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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

EDITORIAL 28.04.10

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media watch with peoples input                an organization of rastriya abhyudaya

 

Editorial

month april 28, edition 000493, 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. A PYRRHIC VICTORY
  2. BENEVOLENT APPROACH
  3. ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN - ASHOK K MEHTA
  4. BEAUTIES HAVE BRAINS TOO - TRINA JOSHI
  5. ROADS HAVE A STRATEGIC PURPOSE - PRASHANT KUMAR SINGH
  6. MOLE IN OUR MISSION - B RAMAN

MAIL TODAY

  1. THE OPPOSITION SEEMS TO BE CUTTING ITSELF TO PIECES
  2. CENTRE- STATE COOPERATION
  3. NURTURE BRAND IPL
  4. IN SPYING ON POLITICIANS WE'RE AS BAD AS THE ISI - BY MANOJ JOSHI
  5. MUMBAI MATTERS - DEEPAK LOKHANDE

THE TIMES OF INDIA

  1. HEARING AID          
  2. BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID
  3. OPEN AND SHUT - JUG SURAIYA
  4. IT'S COMMON WEALTH -
  5. 'DOMESTIC WORK IS NOT SEEN AS A REAL OCCUPATION' -

HINDUSTAN TIMES

  1. TAKING A BOW-WOW
  2. FEW FACTS OF THE MATTER
  3. TASTE OF THINGS TO COME - SUJATA KELKAR SHETTY
  4. CRACK THE DRESS CODE - NAYANJOT LAHIRI
  5. DON'T GET SOFT ON ALIENS -  LEO HICKMAN

THE INDIAN EXPRESS

  1. ETERNAL HAVENS
  2. ON DIFFERENT PAGES
  3. ETERNAL HAVENS
  4. TREATING WASTE WATER FOR REUSE - RANESH NAIR
  5. THE ONLY TABOO
  6. VIEW FROM THE LEFT - MANOJ C G
  7. THINKING OUTSIDE THE (FINANCIAL) BOX

FINANCIAL EXPRESS

  1. RATIONALISE GAS PRICES
  2. PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
  3. WILL IPL INVESTIGATIONS SUCCEED? - SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE
  4. IT IS STILL A STRUGGLE IN CHINA
  5. DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR
  6. THE NEED TO DIFFERENTIATE - MARTIN A KOSCHAT

THE HINDU

  1. AN UNPLEASANT ODOUR
  2. SAARC AT TWENTY-FIVE
  3. FROM THIRD WORLD TO NEW SOUTH - JORGE HEINE
  4. PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PANCHAYAT PARTNERSHIP FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH - HARSH SINGH
  5. THE FIRST AID MYTHS THAT COST LIVES - PHIL DAOUST
  6. FRED HALLIDAY, SCHOLAR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, DEAD - SAMI ZUBAIDA

THE ASIAN AGE

  1. SAARC, AT 25, MIGHT SEE A ROSIER FUTURE
  2. POWER OF PARIKRAMA
  3. LHC: THE LARGE HYPE CREATOR
  4. A DARK MONEY MAZE

DNA

  1. AFGHAN DILEMMA
  2. CHANGE IN THE AIR
  3. THE TECHNOLOGY DIMENSION - PR CHARI
  4. A MAHATMA AND A MAO IN YOUR POCKET

THE TRIBUNE

  1. PAKISTAN'S CRAZY IDEA
  2. THE SATLUJ STINKS
  3. BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS
  4. FRAGILE RECOVERY - BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA
  5. "MOM" AND "DAD" TO EACH OTHER - BY RASHMI TALWAR
  6. POVERTY OF MIND AND MEDIA - BY ARUTI NAYAR
  7. HARYANA: ECONOMICALLY UP, SOCIALLY DOWN - BY MAHABIR JAGLAN
  8. CHENNAI DIARY - N. RAVIKUMAR

MUMBAI MERROR

  1. COOK LIKE YOUR AAJI

BUSINESS STANDARD

  1. WINNER'S CURSE
  2. ON RECOVERY ROAD
  3. THE G-20, POWER, AND IDEAS - ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN
  4. LEARNING TO LIVE WITH HAWKERS - SUBIR ROY
  5. JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS - M J ANTONY
  6. IS A SPORTS REGULATOR NEEDED?

THE ECONOMIC TIMES

  1. ONLY THE RUPEE'S THE HURDLE
  2. OPPOSITION'S SELF-GOAL
  3. HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF
  4. A MYSTICAL STATE COMES OF AGE - ARVIND PANAGARIYA
  5. YOU ARE BORN TO BE LOVED - VITHALC NADKARNI
  6. INVESTORS TOO WILL HAVE MORE COMFORT
  7. YES, FOR BETTER REGULATORY CONTROL
  8. REVAMP FINANCIAL REGULATION - JAIDEEP MISHRA
  9. WE PLAN TO EXPAND CLINICAL RESEARCH IN INDIA: NOVO NORDISK PRESIDENT AND CEO - SARAH JACOB
  10. RECKITT BENCKISER OPERATING UNDER COST PRESSURES: CMD - RATNA BHUSHAN
  11. M&A STREET'S GETTING CROWDED AGAIN'- RAKHI MAZUMDAR

DECCAN CHRONICAL

  1. SAARC, AT 25, MIGHT SEE A ROSIER FUTURE
  2. A DARK MONEY MAZE - BY INDER MALHOTRA
  3. DUMB BUT DECENT MEETS SMART AND SLEAZY - BY DAVID BROOKS
  4. THE LARGE HYPE CREATOR - BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR
  5. POWER OF PARIKRAMA - BY V. BALAKRISHNAN

THE STATESMAN

  1. URBAN VARIANT
  2. STERLING SIGNAL
  3. AFGHAN DILEMMA
  4. WOES OF NARENDRA MODI - BY AMULYA GANGULI
  5. SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
  6. VOICES AGAINST TERRORISM
  7. 100 YEARS AGO TODAY

 THE TELEGRAPH

  1. JOINT EFFORT
  2. WITHOUT CREDIT
  3. THE EDGE OF A PRECIPICE - K.P. NAYAR
  4. HACKS AND THEIR SPELLING - STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

DECCAN HERALD

  1. FALL FROM GRACE
  2. TAMIL LEAD
  3. A POLITICAL MISFIT - BY SAEED NAQVI
  4. THE FIGHT AGAINST PATENT MONOPOLIES - BY GOPAL DABADE
  5. CLACKETY-CLACK - BY SUNIL GUPTA

THE JERUSALEM POST

  1. LION'S DEN: UNDERSTANDING EUROPE - BY DANIEL PIPES
  2. FROM HUNGARY AND AUSTRIA, COME TO ISRAEL!
  3. REJECTING THE BURKA
  4. HYPOCRISY ALL AROUND - BY YOSSI ALPHER
  5. LION'S DEN: UNDERSTANDING EUROPE - BY DANIEL PIPES
  6. YALLA PEACE: STOP SAYING TOLERANCE - BY RAY HANANIA

HAARETZ

  1. SHAME AT SAHARONIM
  2. PUSHING FOR A PROVISIONAL PALESTINIAN STATE - BY ALUF BENN
  3. ISRAEL MUST PREPARE FOR NUCLEAR TERROR THREAT - BY CHUCK FREILICH
  4. ARE THEY ALL REALLY ANTI-SEMITES? - BY GABRIEL SHEFFER
  5. ANOTHER KIND OF CAPITAL - BY MERAV MICHAELI

THE NEW YORK TIMES

  1. WALL STREET CASINO
  2. WHAT'S MORE COMPROMISING THAN MONEY?
  3. NEW YORK CITY'S INSPECTION SCANDAL
  4. GETTING OUT - BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG
  5. OLIVE OIL AND SNAKE OIL - BY MAUREEN DOWD
  6. FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION - BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
  7. POWER FROM TRASH ... -
  8. BY NORMAN STEISEL AND BENJAMIN MILLER
  9. ... AND SEWAGE, TOO  - BY ROSE GEORGE

USA TODAY

1.              Our view on border control: Arizona's ugly immigration law reflects price of inaction

2.      Even now, world fails Rwanda - By Andrew Wallis

3.      Don't dismiss early education as just cute; it's critical - By Lisa Guernsey

4.      Opposing view: We're protecting our citizens - By John Kavanagh

 

TIMES FREE PRESS

  1. IN DISTRICT 4: WARREN MACKEY
  2. IF WE SPENT TOO MUCH ...
  3. CHATTANOOGA MAGLEV CHOO-CHOO?
  4. 'SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS'
  5. COULD WE STOP AN IRANIAN NUKE?

TEHRAN TIMES

  1. NO MORE PEACE CHARADES, MR. PRESIDENT - BY LINDA S. HEARD

HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

  1. FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - WHAT'S GOING ON IN TURKEY?
  2. A SENSITIVE APPOINTMENT TO THE TOP OF THE MİT - SEDAT ERGİN
  3. SHOAH IS ALL RIGHT; HOLOCAUST ISN'T - BURAK BEKDİL
  4. WHY ARE OUR AZERBAIJANI FRIENDS SO CRANKY? - MEHMET ALİ BİRAND
  5. COLLECTIVE SHAME - YUSUF KANLI
  6. 'BLACK SWAN' VOLCANO OFFERS US LESSONS - MATTHEW LYNN
  7. END OF CONSCRIPTION IN SIGHT - JOOST LAGENDİJK
  8. A REQUIEM FOR ARMENIANS—A SEQUEL - MUSTAFA AKYOL

I.THE NEWS

  1. MUSHARRAF IN THE DOCK?
  2. DODGING THE CENSOR
  3. FINDING FAZLULLAH
  4. LITTLE TO CELEBRATE - PART III ASIF EZDI
  5. SUCH IS DEMOCRACY - SYED UMAIR JAVED
  6. NO MIRACLES IN BHUTAN - SHAMSHAD AHMAD
  7. HARNESS THIS TALENT - MUHAMMAD YASIR KHAN
  8. WHO IS BEHIND THE HAZARA UNREST? - PART IMOSHARRAF ZAIDI
  9. LET THEM KNOW - TAYYAB SIDDIQUI

PAKISTAN OBSERVER

  1. FLEECING SCHOOL FEE SYSTEM
  2. THANK YOU CIA!
  3. MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF VAT'S IMPLICATIONS
  4. WAR ON TERROR, SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT
  5. FRIENDLY FIRE - KHALID SALEEM
  6. ELECTRICITY: FROM DEFICIENCY TO SURPLUS - RIZWAN GHANI
  7. NO ROADMAP TO ARREST VIOLENCE - ASIF HAROON RAJA
  8. INDIA, UNITED NATIONS & KASHMIR - DR GHULAM NABI FAI
  9. PAKISTAN HAS TO WORK, DESPITE ITS FAILINGS - MUSTAFA QADRI

THE INDEPENDENT

  1. LEAD-LADEN VEGETABLES
  2. SAARC ENVIRONMENT
  3. SORRY SIR, NO ENTRY..!
  4. A CASE FOR SAARCOSAI - ASIF ALI
  5. REVISE HIGHER EDUCATION FOR PRAGMATIC DEGREES - SAYEED AHMED
  6. DEADLINE APRIL 20 - HARADHAN GANGULY
  7. THE DESIGNER BABIES - SYLVIA MORTOZA
  8. DECLINE AND FALL OF POLITICAL EUROPE - MICHEL ROCARD
  9. IBBL'S RURAL DEVELOPMENT SCHEME: AN EVALUATION - PROF M SADEQ

THE AUSTRALIAN

  1. DEVOID OF COMMON SENSE
  2. SO THAT'S WHAT HE MEANT BY A GREAT MORAL CHALLENGE
  3. THE PUBLIC INTEREST SOLD SHORT
  4. RUDD'S DANGEROUS CLIMATE RETREAT
  5. PROPORTIONAL VOTE A DISASTER
  6. PERENNIAL GUILT TRIP DISTORTS EUROPEAN PERSPECTIVE
  7. ONE DAY OF THE YEAR ALSO IMPORTANT TO NON-ANGLO IMMIGRANTS

THE SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

  1. THE TRUTH AND THE TREASURER
  2. NEMESIS FOR THE EURO
  3. RUDD HAS QUIT THE BATTLE ON CLIMATE CHANGE
  4. STATE IN A SPIN OVER TRANSPORT CRITICS

THE GUARDIAN

  1. IN PRAISE OF … POLITICAL ACTIVISTS
  2. DEATH OF BLAIR PEACH: THE TRUTH AT LAST
  3. FIXING PUBLIC FINANCES: CALL OFF THE PHONEY WAR

DAILY EXPRESS

  1. WE HUMANS DON'T HAVE A MONOPOLY ON EMOTION - BY JAN ETHERINGTON
  2. INSULTING THE POPE IS AN UTTER DISGRACE - BY ANN WIDDECOMBE
  3. NHS SHOULD SPEND MONEY ON PATIENTS NOT DRUG ADDICTS - BY ROSS CLARK

THE GAZETTE

  1. ILL-CONSIDERED, PETTY ATTACK ON MCGILL
  2. GO, HABS, GO!

THE KOREA TIMES

  1. LANDMARK SEAWALL
  2. POST-CRISIS PATH
  3. ELITE COLLEGES SOFTEN ON ROTC BANS - BY DALE MCFEATTERS
  4. SPACE: AMERICA CONCEDES THE LEAD           - BY GWYNNE DYER
  5. MAVERICK RIDES INTO VALLEY OF NATIONAL DEBT - BY MARTIN SCHRAM
  6. ARIZONA GOES AFTER ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS - BY DALE MCFEATTERS
  7. DOWN MEMORY LANE - BY SEEMA SENGUPTA

THE JAPAN TIMES

  1. GREECE'S CRISIS, EUROPE'S TEST
  2. U.K. OVERDOSES ON CHANGE - BY DAVID HOWELL
  3. WHY CHINA HAS GOT IT RIGHT ON THE RENMINBI - BY BARRY EICHENGREEN
  4. ETHICS OF CITIZENSHIP TESTS - BY JAN-WERNER MUELLER

THE JAKARTA POST

  1. OFF THE RAILS
  2. ACFTA AND THE THREAT OF INTERNAL TRADE BARRIERS - PALMIRA PERMATA BACHTIAR
  3. LOOKING AT BOTH SIDES OF THE NATIONAL CINEMA - NOVA CHAIRI
  4. DEMOCRACY, COMPASSION FOR INDONESIA - JENNIE S. BEV

CHINA DAILY

  1. TARGET HOUSING BUBBLES
  2. THE VIRTUE OF HONEST LABOR
  3. RARE VISITORS FROM EUROPE
  4. DEATH TO THE DEATH SENTENCE - BY LIN WEI (CHINA DAILY)
  5. GIVE NGOS A CHANCE TO REBUILD QINGHAI - BY BRANDON B. BLACKBURN-DWYER (CHINA DAILY)
  6. CAN ASIANS THINK? THEY'VE STARTED TO - BY ANDREW SHENG (CHINA DAILY)

DAILY MIRROR

  1. EGOS OF MINISTERS EGOS OF MINISTERS
  2. WHY IS INDIA SCARED OF PRABHAKARAN'S MOTHER ?     
  3. REHABILITATION OF PRISONERS - BY Mr. A.K. de Silva
  4. THE EMERGING WORLD: INNOVATION IN MARKETS – BY ADRIAN WOOLDRIDGE

THE MOSCOW TIMES

  1. BUREAUCRATS ARE MORE HARMFUL THAN VOLCANOES - BY YULIA LATYNINA
  2. A NEW CHANCE TO BUILD KYRGYZ DEMOCRACY - BY ANDERS ASLUND
  3. A CLOUD OVER AIRPLANE SAFETY - BY PETER SINGER

THE HIMALAYAN

  1. LOSING NERVES
  2. LOGICAL CONCLUSION OF PEACE PROCESS IS POWER OR PEACE THE ULTIMATE END?  - PROF. BIRENDRA P. MISHRA
  3. FAILING AND FALLING - RISAV KARNA 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

A PYRRHIC VICTORY

CONGRESS CUTS DEAL TO DEFEAT CUT MOTION


With the BSP deciding to back the Congress-led UPA in the Lok Sabha and the RJD and SP abstaining from voting, the fate of the cut motion against certain provisions in the General Budget was a foregone conclusion. The Government has survived its first major legislative test since being re-elected in May 2009 (although it's a Pyrrhic victory secured by adopting cynical means) and the Opposition — particularly the BJP-led NDA and the Left — will have the satisfaction of having forced the Congress to shop for ad hoc friends, and having highlighted the grave price situation in the country. Indeed, more than the success or failure of the cut motion, it is crucial that Parliament takes stock of galloping inflation, particularly food inflation. Thus far, complacent about the political landscape, the UPA has been downright cavalier in its treatment of price concerns. For all the Prime Minister's well-meaning words — on revitalising agriculture, for instance, to boost food production and rectify the inflationary pressure on food prices — there has been very little concrete action. Any responsible Opposition needs to focus on these shortcomings and thus seek to influence the policy debate. If the larger discussion on the cut motion, in Parliament and beyond, succeeds in achieving that, it will serve the country well.

