exercises.


As we stepped out of the air-conditioned van after reaching the exercise-area, it hardly took a few seconds that our shoes and socks and clothes, in short each and every thing was stuck up with sand. I took out my water-bottle to quench my parching lips but the water inside had got so hot that it seemed boiling; such were the climatic conditions. I was thinking of the soldiers who had been staying here in such a horrible atmosphere for the last many days without any comfort and facility. I cast a look around and was astonished to find hundreds of armed-soldiers standing on bare sandy mounds confronting the direct sunlight and blazing heat in this wasteland but their faces were gleaming with the feeling that they were bearing all this hardship for their motherland with an inexpressible happiness and satisfaction. That time I concluded that no one can ever defeat such an army of passionate soldiers. During the briefing session we were informed that the basic purpose behind these exercises was not only to test the co-ordination of different sections of army in state of war but also to check the courage and determination of the soldiers in warlike atmosphere. More than 5oooo troops from the army and air force took part in these military-exercises. It was also mentioned that the war-field in Khairpur Tamewali was the largest field ever prepared for such exercise-mission near the eastern border. The recent military exercises are the continuation of the new idea launched by the Chief of the Army Staff General Kiyani with the title, "2009/2010-The Year of Training."


The Indian media is replete with the objections regarding these military exercises. It is being said that such exercises are generating the feelings of fear and horror in the region but it was nowhere mentioned that Indian Army will launch its month-long military exercises later this month in the Thar Desert with the codename Yodha Shakti. The philosophy behind these exercises is to test offensive strategies, according to the Indian officials. At present Pakistan is facing the worst security challenges of its history. None of the Pakistani borders can be called peaceful. The American war against terror has changed Pakistan into a bloody battle field. Foreign supported miscreants in the garb of militants are trying their best to change Pakistan into a barren land. Suicidal attacks on innocent citizens have up till now taken the lives of thousands of people. The worst example of this brutality was the suicidal attack on the people who were protesting against the electricity load-shedding in Peshawar on 19th of April. This attack took the lives of more than 30 people. The most important point to be noted regarding this attack is that the protest was organized by the Jamat-e-Islami; which is always blamed and criticized for its inclination towards the Islamic extremist groups. This suicidal attack proved that the hands behind these terrorist activities do not belong to any of the so-called Muslim militants. This is surely a very serious and grave situation with reference to the security and existence of Pakistan. Pakistan Army is very well aware of the role the nation is expecting from it to play. The recent Azm-e-No exercises could be taken as a massage to the nation from the Pakistan Army that it has the best possible capabilities and abilities to face all these challenges and it knows very well how to take care of the national interests. As mentioned by the Prime Minister Geelani, Pakistan has no ill-will against any country and these exercises are just a routine practice; a part and parcel of military training programs throughout the world. After watching these exercises he was more confident that Pakistan Army could not be rivaled by any military in the world. He said the exercises were the epoch making professional activity of the Pakistani armed forces.Pakistan is a peace loving country. It has always rejected and discouraged every activity which could cause a loss to the calm and peace of the region but it can never ignore value, need and importance of its own security.


Pakistan would have never tried to emphasize more on its defense affairs if its 'ever-loving' neighbour India had not over-involved itself in making new weapons and in signing more nuclear deals. Such behaviour of India is generating a feeling of insecurity among the neighbouring countries including Pakistan. Being an important country of the South Asian region it is the responsibility of India to play the role of an elder one. It must project peace and harmony in the region. It would be a clear misjudgment and blunt misunderstanding if India takes the Azm-e-Nau Exercises as a threat to its own security. These exercises had nothing to do particularly with India; they were simply a rehearsal and a warming up activity against all types of terrorists and terrorist activities. However India must be worried if it thinks that it is involved in any kind of terrorist activity against Pakistan because Pakistan has solemnly vowed to crush each and every element involved in any shape of terrorism within, along or outside its borders.

 

The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on defence and strategic affairs.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

ISRAELI UNASSAILABLE MIGHT & UNYIELDING ANGST

VIEWS FROM ABROAD

ROGER COHEN

 

For Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his people are not traumatised by some wild delusion. No, there are facts: the rise of Iran, the fierce projection of Iran's proxies, Hamas and Hezbollah, and the rockets that have been fired by them. Netanyahu is firm in his core self-image as the guarantor of threatened Israeli security. Israeli withdrawals from southern Lebanon and Gaza, led only, in his view, to the insecurity of life beneath a rocket threat. The question he poses himself, contemplating the West Bank, is how to stop this happening a third time. To enter Israel is to pass through a hall of mirrors. A nation exerting complete military dominance in the West Bank becomes one that, under an almost unimaginable peace accord, might be menaced from there.


A nation whose army and arsenal are without rival in the Middle East becomes one facing daily existential threat. A nation whose power has grown steadily over decades relative to its scattered enemies becomes one whose future is somehow less secure than ever. It's not easy to parse fact from fiction, justifiable anxiety from self-serving angst, in this pervasive Israeli narrative. I arrived on Independence Day, the nation's 62nd birthday. Blue and white flags fluttered from cars on the superhighways. A million festive picnickers were out. "If a war takes place, we will win," the chief of the Israel Defense Forces assured them. Did annihilation anguish really spice the barbecue? I guess so.


The threat has morphed since 1948 — from Arab armies to Palestinian militants to Islamic jihadists — but not the Israeli condition. The nation "wallows in a sense of existential threat that has only grown with time," the daily Haaretz commented. Netanyahu, in a 20-minute interview, told me of "the physical and psychological reality" of a nation whose experience is that "concessions lead to insecurity." Part of the insecurity right now stems from the troubles with Israel's ultimate guarantor, the United States. President Obama, for all his assurances about unbending American commitment, has left Israelis with a feeling of alienation, a sense he does not understand or care enough. Has he not visited two nearby Muslim states — Turkey and Egypt — while snubbing Israel? I think what is really bothering Israelis, the root of the troubles, is that Obama is not buying the discourse, the narrative. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with little Israel against the jihadists, he's talking of how a festering Middle East conflict ends up "costing us significantly in terms of both blood and treasure." Instead of Iran, Iran, Iran — the refrain here — he's saying Iran, yes, but not at the expense of Palestine. Instead of Israeli security alone, he's talking of "the vital national security interests of the United States" and their link to Israeli actions. This amounts to a sea change. I don't know if it will box Israel into a defensive corner or open new avenues, but I do know an uncritical U.S. embrace of Israel has led nowhere. For now, Israeli irritation is clear.


Before meeting Netanyahu, I spoke with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. "We are the ones suffering most in terms of blood and treasure," he told me, reprising the Obama line. "This is the difference, we are the ones that have to live through an agreement and survive afterward. Of course we want peace but not at the price of our existence." He dismissed as "totally false" the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict feeds an environment inimical to U.S. interests. On the contrary, he said, "We pay the price for defending U.S. values in this area." For Ayalon, the proximity talks with the Palestinians that the Obama administration is struggling to revive are a "waste of time" and should be replaced by direct talks without preconditions. As for Obama's demands, believed to include a complete Israeli building freeze in Jerusalem, Ayalon said, "Any demand without a quid pro quo is a mistake. Why should the Palestinians negotiate if others negotiate for them?"