The broader political environment around the cut motion also needs to be considered. It is a fair argument that the cut motion would not have been moved, or even thought of, if the drama over the Women's Reservation Bill had not taken place. The one lasting legacy of the Budget session of Parliament is the stripping away of the UPA's cushion and the reduction of its everyday majority to barely five seats. The RJD and SP have broken away from it on the women's reservation issue and while they did not vote to bring down the Government immediately are clearly seeking alternatives. The NCP has been bruised by the Congress in recent weeks and will be waiting for opportunities to embarrass Big Brother. The Trinamool Congress is a testy ally and the DMK a law unto itself. How their equations with the Congress will be after the West Bengal and Tamil Nadu Assembly elections a year from now is impossible to predict. In sum, the UPA Government has entered the proverbial corridor of uncertainty less than 12 months after it secured power for a second term. The measure of hypocrisy and expediency it will now have to settle for is apparent in its shotgun wedding with the BSP. It has agreed to go slow on corruption cases against Ms Mayawati in exchange for the BSP leader's backing. Yet, in Uttar Pradesh the Congress and BSP are at each other's throats and gearing up for a direct contest in the 2012 Assembly election. In Lucknow, the Congress accuses the BSP of corruption; in New Delhi, the Manmohan Singh Government uses the CBI to get Ms Mayawati off the hook and close cases against her!


Looking beyond the cut motion, it is apparent that such short-term deal-making is unsustainable and cannot possibly take the Government all the way to May 2014. A mid-term election appears inevitable and it is likely the Congress will call it sooner rather than later, given its belief that the Opposition is still electorally weak. Indeed, the feeling is inescapable that India could witness a mid-term general election in 2011 or at best early-2012.

 


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BENEVOLENT APPROACH

BUT BEIJING NEEDS TO BE WARY OF JIHADIS


In what can be described as a new approach by Beijing to deal with the restive situation in China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region that has witnessed severe ethnic tension since July last year, the powerful Communist Party chief of the province has been replaced. It will be recalled that the region had seen ethnic riots break out between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese that left 197 dead. Although the riots were a direct consequence of what had happened in a factory in south China wherein two Uighur workers had been allegedly killed by their Han Chinese co-workers, it cannot be denied that they were also a manifestation of the underlying tension between the two communities. Xinjiang has witnessed significant migration of Han Chinese to its enclaves, especially as workers to its vast oil and mineral fields. Nonetheless, benefits from initiatives undertaken in the resource-rich region have largely left the local Uighurs untouched. And it is this fact that is at the heart of the strife between the two communities. Also, the fact that Xinjiang has had an autocratic provincial Communist Party secretary since 1994 in the form of Wang Lequan has not helped matters. Mr Wang was responsible for implementing some tough measures such as switching over to Chinese as the medium of instruction in primary schools, a ban on public servants keeping beards and wearing headscarves and observing Ramadan, etc. He was also responsible for a massive crackdown on Uighur separatists seeking independence for the region in 1997. But after last year's riots, Mr Wang's public standing plummeted with both Uighurs and Han Chinese complaining about his utter mismanagement of the situation. Hence, it would appear that the party bosses in Beijing have decided to replace Mr Wang with someone with a softer touch to administer Xinjiang — Mr Zhang Chunxian, the former party secretary of Hunan province, will be taking over the reins next month.

Though Beijing's new flexibility in addressing the root causes of the ethnic strife in Xinjiang is welcome, it must be borne in mind that the region is also susceptible to Islamist extremism. Muslim Uighur separatists have been linked to Al Qaeda and it affiliates more than once and, thus, it would best for the Chinese Government to ensure that the region does not become a safe haven for jihadis from Pakistan and Afghanistan next door. It would be disastrous if Islamists start exploiting Beijing's benevolent approach to make inroads into the volatile province. This apart, the Chinese Government would do well to bring about equal distribution of wealth and resources among Uighurs and Han Chinese in Xinjiang. Unless this is achieved, tensions will continue. Perhaps there is a lesson here for Beijing in terms of dealing with its minority communities.

 

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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

ONUS IS ON PAKISTAN

ASHOK K MEHTA


Nobel Peace Prize winner US President Barack 'No-Bomb' Obama has taken several initiatives in nuclear diplomacy. Earlier this month, he hosted the first ever Nuclear Security Summit — which some call nuclear theatrics — to ensure that no nuclear device or nuclear material falls into terrorist hands and that all fissile material is secured within four years. Without naming Pakistan, during his presentation at the summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighted the threat of terrorist groups accessing weapons of mass destruction. It is around this incubator of nuclear terrorism that intentions and resources of non-state and state actors intersect.


While Mr Obama considers Pakistan's nuclear arsenal as secure and sees "no nuclear crisis anywhere in South Asia", US experts are not so sure. Presidential adviser Bruce Reidel cites the nightmare scenario of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba acquiring a nuclear device —no guesses who the No 1 target is. Mr Bob Graham, head of US Commission on WMD, Proliferation and Terrorism, testifying before a congressional hearing last week, said that Pakistan may slip over nuclear weapons to the Taliban for use against India in the event of escalated tension between the two countries. British counter-terrorism expert Shaun Gregory has said that Pakistan's nuclear complex has been attacked thrice between 2008 and 2009.


The US has spent $ 100 million in augmenting the security of Pakistan's nuclear capability and, despite denials, has contingency plans for responding to 15 crisis scenarios by its Northern Command, including the employment of the Conventional Prompt Global Strike Weapon capable of pinpointing its target within 60 minutes. Located next door to the terrorist launch site, one hopes that India, the most likely victim of a nuclear attack, has suitable contingency plans in its Strategic Nuclear Command. To start with, how does New Delhi deter a terrorist group, ostensibly a non-state actor, from doing what it has vowed to do — annihilate India using the ultimate terrorist weapon? Fundamentally, a non-state actor is existentially non-deterable.


After 26/11 and other cross-border misadventures, Pakistan has lost the fig-leaf of deniability vis-à-vis state linkages with terrorist groups it calls strategic assets. India and other potential victim states of nuclear terrorism must hold the state responsible for the actions of its non-state groups. Obtaining a UN convention or resolution on culpability of states harbouring terrorist groups will be as difficult as securing an acceptable definition of terrorism. Saner and responsible states must keep trying to find links between terrorist groups and the host state, and create conditions of traditional deterrence.


Since 26/11, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has been periodically stating that another major terrorist attack will invite a swift and decisive response (provided it is categorically established that it was launched from Pakistan is unstated). Another Kasab may not fall into the bag. Ultimately, it is Pakistan that has to be deterred through a clear declaratory policy outlining the consequences of actions by a non-state actor.

The Nuclear Security Summit was another opportunity for India to prove its bona fides as a responsible state with nuclear weapons outside the Non-Proliferation Treaty but yet following the rules of the non-proliferation regime. While Mr Singh announced the establishment of a global centre for nuclear energy partnership in New Delhi, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that his country would set up a centre for nuclear security. Not to be left behind, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani offered to host an international fuel cycle service facility in Pakistan. A Pentagon study is examining the universalisation of 'No First Use' and a world without nuclear weapons.

In one of the 'Global Zero' models, delegitimisation of nuclear weapons and getting the US and Russia to reduce their weapon stocks to 1,000 each, and implementation of NFU are seen as pre-conditions for arriving at a start point aiming for 'Nuclear Zero'. At some stage, all states with nuclear weapons will be required to reduce their stocks to 100 bombs each. The alternative to numbers, the megatonnage of weapons, is also being considered, but numbers are likely to trump yields.


The 'Nuclear Zero' concept is not a bolt from the blue. Its illustrious pathfinders include Rajiv Gandhi who had put forward an ambitious action plan in 1988 for nuclear disarmament by 2010. Its more recent votaries are the 'Gang of Four': Former US Secretaries of State George Schultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defence Secretary William Perry and former Senator Sam Nunn, and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with his five-point action plan. Just as chemical weapons were delegitimised, it is theoretically possible for nuclear weapons to be declared taboo.


The Australia-Japan sponsored International Commission on Disarmament has recommended that the US and Russia's stock of 23,000 nuclear weapons be scaled down to 2000 by 2025. It suggests that all nuclear weapon states declare NFU and reduce their weapon stocks proportionately when the US and Russia reach 1,000 each. As for the three elephants — India, Pakistan and Israel — outside the nuclear tent, it recommends that they be made to join the NPT but not as nuclear weapon states. As India will never get to enter the nuclear club as a nuclear weapon state, it must join the party bypassing the NPT but conforming to its non-proliferation regime.


India still has some time to review its position on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty till the US and China ratify it. Revisiting its nuclear policy of credible minimum deterrence in light of the threat of nuclear terrorism is urgently required. Iran held its own parallel summit with a catchy title: 'Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None'. The next Nuclear Security Summit is to be held in South Korea in 2012. States are required to comply by an action plan that will make the world safer against a terrorist nuclear attack. Al Qaeda for a long time and Lashkar more recently are seeking nuclear weapons for use against the US, Israel and India. The threat of loose nukes or dirty bombs must be taken seriously by New Delhi, especially after Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed's latest jihad over river waters.


Since the attack on Parliament House in 2001 and despite several pledges by Pakistani leaders that their soil will not be used for terrorist attacks on India, Mumbai happened. New Delhi has failed to get Islamabad to rein in the jihadis. The challenge for India is to thwart the ultimate preventable catastrophe by holding Pakistan responsible for any nuclear misadventure by so-called non-state actors.


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THE PIONEER

EDITORIAL

BEAUTIES HAVE BRAINS TOO

TRINA JOSHI


This refers to the article, "The towers of Ilium" by Sandhya Jain (April 27). The duel between former IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and Mr Shashi Tharoor that has exposed sleaze is rightly being associated with Ms Sunanda Pushkar, but mostly for all wrong reasons. And to project her as an argument in favour of not introducing the much-awaited Women's Reservation Bill takes the cake.


The point that seems to have fallen out of the writer's sight is that Ms Pushkar's fiancé — the former Minster of State for External Affairs — has not been dropped from the Government for knowing her, but for exceeding the bounds of probity. Mr Tharoor's personal life is no one's business. He may marry numerous times or with a person of any nationality. The reason Mr Tharoor is in the dock today is that he misused his public profile to favour Ms Pushkar.


The case in point is that a public figure's personal life does not become a matter of public interest unless he fails to maintain probity expected from a public servant. Mr Tharoor's relationship with a businesswoman is not objectionable. She may become his third wife by all means. But the fact that he used his influence that was intended to benefit his fiancée is prima facie a case of corruption. Had Ms Pushkar earned stakes in Rendezvous Sports World Consortium worth Rs 70 crore by the dint of her business skills despite being a Minister's friend, Mr Tharoor would have remained unscathed.


Further, to use Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav's argument against Women's Reservation Bill to pillory Mr Tharoor is absolutely meaningless. People against quota for women contend that their right to contest a particular seat is being violated. But it is no one's case that the Bill should not be passed as the women who enter Parliament through reservation may be those who get "whistled at". This argument only smacks of misogyny and lacks sensibility for two reasons: First, voters will not vote for somebody who is "locally rootless". Second, to say that women should not be given a chance because they get "whistled at" amounts to scoffing at the whole idea of women's liberation. Beauty and brain are not mutually exclusive.


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THE PIONEER

OPED

ROADS HAVE A STRATEGIC PURPOSE

THE FORMATION OF A NEW NATIONAL TRANSPORT DEVELOPMENT POLICY COMMITTEE WAS A LONG OVERDUE STEP. BUT UNFORTUNATELY IT IS LIMITED IN ITS STRATEGIC VISION AND LEAVES SECURITY AND GEO-SECURITY CONCERNS OUTSIDE ITS AMBIT. THE GOVERNMENT MUST GET RID OF THE PERCEPTION THAT TRANSPORT POLICY IS MERELY AN INSTRUMENT FOR FURTHERING ECONOMIC GROWTH AND NOT CRUCIAL FOR ENHANCING NATIONAL SECURITY CAPABILITIES, WRITES PRASHANT KUMAR SINGH

The recent announcement about the formation of a National Transport Development Policy Committee contains a curious paradox. While the shift towards a unified policy-making cutting across sectors — along with Planning Commission's metamorphosing role as a policy-making body — signify a gradual break from the shackled mindset of the past, the terms of reference and composition of the committee perpetuate a culture of policy-making devoid of strategic approach.


It is inexplicable that such a policy development committee, which will lay down a roadmap for guiding, shaping and managing policy-making in transportation sector for next two decades, can afford to leave the national security and geo-security concerns outside its ambit. This apathy is reflected in its omission of the Secretaries of Defence and Home Ministries or other internal security and defence experts. This lack of appreciation regarding strategic import of the national transport policy stems from Government's perception of transport policy only as an instrument for furthering economic growth and not for enhancing national security capabilities.

The lack of a strategic approach towards developing and maintaining an efficient, reliable and resilient transport network has cost us dear in the past and continues to do so even today. Consider the fact that the non-availability of proper roads in NEFA resulted in a logistical nightmare for Indian troops and contributed greatly to an ignominious defeat at the hands of Chinese in 1962; or more recently, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks demonstrated our inability to rapidly deploy an anti-terrorist force to major urban areas. Yet it's only 45 years after the Chinese debacle that we have started building roads and activating old airstrips in far flung regions. But we haven't seen any structural transportation solution for reducing response time in deployment of counter-terror forces across urban areas.


Likewise, a well-intentioned scheme like the Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana has created a fresh network of roads in the border areas of Rajasthan and Punjab without factoring in the strategic implications of these projects and unhinged the operational plans of the armed forces. In fact, throughout history, from laying of roads by the Roman Empire to digging of canals for trade and building of railway lines by the British to connect cantonments, there has been an acknowledgement of dual usage of transport network. Unfortunately, Indian policy-makers are yet to acknowledge the dual usage of transport infrastructure linked to the growing interdependency of national security capability and economic growth.

However, the formation of a new NTDPC —two decades after the last one — is an opportunity for guiding the policy development and subsequent implementation with a strategic approach. As a starting point, the composition of the committee needs to be broadened by including the representatives of all agencies involved in national security — external as well as internal — mainly the armed forces, the paramilitary and the State police.

The changing nature of modern warfare — asymmetric and urban centric — necessitates extensive usage of airports, waterways, roadways and railways by security agencies to practice drills and operate during actual emergencies. Even now, the implementation of the operational and logistical plans of military and paramilitary leads to tremendous surge in road and rail traffic and disrupts commercial and civilian traffic flow. Due to the huge deficit, existing transport infrastructure across the country is inadequate for exclusive military usage in the peripheral areas and for trade in the mainland area. Moreover, the usage requirement of any transportation network by security forces will grow in tandem with the increasing usage of that particular transport network for trade and commerce. Conversely, any transport network although primarily designed for meeting the operational requirement of security forces will increasingly be used by civilian population for trade, tourism and commerce, as seen in Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh and other border areas. These progressive requirements need to be factored in by the committee prior to framing policies for capacity augmentation of existing networks or planning alternative modes and routes.