So here we are, 62 years on, negotiating about negotiations whose prospects of leading anywhere seem fantastically remote. I think Ayalon's right about getting to the table, but peace involves embracing risk over fear, no getting around that, and with the Iranian nuclear program rumbling, Israelis look more risk-averse than I've ever seen them. Life's not bad in affluent, barrier-bordered Israel even if threats loom. The prime minister insists that he is ready to move forward, that he will not use the Iran threat as a delaying tactic, and that he and Obama respect each other's intelligence.


What is imperative for him right now is that the United States and Israel talk to each other. But about what exactly? The trauma of 9/11 bound the Israeli and American narratives. They have now begun to diverge with putative Palestine hanging in limbo between them. —The New York

Times

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

RISKY FOOTPATHS

 

That a city with 14 million inhabitants has only 338 kilometres of footpath is a good enough cause for concern. Then when we know that the limited footpaths we have are mostly encroached upon and obstructed by all types of vendors, an array of makeshift shops, automobile spare parts outlets, garages, piles of bricks, sand, cement bags, rods and other construction materials, we come to realise how insurmountable a task it is to negotiate those walkways. Its immediate consequence is a compulsion for pedestrians to use the roads constantly fraught with risks. For old, infirm people, women and school-going children, in particular, this is a frightening experience on a daily basis.


Now quoting different authorities, the report carried in this newspaper on illegal occupation of footpaths yesterday has cited quite a number of reasons for the failure of eviction drive aimed at freeing footpaths. It seems the authorities are sympathetic towards the 100,000 vendors or hawkers who are mainly responsible for obstructing the footpaths with their wares on display there. The authorities claim they cannot evict them on humanitarian grounds. Fair enough, but if they turn a blind eye to the proliferation of the vendor community, the latter will start occupying parts of the busy roads. In fact, they have already started doing so on certain avenues. The authorities have to draw the line and tell in no uncertain terms 'thus far and no further'.
In fact, the authorities had limited success to their credit when they designated certain areas for the vendors to sell their wares three to four days a week. But anyone can say it was not a solution to the gigantic problem. There is a need for construction of more hawkers' market like those at Gulistan. This is however one side of the story, the other more important task concerns the creation of employment for them as roughly 70,000 of the total number are seasonal vendors. If they have no compulsion to come to cities, more than half of the problem vanishes instantly. As for the occupation of footpaths by others, there should be no compromise because that is not an absolute necessity. They do it because law is not strictly implemented.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

COMMUNITY RADIO

 

The government has given permission to 12 new community radio stations as a primary step to ensure the people's right to information under the "Right to Information Act." These radio stations will serve mainly rural communities by relaying information on agriculture, education, health service, disaster risk reduction, welfare of women and children, local market prices and government and non-government services. The single station to be run by the government will specialise in agriculture under the agricultural information service and will be called "Community Rural Radio" covering Amtali area of Barguna district. Social change and social justice are the motto of community radio stations and can play a vital role in sustaining democracy and change.
Radio Sagarmahta was the first independent community radio station not only in Nepal but in the entire South Asia. Established by the Nepal Forum of Environmental Journalists (Nefej) in 1997, Radio Sagarmatha has been in the front line to fight for freedom of expression and right to information of the citizens of Nepal.
In India the campaign to legitimise community radio began in mid-1990s soon after the Supreme Court of India ruled in its judgment of February 1995 that "airwaves are public property." But stringent conditions did not allow its expansion until 2006 when the government notified new Community Radio Guidelines, which permitted NGOs and other civil society organisations to own and operate community radio stations. Today there are about 4,000 community radio licences on offer across India.

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

 

NITIN SHOULDN'T FAINT AGAIN!

ROBERT CLEMENTS

 

It's not just BJP leaders but other political parties who are quite concerned that BJP chief Nitin Gadkari fainted on stage in Delhi's scorching heat, while participating in an anti-price hike rally.


"This matter should be tabled for Parliament," said an ex MP who was known to be close to the opposition party leader, "Today it is Nitin, tomorrow it could be one of us who faints. Just imagine if the platform had collapsed, it would have been disastrous!"


"Yes," I agreed, "Considering the weight of the opposition leader others could have been injured, if he had fallen on them! But what is the point in tabling this in Parliament?"


"Aren't MP's precious?"


"Yes!" I said.


"You think they should faint?"


"No," I said.


"So we should discuss this in Parliament right?"


"Okay," I conceded.


" So we pass a law!"


"A law?" I asked surprised, "Saying MP's shouldn't faint?"


"No a law," saying that political leaders needn't take part in morchas and rallies!"


"Then who will take part?"


"You people!" said the ex-MP smiling at me, "After all who are we doing this for?"


"Us," I said shamefacedly.


"Absolutely," said the ex MP, "We personally are not bothered whether prices go high or go low!"


"Because you have made enough money not to bother," I said.


"Exactly," said the ex-MP happily.


"What then will be the role of political leaders?" I asked.


"Remote control the whole exercise!"

"Ah!" I said.


"Brilliant idea isn't it? All we political leaders should do is to tell the people to gather at a place…"


"The hotter the better," I interrupted.


"Yes as long as we are not around. Then the aam aadmi can scream and shout and throw stones and do what they want.."


"And get heat strokes?"


"As long as we are not around!"


"So what is the law you are going to pass?"


"No MP, MLA or elected representative should be seen fighting for issues for the common man!"


"Only fighting should be inside Parliament!" I said.


"Parliament?" asked the ex MP, "We can't fight in Parliament, that's the place where we get some sleep..!"


—bobsbanter@gmail.com

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

WILL THIS POWER CRISIS END IN 2013?

ABDUL MATIN

 

We are now besieged with a serious power crisis. We have a shortage of 2000 MW or more of generating capacity in the power grid during the peak periods. As a result, excessive load shedding is making our life miserable. I heard many people asking: 'Why do we have the crisis now and how soon can we get rid of it?' To get an answer to the question, we need to understand how an electric power system is normally planned and operated.


Electricity is generated in the power plants and distributed among the consumers through a system of transmission and distribution lines. Electricity is a commodity that depends on demand and supply like any other commodity. Unfortunately, electricity cannot be stored in large quantities like other commodities. As a result, it has to be supplied at the instant there is a demand. A consumer is not ready to wait even for a fraction of a second to get his/her demand met and s/he will not give any advance notice to the utility about his/her future needs. For this reason, the planning and operation of an electric power system is a highly technical and complex subject.


The demand of electricity in any system varies from second to second, minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, month to month, season to season and year to year. The utility has to be ready with sufficient reserve generating capacity to supply the demanded electricity. To meet the daily demand, the utility must have enough hot reserve that can be readily supplied as the demand changes during the day. It also takes care of any extra demand of power due to a sudden failure or unscheduled shutdown of a power plant. The hot reserve margin is the difference of the available generating capacity of the operating power plants connected to the grid and the demand at a particular time. The system keeps some power plants ready to come into operation as the demand increases over a longer period. The total capacity of the power plants kept in waiting to come into operation when needed is called the cold reserve margin. Every power plant needs to be shut down for two to three weeks every year for routine maintenance and repairs. Such routine maintenance is necessary to keep the plant operating throughout the year with minimum unscheduled shutdowns. The cold reserve margin also takes care of the demand even when some power plants undergo routine maintenance. An ideal power system must have sufficient hot and cold reserve margins in order to supply uninterrupted power to the consumers. The total reserve margin is normally 20-30 per cent of the peak demand or the sum of the two largest generating units in the system, whichever is larger. It is possible to operate an electric power system with a lower reserve margin if the national grid is interconnected with those of the neighbouring countries.


It is necessary to correctly predict the load curve (demand) for the next day in order to keep sufficient hot reserve margin for the day. The load curve for the next day is predicted taking into consideration the historical data, the weather forecast and important events of the day. If there is an important football match on any day, people watching the game are likely to rush for a cup of tea or coffee during the halftime. Several thousand MW of power are normally kept in hot reserve at that time to meet the extra demand as several million electric kettles are switched on within a matter of minutes on such occasions in western countries.


An electric power system is always planned in advance. It takes time to build a power plant. Even a simple diesel generator takes 5-6 months to install and deliver power to the grid. A gas turbine-generator set takes more than one year. A combined cycle power plant takes a minimum of thirty months though it can start partial generation within 14 months after installation of the turbine-generator set. A conventional steam power plant requires 3-4 years and a nuclear power plant 7-8 years. Add a year or two for evaluation of bids and contract negotiations for the larger units. The start of construction of a new power plant depends on the predicted demand of electricity at the time the plant is expected to come online. It is, therefore, essential to make a correct forecast of the power demand in order to plan additions of future power plants. Excess reserve generating capacity over what is essential is wastage of resources. Any shortage of reserve generating capacity will cause power cuts, which are even worse. In fact, a new large steam power plant is planned 5-6 years before its scheduled date of operation.


Let us now consider the first part of my question: 'Why do we have the power crisis now?' To keep sufficient reserve generating capacity ready to meet the peak demand of today, it was necessary to predict the demand in 2005 and start construction of the required power plants in 2006 or earlier. Assuming that our present peak demand is 6000 MW, we need at least 7200 MW of generating capacity today. Why are we unable to generate more than 4600 MW now? The answer is very simple. Our planners and policy makers of the previous governments failed to add the required generating capacity to grid. During the past eight years, our generating capacity should have doubled. How much did we add to the grid? The net increase is zero as whatever small capacity was added to the grid, an equivalent capacity became idle for want of natural gas or some technical problems. As a result our generating capacity remained practically static over the last eight years while the demand increased year after year.


Our problems in the power sector are multi-dimensional. First, we do not have enough generating capacity (both hot and cold reserves) to meet the demand. Second, we are unable to utilise the existing generating capacity for want of natural gas or for other technical problems which arise as we cannot afford to shut down the power plants for routine annual maintenance in absence of enough reserve generating capacity in the system. Third, some rental power plants failed to come online on the scheduled dates because of the inexperience and mismanagement of the owning companies. Some of these plants are late by years. As a result we have hours of load shedding during the torturous summer days, loss of production in industries, idle man-hours in offices, commercial and industrial units and slower investments in the economic sector. It is affecting the supply of potable water in urban areas and irrigation water in the agricultural fields. Slower investment will breed unemployment. Add to it the frustration of the people without electricity, water and natural gas. The consequences can be catastrophic.


This is a man-made crisis to which the whole nation has become a hostage. We have become the victims of the negligence by a few people who played with our fate. They thus committed a crime against the state and against its people. In my opinion there should be an impartial investigation by a high powered body into the causes of the present power crisis and those responsible should be made accountable. This will teach the culprits a good lesson and help us to prevent future recurrences of similar crises.


It is obvious that this crisis has no immediate solution because of the lead times necessary to construct new power plants. In Bangladesh the actual construction periods are usually longer than those estimated above because of the complex bureaucratic procedures for procurement and poor project management techniques. The government must first overcome the present time-consuming procurement procedures and improve project management techniques if they want to move fast to solve the crisis.


It is true that the past regimes are responsible for the creation of crisis but did the present government move fast enough to solve the problem? No, they too have been slow in signing contracts for new power plants, in taking decisions for mining of coal and for exploration of new gas fields. They also failed to tell the truth about the extent of the crisis and how soon it will be over. The people are being advised to be patient and an impression is being given that the crisis will be over in 2-3 years. Accordingly, the government has announced that an additional 3000 MW of generating capacity will be added to the grid by 2013. Will this solve the problem by 2013? Let us analyse the situation by a simple calculation. The present peak demand of 6000 MW is likely to reach 7560 MW by 2013 at a modest growth rate of 8 per cent per annum. We add at least 20 per cent reserve generating capacity to it. We shall thus need 9070 MW of generating capacity by then. We have generated a maximum of 4600 MW till now, as mentioned earlier. If we subtract this from 9070 MW, we get 4470 MW which we need to add by 2013 if we want to operate the system without load shedding. So an addition of 3000 MW only by 2013 will only reduce the extent of load shedding but will not eliminate it unless we add 1470 MW more i.e. in addition to 3000 MW planned by the government. We may now ask one more question: 'Do we have enough resources in terms of finance, technical manpower and project management skills to add 3000 MW in the next three years?' It is very difficult to give a positive answer if we look back at our history of implementation of power projects in Bangladesh. It does not mean the target is unachievable. The crisis can certainly be overcome but only by a crash programme utilising the most modern techniques of project management. The people are becoming restless. They want an early solution. They waited patiently for fourteen months. It is time for the government to show some tangible results.

 

(The writer is a former Chief Engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.)

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

ACHIEVING MILLENIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS

GOPAL SENGUPTA

 

Ten years ago, world leaders agreed at the UN on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), 8 Goals to significantly reduce extreme poverty, disease and illiteracy by 2015. World leaders met to take stock of progress at the mid-point. The first nine years have seen some important successes at the aggregate level, 40 million more children are in school, hundreds of millions of people have come out of extreme poverty, some deadly diseases like tuberculosis and measles have been contained, and fewer people are dying from HIV/AIDS. But the UN Secretary-General warned that if the world has to meet the MDGs by 2015, the speed of implementation needs to be substantially accelerated. Paradoxically, foreign aid levels have actually fallen in the last four years and some of the richest countries are cutting back even further. It is no surprise then that virtually every leader from a developing country spoke during the summit about rich countries breaking their aid promises to the poor with the consequence being schools and health centres left without staff and equipment.


But turn our attention to the street conversation from Dhaka to Dakar, from Manila to Mexico City and we shall hear a different discourse on why the MDGs are not being met.


For the poorest people living in rural Africa or Asia or the sprawling slums of Latin American cities, their daily experience is of being powerless in the face of being denied basic public services. The economic boom that many countries in the developing world are yet to translate into MDGs for the poor. Whether it is privatisation of basic services, social exclusion, or plain inefficiency and corruption, the net effect is the same - more poverty, unemployment and deprivation for those at the bottom of the pile.