A less understood and recognised concept by Indian policy-makers is the direct utility of roads in conferring an advantage to security forces vis-à-vis the insurgents in counter-insurgency operations, as observed by COIN experts all over the world. Counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen has pointed out from his experience in Afghanistan that these advantages are manifold: Obvious secondary economic activities for the local populace; friendly forces can cover more ground on paved all weather roads, thereby, enabling fewer troops to cover a larger area, or to cover the same area more densely, so that a smaller force can secure a larger population base; denser road network allows convoys to move via multiple routes and thus makes them less predictable and harder to ambush, among others. The recent Dantewada incident has again highlighted the Naxal threat as the biggest challenge to the Indian internal security. Therefore it will be imperative for the transportation development policy-makers to take inputs from State police forces and paramilitary forces like the CRPF, which are actively engaged in fighting the Maoists, so that such a policy can be effective as a part of a broader coherent political-military strategy.


Finally, Indian ability to build and operate roads in Afghanistan has been an important diplomatic tool in increasing our strategic footprint and there is every reason for our national transportation development policy to think beyond our domestic concerns. For instance, by trying to scale up capacity for construction of roads beyond our borders, India can utilise this capacity for constructing roads in Myanmar instead of providing monetary assistance to the Myanmar Government for construction; a direct construction project under Indian management can accelerate road building efforts in Burmese territory to gain access to the ASEAN market, especially after signing of the free trade agreement in goods with ASEAN from January 1, by providing connectivity to the pan Asian highway.


At this stage in India's nationhood, the raison d'être of a national transport development policy committee should be to introduce changes which are bold in scale and scope as well as pragmatic, in order to enhance national well-being and power. The Government needs to exuviate timidity and hesitancy from its transportation policy development by acknowledging the primacy of its national interests. A self-imposed inhibited vision in policy development will forestall such a policy from realising its true strategic potential and, ultimately, defeat its very purpose.

 

 The writer is logistics and infrastructure specialist and comments on strategic affairs and development issues.


THE PIONEER

OPED

MOLE IN OUR MISSION

MADHURI GUPTA, ARRESTED FOR SPYING IN THE INDIAN MISSION IN ISLAMABAD, COULD HAVE PLANTED TRANSMITTING DEVICES AND TAPPED TELEPHONES, WRITES B RAMAN

Madhuri Gupta, Second Secretary in the Press and Information wing of the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, has been arrested on the charge of working for a foreign intelligence agency. She was called to New Delhi ostensibly on consultation duty in connection with the SAARC summit opening in Thimpu on April 29 and taken into custody after her arrival.


Apparently, she was not aware that she was under suspicion. If she was, she might not have come to New Delhi. Instead, she might have fled to some other country to escape arrest and interrogation as Major Rabinder Singh, an alleged mole of the Research & Analysis Wing, did in 2004.

 

It has been reported that Home Secretary GK Pillai, has confirmed her arrest. He has not given any other details. There are two possibilities — she was either working for Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence or for the intelligence agency of a Western country through its intelligence officer working under the cover of a diplomat in Pakistan. I would not rule out the second possibility. Western intelligence agencies, particularly the Central Intelligence Agency, had in the past tried to recruit Indian diplomats posted in Indian missions abroad through blackmail or offer of money or offer of resident status in their country. Gupta is reported to be an unmarried woman in her 40s.


The ISI normally uses money or blackmail for recruiting Indian diplomats posted in Pakistan. In the 1980s, when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, the ISI had allegedly recruited a senior Indian armed forces attaché by trapping him with the help of an attractive woman in Karachi and then blackmailing him with her help. He was called back to India under some pretext and removed from the armed forces. He was not prosecuted.

If the allegations against her are correct, Gupta might have been recruited by the agency which was using her either as an information agent or as a service agent. An information agent consciously supplies intelligence to which he or she has access. A service agent facilitates an intelligence operation of the recruiting agency in various ways.


As a Second Secretary in the Press and Information wing, Gupta might not have had much access to sensitive intelligence. But, as she was working in the High Commission, she would have had access to various offices in the Indian High Commission for performing furtive tasks such as planting bugs in the offices of the High Commissioner and other diplomats, attaching transmitting devices for passing on the telephone conversations of the High Commissioner and others to the officer who recruited her, etc.


If she had been working as a service agent, she would have caused immeasurable damage by enabling the agency that recruited her to collect electronically a lot of sensitive intelligence. It would never be possible to quantify and assess the extent of damage caused by her. She herself would not know since she would be unaware what kind of intelligence had been going on to her controlling officer through the gadgets which she had planted in the Indian High Commission on his direction.


In the 1970s, a British woman was recruited by the Indian Embassy in Paris to work as a telephone operator. She had helped the MI-6, the British intelligence service, in clandestinely recording the telephone conversations of all Indian diplomats posted in Paris. She had caused considerable damage before she was detected and sacked.

The writer, a former senior official with R&AW, is a noted security expert.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

THE OPPOSITION SEEMS TO BE CUTTING ITSELF TO PIECES

 

THE pitfalls of having deals on the side, that take the sting out of a political challenge to the establishment on an issue of public importance, cannot be overstated. The Opposition's dare to the government, on bringing cut motions on fuel and fertiliser price hikes, has had an unfortunate outcome in that it has shown up the division in their ranks. The case of the Bahujan Samaj Party ( BSP) would perhaps rate as the most galling for some Opposition members.

 

Strictly speaking, the BSP cannot be regarded as an Opposition party as it supports the United Progressive Alliance from the outside.

 

But, the battle for political space in Uttar Pradesh gives that a lie. It's in this context that BSP supremo Mayawati's decision to back the government in the event of the Opposition- sponsored cut motions appears confusing.

 

To say that voting against the UPA would amount to backing communal forces is a specious argument. Ambiguous positions have also been adopted by the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal. It is difficult to see that these have any purpose other than bailing out the government.

 

Politicians should not use the platform that an election gives to parties to pursue personal agendas. It can be frustrating when individual considerations override the larger cause. In this case, a united opposition could have forcefully highlighted the price rise issue. That opportunity has been lost, again. It cannot be said loudly enough that a cynical disregard for ethical politics for the sake of survival at all cost — even though none of the Opposition parties had threatened to bring down the government over the cut motions— can only heighten the sense of disenchantment with the political class.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

CENTRE- STATE COOPERATION

 

THE Rammohan report on the Dantewada massacre of the Central Reserve Police Force personnel is said to have stated that the ' lack of coordination between the CRPF and the Chhatisgarh police' was the primary reason for the tragedy. Heads are bound to roll but the buck shouldn't stop there. Their failure is only reflective of the lack of coordination between the Central and the state governments, and an absence of strategic thinking on the part of both.

 

Paramilitary forces, according to the Home Minister, have been sent to assist the state in anti- naxal operations to regain control of the area. On that fateful day, 81 CRPF personnel were assisting one Chhatisgarh Police constable to clear the area. So much for centrestate coordination. Actually, the very deployment of the CRPF is a case in point.

 

Far from being a professional counter- insurgency insurgency force, CRPF is a crowd and riot- control force. Its personnel lack the training and mental preparation for countering the naxals.

 

The main reason for the deployment of the CRPF is that it doesn't disturb the delicate balance of centre- state relations.

 

The priorities therefore are political not strategic. If the naxals are to be tackled effectively, then both the Centre and the state government need to think strategically. Then they can, perhaps, learn to cooperate better on the ground.

 

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MAIL TODAY

COMMENT

NURTURE BRAND IPL

 

FOR all the problems that Indian cricket has been facing off the field in the last month or so, it is more than evident that the Indian Premier League has become one of the sport's success stories. Its estimated brand value is pegged at $ 4 billion and the final between Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians was one of the most watched television events of the year. For sheer entertainment very few " shows" can beat the IPL. Admittedly, some of the best- run sporting leagues in the world – the NBA and NFL in the US, the English Premier League or the Serie A in Italy – have had their share of financial crises and personality- driven controversies.

 

Yet, they have sustained their respective leadership by the quality of the game they have managed to display to their audiences as well as to the rest of the world.

 

So, while the BCCI grapples with one of its worst crises ever, it must also realise that to sustain a positive image of the IPL itself is the administrators' biggest ever challenge.

 

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

IN SPYING ON POLITICIANS WE'RE AS BAD AS THE ISI

BY MANOJ JOSHI

 

ON MONDAY, the National Technical Research Organisation celebrated its seventh birthday. I was not at the party, but I can guess that the atmosphere was not particularly celebratory. Suddenly an agency that should neither be seen nor heard, has become the centre of a scandal alleging that it had tapped the phones of four prominent politicians, including one from the ruling party.

 

There is something curious in the NTRO figuring in such a controversy. As is well known, the outfit is meant to gather strategic technical intelligence, so why was it involved in a tawdry wire- tap of politicians which is more up the Intelligence Bureau's alley? Or, in the way of spooks, are we being led down the wrong alley ? Though no one is saying it outright, fingers are pointing to M. K. Narayanan, the former National Security Adviser who was the supervisory authority over the NTRO and the IB in the period that the alleged malfeasance took place. Narayanan, a former IB officer has made great contributions to national security, but his real forte has been " political security", or gathering political intelligence for the party in power, in his case, the Congress.

 

Turf

Even so, it is worth asking why the NTRO and not the IB? The equipment in question and the taps were technologically trivial. Shohgi communications in NOIDA advertises its SCL- 5020 device capable of passive tapping of 16 two- way calls at a time. Such devices are now fairly routine with state police and central law enforcement bodies.

 

Is the NTRO being fingered to cut it down to size ? It is no secret that neither the IB, nor the R& AW really cottoned on to the idea of a dedicated high- tech agency from which they could task electronic intelligence. Indeed, in his years as NSA, Narayanan treated the agency as a step- child and it was only in the wake of the Mumbai attacks that its long- pending grants for high- tech equipment were cleared. What he did do was to place some top IB officers in the agency. One wonders whether these officers played a role in the impugned episode, if indeed the NTRO was actually involved.

 

The NTRO has been set up to deal with the larger challenge of technical intelligence which can range from what comes out of the internet to satellite imagery and missile tracking. While there is some overlap with what organisations like the IB, Aviation Research Center and the Defence Intelligence Agency do, the mandate was to set up an agency where expensive assets such as super- computers and high- end space- based sensors could be concentrated.

 

The average background of an NTRO staffer is technical and scientific and they are unfamiliar with the tactical world of intelligence which involves tapping individual phones. If someone has led them up the garden path, it is the duty of the government to find out what happened. It would be a travesty if the incident is used as a pretext to hobble the NTRO. The MHA has been planting all kinds of stories about how conversations could have been inadvertently recorded. This is not the way interception equipment works. In an area as large as two kilometers square at the heart of New Delhi, there are thousands of calls and SMSs floating around. A portable unit has a limited capacity to intercept conversations and its activities have to be focused on some pre- set telephone numbers.

 

The manner in which official agencies fight their turf battles can be ruthless and scary. There are three men in jail without trial for the last three years in the socalled socalled National Security Council Secretariat spying scandal. Some of the murky evidence suggests that they are there because they sought to create a computer network for sharing information on terrorism.

 

Afraid of losing its exclusive control on terrorism issues, the IB has railroaded the men.

 

Legacy

Telephone tapping in a democracy is always hazardous business, yet as we know it, it happens. Anyone, including the politicians whose phones were allegedly tapped believed that such things don't happen, is lying. At least three of the " victims" have held executive positions in the central and state governments and know that the police can and do tap phones.

 

This is especially true of Mr Advani the former Home Minister who, according to one former Intelligence chief, sought titbits of political information gleaned through taps every day.

 

Going by the legal position, only the Union Home Secretary and his counterparts in the states are authorised to order taps. The reality is somewhat different.

 

Taps take place all the time. Police officials simply lean on the telephone exchange personnel, and pay them off, to conduct what are technically illegal taps, intelligence officers simply do it without a byyour- leave, using equipment that leaves no traces in our digital age. So ubiquitous is the equipment, that a couple of private parties have also acquired it to dig dirt on their rivals.

 

There are three kinds of intercept activities.

 

The first is for fighting crime, espionage or terrorism. The second is linked to developing a picture of adversary military dispositions. The third, which is unique to India, is to keep the government of the day informed of the activities of the opposition and the key members of the government itself. You will recognise of course, the colonial legacy in this. In British times, the key function of the IB was to track the national movement. Telephone and telegraph taps and interception of letters formed an important part of their modus operandi.

 

Oversight

 

Unfortunately, 60 years or so after the British left, the IB hasn't quite gotten off this groove. For this, the current crop of political leaders is to blame. They are the people who should have shut down the political wing of the IB, but they have not because every government sees it as a crown jewel or talisman that enables it to ward off the Opposition or dissidents.

 

Sadly, on the matter of political use of the " agencies", there is only a difference of degrees between India and Pakistan; military leadership makes the ISI cruder than the IB or R& AW. Intelligence officers will vehemently deny any political intelligence gathering and insist that they work within legal red- lines and that phone intercepts are vital towards gathering evidence of terrorist crimes and warning of potential terrorist attacks. But other countries, too, face similar threats, yet they do not allow their intelligence services to impinge on the privacy of the ordinary individuals, leave alone politicians.

 

Tapping the phones of US nationals is prohibited in America. Permission only comes through a single judge Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. If he turns down the application, it goes before a review court. There are currently 11 such judges who are appointed by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. Despite this, the Bush administration went ahead and tapped phones of US nationals after Nine- Eleven.

 

More than legal processes, countries like the US ensure that there is bipartisan political supervision of the dangerous powers that intelligence agencies have.

 

India is the only democracy in the world that has no such supervision.

 

Technical intelligence gathered through taps and other means is a valuable and vital means of protecting our democracy.

 

But its unchecked use can and will undermine our liberties.

 

Effective political control and direction of the intelligence services is vital for a healthy relationship between the dark world of intelligence and the society at large. It's high time such controls were instituted in India as well.

 

manoj.joshi@mailtoday.in

 

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MAIL TODAY

     COLUMN

MUMBAI MATTERS

DEEPAK LOKHANDE

 

SENA- MNS FIGHT OVER STATE'S 50TH ANNIVERSARY

AS the 50th anniversary of Maharashtra state approaches ( May 1), the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirmaan Sena are engaged in a duel. Fortunately for Mumbaikars, it's not a violent one. Shiv Sena for once decided to shed blood for a good cause. Over 25000 blood bags were collected on April 25, in an attempt to create a new world record for blood collection in a day.

 

The brainchild of Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray, it truly tested the nerves of party activists. There were selfdoubts initially. All shakhas ( one each in Mumbai's 227 municipal wards) were assigned a specific target. They were to get willing donors, get them scrutinised before D- Day, and transport them to and from the blood collection venue. Sainiks, who are at ease with street politics, were a little uncomfortable with the thought of having to collect blood. A similar effort at the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation earlier last year had failed miserably as the party's own corporators did not and could not donate blood for various reasons.

 

This time, too, it looked as if the party would make a mockery of itself. Several shakha chiefs suddenly fell ill, wary of meeting the targets. But a determined top brass of Sena did not waver and, through its well- oiled Sthaniya Lokadhikar Samiti that has given jobs to many Marathi- speaking youth, achieved the target rather comfortably in the end. Some shakhas also lured donors with Rs 100 each to ensure that they got the numbers. But then, all is well that ends well.

 

A jubilant Sena then put up a poster in front of Sena Bhavan, its headquarters in Dadar, which is also close to its political archrival Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray's residence. It mocked at Raj, without naming him. " Some broke their blood relations, some united with blood" it said in Marathi. Clearly, the target was Raj, who broke his family ties to create his own party that eventually hurt the Sena in the Lok Sabha and assembly polls.

 

The party has also planned a musical extravaganza on April 30 where Lata Mangeshkar, who was made a Rajya Sabha MP at the behest of Sena chief Bal Thackeray, will sing after a 10- year hiatus.

 

MNS, on its part, has begun its hunt for the best Marathi food maker. Being held at Andheri Sports Complex, the competition is aimed at bringing to the fore various food delicacies of Maharashtra ( no, vada- pav is not the staple food of Marathis, it's a fast food invented in the 60s). The food fest began on Sunday and will continue till Friday.

 

The Mumbai Congress, headed by Kripashankar Singh, has so far planned muted celebration of 50 years of Maharashtra.

 

There will be a musical event at Worli's Jambori Grounds. The Congress's lack of enthusiasm can be attributed to the party's reservations over the bifurcation of the bilingual state. It took years of struggle before the Congress- ruled Centre accepted the proposal to carve out Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960. It is therefore not surprising that the Congress- led government in the state is not keen to celebrate the event either.