Those who can afford it have long since moved to private providers of health, education, water, power, housing and even in many places policing. The expectations from the state have been reduced to almost nil.
Despite more countries opting to become electoral democracies, citizens' trust in government is at an all-time low. Clearly the abuse of power for personal gain, the siphoning off of public or common resources into private pockets is unacceptable in any situation but when this is public money gathered in the name of the poor, the criminality is repugnant. The global movement in support of the MDGs is growing. Last year, 73 million people stood up against poverty. This year, the number is to become even bigger.


On the above issues, I would like to add the quote from our Nobel Laureate, Dr. Muhammad Yunus told the right word: I was teaching in one of the universities while the country was suffering from a severe famine. People were dying of hunger, and I felt very helpless. As an economist, I had no tool in my toolbox to fix that kind of situation.


In fact, solidarity is not a matter of sentiment but a fact, cold and impassive as the granite foundations of a skyscraper. If the basic elements, identity of interest, clarity of vision, honesty of intent, and oneness of purpose, or any of these is lacking, all sentimental pleas for solidarity, and all other efforts to achieve it will be barren of results.

 

(The writer is Canada-based analyst.)

 

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THE INDEPENDENT

EDITORIAL

INDUSTRIAL POLICY FOR HIGH-SKILL JOBS

DANI RODRIK

 

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


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


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

 

Generous export incentives have helped firms break into competitive global markets.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Second, industrial policy needs to rely on both carrots and sticks. Given its risks and the gap between its social and private benefits, innovation requires rents â€" returns above what competitive markets provide. That is why all countries have a patent system. But open-ended incentives have their own costs: they can raise consumer prices and bottle up resources in unproductive activities. That is why patents expire. The same principle needs to apply to all government efforts to spawn new industries. Government incentives need to be temporary and based on performance. Third, industrial policy's practitioners need to bear in mind that it aims to serve society at large, not the bureaucrats who administer it or the businesses that receive the incentives. To guard against abuse and capture, industrial policy needs be carried out in a transparent and accountable manner, and its processes must be open to new entrants as well as incumbents.


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


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

 

(The writer, Professor of Political Economy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, is the first recipient of the Social Science Research Council's Albert O. Hirschman Prize.)

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2010.

 

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

REMEMBERING FALLEN HEROES

ANZAC DAY REFLECTS THE GOOD IN THE AUSTRALIAN CHARACTER

NINETY-FIVE years after shiploads of untested Australian and New Zealand Diggers landed on a Turkish beach and scaled the steep cliffs that loomed in the dawn light, Anzac Day is as close as ever to the hearts of Australians. Through another world war, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, where today's soldiers are serving with the distinction of the original Diggers, Anzac Day has embraced new generations.

With the years has come a more mature appreciation of our history, our character and our place in the world. And in recent years Anzac Day has been marked with greater solemnity and meaning than ever. There are larger numbers at dawn services, especially young people, bigger crowds marching and intense interest in new books about various campaigns. The fascination with the diaries of World War I official correspondent C.E.W. Bean, now online, is a case in point.

In some academic circles in the 1960s and 70s it was fashionable to portray Anzac Day as a hoary anachronism. Such spurious notions quickly faded, however, as younger generations rejected them. It's unlikely that historians Marilyn Lake and Henry Reynolds will convince many Australians, outside their own rarefied world, about "the relentless militarisation of our history", the thesis in their new book What's Wrong with Anzac? The Militarisation of Australian History. As Geoffrey Blainey wrote in the most recent Australian Literary Review , it was odd "to see the RSL being singled out as an enemy of national values" in the book " while wartime Japan and Nazi Germany are essentially exempt from criticism".

Regardless of whether they take place in cities, country towns, or at memorials at Gallipoli, on the western front, in Korea or PNG, Anzac Day dawn services, marches and rituals remain reassuringly familiar. Yet there are still many untold stories from the many theatres of war. Today, The Weekend Australian highlights the "forgotten" Diggers who won two Victoria Crosses fighting for the White Russians against the Bolsheviks' Red Army in Russia after World War I. Equally extraordinary is the story of a 90-year-old Japanese veteran who has shed light on the fate of Australian Kokoda hero Captain Sam Templeton, whom he probably buried after Templeton was stabbed after laughing in the face of a Japanese officer.

Far from being a glorification of war, or a misplaced celebration of the Gallipoli campaign that was a "bloody disaster" in every sense, claiming 8000 Australian lives for no real gain, Anzac Day is about many of the best qualities in our peace-loving nation, which nonetheless has proved itself resolute in times of war. It runs much deeper than patriotism or military pride, although it is a day for paying homage to and offering a prayer for more than 102,000 Australians who have died in war and who must never be forgotten. Anzac Day also acknowledges the sacrifices of the war widows and children left to soldier on in civilian life without their husbands and fathers. And it recognises the privations of prisoners of war, the debilitating wounds endured by thousands of survivors, and the tireless work of nurses and chaplains who did their duty and much more. The centenary of the Gallipoli landing is fast approaching and the ranks of our World War II Diggers are dwindling. But the years have not diminished the importance of Anzac Day in the national calendar.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

WHY OUR POPULIST PM MISSES THE MARK ON POLICY

DECISIONS DON'T MEAN MUCH WITHOUT A POLITICAL FRAMEWORK

KEVIN Rudd's government should be in a sweet spot. The economy is strong and Labor is feted for saving the nation from the global financial crisis. The polls are on its side. Yet the Prime Minister was called a coward by respected radio host Neil Mitchell yesterday, his broken promises on home insulation overwhelming his efforts to keep selling his health and hospitals deal. A week that was supposed to be about ambitious policy reform became the week when the Prime Minister's shortcomings as a political leader were laid bare.

Once again, the conundrum that is Kevin Rudd threatens to damage the goodwill that accompanied his win in 2007. Voters and most commentators continue to cut him slack, but after 2 1/2 years, it is increasingly clear Mr Rudd is better at promises than delivery. As the government heads into an election, Australians find themselves with a leader who in opposition claimed to be a policy aficionado but who turned out in government to be the supreme populist. Mr Rudd, we now see, prefers Rove, Good News Week and Twitter to the hard grind of marshalling ideas and leading the policy debate.

It is scarcely surprising that so many of the leading policy thinkers in Australia are bewildered by a Prime Minister more interested in spinning the media than engaging with the critical policy issues that challenge our future. Populism is OK as far as it goes, but from the start of his government, Mr Rudd has shown himself to be dangerously addicted to approval ratings and mass acclaim. As early as April 2008, George Megalogenis wrote in The Weekend Australian of the energetic leader shaping up as our first federal premier - a hard-working master of the media cycle, yet seemingly unwilling to take stock. Two months later, that fruitless hyperactivity was obvious to John Lyons when he wrote about the chaos of Mr Rudd's office.

That the Prime Minister prefers good news weeks was clear when he failed to show up and take responsibility for the failed insulation scheme. How was it that confessional Kevin who weeks ago on ABCI's Insiders offered a series of mea culpas about the scheme, could suddenly look like cowardly Kevin when it was finally axed? This is not the place for a character analysis of the Prime Minister but he will have to develop sharper political antennae ahead of the poll. It is one thing for Mr Rudd to try to manage the Canberra press gallery - as he did on health. It is another to try to put one over the public with faux familiarity and matey promises. The prime ministerial schtick of likeable nerd is harder to sustain when Mr Rudd's policy record is thin. Rather than the intellectual steering the ship through tricky waters - the persona he offered in his essays on neo-liberal capitalism during the GFC - voters this week saw him outfoxed by the premiers on health reform. Mr Rudd sold his hospitals package to much of the media as a triumph, but it fails the test when judged against his own promises - an end to the blame game and cost-shifting; funded by Canberra but run locally - because it entrenches control with the states. Look to his background to understand his gaps in policy management. Unlike his great reformist Labor predecessors, Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, Mr Rudd did not come to the leadership after a lifetime of experience in Labor and industrial ranks. Even his stint in the back rooms of Wayne Goss's Queensland government were more about administration than the nuanced job of developing policy and then shepherding it past interest groups and enemies alike. Instead, Mr Rudd is confronted late in his career with the realities of policy-making.

The first lesson he must learn is that reform is hard and will always involve losers. The second is that any government chasing deep change must start the process outside the electoral cycle where bad news is hard to sell, and outside the 24/7 media cycle so reliant on short-term largesse. A third is that he must become more of a straight-shooter with the electorate and in the development of policy.

So many of Labor's problems this year are a result of the confused objectives of its programs. Insulation jumbled job-creation and climate change; schools spending was a blur of saving the building sector, investing in education, and creating favourable election images in every town and suburb. Even Mr Rudd's health package did double-duty as a pork-barrel, with dollars announced in countless hospital wards in marginal seats. A final lesson for the Prime Minister may be in humility: he has the self-belief essential for politicians but it often morphs into hubris, a need to control process, and a failure to consult. Yet even this micro-manager seems at times to be bored by detail. The Prime Minister is not lazy but he can be tripped up on some areas he should be across. Yesterday's failure to know the tax-free threshold was gob-smacking.

This week's disasters prompted 3AW's Mitchell to say yesterday the government reminded him of the dying days of the Whitlam administration almost four decades ago. To us, Mr Rudd seems more akin to Mr Whitlam's successor, Malcolm Fraser, a prime minister prepared to administer but not govern. The Fraser cabinet took 1400 decisions but its policy legacy is scant. Mr Rudd should realise that decisions and announcements are worth little unless they are argued within a politically saleable framework and result in real change.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

WELFARE REFORM IS A PRIORITY

TONY ABBOTT MUST DEVELOP HIS THOUGHT BUBBLES INTO POLICY

AS thought bubbles go, Tony Abbott's idea about encouraging the unemployed to move to find work is not a bad one. Much of Australia's prosperity was built by those with the drive to uproot themselves in search of mineral wealth. And the fact that 40,000 young Australians aged between 15 and 17 are neither at school nor working, as reported today, shows the pressing need for further welfare reform. The process began under Paul Keating and has moved too slowly since, although the Howard government made headway with welfare-to-work for single parents, which cost it heavily in some seats at the 2007 election.

The opposition, however, needs more than thought bubbles to pose a credible challenge to the Rudd government. The Opposition Leader's plan might have more weight if it were framed as a way to boost workforce participation and improve productivity. Instead, his lack of precision has left him open to criticisms of making policy on the run rather than engaging in serious debate.

His task is made harder by much of the media's inclination to put the blowtorch to the opposition and skate lightly over the government's performance. ABC television's Lateline on Wednesday was a prime example. Its report on Mr Abbott suggesting that the unemployed go west was one brickbat after another, from reporter Emma Griffiths, union bosses, the welfare lobby and the public. Cheap politics . . . sending young, untrained people down the mines . . . bashing those on welfare . . . would he do it to his own kids? . . . $1500 a week rents . . . transporting people from western Sydney and Melbourne to far-flung parts. It sounded like forced slavery.

Mr Abbott is correct to argue that allowing people to stay on welfare needlessly is not fairness but indulgence. Most Australians probably agree. Relocation, retraining and finding a job, especially when unemployment is low, are not new. That Australian Workers Union boss Paul Howes branded the idea "crass politics" and "Tony Abbott's Sarah Palin moment" shows how removed his thinking is from the real world of work. Mr Abbott is deeply committed to ending welfare dependency, but the lesson from this week's episode is his passion must be matched by detailed, well-developed policy.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

ECONOMIC CONSENSUS CALLS FOR BIT OF GIVE AND TAKE

THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS HAS REIGNITED A DEBATE THAT RECURS PERIODICALLY IN POLITICAL ECONOMY, DIRECTED AT THE GENERAL DISPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT POLICY.

On the one side, since the 19th century, has been the free-market or laissez-faire position. It has been opposed, on the other, by a more interventionist or protectionist orientation, these days presented in either Keynesian or social-democratic terms.

I was involved in an earlier phase of this debate. It started with an opinion piece I wrote in The Australian in October 1990, titled "The case against hoodoo economics", and culminated in a book, Shutdown: The Failure of Economic Rationalism and How to Rescue Australia (co-edited in 1992).

My view today, with the benefit of hindsight, is that Shutdown was basically wrong. I was principally troubled in 1992 with Australia's escalating international debt and the consequent foolishness of running down the local manufacturing industry (which would also aggravate a then already high unemployment rate, de-skill important sectors of the workforce and reduce our independence in some areas of defence production). My prediction was that an economic crisis was looming. The reality was just the opposite: nigh on two decades of unprecedented economic growth. Facts are facts, and any theory with integrity needs to respect them. Further, industry policy in 1992 to encourage local manufacturing would have been almost entirely doomed once Chinese export production got into full gear, something that could not have been foreseen then.

Australia's high levels of foreign debt may, at some point, bite. Greece caricatures what might happen. But there is little sign of that in our near future and, to me now, the past two decades support the maxim: if in doubt trust the free market.

In the interim I was also influenced by Martin Wolf's 2004 book Why Globalisation Works. Wolf makes the point that, in the developing world, open economies reduce the capacity of corrupt rulers to embezzle capital, steal resources, and siphon aid monies into their own pockets. An open economy encourages a competent rather than a dysfunctional state. In Adam Smith's famous terms, there is an invisible hand, if a restrained and, at best, an occasionally helpful one that at least gestures in the right direction.

The global financial crisis has no clear-cut implications for the old political economy debate. On the one side, Western governments now take the Keynesian response to recession for granted: they accept the need to inject funds to pump-prime faltering economies. Ironically, the more social-democratically inclined governments of continental Europe were less keen on this than the more free-market Anglo governments. Maybe each has some cognisance, during times of crisis, of its own inherent weaknesses.

There will need to be more regulation of bank lending and investment practices. Capitalism has a long history of cycles of over-regulation and under-regulation, and has proven very good at correcting itself. Robber-baron capitalism of the 1890s was followed, in the US, by successful government regulation to check excess; 1970s stagflation, signalling the breakdown of post-war Keynesianism, was followed by a long period of deregulation.