 

CM TURNS THE TABLES ON HIS FOES

BEFORE the state's budget legislature session began, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan was a beleaguered man. He was shaken by the Bachchan controversy and there were charges against him over the manner in which he gave away 102 acres of land in the heart of Pune when he was the Revenue Minister. The NCP ministers were enjoying themselves at his expense.

 

But by the end of the session, it was Chavan's turn to smile as senior NCP ministers were left to explain charges laid at their door.

 

BJP legislator Devendra Phadanvis produced a CD in the state assembly that showed horse trader Hasan Ali,

accused of stashing billions of dollars in Swiss accounts, being interrogated by the police.

 

Ali claimed in the CD that he had met Home Minister R R Patil, then CM Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sonia Gandhi's political advisor Ahmed Patel over the appointment of Hasan Gafoor as Mumbai's police commissioner. He also said that deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal had enjoyed his hospitality at Madh Island in Mumbai's suburbs.

 

It was a curious coincidence that all those named in the CD, are Chavan's political adversaries ( except for Ahmed Patel).

 

Patil ordered a CID inquiry that gave him a clean chit and Bhujbal vehemently denied the charges.

 

Towards the end of the session, BJP rocked the house alleging a Rs 500 crore scam in the sale of a central- Mumbai plot for a paltry Rs 15 crore. Again, the target was an NCP minister, Sunil Tatkare.

 

The NCP is not amused at all.

 

Expect some fireworks against Chavan in the coming days.

 

GADKARI'S TONGUE TOO LETS HIM DOWN

BJP president Nitin Gadkari has found out soon how lonely it is at the top.

 

While in Mumbai, he was asked if the rising mercury will affect the BJP's protest rally in Delhi and a boastful Gadkari had remarked that it was the crowds and not the mercury that would break records. Unfortunately for Gadkari, the mercury took its toll on him and it was the BJP chief who almost broke the stage.

 

Oops! Journalists were also chuckling when he mentioned how he was saving about a thousand bucks by getting his vegetables directly from Nagpur. So, they asked BJP activists at the media conference if the new programme of the party involved transporting one's own vegetables.

 

His choice of words while criticising opponents has been peculiar, too. In Mumbai, during his discourse on the price rise before the national channels, Gadkari said UPA's promises of checking inflation were ' foknad', a slang in Gadkari's Vidarbha for bluffing, and the local BJP leaders were seen hiding their faces.

 

' GHATI' ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A NO- NO

MURZBAN Shroff, writer of Breathless In Bombay must never have thought that the title of his collection of short stories, will return to haunt him, quite literally. With one case after another against his book, Shroff is running from court to court, leaving him terribly short of breath.

 

Shroff's book was published by St Martin's Press in the US in 2008 and has since earned rave reviews, besides being short- listed for the 2009 Commonwealth awards. It has also earned him a headache since a private complaint was filed by a local activist Vijay Mudras accusing Shroff of hurting his sentiments by the use of the word ' ghati' in the book.

 

Ghati literally means those from the Ghats.

 

While the word in itself is not derogatory ( Mudras claimed it is), it is the manner in which it is used that can be. For instance, migrants from Uttar Pradesh take offence if they are called bhaiyya , or those from Andhra get offended if they are called Madrasi ( those from Madras). Not all Maharashtrians are ghatis . But then, that's a different matter altogether.

 

Fortunately for Shroff, the police found no substance in the complaint and recommended the closure of the case. The local magistrate, however, ordered further investigations.

 

Shroff moved the high court which is now hearing the matter, and going by its observations so far in the case, there is hope for Shroff at the end of a dark tunnel.

 

There is also a case of obscenity, filed in Kodaikanal, over the same book and Shroff is convinced there is a pattern in the cases filed against him.

 

" Quite clearly, the motive is to harass me. The complainant has taken words out of context. There will be a hero and a villain in a film. Will you say that the villain represents the director or the writer?" asks an exasperated Shroff.

 

deepak. lokhande@ mailtoday. in

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

HEARING AID   

 

The government has flatly denied that telephone calls of politicians had been tapped, as alleged by a news magazine. Home minister P Chidambaram has said in Parliament that the government had not authorised any telephone tapping of political leaders. Both the prime minister and home minister have also brushed aside calls by opposition members to set up a joint parliamentary committee to probe the matter. The government's assurance does not however settle the issue, particularly on questions related to the privacy rights of citizens.


Intercepting electronic communication has been a staple of intelligence agencies since Word War I. In India, following the Kargil war, a government-appointed committee recommended a separate organisation specifically for signal intelligence. This led to the setting up of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which is at the centre of the current controversy for having allegedly taped conversations of several prominent politicians. The NTRO has the capability of intercepting cellphone and landline conversations as well as all forms of electronic transmission, including SMSs and chats. Most importantly, it has systems that can track conversations within a range of 2-3 km without even approaching telecom companies.


Obviously, this is a very powerful tool. Such recording devices are at the forefront of preventing and investigating terror attacks. But if used indiscriminately it raises serious issues of invasion of privacy, both for individuals and groups. What's worrying is that there are no legal provisions to regulate such acts. The Telegraph Act and the Information Technology Act don't have guidelines for interception and monitoring that don't go through service providers.


Clearly this is an issue that's not going to go away. In an age of global terrorism, electronic surveillance is going to play a major role in preventing terror acts. At the same time, there is a need to keep in mind every citizen's right to privacy. Most democracies have evolved rules to balance surveillance needs with democratic principles. India must do the same. One possible solution is to have an oversight mechanism for intelligence agencies and guidelines on when they can be allowed to tap conversations. There must also be a clear chain of command as to who can authorise such acts, which must be adhered to. This might require new legislation or amendments to existing laws. In addition, major political parties must come to a consensus on when such snooping is permissible. Otherwise we could well see new technology being used to spy on rivals and to settle scores.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 COMMENT

BOTTOM OF THE PYRAMID

 

The UID project has a new name: Aadhaar, which means support. The chairman of the project said the name was chosen because it could effectively communicate the scheme's "transformational potential and its promise to residents".


The scope of the UID project is immense. It seeks to give each Indian citizen a 16-digit unique number beginning February next year, which should help people access state-sponsored welfare schemes more easily. As for the government, the UID project could help to streamline its delivery systems. The challenge is to make sure that Aadhaar delivers on the promise. Welfare schemes in India flounder for many reasons. A major reason is that delivery systems fail to reach the intended beneficiaries. Needy citizens face difficulties in convincing state agencies that they ought to be the real beneficiaries. Middlemen compound the problem. So, ration cards are forged and signatures manipulated leading to massive corruption in welfare programmes as varied as the public distribution system and the national employment guarantee scheme.


Hopefully, Aadhaar will change all this. A foolproof identification system would ideally help both the government as well as the citizen. Welfare policies like direct cash transfer to the poor could be implemented if a UID number could be connected to a bank account. Such schemes have helped countries like Brazil to reduce the number of poor people substantially and quickly. However, India's experience in issuing identification documents even to niche groups has been far from satisfactory. Care must be taken to ensure that Aadhaar cards, unlike say PAN cards for income tax assessees, are easy to obtain and foolproof.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

 EDITORIAL

OPEN AND SHUT

JUG SURAIYA

 

A reader from Meerut, a teacher, has written in expressing her dismay at the arbitrary step taken by the local authorities to shut all schools - both private as well as state-run - for an unspecified period of time because of the heat wave that the area is currently experiencing, as are many other parts of the country. As the Meerut citizen points out, we live in a tropicalcountry: it shouldn't come as a surprise that it's going to get hot in summer. But does that mean that every summer, normal, everyday life - of which education is, or ought to be, an integral part - should be indefinitely suspended? As it is most schools in India shut for almost two months in summer.

 

If you factor in further ad hoc closures because of the weather, the effect on our educational system - already burdened with a myriad systemic problems - will be disastrous, as the teacher from Meerut says.

 

Painful to accept as it is, Meerut officialdom's peremptory order to shut schools shouldn't cause surprise: it is typical - or symptomatic, if you like - of the functioning of the sarkar at almost every level of the Indian state.

 

Libertarians often say that good governments are those which govern least. What this really means is that the government's job - in a democracy, at least - is to be a facilitator, or regulator, and do everything in its power to help citizens get on with their lives and pursuits with the minimum of sarkari obstruction or interference. In other words, a truly democratic government is one that is an enabler: one that imparts a can-do attitude to the polity. A government which - to paraphrase Barack Obama - says 'Yes, you can' to its citizens. Tragically, more often than not, our sarkari policies reflect an attitude that is the exact opposite of this: a negative, or can't-do approach in almost all its dealings with the public, with us.

 

A can't-do attitude is much easier to enforce than a can-do one. It is much easier to shut a school - temporarily or otherwise - than to ensure that there are basic amenities like electricity, to keep it open. It is much easier to make smoking in public places a can't-do, than to make access to at least primary healthcare a can-do for all citizens.

 

The IPL exposes have, among other issues, raised the question about the legalising of gambling, which would earn the government much-needed revenue, which right now accrues to local mafias. Barring a few exceptions - such as horse racing in some centres, and 'offshore' casinos in Goa - the sarkar has banned gambling. Gambling is one of the many can't-dos that the sarkar foists on us. Why? Because gambling is supposedly an un-Indian activity and injurious to our ancient culture. Which means that the Mahabharat - in which gambling plays a pivotal role - was probably authored by a prototype of Pakistan's ISI.

 

As 26/11 and the many terrorist attacks before and after have shown, our intelligence and security agencies can't enable citizens to be free of threat. Instead of saying 'Yes, we can and shall protect you', what do the sarkar's representatives say? The Delhi police have already announced that on the opening and closing days of the Commonwealth Games all the major markets in the capital will be shut for security - or rather, insecurity - reasons. Not, 'Yes, you can go out because we'll protect you', but 'No, you can't go out, because we can't protect you'.

 

The sarkar's simple solution to all problems - from heat to terror - is to shut down things, from schools to markets. To follow the can't-do line of least resistance, rather than to at least try to find a can-do solution. The only thing the powers that be have demonstrated that they can do, is to perpetuate themselves. That is the single can-do exception of an otherwise resolutely can't-do sarkar.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

IT'S COMMON WEALTH

 

The countdown has started. With a little under six months left for the Delhi Commonwealth Games (CWG), India's fight with the clock is on. And because of its practical and political value, Delhi 2010 has become a highly sought-after commodity, the long term impact of which hinges not only on what happens during the Games, but more appropriately on the legacy it will leave behind.


India is almost ready to offer the world's athletes a first-rate Games village alongside first-rate facilities for most sporting competitions. Barring the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, construction of which has also picked up pace in recent months and the S P Mukherjee swimming complex, most venues are set to stage the test events leading up to the Games. The two venues mentioned are also likely to be ready before the country faces the world's cameras come August 2010 when the final countdown will start.

 

More than venues or the Games village, it is our urban infrastructure and the issue of community integration that appear to be of paramount importance in the time remaining. With Sheila Dikshit and Jaipal Reddy giving assurances on the issue of infrastructure, the government has been given the benefit of doubt. But, on the issue of community integration, the verdict is out: Delhi has a lot to catch up on.


One of the questions posed by the public is: whose Games are these? Do they belong to the organising committee or the government of India? Or do they belong to the Indian people at large? If it's the latter, as should be the case, little has been done to give citizens the feeling that it is their event and that it is being organised to benefit them in the long run. Unless the effort to promote community integration is undertaken with immediate effect, the legacy of Delhi 2010, it can be surmised, can be mixed at best.


Studies around Delhi and the National Capital Region help demonstrate that the ordinary taxpayer, whose money is being used to fund the Games, is still in the dark about most things pertaining to the mega event. For him, it is an exercise in opulence with little or no benefit in the longer term. Most believe that the sports facilities being created will never be within the reach of the common man and the problems facing them on a daily basis will far outnumber the gains promised.


While Delhi residents haven't yet raised the slogan "We want bread not circuses" of Toronto citizens in the 1990s and one which derailed that city's Olympic bid in 1996, they are smarting under the impact of the entire city being dug up. Hence they seem opposed to the biggest event in India's sporting history. Unless the organising committee is successful in winning people's confidence, the emotional connect so necessary in ensuring a successful Games legacy will be extremely difficult to achieve.


The other key element is how a mega event of this nature can finally create a sports culture in India. Can CWG 2010 create a rallying cry of 'sport for all' in all parts of India or will sport continue to be a haven for the rich? The notion of sport for all was certainly part of the Delhi 2010 vision which states, "More than all, the legacy of the XIX Commonwealth Games 2010 Delhi will be to boost...sports culture as a part of the daily life of every Indian, particularly the youth." However, the ground reality is somewhat different. With the stakeholders under incessant pressure to ready infrastructure on time, the vision of sport for all has receded into the background.

This inability to promote sport among the nation's youth becomes extremely pertinent in light of the observations of leading sports historian Bruce Kidd. He affirms that "despite the widespread 'intuitive' expectation that inspiring performances stimulate new participation, there is no evidence that they automatically lead others in the general population to do so, let alone in ways that address the most difficult challenges of development". Research demonstrates, he argues, that unless those inspired enjoy full access to sustainable programmes with safe, adequate facilities and conducted by competent, ethical leadership, the take-up - and the resulting benefits from mega events is short-lived and ineffective.


These observations are extremely relevant when applied to the legacy of the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi. There's little doubt that Delhi was fundamentally transformed as a result of that event. But it can definitively be asserted that the legacy of the Asian Games remains negative when viewed in terms of nurturing an all-pervasive sports culture in India. This is a drawback that helps explain why India has won one solitary individual Olympic gold medal in all these decades.


Knowing full well that the tremendous effort and cost of staging a major sporting event need to go along with the realisation of a sustainable legacy for sport, Delhi needs to step up and set an example. Only if this is done can Delhi serve as a perfect model of what the CWG could achieve if the facilities constructed for it are properly harnessed for the city's development.


The writer is senior research fellow, University of Central Lancashire.

 

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THE TIMES OF INDIA

'DOMESTIC WORK IS NOT SEEN AS A REAL OCCUPATION'

 

Reiko Tsushima is senior specialist, gender equality and women workers' rights, International Labour Organisation, sub-regional for South Asia. She speaks to Meenakshi Sinha about the condition of domestic workers worldwide, especially India:


What is the current state of domestic workers (DWs) worldwide, especially India?

Domestic work absorbs a significant proportion of the total workforce that includes 4-10 per cent of the total employment in developing countries and 1-2.5 per cent in industrialised countries. Out of these, about 90 per cent of them are women. In India, there's growing prevalence of domestic work: it has grown by 222 per cent since 1999-2000. NSS Data (2004-05) states that there are 4.75 million DWs in India. Nearly 90 per cent of them are again, women. They account for more than 12 per cent of the women workers in urban India.


What are the main concerns of a domestic help today?

The greatest challenge is that domestic work is not seen as a 'real' occupation. DWs are not covered under any legislation. About 84 per cent workers in urban areas and 92 per cent in rural areas get wages much below the minimum wage. Only five states in India have notified minimum wages so far. DWs are unable to demand/negotiate decent wages, proper working conditions, weekly offs, time for rest, privacy etc.


The foremost task is to treat domestic work as 'real' work. Statistical details about them need to be compiled with greater accuracy. Society must be encouraged to recognise their importance and contribution to the economy. To this effect, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) is working closely with trade unions to establish their organisational strength and enhance their negotiation power. India's ministry of labour and employment, in collaboration with the Delhi government and ILO, has started a skill development initiative for DWs in Delhi. So far, 350 DWs have been trained in the level 1 training and around 5000 more would be trained soon.


What kind of collaboration does the ILO have with DWs?

ILO is partnering with large central trade unions to unionise DWs. A pilot project is underway and is showing good progress. In a recent national consultation organised by the ILO, participants from leading trade unions such as AITUC, INTUC, HMS, BMS and SEWA made draft recommendations, which will help formulate the final recommendations. These will be raised by the Indian delegation at the upcoming International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2010.


How important it is to have a legislation for DWs?