Instructive here is the way Jeff Kennett revitalised Victoria. He savagely cut government, notably the public service, in a classic deregulatory tactic. But, at the same time, he was strongly interventionist, sponsoring a range of huge infrastructure projects, led by the CityLink freeway system. Victoria has prospered ever since. Kevin Rudd could learn from the Kennett model.

If the GFC has brought back some Keynes and some re-regulation, it is equally replete with warnings about irresponsible government. In the US, it was a government agency that fed the housing bubble by keeping interest rates unnaturally low - admittedly at the hands of a chairman of the US Federal Reserve (Alan Greenspan) who was of a strongly laissez-faire disposition. It was a US president (Bill Clinton) who leaned on government subsidiaries Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to offer mortgages to people who would never repay them. Politicians at the lower level of government in the US, within the state polities, put further pressure on local banks to extend this imprudent lending. Governments and politicians set the parameters for the property bubble and its bust that triggered the GFC.

Meanwhile, the US government had put itself in a chronically weak position to respond to economic crisis.

A series of Washington administrations have cavalierly lifted their own deficit spending. George W. Bush was the worst culprit, raising expenditure while cutting tax. The US annual government deficit has now hit a potentially crippling 10 per cent of GDP.

What may we conclude about the old free market v government intervention debate? That it is over; and we have moved beyond it. Indicative is that both the leading political parties in Australia share the same basic view of economic management.

That basic view goes as follows. There will be some Keynesian intervention when necessary. There will be phases of deregulation, especially necessary when government deficits get out of control, or public bureaucracies become bloated and inefficient.

There will be phases of reregulation when checks on excessive behaviour have proven too loose. And there are standard, uncontroversial government responsibilities, including maintaining a welfare safety net, managing health, education, defence and national development. There is today, I believe, a broad consensus along these lines. And, as a country, we are the better off for that.

John Carroll is professor of sociology at La Trobe University.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

GARRETT THE FALL GUY IN RUDD'S ROOFING FIASCO

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER PETER GARRETT HAS BECOME A SCAPEGOAT OF THE PRIME MINISTER AND HIS ASSISTING MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT SERVICE DELIVERY, MARK ARBIB. THEY ARE THE TWO PEOPLE WHO SHOULD BE HAULED OVER THE COALS FOR THEIR (MIS)HANDLING OF THE BOTCHED HOME ROOF INSULATION SCHEME.

The review of the program's administration, conducted by retired senior public servant Allan Hawke and released during the week, makes clear findings that Garrett's responses to the problems with the program were appropriate and timely.

In all the reporting of the review and its contents, praise for the minister's conduct has largely gone unnoticed. Garrett was handed a program he had raised serious concerns about to his Prime Minister for the rushed nature of its implementation.

He was not alone. I have been told by a very senior Labor source that Julia Gillard did the same at the special-purpose budget committee, the inner sanctum of the government that rules on which programs get the green light and which don't. We may never know for sure just how strident Garrett and Gillard were in raising their concerns. Garrett has stayed silent on what he may or may not have discussed with the Prime Minister, something that we can only hope changes if Kevin Rudd chooses to dump him from the ministry after the next election.

There is no doubt that the roof insulation scheme was problematic. It directly led to at least one of four deaths (the other three being a mixture of poor occupational health and safety practices and an outright violation of the scheme's standards). But we shouldn't forget the first death was an electrocution from metal staples used on foil roof insulation. Securing insulation with metal staples is a practice in operation since the 1950s.

Hawke's review points to doubts over the value to the environment of some of the installing of insulation, partly because of shoddy workmanship, partly because of cheap import substitutes being used in the rush to get the materials into people's roofs.

Hawke also points out that Garrett's department was not suited to rolling out such a scheme. Government departments rarely are, but the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts is particularly void of experience handling mass rollouts of government programs.

Garrett knew this and again warned others about the risks. His department placated his concerns each time he raised them, and when Garrett and his department jointly warned the Office of the Co-ordinator-General about concerns attached to the scheme, no action was taken to alleviate the pressure. Garrett's department not only didn't have the experience to handle the rushed roll out, it didn't have the capacity to do so at the same time as managing the evolving set of problems that ensued. That is why the OCG, responsible for oversight of all the government's $42 billion Nation Building and Jobs Plan (which includes the Building the Education Revolution), needed to do more.

Hawke in his review is scathing about the failure of the OCG to get involved: "Given the reach of the program into so many Australian homes, it demanded much more and continuous attention from the Office of the Co-ordinator-General than it in fact received."

That office is located in none other than Rudd's own department, with Arbib assigned direct responsibility for watching over its operations. We may never know exactly how directly involved Arbib or the micro-managing Prime Minister actually were in the OCG's decision not to get involved.

However, the most serious area to which people's attention should be drawn is the rush to get the program up and running in the wake of the global financial crisis. It was an economic, not environmental, call to arms to employ low-skilled people considered to be most at risk from the financial meltdown. In other words, it was not Garrett's decision to rush the program into operation; it was Rudd's (and perhaps Wayne Swan's).

Garrett had been an advocate of roof insulation for some time, keen to ramp up the industry for its obvious environmental benefits. Malcolm Turnbull, opposition leader at the time, was also keen to see the industry grow for the same reasons.

But it was Rudd and his economic inner circle who forced Garrett to rush out the scheme against his better judgment, and to everyone's surprise the take-up by consumers was double the government's projections, putting enormous stress on the compliance and training procedures on which Garrett had insisted.

Just as John Howard was surprised by the capacity of employers to rort his WorkChoices legislation when he lowered the bar on employment conditions, Garrett and the government were surprised by the sizeable entry of shonky operators into the roof insulation business when the government rebate kicked in.

When reporting of the four deaths saw Garrett come under pressure to resign, Rudd initially came to his defence, describing him as a first-class minister, before cutting his portfolio responsibilities and making him the scapegoat for the scheme's failure. Perhaps Garrett wasn't a first-class minister, given some of the findings in the Hawke review, but he certainly wasn't the dud Tony Abbott tried to claim he was when constantly calling for his head.

Garrett has had to live with the fact he is a tall poppy in a political environment that likes to cut down such species. It is the challenge newcomers from outside the closed world of political insiders often face.

But the way Garrett has been portrayed as the weak link in the roof insulation debacle is not only unfair, it is plain wrong. The last point to consider is the criticism he faced for not showing enough emotion when confronted with questions about the four deaths and the more than 100 house fires. At first I thought the same thing.

However, a rarely noticed detail that explains Garrett's bureaucratic facade at press conferences and in question time is that his mother died in a house fire when he was young. It wasn't that Garrett didn't have empathy for the victims of the roof insulation scheme; it was that he had too much empathy but didn't want to use his personal circumstances to reach out to those damaged by the failures of the scheme.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

ALARMISTS KEEP RINGING THE BELL

IN NOVEMBER LAST YEAR A FILE APPEARED ON THE INTERNET CONTAINING THOUSANDS OF EMAILS AND OTHER DOCUMENTS FROM THE CLIMATIC RESEARCH UNIT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA IN BRITAIN.

How this file got into the public domain is still uncertain, but the emails, whose authenticity is no longer in question, provided a startling view into the world of climate research.

In what has become known as Climategate, one could see unambiguous evidence of the unethical suppression of information and opposing viewpoints, and even data manipulation.

Moreover, the emails showed collusion with other prominent researchers in the US and elsewhere. The CRU supplies many of the authors for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

One might have thought the revelations would discredit the science underlying proposed global warming policy. Indeed, the revelations may have played some role in the failure of last December's Copenhagen climate conference to agree on new carbon emissions limits.

But with the political momentum behind policy proposals and billions in research funding at stake, the effect of the emails appears to have been small.

The general approach of the scientific community (at least in the US and Britain) has been to see whether people will bother to look at the files in detail (they mostly have not) and to wait until time diffuses the initial impressions to reassert the original message of a climate catastrophe that must be fought with widespread carbon control. This reassertion, however, continues to be suffused by illogic, nastiness and outright dishonesty.

There were, of course, the inevitable investigations of individuals such as Penn State University's Michael Mann (who manipulated data to create the famous "hockey stick" climate graph) and Phil Jones (director of the CRU).

The investigations were brief, lacked depth and were conducted mainly by individuals already publicly committed to the popular view of climate alarm. The results were whitewashes that are incredible given the data.

In addition, numerous professional societies, including the American Society of Agronomy, the American Society of Plant Biologists and the Natural Science Collections Alliance, most of which have no expertise in climate, endorse essentially the following opinion: that the climate is warming; the warming is due to man's emissions of carbon dioxide; and continued emissions will lead to catastrophe.

We may reasonably wonder why they feel compelled to endorse this view. The IPCC's position in its Summary for Policymakers from its Fourth Assessment (2007) is weaker, and simply points out that most warming of the past 50 years or so is due to man's emissions.

It is sometimes claimed that the IPCC is 90 per cent confident of this claim, but there is no known statistical basis for this claim; it's purely subjective. The IPCC also claims that observations of globally averaged temperature anomaly are also consistent with computer model predictions of warming.

There are, however, some things left unmentioned about the IPCC claims. For example, the observations are consistent with models only if emissions include arbitrary amounts of reflective aerosols or particles (arising, for example, from industrial sulfates) that are used to cancel much of the warming predicted by the models. Without such adjustments, the observations are consistent with there being sufficiently little warming as to constitute a problem not worth worrying about much.

It appears the public is becoming increasingly aware that something other than science is going on with regard to climate change and that the proposed policies are likely to cause severe problems for the world economy.

Climategate may thus have had an effect after all.

But it is unwise to assume that those who have carved out agendas to exploit the issue will simply let go without a battle. One can only hope the climate alarmists will lose so we can go back to dealing with real science and real environmental problems such as assuring clean air and water.

Richard S. Lindzen is professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

SENATORS, START UP THE INTANGIBLE ENGINE OF HUMAN MOTIVATION

LAST WEEKEND I TOLD READERS ABOUT MY APPEARANCE BEFORE THE SENATE SELECT COMMITTEE ON REGIONAL AND REMOTE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITIES AT HEARINGS IN FAR NORTH QUEENSLAND.

In essence the good senators are inquiring about how development may take place in remote indigenous communities. I despaired in my failure to communicate my conviction that the overwhelming focus of Australian governments on service delivery will not produce development. Man needs services, but he cannot live by the hand of government alone. I now feel I should have talked to them about the importance of the intangible engines of human motivation: the engines that drive development and contribute to wellbeing.

It is hard to capture the intangible engines of human motivation in a service plan or a program plan. Services and programs can be only secondary enablers and supports. Without the primary drivers there will be no fundamental and lasting change.

At the level of the individual, the engine of human motivation that must be mobilised is self-interest, particularly the ability to make decisions, in a free market, in one's own interests and that of one's family.

Self-interest is structurally thwarted in the indigenous communities that I know. The absence of free markets in key areas of individual endeavour (for example, training and employment opportunities, housing and enterprise) means that individuals are constrained in their ability to choose and to vote with their feet and take with their own hands.

Desired goods are obtainable only through public community-distribution channels that subject people to the daunting internecine politics of the public community. Those who succeed at politics succeed; those who cannot, miss out.

Individuals who are defeated by this system are struck with a structural apathy. A pall of ennui afflicts these places where many people are resigned to not pursuing their interests in the public realm.

But it is not that self-interest is absent. Unable to be pursued within free and impartial markets, self-interest is pursued in the public domain by those willing to play the stressful games of community politics. Nepotism and petty organisation-centred scrambling are usually the result of self-interest in the public domain.

For too many people daunted by the prospect of realising self-interest in the public domain, self-interest is pursued within the kinship and demand-sharing network of the community's culture. Traditional cultural reciprocity and generosity turns into humbugging, bludging and manipulation, exploitation and plain theft and fraud within and between families.

Stealing your disabled relative's keycard or conning a loan out of a neighbour: these are weekly episodes of self-interest being pursued at the most miserable level.

The dominance of the public sphere and the stunted private sphere in the communities reflects the limited individual freedom in these places. The reform agenda we are trying to pursue in Cape York is about growing the private sphere and limiting the public sphere to its rightful role.

We must keep in mind Nobel laureate Amartya Sen's point: for individuals to have real choice, they must have the capabilities to choose. Reforms must aim to help individuals develop their capabilities, so they can make real and advantageous choices.

As well as tackling the structural barriers to individual choice, the challenge for our reform agenda is this: how do we mobilise self-interest where it is dormant and a mere pilot light flickering in the uncertain breasts of people?

Self-interest can be externally constrained by structural barriers, as well as internally inhibited by a lack of confidence, inexperience, fear, lack of ambition and limited outlooks: the absence of hope.

When Australian politicians and policy-makers - black and white - look at Aborigines, they make an unconscious discrimination between, on the one hand, those people who believe self-interest is relevant and improve their lot through seizing opportunities, taking up jobs and owning their own homes and, on the other hand, those for whom self-interest is irrelevant, alien, even unsavoury.

Those in this latter category are assumed to be too backward or a different kind of human for whom materialism and self-regard are antithetical to their essence as cultural beings. So don't even think about home ownership for them. Don't even think about whether they would want to have more income. In effect this view says: if they abandon their poverty, they will abandon their identity.

I refuse to accept this latter categorisation. It is probably descended from Rousseau's noble ideal, and the contemporary non-Aboriginal purveyors of this view nurture this idea because they are projecting on to native peoples the kind of disavowal of materialism that they know Western man will never make.

Our reform agenda is based on the belief in the possibility of all individuals. Reform is about recognising and mobilising the passions, talents and preferences of individuals.

This is what English social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson said when he came out to Australia in 2000: "My experience of people in the East End of London is that we all have passions of one kind or another. Some of them might be a bit dodgy, but actually we have got them and you have actually got to start where people's passions are. We began to back people, not structures."

The pursuit of self-interest by individuals produces a social result in at least two ways. First, strong and functional families are a product of self-interest. Individuals have a great interest in their own families and this interest produces a good social result.