A legislation that addresses the rights of DWs is indispensable today. A draft Bill has been proposed by the NCW to regulate the conditions of domestic work. It highlights the needs for definition, working conditions and employee benefits, regulation for placement agencies to prevent exploitation, violence and sexual harassment cases. There's also a suggestion to include DWs in the existing labour legislations, such as Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, Workmen's Compensation Act, 1926, Inter State Migrant Workers Act, 1976, Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Equal Remuneration Act, 1976, Employees State Insurance Act, Employees Provident Fund Act, Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Legislations have been formulated for DWs across the world in countries like South Africa, Hong Kong, China, Spain etc. Apart from addressing gaps in legislations, the mindset of society needs to be changed.

 

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

TAKING A BOW-WOW

 

The world of humans, as many mutts already know, mirrors the one inhabited by dogs. In a week that marked the ferocious nature of a man-eat-man world, it's heartening to know that in Tamil Nadu, Hot Dog, a Labrador, became India's first canine blood donor. An initiative by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, the country's first blood bank for dogs brings good news for both the animals and their best friends, their owners, who till now had to run from kennel to post to get a matching blood group in emergencies. Come to think of it, Dharmendra, that handsome old dog with a thirst for canine blood, will no longer have to go chasing poor ol' strays to make good on his promise. On the same day, there was good news from the north of the Vindhyas, when the Chandigarh administration apologised for calling the city's slum children "slum dogs". India's canine leadership is yet to make a statement but we can bet our lead collar that it'd be happy. The demand for Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire to be renamed according to the novel it was based on, Vikas Swarup's Q&A, however, is yet to be resolved.

Across the water bowl in America, like the bipeds, dogs have a different kind of dog's life too. While in India, kuttas are moving up the canine development index, in New York, the smart set is getting ready to poodle their nights away at the Fetch Club, a 3,000-foot indoor canine club that is scheduled to open in June. Apart from spa baths, mud masks and facials, the funky dogs in the city that never naps will also have a doggie disco to shake all four of their legs in.

For $35 an hour, human owners in New York and for a lot less, their counterparts in India, can now jolly well feel good that a dog's life is, well, getting more and more bearable. It seems that no longer are dogs barking up the wrong tree.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

FEW FACTS OF THE MATTER

 

The facts are still up in the air regarding both the phone-tapping case and the Indian Premier League imbroglio. But the Opposition has been more than vocal in demanding a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe both issues. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has a point when he says that a JPC is 'serious business' and that it doesn't seem to be warranted in the present situation. There are no fixed criteria for constituting a JPC but, by and large, it has always been set up when public interest is affected or public functionaries are involved. The three significant JPCs that come to mind are those on Bofors, the 1992 stock market scam involving Harshad Mehta and the 2001 stock market scam involving Ketan Parekh. In the latter two instances, small and medium investors were badly hit, in the first taxpayers' money had to be accounted for. In all cases, including the JPC on contaminated groundwater usage by cola companies, the underlying issue was that of errors of governance.

The Opposition, in its haste to secure quick action — and get brownie points — is going about things all the wrong way. First, it is incumbent upon the Opposition to make out a convincing case for constituting a JPC. All we see is a total disruption of parliamentary proceedings. Second, the JPC involves an elaborate process both in setting it up and in going about its task. The results could take a few years by which time all these issues will be history and no one will really care about the outcome. The track record of previous JPCs has not been encouraging. In the Bofors case, nothing came of it. In both the stock scams, the governments of the day didn't seem interested in taking forward the findings or bringing the guilty to book. In many ways, the JPC is a brahmastra, to be unleashed when all other avenues of investigation fail. The manner in which it's being bandied about suggests that no sooner is it set up, we will have all the answers we're looking for.

To say that the IPL affects public interest is stretching things. People's love for the game and its undermining does not necessarily amount to shortchanging the public in any substantial or justiciable manner. The fact that ministers are under the scanner also raises the question of the impartiality of a JPC comprising elected representatives and ministers. The best way for the Opposition to go about building a case for a JPC would be for it to engage in debate in Parliament — instead of stalling proceedings — and painstakingly present the facts that will make it difficult for the government to prevaricate on the issue.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

TASTE OF THINGS TO COME

SUJATA KELKAR SHETTY

 

Food security is currently being much discussed in the context of the proposed National Food Security Bill. Food security is the consistent access to safe, sufficient and nutritious food so that the basic dietary needs are met to ensure an individual can lead a healthy life. Food activists justifiably argue that the proposed 25 kg rice per person per month is insufficient and that it be given only to families that fall below the poverty line (BPL) is inadequate.

Then there is the problem of legislation not being followed with efficient and cost-effective implementation. Our delivery systems need an overhaul. Each of these issues requires serious consideration. But there is a fundamental tenet of food security missing when it is defined simply in the context of availability of grain.

Adequate nutrition and adequate food are inextricably linked and considering food as a hunger-satiating agent doesn't make for an adequate definition. Food should be nutritious so that it promotes growth and development and maintains overall physical and mental health of people both young and old. In children, maximum development of cognitive, social, emotional and physical skills takes place during the first six years and a lack of sufficient nutrition can adversely affect the development of basic skills.

Insufficient nutrition is a combination of a macronutrient and a micronutrient deficit in the diet. Conceptually, the former refers to the total calories gleaned from carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the diet, while the latter refers to the essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, zinc, iodine and iron. Deficiencies in both can permanently stunt overall development of the subject.

Currently, our rates of vitamin A deficiency in under-5 children  are the worst in the world. Fifty-seven per cent of our children are deficient in vitamin A and our statistics for iron deficiency are 69 per cent. Thirty-three per cent of our children suffer from iodine deficiency. The consequences of these numbers are profound with 330,000 children dying every year due to vitamin A deficiency. The growth of 42 per cent of children in India is stunted because of zinc deficiency. And more than 6 million children are born mentally impaired because of iodine deficiency.

The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) is an international non-profit organisation that has been working on cost-effective programmes to alleviate micronutrient deficiencies around the world. It has initiated projects of both supplementation and fortification in various states in India. Through such a programme in 2007, 70 million doses of vitamin A were administered to children in 12 states by a partnership between Unicef and MI. Vita Shakti TM, a supplemental powder containing folic acid, iron and vitamin A, is currently being used in school-feeding programmes in West Bengal.

The MI has also developed nutri-candy, a lozenge that contains 50 per cent of a child's daily requirement of vitamin A, vitamin C and iron. The candy has been tested in a pilot study in certain districts of Haryana and West Bengal and the results showed more than 15 per cent reduction in anaemia and vitamin A deficiency with a simultaneous and substantial increase in school attendance in both states.

India Mirconutrient National Investment Plan for 2007-2011 (IMNIP) was developed by MI at the behest of the government to understand the financial and programmatic requirements of tackling micronutrient malnutrition on a large scale. The plan was prepared as a joint endeavour with various stakeholders including the government and the private sector. The plan took into account the infrastructure and government programmes that are already operational.

According to Imnip, tackling micronutrition requires an additional investment of just Rs 5.40 per capita per year by the Centre. But if we take no initiative, the cost to our GDP from micronutrient deficiencies will shoot up by 50 times at
Rs 284 per capita. So the maths and the science make obvious what needs to be done. Whether the government will follow up is the question.

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

CRACK THE DRESS CODE

NAYANJOT LAHIRI

 

Just when you think that things will get serious, suddenly they become absurd. On April 1, the Right to Education Act was implemented, making school education a fundamental right for all children aged between 6 and 14. But rather than the finer points of that landmark act being debated, what hogged public attention were contestations about convocation robes.

The debate was sparked when Minister for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh chose to publicly discard the maroon and gold gown he was wearing at a convocation of the Indian Institute of Forest Management in Bhopal. Describing it as an impractical colonial relic, he asked: "Why can't we have a convocation ceremony in simple clothes?" The print and electronic media had a field day, carrying the views of vice-chancellors, students, politicians and people from all walks of life on whether the ceremonial gown should be abandoned or not. Discarding everything colonial, as many pointed out, would mean the end of parliamentary democracy, the postal system and the use of the English language itself.

Others highlighted less sensible elements of our colonial legacy, such as the code 'VT' — short for 'Viceroy's Territory' — which continues to be used as the registration code for aircraft in India. Among vice-chancellors, Laxman Chaturvedi of Guru Ghasidas University, the new central university in Chhattisgarh, declared that the state's traditional dress would be worn during its first convocation. This, incidentally, is what the Institute of Rural Management (Irma) in Gujarat does. Students and administrators wear handloom kurta pyjamas and angavastrams. Even the footwear is Kolhapuri and all of this serves to symbolise the institute's ethos and culture.

Irma, in this regard, has chosen to evoke the ethos that has been evident at the Visva-Bharati University in West Bengal for a much longer time. Visva-Bharati was founded in British India by Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was not merely the first non-Westerner to be awarded a Nobel prize but he was also perhaps the first who used the proceeds from the Nobel prize money to found an institution of higher learning. At convocations at Visva-Bharati, neither the chancellor, who happens to be the Prime Minister of India, nor the vice-chancellor wears academic robes.

Will other universities discard this practice? It seems unlikely. And this is not because they haven't discarded colonial insignia. The first seal, for instance, of my employer, the University of Delhi, was marked by a splendid motto. 'Knowledge and Character' it said and, as an early university calendar explained, it intended to imply that: "No knowledge is worth the name which does not go to form character; the end of life is not knowledge but action."

However, the motto was written in Latin ('Scientia et Mores') and was marked by the Crown. So, after Independence, a proposal was mooted for a new university seal with another excellent motto. This time, it was transcribed in Sanskrit and the Devanagari script — 'Nishtha, Dhriti, Satyam', which translates as 'Loyalty, Courage, Truth'. This was mooted not by an Indian but by a Briton — Maurice Gwyer, vice-chancellor of Delhi University from 1938 to 1950.

But the reason why convocation robes are unlikely to be discarded has to do with the fact that, unlike the Latin lingo and the Crown insignia, they are not particularly alien to our practices. We Indians habitually 'dress up' for all manner of occasions, from festivals to weddings. I view with retrospective amusement my own wedding, which was a civil ceremony. While my husband wore a sober suit, the incongruity of decking up in an elaborate lehenga for a civil wedding did not bother me in the least.

Wearing academic robes at convocations, therefore, is simply another manifestation of this practice. It gels well with the norms that make 'fancy' dress so normal in India. In fact, if one goes by photographic testimony, we, at the University of Delhi, seem to enjoy our regalia much more than our predecessors in British India. All recent photographs show impeccably arranged mortarboards on the heads of the top rung of the university administration. In a 1930 photograph, however, both the vice-chancellor, Moti Sagar, and the pro-chancellor, Muhammad Habibullah, are wearing pagdis. Later too, Maurice Gwyer, as the traditional convocation photographs reveal, never covered his head with the stiff gold tasseled mortarboard. And, one suspects, in deference to him, nor did anyone else.

Academic clothes are also markers of university hierarchy. A hierarchy that reflects administrative power rather than academic merit and distinction. Faculty members who win academic prizes or become members of distinguished societies and academies do not form part of the convocation procession, but administrators do

And their clothes reflect their position.

So, at the University of Delhi, the deans of various faculties can easily be distinguished from the heads of department because their scarlet gowns are marked by gold lace. In much the same way, the chancellor's purple velvet gown features a four-inch gold lace, while the vice-chancellor must remain satisfied with a mere 'two inch' of gold lace on his gown!

Why should such markers of identity, of a caste system within academia, seem foreign to a people in whose lives so many other, and similar, markers of caste and difference can be observed?

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HINDUSTAN TIMES

DON'T GET SOFT ON ALIENS

 LEO HICKMAN

 

Has Stephen Hawking been rewatching his box set of the Alien movies? It would appear so, as his opinion of whether we should make contact with any alien life forms we discover in the future has suddenly hardened. According to a new documentary series he has made for the Discovery Channel: "If aliens visit us, the out- come would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

Hawking believes we would be well-advised to keep the volume down on our intergalactic chatter and do all we can to prevent any `nomadic' aliens moseying our way to take a look-see. Should they find us here tucked away in the inner reaches of the solar system, chances are they'd zap us all and pillage any resources they could get their hands on. Our own history, says Hawking, proves that first encounters very rarely begin: "Do take a seat. I'll pop the kettle on. Milk? Sugar?" "Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, look- ing to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach," says the theoretical physicist in Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. "To my mathematical brain, the num- bers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

 

Any alien who manages to reach Earth is, by definition, going to be far more advanced than us. Contrary to the claims of our own alien abductees, Hawking thinks it unlikely aliens will come all this way just to prod and poke us, take some samples, and pop back home.

 

It's all well and good Hawking warning us now, but couldn't he have told us to be more careful a few decades ago? After all, we've been pumping out our musings for all to see and hear since the very first radio telecommunications were broadcast a century ago.


Any alien with their antennae pointed in our direction would already have quite a good sense of our intellectual capabilities. All they need do is take their pick from any of our cultural offerings being broadcast into the ether.

I'm with Stephen Hawking on this one. Even if we were to show to them we can calculate pi to a billion decimal places, aliens are bound to be trigger-happy when they meet us for the first time.

And given our past form, who would blame them?

Has Stephen Hawking been rewatching his box set of the Alien movies? It would appear so, as his opinion of whether we should make contact with any alien life forms we discover in the future has suddenly hardened. According to a new documentary series he has made for the Discovery Channel: "If aliens visit us, the out- come would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn't turn out well for the Native Americans."

Hawking believes we would be well-advised to keep the volume down on our intergalactic chatter and do all we can to prevent any `nomadic' aliens moseying our way to take a look-see. Should they find us here tucked away in the inner reaches of the solar system, chances are they'd zap us all and pillage any resources they could get their hands on. Our own history, says Hawking, proves that first encounters very rarely begin: "Do take a seat. I'll pop the kettle on. Milk? Sugar?" "Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, look- ing to conquer and colonise whatever planets they can reach," says the theoretical physicist in Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking. "To my mathematical brain, the num- bers alone make thinking about aliens perfectly rational. The real challenge is to work out what aliens might actually be like."

Any alien who manages to reach Earth is, by definition, going to be far more advanced than us. Contrary to the claims of our own alien abductees, Hawking thinks it unlikely aliens will come all this way just to prod and poke us, take some samples, and pop back home.

It's all well and good Hawking warning us now, but couldn't he have told us to be more careful a few decades ago? After all, we've been pumping out our musings for all to see and hear since the very first radio telecommunications were broadcast a century ago.
Any alien with their antennae pointed in our direction would already have quite a good sense of our intellectual capabilities. All they need do is take their pick from any of our cultural offerings being broadcast into the ether.

I'm with Stephen Hawking on this one. Even if we were to show to them we can calculate pi to a billion decimal places, aliens are bound to be trigger-happy when they meet us for the first time.

And given our past form, who would blame them?

 

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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

ETERNAL HAVENS

 

Last April, the leaders of the G-20 met and declared that "the era of banking secrecy is over." The G-20 meets again in a few weeks; what's happened in the interim? On paper, it looks like a lot of movement: of 42 jurisdictions originally listed as offenders, only 17 remain, and those are mostly small islands in the Caribbean or the Pacific. Certified as healthy (by the OECD): Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland, even Luxembourg — thanks to a series of agreements they signed with various countries on how to exchange tax information.

 

India, as a member of the G-20, is also supposed to move against tax havens. Indeed, our domestic politics made of it, in the interim, something of an issue. The importance of cleaning up shadowy corners of the international financial system and of broadening the scope of regulation are two of the most crucial lessons from the financial crisis of 2008. But any progress has stayed largely on paper. For example, to get off the OECD's name-and-shame list a country has to sign 12 bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements or TIEAs. Indian diplomacy should have ensured that for serious offenders, one of those 12 should have been with India; but that hasn't panned out.

 

The finance ministry is working on rectifying that now. A panel has been looking at how to shoehorn anti-tax haven measures into the proposed Direct Tax Code. Part of that process: identifying the countries that don't share information with India, and "analysing the reasons" for that lack of sharing. Here is one reason: we haven't signed treaties with them. It's easy for a Caribbean island to sign 12 TIEAs and get off the OECD list, for example, with other smaller countries — which don't have any significant deposits in their banking system. While a domestic effort to finally get on board with the system defined last year is worthwhile, the real lesson the finance ministry must draw is that the system the G-20 suggested last year is too weak. The TIEAs must compulsorily include some with the world's largest economies, particularly from the global South, which are most prone to capital flight. And, rather than requiring the provision of information on evasion "on request", India must make a real push, diplomatically, for "automatic" exchanges of information. Anything less, and we're still in the era of banking secrecy.