Second, the sum total of having functional and strong families that are the product of individuals within these families pursuing their self-interests is this: you have a strong and functional community: a great social result. Self-interest does not just produce good for the individual or their family, it produces a social good.

This point is important. Many people assume that self-interest produces only private gain. They don't get Adam Smith's point that it produces social gain as well.

Humans are not just motivated by self-interest: they have interests and a sense of duty and belonging outside of their families, and with a wider community. This desire to belong and to contribute to a community is another engine of human motivation.

My dear senators, the starting place must be an acceptance that self-interest is the engine that drives individuals and ultimately social progress. It is this engine that must be cranked up and allowed to flourish. It is the same for peoples the world over.

Noel Pearson is director of the Cape York Institute for Policy and Leadership.

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THE AUSTRALIAN

EDITORIAL

CLUB SENSIBLE IS CASTING ITS EYES OVER JULIA AND TONY

SATIRE ALWAYS HAS INSIGHTS TO OFFER ON THE ABIDING TRUTHS ABOUT HUMAN NATURE AND POLITICS.

Think, for example, of Monty Python's spoof election coverage and the Sensible Party making late, unexpected gains on its opponents, the Silly Party.

In Australia, there is a tacit freemasonry across the political class, seldom acknowledged but nonetheless substantial. These days, in the wake of the Python skit, its fully fledged members tend jokingly to refer to themselves and one another as belonging to the Club Sensible.

They include people from all the main faiths and thoughtful atheists, all the main parties and almost every faction except of course the Greens, who are often quite nice but seldom sensible.

What they have in common is a set of broad assumptions about the national interest and the value of stable institutions and a belief that duty and friendship should normally trump partisan advantage and sectional allegiances.

Club members tend to be most visible in discussing foreign policy or when debating conscience issues. Nothing brings them into plain view like an argument over whether giving the thumbs-up to euthanasia or trendy redefinitions of marriage are good ideas.

In the ALP, for example, sceptical idealists such as Peter Walsh are its unofficial conveners.

The club has a wider, invisible membership base.

Typically they are people who, while unapologetic about their tribal affiliations to one or other of the main parties, are prepared to go outside their comfort zone at federal elections and vote for the leader who seems best attuned to the national interest, regardless of how subjectively they feel about the person in question. Party loyalists disparage them as swinging voters, but they're the key to why democracy works and why the electorate as a whole hardly ever gets it wrong when we vote.

In what poet Les Murray calls "the people's other world" -- a parallel universe where much is understood implicitly without the need for articulation -- it's a given that the coming election is not about Kevin Rudd at all.

He's a bureaucrat out of his depth, whose most important personal credential for the post was not fluency in Mandarin or a brief taste of diplomacy but his marriage to the formidable Therese Rein.

He already has done his dash and remains friendless in the parliament. After this year he'll never face another popular vote and will be outposted as soon as it can be decently done.

This election is really about deciding whether his successor is going to be Tony Abbott or Julia Gillard and it must be said at the outset that we're lucky to have two such strong, likable and decent people to choose between.

Both of them have the self-possession of mature adults who are comfortable in their own skins.

Both show signs of being, in Richard Wagner's phrase, "through suffering made wise". You could almost imagine them running a unity ticket if they belonged to the same party and they're incapable of concealing the depth of their mutual respect and affection. So far, so good. But the kicker question is: Just how sensible are they? Does one have a discernibly better grasp of commonsense than the other? A brief survey of their early careers provides a few clues.

The comparison is made easier for us because they both pursued very successful careers in student politics during protracted spells at university in the bad old days. Abbott was the unexpected victor in the contest for president of the University of Sydney's students representative council. Gillard ran the national students union. He was a notable reforming agent. She was prepared to turn a blind eye to corruption she couldn't stamp out for structural reasons, so she kept her own counsel and prepared to enter parliament.

One of the many good things to be said about Gillard is that Lindsay Tanner, her old ultra-leftist foe, was prescient in wanting to block her route to a safe seat. He said she was "a conservative careerist". Quite so. That's why people warm to her, despite the bottle-orange hair, the still-grating voice and the 1980s Carlton feminist collective values to which she still intermittently clings.

As people, both of them are clearly devoted to their parents, good with siblings and very fond of their nieces and nephews. It is a welcome change from the Rudd household, all of whom seem to me a bit strange and affectless.

Gillard enjoyed the usual female advantage in terms of early social maturity, while Abbott as an undergrad had his famous attempt to bend a lamp-post during a drinking session with rugger mates.

That said, he was entranced early on by the Jesuit ideal of public service and "being a man for others" at a phase when our Julia was pretty clearly concluding that (solidarity notwithstanding) "it's every girl for herself and the devil take the hindmost".

The young Tony was an incurable romantic, not only with his first girlfriend but in his crusading zeal for lost causes and his personal devotion to Bob Santamaria, whom he once described as "the greatest living Australian".

I loved Bob dearly too and agreed with that estimation of him, but I was relieved to hear Abbott's increasingly full disavowal not only of Bob's economic policy but also of much of his social policy.

Gillard, in contrast, doesn't seem to have gravitated towards the most brilliant and inspirational figure in her Adelaide undergrad firmament, Hugh Stretton, a mesmerising historian on the social democratic left.

Nor has she seemed to be content with a disciple's role. Perhaps she is crucially lacking in humility; perhaps not. One sure sign of her good sense was the move into John Brumby's office when he was leader of the Victorian opposition, despite belonging to a different faction.

Space doesn't permit a consideration of either candidate's more recent history at this juncture but readers may contribute to the conversation via my email address at the end of this column.

SOME of my readers on the Left may demur at the suggestion, but this week I feel like Michel Foucault. In 1971 postmodernism's darkest star formally took his place as a professor of the College de France.

He said at the time that he would have preferred a seamless transition, moving inconspicuously from the lecture hall's benches to the rostrum, as one more voice in a ceaseless, scholarly conversation. He also told his audience that he feared he might be something of a cuckoo in his new nest.

Moving from a sedate spot in the Inquirer section to a position among the pundits in the front part of the only national broadsheet is a comparable promotion. However, my expertise is not primarily in conventional political analysis but in publishing and editing poets and novelists. My preferred tools of trade are satire and counterfactual speculation rather than crunching the latest Treasury numbers or Newspoll.

Again, I share the view Foucault rather surprisingly announced at that inaugural lecture: that "society must be defended", mostly by the art of paradox.

Foucault and I have at least one thing in common, in that we're both high-profile homosexuals. I'm neither as intelligent nor (thankfully) as vain and dysfunctional as he was. He and his deracinated Maoist lover were identified early on as sacred monsters of French letters, in the tradition of Andre Gide.

The only person who has ever spoken of me in those terms was Peter Coleman, the long-time editor of Quadrant and intellectual godfather of Australian conservatism, and I'm pretty sure he was joking.

One leaf I hope to take out of Foucault's book is an unconventional approach to how political power is mediated, the ways it ebbs and flows and how, especially in the lead-up to the federal election, power (like nature) abhors a vacuum. Another is to see the solemn taken-for-granteds of the zeitgeist through the prism of the comic and the absurd.

pearson.christopher929@ gmail.com

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