 

 

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INDIAN EXPRESS

 

ON DIFFERENT PAGES

 

Once the BSP had gone public with its intent to support the UPA on a cut motion in Lok Sabha, it was always expected to be smooth sailing for the government. Besides promising to stack the numbers comfortably for the UPA, the BSP's support also did enough to unsettle the SP and the RJD's politics, and thereby further diminish the possibility of seeing the government hanging tight on the slimmest of margins. And with the UPA emerging from this rarely used intervention with its majority intact, the opposition must consider whether the cut motion was worth the temptation to test the government's numbers in Lok Sabha. However, with the legislative business of the Budget Session of Parliament being bundled into its closing days, it is the government that must court bigger questions about its floor management.

 

Vast tracts of this session have been lost to serial adjournments, especially the last couple of weeks to shrill opposition demands for a joint parliamentary committee, first on cricket and then on allegations of phone-taps of politicians. How has it come to pass so early in the 15th Lok Sabha that the opposition is reaching for such extreme measures as a matter of habit? And how is it that having emerged from the 2009 general election with the confidence of having regained its political centre of gravity, the UPA is already struggling with a legislative backlog? These two questions underline merit in that old rule of the thumb: a smart government will have its way, will allow the opposition to have its say. It is, therefore, crucial for the democratic dividend of Parliament that the UPA invest in better floor management.

 

Floor management entails getting the opposition on board for smoother transaction of legislative business. That is the treasury benches' priority. And given the ways in which the opposition — even those numerically weak — can obstruct proceedings, this is won by keeping the conversation on across the aisles. This is why governments

 

depute their most networked ministers for the parliamentary affairs portfolio; consider Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi in UPA-I. Unfortunately, UPA-II has given the appearance of not even having the Congress party and allies on the same page in Parliament. Mamata Banerjee has gotten away with threatening parliamentary boycotts as shadow-boxing between her Trinamool Congress and the ruling Left Front in West Bengal. The DMK's M.K. Alagiri, a senior minister at the Centre, has been AWOL enough to earn intervention by the speaker. Any wonder then that there has been little effort to bring to Lok Sabha the opposition-government consensus shown during the Rajya Sabha vote on the women's reservation bill?

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

ETERNAL HAVENS

 

Last April, the leaders of the G-20 met and declared that "the era of banking secrecy is over." The G-20 meets again in a few weeks; what's happened in the interim? On paper, it looks like a lot of movement: of 42 jurisdictions originally listed as offenders, only 17 remain, and those are mostly small islands in the Caribbean or the Pacific. Certified as healthy (by the OECD): Monaco, Singapore, Switzerland, even Luxembourg — thanks to a series of agreements they signed with various countries on how to exchange tax information.

 

India, as a member of the G-20, is also supposed to move against tax havens. Indeed, our domestic politics made of it, in the interim, something of an issue. The importance of cleaning up shadowy corners of the international financial system and of broadening the scope of regulation are two of the most crucial lessons from the financial crisis of 2008. But any progress has stayed largely on paper. For example, to get off the OECD's name-and-shame list a country has to sign 12 bilateral Tax Information Exchange Agreements or TIEAs. Indian diplomacy should have ensured that for serious offenders, one of those 12 should have been with India; but that hasn't panned out.

 

The finance ministry is working on rectifying that now. A panel has been looking at how to shoehorn anti-tax haven measures into the proposed Direct Tax Code. Part of that process: identifying the countries that don't share information with India, and "analysing the reasons" for that lack of sharing. Here is one reason: we haven't signed treaties with them. It's easy for a Caribbean island to sign 12 TIEAs and get off the OECD list, for example, with other smaller countries — which don't have any significant deposits in their banking system. While a domestic effort to finally get on board with the system defined last year is worthwhile, the real lesson the finance ministry must draw is that the system the G-20 suggested last year is too weak. The TIEAs must compulsorily include some with the world's largest economies, particularly from the global South, which are most prone to capital flight. And, rather than requiring the provision of information on evasion "on request", India must make a real push, diplomatically, for "automatic" exchanges of information. Anything less, and we're still in the era of banking secrecy.

 

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

TREATING WASTE WATER FOR REUSE

RANESH NAIR

 

Water availability per capita in India is reaching critical levels, and with a much faster pace of urbanisation expected in the coming decades, treatment of waste water for returning to rivers and reuse in industry assumes great importance. Navi Mumbai has shown the way. Today the population of Navi Mumbai stands at 1.2 million, and is expected to double by 2031. As sewage in the city is projected to touch 425 million litres per day (mld), there is urgent need for planning to meet the challenge of treating growing waste water. In responding to the challenge, the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) holds out an excellent example for other cities in India.

 

Navi Mumbai was conceived as a "counter-magnet city" by the government of Maharashtra in the late 1960s. Land was converted from agricultural to non-agricultural use and developed by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO) around the 39 villages which remained under the control of gram panchayats. In 1992, NMMC was established with an area of 108 sq km, including the five nodes developed by CIDCO and 29 out of the 39 villages.

 

The village lands which covered about 20 per cent of the area under the corporation were bereft of any civic amenities. Open defecation was the dominant practice. Sewerage lines were almost non-existent as the network covered only the nodal areas. There were only a few public toilets on village lands. Even in the developed nodes of Navi Mumbai, the old sewerage treatment plants were equipped only with pre-treatment facilities, as secondary treatment was not envisaged during the installation of these plants.

 

Partially treated as well as untreated sewage was typically released into Thane creek at a number of locations, mainly through storm water drains. This added to the enormous challenge posed by the industrial effluents, which also found their way into Thane creek, given the location of a large industrial belt in the area. As and when the sewage ended up in groundwater, it further contributed to the spread of diseases like gastroenteritis, hepatitis, asthma and allergy. All in all, it was a huge health hazard with bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxic chemicals playing havoc with the environment.

 

In the two-year period between 2006 and 2008, the NMMC completed three sewerage treatment plants (STPs) using the latest technology with biological treatment (sequencing batch reactor-based C-Tech technology) for treating waste water, using Rs 200 crore out of its own revenue surpluses. Two of the plants with a capacity of 100 mld each are located at Vashi and Nerul while the third is at Airoli (80 mld). The quality of the treated water from these STPs is better than the norms prescribed by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board. The Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee conducted a performance evaluation of the STP at Nerul in 2008 and concluded that this plant is producing treated water which not only completely meets the Indian standards, but almost fulfils US EPA & California water recycling requirements for non-potable reuse standards.

 

The state-of-the-art technology used for sewage water treatment provides high treatment efficiency in a process that takes place in a single basin within which all biological treatment steps take place sequentially. It uses 50 per cent less land and consumes 50 per cent less power than conventional technologies. The use of complete computer controls and automation through SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) ensures that the sensors read precisely the level of impurities in the water and trigger the system to provide the right amount of oxygen for treatment, an additional advantage being that the system does not require constant operator attention.

 

The operation and maintenance of the three STPs has been outsourced to three different private companies for a period of three years, at a cost of around 1 per cent of the total project cost annually, and covered as part of the main contract. The operation and maintenance cost of Rs 1.5 per cubic metre is much lower than the amount that would be received by selling the treated sewage water. This provides an avenue for generating revenue for the NMMC, as more and more water is treated in the years to come.

 

Indeed, the corporation ventured forth on an integrated plan which will cover the entire municipal area with treatment plants using new technology, and will also put in place the network of pipes to achieve 100 per cent coverage. Since the developed nodes are already fully covered by a sewerage network of a 306 km long sewerage line connected to seven sewerage treatment plants, the city-wide sanitation strategy now calls for extending the network to the areas not so far developed. The integrated plan is being funded by JNNURM at a cost of Rs 353 crore and is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.

 

The increased spending on waste water treatment has gone hand in hand with an aggressive campaign on the part of the corporation to spread awareness of the importance of sanitation. From organising street plays on hygiene and sanitation to distribution of pamphlets with basic information and using electronic media to get the message across through local TV channels to the city dwellers, the corporation has been pro-active in preparing the citizens for demanding better amenities.

 

The NMMC has also built close to 350 low maintenance toilets. The cleaning, operation and maintenance of the public toilet blocks has been outsourced to eleven NGOs for a period of 30 years. All public toilets are sewered, and Navi Mumbai is a city free of open defecation. Vijay Nahata, municipal commissioner of NMMC, proudly pointed out that the corporation has been conferred with the "Best City Award For Improvement In Waste Water and Sanitation Services" by the government of India for 2009-10.

 

If Navi Mumbai can do it, so must our other cities.

 

Isher Judge Ahluwalia is the chair of ICRIER and chair of the high powered expert committee on urban infrastructure. Ranesh Nair is a consultant to the committee. Views are personal

 

postcardsofchange@expressindia.com

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THE ONLY TABOO

 

Two months before 9/11, Comedy Central aired an episode of South Park entitled "Super Best Friends," in which the cartoon show's foul-mouthed urchins sought assistance from an unusual team of superheroes. These particular superfriends were all religious figures: Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, Mormonism's Joseph Smith, Taoism's Lao-tse — and the Prophet Muhammad, depicted with a turban and a 5 o'clock shadow, and introduced as "the Muslim prophet with the powers of flame."

 

That was a more permissive time. You can't portray Muhammad on American television anymore, as South Park's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, discovered in 2006, when they tried to parody the Danish cartoon controversy — in which unflattering caricatures of the prophet prompted worldwide riots — by scripting another animated appearance for Muhammad. The episode aired, but the cameo itself was blacked out, replaced by an announcement that Comedy Central had refused to show an image of the prophet.

 

For Parker and Stone, the obvious next step was to make fun of the fact that you can't broadcast an image of Muhammad. Two weeks ago, South Park brought back the "super best friends," but this time Muhammad never showed his face. He "appeared" from inside a U-Haul trailer, and then from inside a mascot's costume.

 

These gimmicks then prompted a writer for the New York-based Web site revolutionmuslim.com to predict that Parker and Stone would end up like Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker murdered in 2004 for his scathing critiques of Islam. The writer, an American convert to Islam named Abu Talhah Al-Amrikee, didn't technically threaten to kill them himself. His post, and the accompanying photo of van Gogh's corpse, was just "a warning ... of what will likely happen to them."

 

This passive-aggressive death threat provoked a swift response from Comedy Central. In last week's follow-up episode, the prophet's non-appearance appearances were censored, and every single reference to Muhammad was bleeped out. The historical record was quickly scrubbed as well: The original "Super Best Friends" episode is no longer available on the Internet.

 

In a way, the muzzling of South Park is no more disquieting than any other example of Western institutions' cowering before the threat of Islamist violence. It's no worse than the German opera house that temporarily suspended performances of Mozart's opera Idomeneo because it included a scene featuring Muhammad's severed head. Or Random House's decision to cancel the publication of a novel about the prophet's third wife. Or Yale University Press's refusal to publish the controversial Danish cartoons ... in a book about the Danish cartoon crisis. Or the fact that various Western journalists, intellectuals and politicians — the list includes Oriana Fallaci in Italy, Michel Houellebecq in France, Mark Steyn in Canada and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands — have been hauled before courts and "human rights" tribunals, in supposedly liberal societies, for daring to give offense to Islam.

 

But there's still a sense in which the "South Park" case is particularly illuminating. Not because it tells us

anything new about the lines that writers and entertainers suddenly aren't allowed to cross. But because it's a reminder that Islam is just about the only place where we draw any lines at all.

 

Across 14 on-air years, there's no icon South Park hasn't trampled, no vein of shock-comedy (sexual, scatalogical, blasphemous) it hasn't mined. In a less jaded era, its creators would have been the rightful heirs of Oscar Wilde or Lenny Bruce — taking frequent risks to fillet the culture's sacred cows.

 

In ours, though, even Parker's and Stone's wildest outrages often just blur into the scenery. In a country where the latest hit movie, Kick-Ass, features an 11-year-old girl spitting obscenities and gutting bad guys while dressed in pedophile-bait outfits, there isn't much room for real transgression. Our culture has few taboos that can't be violated, and our establishment has largely given up on setting standards in the first place.

 

Except where Islam is concerned. There, the standards are established under threat of violence, and accepted out of a mix of self-preservation and self-loathing.

 

This is what decadence looks like: a frantic coarseness that "bravely" trashes its own values and traditions, and then knuckles under swiftly to totalitarianism and brute force.

 

Happily, today's would-be totalitarians are probably too marginal to take full advantage. This isn't Weimar Germany, and Islam's radical fringe is still a fringe, rather than an existential enemy.

 

For that, we should be grateful. Because if a violent fringe is capable of inspiring so much cowardice and self-censorship, it suggests that there's enough rot in our institutions that a stronger foe might be able to bring them crashing down.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

VIEW FROM THE LEFT

MANOJ C G

 

IPL, the PM's fault

The Congress-BJP face off on the IPL mess — which has spawned demands for a JPC probe — has enthused the comrades. Sitting in the pavilion and enjoying the tug of war between the ruling party and the main opposition from the sidelines, the Left claims both the BJP and the Congress are equally involved in the scam.

 

The lead editorial in CPI mouthpiece New Age says the open fight between Shashi Tharoor and suspended IPL commissioner Lalit Modi broke out because of the latter's attempts to bribe and blackmail winners of the Kochi franchise on behalf of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In fact the Tharoor camp had also propagated a similar version. So, in the CPI's words, the argument that only Tharoor was involved in the scam was not true: the Congress and the BJP are equally involved and so does some of the constituents of the UPA.

 

The CPI's real target was, however, the prime minister. It says though the latest exposures showed the ugly face of crony capitalism which the PM often denounces, he has not taken the IPL mess seriously. "We have already suffered a lot due to organised gambling at the stock markets, particularly due to FIIs. Manmohan Singh as finance minister in early 90s was responsbile for promoting this organised gambling. Now in his second term as PM, he will be remembered for promoting crony capitalism that he normally denounces just for the sake of it," the editorial concludes.

 

CPM's Salwa Judum

Interestingly, the CPM has accepted that the Communist version of Salwa Judum style anti-Maoist resistance groups propped up in Jangal Mahal area of West Bengal has managed to push the insurgents on to the backfoot. An article in the CPM's weekly organ People's Democracy titled "Maoists on the defensive in the Jangal Mahal" admits that there have been repeated confrontations between the "village resistance groups" and heavily armed Maoists of late and the insurgents are on the run.

 

The article lists out the results of the resistance. "The kangaroo courts are no longer in session; no killings trough these grisly affairs for the past three weeks. The indiscriminate general killing for purposes of spreading of terror is gone, at least for the moment. The targeted killing of CPM activists are becoming less frequent, but does continue. A bulk of the majority of the 'Maoists' leadership have fled the border 'terrain'. There are no longer comfy TV appearances, nor the 'thus spake Kishanji/Vikash'-kind of SMS messages to favoured journos. The village-level résistance grows every day, every night, every week, every month."

 

Gender and unions

A recent study by the International Labour Organistaion pointed out while there was a surge in the increase in women membership in trade unions, this was not adequately reflected in the leadership of either industry-level union or central trade union organisations. The CPI, it seems, has taken this finding very seriously. An article in New Age says it would be good if the trade union leaders at the central and state level become aware of this "problem" just as they had to realise the importance of attending to the problems of contract workers. "There need to be once in a year special sessions of, say, the national council of central trade unions which focus only on gender issues and its growing complexity. Possibly solutions will follow... Building women worker activists is a precondition for unions working on gender-sensitive issues as integral part of their thinking and action," the article says.

 

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THE INDIAN EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

THINKING OUTSIDE THE (FINANCIAL) BOX

 

Congress is consumed by the proposed legislation to overhaul the financial system, with lawmakers clashing over the best ways to regulate derivatives, protect consumers and end taxpayer-supported bailouts.

Here are a half-dozen bigger ideas; judge the merits for yourself.

 

End the Dollar's Supremacy

JOSEPH E. STIGLITZ

 

The housing bubble was inflated with vast sums borrowed from the rest of the world. Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz says the US should surrender some of its borrowing power by trying to end the use of the dollar as the primary international reserve currency.

 

The US basically borrows money by printing dollars and selling them, in the form of Treasury securities, to China and other governments that hold those dollars in their financial reserves. The US then uses the borrowed money to buy foreign goods, in effect, making it the world's largest recipient of foreign aid.

 

The inflow of foreign money also tends to create asset bubbles, such as the spike in housing prices, making the American economy much more vulnerable to disruption and crisis. If other nations no longer needed dollars, the United States would not be able to borrow money as easily. "Knowing that it would be more difficult to borrow might curb America's profligacy," Mr. Stiglitz writes.

 

Give Bankruptcy a Chance

THOMAS H. JACKSON

 

When Lehman Brothers went to bankruptcy court in September 2008 after the government refused to rescue it, credit markets froze. Lehman's disorderly collapse, conventional wisdom says, showed that bankruptcy courts could not handle huge financial failures, because they were too slow and were not designed to consider the intricate linkages that hold financial companies together.

 

The bills in Congress seek to design a federal "resolution authority" to arrange the orderly liquidation of giant financial companies. But Thomas H. Jackson, former president of the University of Rochester, says the panic was not caused by bankruptcy proceedings, but by letting Lehman fail in the first place. He calls for amending bankruptcy laws so that large, complex institutions could be fully dealt with in court. And regulators would be able to pull the trigger. "There's a lot to be said for a judicial process rather than a government agency process," says Mr. Jackson. The legal system is more predictable and transparent and better established.

 

Bonds Can Regulate Banks, Too

ROBERT C. POZEN

 

Many economists say that creditors, who determine how much banks can borrow and on what terms, are often better equipped than regulators to provide the market discipline that can keep banks from taking on too much risk. Unlike stockholders, bondholders have little to gain when banks take on risk in the hope of reward. What they want is a steady stream of income and the repayment of their loan; mutual funds, hedge funds and insurance companies have the time and resources to monitor their debtors.

 

Robert C. Pozen, chairman of MFS Investment Management, wants to require banks to issue an existing kind of bond known as long-term subordinated debt. "Subordinated debt is bought by very sophisticated investors who insist on conditions like capital requirements and covenants to make sure that banks don't take on too much risk," he says. Such creditors have interests closely aligned with those of government regulators.

 

Compound Interest 101

ANNAMARIA LUSARDI

 

A person borrows $100 at an annual interest rate of 20 per cent. How long does it take that debt to double? About four years. What share of American adults can figure that out? About one in three, says Annamaria Lusardi, an economist at Dartmouth College.

 

Ms. Lusardi wants to add financial literacy to high school curricula. A crisis sparked in part by the decisions of millions of Americans to take mortgage loans they could not afford has underscored her conviction that "lack of financial knowledge is alarmingly widespread."

 

"Just as reading and writing became skills that enabled people to succeed in modern economies, today it is impossible to succeed without being able to 'read and write' financially," writes Ms. Lusardi.

 

Take the Money Out of Banks

AURENCE J. KOTLIKOFF

Laurence J. Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University, wants to dismantle the banking system. Instead of checking accounts, people would place money in all-cash mutual funds. Savings accounts would be replaced by short-term funds that make conservative investments. And people could also place money in more adventurous funds that made mortgage loans or played the market in derivatives.

 

It is a system designed to reduce risk taking by preventing banks from gambling with other people's money. Depositors now relinquish control when they place money in a bank. The institution decides how to use the money and it keeps the profits — or suffers any losses. Most banks also borrow large sums of money from investors to increase their lending and profits.

 

Under this model, called "limited purpose banking," banks would manage families of mutual funds. No more borrowing. No more gambling. Except for office space, computers and furniture, banks could not hold any assets. "Banks would simply function as middlemen," Mr. Kotlikoff writes.

 

Race to the Scene of a Disaster

ANDREW W. LO

 

When an airplane crashes, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board race to the scene to determine what happened to avoid future disasters. There is no comparable federal agency to look into financial catastrophes. Andrew W. Lo, a finance professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wants the government to create a safety board for the financial industry. Unlike the current commission, this agency would be insulated from political pressure, staffed by professionals and able to criticise the government as well as businesses. "It is unrealistic to expect that market crashes, manias, panics, collapses and fraud will ever be completely eliminated from our capital markets," Mr. Lo said at a House hearing in October. "But we should avoid compounding our mistakes by failing to learn from them."

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

 RATIONALISE GAS PRICES

 

Government should let the market perform price discoveryThese columns have consistently argued for deregulation in the pricing of petroleum products, with fiscal and environmental considerations being the most persuasive factors. But consistency of the regulatory regime is integral to reaping advantage from such considerations. After all, so many variables in the petroleum mix have a volatility that's beyond Indian administrators' control. There is the global demand, equity prices, the dollar, the war factor and indeed the compliance of Opec itself—anything can spin positions off the predicted track. As far as bringing administered prices closer to market dynamics is concerned, we welcome petroleum minister Murli Deora's recommendation that the price of natural gas charged from power and fertiliser producers should be doubled immediately. But just three months ago, the minister was arguing that price increases should take place gradually over three years. An obvious explanation for the shift is that the finance ministry's advice has taken its toll. The finance ministry said that "it did not consider it necessary that it should take three years to increase the consumer price for power and fertiliser to the level of market price." Why should gas produced by ONGC and Oil India Ltd from fields given to them on nomination basis (called APM gas) not be sold at rates equivalent to those charged for gas produced from Reliance Industries' KG-D6 fields?

 

The finance ministry, let's remember, has also been pushing reforms in pricing petrol and diesel far more aggressively than the petroleum ministry. If the latest Deora statement reflects the fact that the two ministries are finally getting on the same page, this is a welcome development. The opposition is sure to bay for blood, given that it has already been pursuing cut motions against petrol and diesel price increases. Political considerations kept the UPA government from exploiting a golden opportunity for freeing fuel prices when they had dropped below $50 a barrel. Hopefully, fiscal conditions will keep it from acting with similar cravenness this time around. Signs suggest that the government is desirous of encouraging the integration of the highly fragmented domestic gas market, where different prices prevail for different producers and consumers. For example, the price of APM gas is $2.2 per million British thermal unit (mmbtu), gas from pre-Nelp blocks costs $5 per mmbtu, gas from Reliance Industries' KG-D6 Nelp block is priced at $4.2 per mmbtu and spot LNG at $6-7 per mmbtu. Going forward from more even pricing, the goal must be facilitating market price discovery and reducing government intervention in price determination.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

EDITORIAL

PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

 

The realignment of voting power at the World Bank by increasing the voting rights of developing and transition countries and reducing the voting rights of advanced economies is a good beginning. Emerging economies, especially India and China, and also Brazil and South Africa, that have come out of the financial crisis looking relatively strong compared to some of the advanced economies, will have to play an increasingly important role in global financial institutions. Though a consensus on the need to increase the participation of the developing countries was agreed on in as early as 2002 at Monterrey in Mexico, it took the World Bank another six years to give the green signal to the proposal for a 4.59% increase in the voting rights in two phases, starting in 2008. While the first phase increased the share of the developing and transition countries from 42.6% to 44.06%, the second phase will now push up their share further to 47.19%. This new voting structure brings some semblance of equity, given that the developing and emerging countries account for around 46.1% of the global GDP. The advanced economies that account for 53.9% of the global GDP can now claim only around 52.81% of the voting rights.

 

This is in broad agreement with the basic idea behind the reforms, which sought to establish a unique shareholding pattern that reflects the economic weight of the nations as measured by GDP size, financial and development contributions. However, the voting share of some of the most important developing countries is far below their nominal weight in the global economy. For instance, while the voting share of China has been increased from 2.78% to 4.42% over two phases its voting share is far below its 12.5% share of the global output. Similar is the case of India. Although India's share in global output now stands at 5.1%, its voting share has gone up from 2.78% to a mere 2.91%. The scenario is the same for other important developing countries like Russia, Brazil and Mexico. This is in sharp contrast to the scenario in important developed countries like France, Italy, Japan, the UK and Canada that continue to punch much above their weight with their voting rights much larger than their share in global output. Only Germany has a voting share that is on par with its 4% share of the global economy. And although the US has brought down its share from 16.36% to 15.85%, which is far below its 20.5% share in the global GDP, it still has the largest voting share across the globe. It looks like further fine tuning and more equitable distribution of the voting rights will take longer. Some declining European powers will have to make way for the emerging powers.

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

WILL IPL INVESTIGATIONS SUCCEED?

SUBHOMOY BHATTACHARJEE

 

The big surprise IPL searches have thrown up is the possibility of black money coming into India instead of fleeing its shores. And the entire sum coming in is not round tripping.

 

As the economy moves into the fifth gear of GDP growth, this is to be expected. With that kind of expansion, opportunities to make money, like the IPL, will be thrown up regularly. At its core, the cricket league has turned out to be a hugely popular attraction for the expanding middle class. And to cash in on such opportunities, some promoters may often be in cahoots with dubious capital. Instead of stashing black money abroad, people have discovered they can launder it into white by investing in new ventures.

 

To trip those moves, it is necessary to run a vigorous and smart investigative agency that can track economic crimes and also has the authority to penalise offenders. It will not spoil the party but keep it running within the rules. This has been clearly lacking in the IPL case, as it did in the Satyam case. In the absence of such efforts it will be almost impossible to do a clear job of prosecuting adventure capital. The Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) set up to prevent money laundering is the nearest we have come, but its mandate does not give it the authority to step into the action, guarded by a clutch of agencies, each keen to preserve their turf. It does not even have the powers to prosecute.

 

Last week, I was at one of the agencies that have been mandated to carry out raids on the IPL franchisees. Sometime in the afternoon, one of the officials of the organisation rang up his boss from Kolkata to clarify if the visit will constitute a search or a survey. There was reason enough for his confusion. The nationwide operations were called in a rush with little preparatory work. This is not to say that government agencies were not planning to track the IPL bazaar.

 

Over the last few months, they worked on the leads but those were yet to fructify.

 

It's been more than a year since the Satyam scandal broke but various agencies have failed to nail the erstwhile promoters. While the agencies concerned have filed a long list of assets of the family in the special courts, the trail runs cold very soon.

 

I am not for a moment suggesting the officials from the income tax, the enforcement directorate (ED) or the directorate of revenue intelligence et al lack the ability to take the cases to their logical conclusion. They do so regularly. But each was set up with a separate mandate.

 

The tax department's search or survey is limited to the process of establishing if any company or individual has paid up the taxes in full. When a party that is searched accepts its misdemeanour and pays up, the case is closed. The ED, of course, has broader powers but most of them relate to the use of foreign exchange to move funds abroad—quite the reverse of the current investigation. The IPL story is mostly about bringing in foreign exchange. The mandate of the department of revenue intelligence is to check smuggling, including narcotics as well as cases of under- and over-invoicing in foreign trade. Surely, we are not accusing the Modi cartel of any of these crimes.

 

Believe me, in these days of savvy consultants and tax advisors all over the place, no company, not even the local event management company, can be tripped up this way.

 

If the idea is to pool in resources, that is the last thing these investigative agencies do. For that to happen, they need a clear direction from the top, which is rare. So the method would quite remind you of a headless chicken running around. If you think I am exaggerating, just check out how many times the agencies have shared real information with an organisation called the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau. This is the nodal agency set up just to tackle such cases. It is instead reduced to holding tri-monthly meetings and zonal conferences and functions as the secretariat for the equally imposing Economic Intelligence Council. The Bureau's mandate is actually broader than the FIU's, set up exactly two decades later, in 2004. Using these agencies can create a television grab but precious little evidence.

 

As of now, the FIU remains the best bet to track economic crime through its charter to prevent money laundering, though it mostly depends on banking channels and money transfer companies to gather information. Its work scale would possibly get robust once its technology platform FinNet becomes operational.

 

There are, of course, other allegations flying around, but those are up the accountants' turf. The dust has not yet settled on the MCA vs ICAI vs the Big-4 accounting firms post-Satyam. The legislation to give Serious Fraud Investigation Office powers is not even heard in the din in the Parliament. Unless we sew up these things, India could soon acquire a reputation as a soft place to get away with economic offences.

 

subhomoy.bhattacharjee@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

IT IS STILL A STRUGGLE IN CHINA

DARLINGTON JOSE HECTOR

 

For a large part of this decade, India's software behemoths have been struggling to have a good look into the Chinese code-writing kingdom. Local boutique software services, which sprung up in all the major cities of China, have been walking away with the majority of the deals, as Indian firms look in dismay. The Chinese firms, by their size and talent, are probably no match for the Indian IT majors. Back home on the domestic turf they would have eaten some of these smaller Chinese 'dragons' alive. But this is communist China. It's a different planet altogether, and one can be in it only for the long term.

 

Hanging on in China is easier said than done though. In fact, the Chinese are not worried about inviting you over. It is only after setting foot that many Indian firms find the going tough. Companies like Infosys, Wipro and TCS that are huge brands in India, suddenly feel like fish out of water. The Chinese do not attach much value to Indian IT brands and slick talk cannot help them get anywhere either.

 

So it boils down to pure public relations play. The Chinese communists are still not easily convinced about India's software capabilities, although the world had accepted it long ago. Indian companies have so far looked at China as a delivery centre for global clients wanting to outsource work and as a near-shore facility for Japanese customers. But they have had little resistance to offer the 12,000-odd boutique Chinese IT firms, which close deals at less than $10 an hour. These firms do not look at their profit numbers, as long as volumes are sound. Hence, Indian firms often find themselves outnumbered. The answer to this puzzle lies in adding more employees to take on the Chinese might. IT majors like Wipro and Infosys have started to add significant numbers to their headcount in the hope that they can face off with the Chinese.

 

Infosys China is planning to add 1,000 more techies over the next one year. TCS China is looking to take its headcount to 5,000 employees by 2014 from 1,100 at present. And Wipro plans to hire another 750 people in the next 15 months, taking its workforce beyond 1,000 in the country. Most of the hiring is being done locally to thwart the local language advantage enjoyed by the boutique competitors. Indian firms are now feeling much more comfortable in China with the new strategy and they hope they can now start to compete on an even keel.

 

Just the way they do it in India, the IT firms have realised they have to target some of the verticals where Chinese competition can be overwhelmed. For instance, Wipro is sharpening its raid into domestic system integration deals in the months ahead, targeting larger banks, utilities and energy companies. Infosys is sinking its teeth into financial services and manufacturing and TCS has already seen some traction in the banking segment of the country. But one cannot hope to take on the Chinese with just business acumen. Relationships and networking are an integral part of the deal as well. Getting on to the wrong side of the Chinese government is quite easy, but it is very tough to get out of that trough. So, Indian firms are learning fast to walk on the right side.

 

They are delegating a third of their workforce in China to negotiate with the government. Also, some staff is assigned with the task to network and get to know the officials culturally. Just the way India looks at Chinese companies with suspicion, the Chinese government, too, uses special glasses to view Indian firms. Trust is an important element here, but not something that is spoken about aloud. Although the Chinese are getting better at software services, they are still struggling to find good IT managers. The Chinese education system still has its emphasis on learning by rote. The culture of innovation is missing and that's where India has the edge, apart from being able to speak English comfortably.

 

But at the same time, India is getting expensive as an outsourcing destination. Indian IT compensation has been inching north and attrition is on the rise again. Wipro said attrition touched 18% last quarter, which is something China does not have to worry about. The Chinese engineers have immense loyalty to their place of work and can spend 15-20 years in the same place much like the Japanese do. They also come much cheaper.

 

But Indians are fast acquiring the reputation of being patient 'triers' in China. They have been around for a few seasons now and are slowly picking up the threads. What they now need is a pioneering growth story that can ignite the rest. One per cent inspiration, anyone?

 

dj.hector@expressindia.com

 

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THE FINANCIAL EXPRESS

COLUMN

 THE NEED TO DIFFERENTIATE

MARTIN A KOSCHAT

 

Observers of Asian markets have concluded that recession in Asia is all but over. But for consumer marketers with a focus on Europe and North America, the view is not quite as rosy. However, in the past 15 years, the American Customer Satisfaction Index has never seen consumers as satisfied as they are today! To shed light on what this trend means for brands, IMD conducted a project on "what is it that drives consumers' valuation of brands?" They asked respondents about their shopping habits and differentiated between habitual and experimental shoppers. The study produced some telling insights.

 

The first insight was not surprising—habitual shoppers value brands significantly more than experimental shoppers. This is good news for an established brand franchise. But can turn into bad news if consumers, due to economic circumstances, are forced to choose a less expensive brand. Once consumers are familiar with such a brand, it will be as effective in supporting habitual shopping as the original brand. Thus there is little incentive for habitual shoppers to switch back to the original brand once economic conditions improve.

 

The second finding was outright shocking. It is argued that strong brands signal quality. Yet we found that consumers, who place a high value on quality, valued their favourite brands no higher than consumers who are satisfied with 'good enough'. Hence brands in the FMCG realm do not serve as signals of quality. This insight underscores the importance of differentiation. Consumers who perceive there to be a difference between brands also value their favourite brands higher. This finding offers tangible guidance for brand managers and reinforces the mantra 'Differentiate! Differentiate! Differentiate!'

 

As we emerge from the current crisis, the hope that matters will return to where they were by themselves is misplaced. It is imperative to differentiate and be proactive in the pursuit of this task. Creating tangible points of differentiation requires innovation, which needs R&D budgets. But technological innovation is not enough. Firms need to muster the organisational stamina to bring this innovation to the market. As this is a demanding and costly undertaking, firms tend to shy away from it, something they can no longer afford to do.

 

The author teaches at IMD, Switzerland

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

AN UNPLEASANT ODOUR

 

The central government's response to the controversy over the alleged phone taps of four political leaders is feeble and lacks credibility. A careful parsing of Home Minister P. Chidambaram's cautiously worded statement suggests it withholds more than it reveals. In declaring that the United Progressive Alliance government has not authorised any eavesdropping on the mobile phones of political leaders, Mr. Chidambaram has come up with a highly qualified denial. If the cell phones of political leaders such as Sharad Pawar and Prakash Karat were tapped, it is obvious that this would have been done surreptitiously rather than by following the due legal procedure; this would include a written authorisation from the Union Home Secretary, which must specify the reasons for intercepting the conversations and is subject to review. The Home Minister's statement that "nothing has been found…to substantiate the allegation" in the records of the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), which carried out the taps according to a recent expose in Outlook magazine, is also an assertion of the obvious. A highly secretive intelligence gathering agency such as the NTRO is not the kind of organisation that maintains truthful and detailed written records of every activity it undertakes. Moreover, the allegation is that the NTRO used a new generation device that can tap into phone conversations within a certain radius off-the-air, bypassing the process of obtaining authorisation and without enlisting the cooperation of the service provider.

 

The controversy raises serious issues relating to the misuse of official agencies in the narrow interest of the ruling party. It also raises the question of how the right to privacy can be protected in the face of changing technologies. Do we need new laws that govern the use of off-the-air surveillance devices? What if such devices get into private hands? Rather than address such serious questions, the government's overall reaction — which includes a flat rejection of the demand to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the allegations — has been unconstructive. Intercepting private communication is inherently obnoxious and statutes such as the Indian Telegraph Act 1885 and the Information Technology (Amendment) Act 2008 allow this as an exception — for checking criminal and espionage activity, for instance. In 1996, the Supreme Court laid down a number of guidelines to check arbitrariness in intercepting phone calls. But despite its illegality and highly unpleasant odour, the practice goes on merrily. This time, the government must not be allowed to get away with a predictable refusal to go after, or reveal, the truth.

 

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THE HINDU

EDITORIAL

SAARC AT TWENTY-FIVE

 

As the 16th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation gets under way in Thimpu, it would be easy to dismiss the event as yet another jamboree at which the leaders of the region will meet and talk a lot but achieve little of substance. A quarter-century after it came into existence, SAARC remains an under-performing regional association. The Thimpu summit is expected to yield an agreement on the region's strategy to deal with climate change, and another on trade in services. But many ambitious plans drawn up by SAARC for the betterment of an impoverished region, home to 1.6 billion people or more than one-sixth of humanity, have either remained on paper or moved towards implementation at glacial speeds. A fund for "least developed countries" within the region was once talked about and abandoned. The South Asia Development Fund for building infrastructure is expected to be operationalised at Thimpu a full 15 years after it was initiated. As an engine for the economic growth and development of the region, SAARC is yet to demonstrate any concrete achievements since 2006, when the much-delayed South Asia Free Trade Agreement became operational. It has pushed regional trade up to an estimated half a billion dollars but this is still way below potential. Subjects such as economic integration of the region and a common currency are no longer discussed with any earnestness.

 

Twenty-five seems a good age to fix the problem that ails the association. Its charter is clear that bilateral issues cannot be brought up in any forum of the association. Despite this, SAARC has permanently been overshadowed by the hostility between India and Pakistan. Both countries have used it as an alternative sparring ground, to the despair of the smaller member countries that see regional cooperation as an urgent necessity for their own progress. SAFTA is a victim, as is the SAARC convention on terrorism. The smaller nations must share some of the responsibility as some of them have used SAARC to tilt towards one or the other side of the India-Pakistan divide. Influential sections of the media in India and Pakistan tend to treat a SAARC event as a match between the two. This time is no different, going by the obsessive focus on a possible meeting between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the summit. If these two countries, the biggest in the region, can commit themselves to keeping their rivalry out of SAARC, it would help the association focus on its agenda of regional cooperation. Eventually, this may even help India and Pakistan become good neighbours.

 

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THE HINDU

LEADER PAGE ARTICLES

FROM THIRD WORLD TO NEW SOUTH

WITH FAST-GROWING, LARGE ECONOMIES THAT SPEAK FROM STRENGTH RATHER THAN WEAKNESS, THE SOUTH DOES NOT ASK FOR AID, BUT DEMANDS TO BE ABLE TO TRADE.

JORGE HEINE

 

It is official now. Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, has pronounced the expression "Third World" as dead. This comes with some delay. In theory, use of the term should have ceased more than twenty years ago, in November 1989, after the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of the "Second World", that of "actually existing socialism." Without a Second World, is it possible to have a Third World? There is a lag between events and linguistic use, but, twenty years?

 

Isn't this a bit much for the digital age, one marked by the 24/7 news cycle, the "CNN syndrome," Twitter, and one that coins new terms almost every hour?

 

There are at least two reasons why the term "Third World" had such a good run ever since Peter Worsley coined it in 1964 with his now classic book, The Third World: A Vital New Force in International Affairs. The expression captured well the condition of the post-colonial world in Africa, Asia and Latin America emerging at the time. Worsley, who held the first professorship in Sociology at the University of Manchester, spent part of World War Two in Africa and in India, and had first-hand knowledge of the changes taking place there. He didn't like the ideological straitjacket imposed by the ideological divisions between East and West. He felt energised by what was happening in the South, as the colonial empires crumbled, and the Castros, Nehrus, Nkruhmas and Nyereres disposed of the debris left behind and embarked on the arduous task of nation-building. He was one of the very first western social scientists to capture that what was happening there was giving new meaning to old movements like nationalism, populism and socialism.

 

The second reason is that no alternative term captured with the same precision and élan the true condition of the young nations. Other technocrats from the IFIs gave us, seriatim, a variety of terms — underdeveloped, developing, lower-income — each more anodyne than the other. Their blandness seemed to relegate the post-colonial nations to a mere footnote to the real History (with a capital H), being written in the First World.

 

The term "South" was perhaps the one that came closest to substitute "Third World." (I still remember an excellent monthly magazine — alas, no longer in existence — published out of London in the eighties and nineties, entitled South, which took as its brief serious reporting on what happened in that part of the world), but perhaps because of its rather neutral, mere geographical connotation, never took on the way it should have. As The Economist never ceased to point out, it had also the problem of leaving out, at least nominally, such heavyweights as China, India, Algeria and Egypt, that happen to be located in the Northern Hemisphere. That is why the term "Global South" took centre stage, and is in many ways the expression of choice these days, with its conceptual rather than strictly geographic umbrella. Its undisputed capital is New Delhi.

 

That said, the term "Global South" doesn't do justice to the enormous changes that have taken place in the global political economy over the past two decades. As the recent meeting of the BRICs group in Rio de Janeiro and the upcoming one of the G-20 in Toronto next June illustrate, it's a whole new world out there. Now that Mr. Zoellick has kindly given us the go-ahead, perhaps it is time to update our vocabularies, not just to reflect these new realities but to keep on changing them as well.

 

What is it these new entities like BRICs, IBSA and BRICSAM are all part of? What do they embody and where are they headed to? What should we make of them?

 

Truth is, the rise of China (since 1979) and of India (in theory since 1991, but in practice since the eighties) has led to the emergence of a very different setting from that described by Worsley in his classic book. This has radically altered the terms of reference in which nation states operate.

 

In the sixties and seventies, the new nations in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, and to some extent the older ones in Latin America (seen by some as the "middle class of nations," though never really fitting that somewhat pretentious category), were economically weak, highly dependent on trade and investment links with the North and resentful about the legacy of colonialism. Believing there was strength in numbers, they gathered in a vast array of entities, led by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), the Group of 77 at the United Nations, and UNCTAD, also at the U.N. Speaking from weakness, they still banged on the table and engaged in the "diplomacy of the cahier des doleances, with proposals like that of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), demanding massive transfers of resources from North to South. Though they sometimes found sympathetic ears up North (during the early years of Carter administration in the U.S., and in the drafters of documents like the Brandt Report), by and large they had little to back up their demands with (beyond their voting power in the United Nations General Assembly). They thus ended up empty-handed.

 

Over the past twenty years, and particularly over the past ten, this has changed. It is now a whole new ball game. With the rise of China and India, but also of Brazil, South Africa, Mexico and countries like Indonesia and Turkey, with fast-growing, large economies that speak from strength rather than weakness, the South does not ask for aid, but demands to be able to trade. It expects a greater voice at the IFIs, and a place at the high table of global economic governance. It wants access to Northern markets, and is able to hold out in terms of access to its own, if its demands are not met. In many ways, the lopsided relationship between China and the U.S., in which the latter, which has turned into the world's largest debtor nation, has become largely beholden to the former, the world's largest holder of U.S. Treasury bills, is emblematic of this cataclysmic change between North and South.

 

But there is more. The visit of Brazil's Planning Minister Miguel Jorge to Iran this April, joined by an 80-strong business delegation (to be followed by another visit by President Lula to Teheran in May), tells us something else. Southern countries are no longer beholden to trade and investment ties with the North. They can also do that among themselves. Growth rates in many Asian countries triple those of western nations, while their debt-to-GDP ratios are one fifth of those of G-8 members. Latin America emerged largely unscathed from the Great Recession of 2008-2009, one largely triggered by Wall Street, and whose most devastating repercussions were to be felt in Central and Eastern Europe.

 

There is, in other words, a New South that has emerged in this new century. It is already redrawing the boundaries and the patterns of behaviour of the current international system. Noted historian Ramachandra Guha recently gave a lecture in Ottawa with the provocative title, "Why India will not and must not become a superpower," presumably partly in reaction to that favourite phrase of the Indian press, "The Global Indian Takeover." In it, and in follow-up interviews, Guha takes on what he considers to be the somewhat unwarranted claims of some sectors of Indian public opinion to Indian "superstardom," pointing out that in India "there are lots of disparities, conflicts, tensions within Indian society, institutional breakdowns to address before we start claiming the world prematurely."

 

Point well taken. Both India's domestic challenges, and the rocky character of its immediate neighbourhood are a drag on India's global role. That said, no one has seriously posited that India will or can become a superpower in the foreseeable future. There is only one of those around right now (the United States), and though it may be in decline, it still produces between a fifth and one fourth of the world's product and is unlikely to be threatened in its pre-eminence by any other single power for at least a few decades.

 

What India is doing is to make the transition from a regional middle power, to an emerging power with global aspirations, which is very different. In so doing, and speaking from the strength of its high growth and savings rates, huge hard currency reserves, and its dynamic high-tech industry and IT-service sector ("Indovation," as the FT has dubbed it), it is joining forces with other such powers from the New South — the BRICSAMs of this world — to rewrite the rules on how the world is run. This does not make it into a superpower, but it can make for a fairer and less skewed world order. This is what the Third World of yesteryear tried to do, albeit unsuccessfully. It is my impression that the New South of today has a better crack at succeeding at it.

 

(Jorge Heine holds the Chair in Global Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs, is Professor of Political Science at Wilfrid Laurier University and a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario. His latest book (with Ramesh Thakur), The Dark Side of Globalization , is forthcoming from United Nations University Press.)

 

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THE HINDU

PUBLIC-PRIVATE-PANCHAYAT PARTNERSHIP FOR INCLUSIVE GROWTH

RURAL TRANSFORMATION REQUIRES A ROBUST SERVICE ENTERPRISE FRAMEWORK WITH PUBLIC AND PRIVATE STAKEHOLDERS AT THE VERY CORE.

HARSH SINGH

 

India grapples with endemic backwardness in over 200 districts while some sectors and sections make global headlines. The Centre on Market Solutions to Poverty's report, Creating Vibrant Public-Private-Panchayat Partnerships for Inclusive Growth through Inclusive Governance explores this paradox by looking at the ground-level realities in local governance through the Panchayati Raj, the issues of agricultural productivity and value addition, and the role that the business sector could play in rural transformation.

 

A recent study in sixteen poorest districts shows that despite teething problems, Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs) have come to occupy an important role in the lives of the poorest. In many districts, their importance was rated next only to the food public distribution system, but higher than institutions such as schools and hospitals. Yet in most states, panchayats remain weak and inadequate in delivering on the promise of inclusive growth through inclusive governance. The vertical framework confining delivery of public programmes through government agencies has tended to exclude local leadership and initiative as also the vast capacity that exists outside the governmental system. The weak and narrow mandate that PRIs have tended to adopt for themselves is also responsible for their unfulfilled role in the rural economy. Panchayat leaders often see their role as confined to resolving local disputes and implementing small works sanctioned by the governments and place the main responsibility (in fact, the opportunity!) for agriculture with other agencies such as cooperatives and government departments. This study concludes that PRIs must transform the narrow and lop-sided vision of their mandate and accept a direct leadership role in agriculture which is the mainstay of the rural economy.

 

Keeping pace with challenges

 

Public extension services in the agricultural sector have not kept pace with new challenges and opportunities. Overall, the reform measures initiated by the government are yet to penetrate agriculture and allied rural sectors. While many state governments have ushered in policy and legislative changes, lack of clarity on basic models, regulatory mechanisms and modalities for the involvement of non-state actors continues. Insofar as the delegation of power to local governance institutions is concerned, often the measures suggested are partial or incremental in nature. The attitude towards a role for the organised business sector is by and large negative despite the fact that a number of business enterprises have built impressive capacities and networks in input supply and extension services. The study concludes that rural transformation requires a robust framework for local development with these two important stakeholders at the very core. It recommends a PPPP-based rural service enterprise framework as a relevant starting point.

 

A CII action research study in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan outlines the key elements of such a model. The evidence emerging from the ground work over the last four years suggests that it is possible for the tribal families to achieve an income of over Rs.25,000 per annum per family on half hectare plots even in the context of a hostile eco-environment. The model offers an opportunity for further enhancement of incomes through investments in milch animals, horticulture and productivity gains. This model envisages public investments in augmenting water resources and creating suitable access for farmers while private investments create various support services in agriculture. Specifically, public investments are required for infrastructure creation aimed at water harvesting and recharge. Private investments could provide water delivery and irrigation services, farm mechanisation services, agri-inputs, insurance and risk management, credit access, and market linkages. A business organisation for parking private investments and groups of local semi literate youth for actually delivering the support services are important parts of this model. The institutional mechanism at the community level includes water user groups and community-based organisations for governance of water and other natural resources. This model envisages an important governance role for PRIs.

 

Such models are already operational in various mutations but on a micro-scale. The IMI study concludes that the time is ripe for an organised and broad-based effort in this direction. The rural service enterprise model that it recommends envisages pooling in a good portion of the existing public assets and funding relevant for agricultural extension and related services and channeling it to enable universal provision of a basic menu of extension services (for example, soil mapping, pre-harvesting advice, disease surveillance and guidance, local implications of weather forecasts, post harvesting guidance etc.) through a competent agency selected on competitive basis.

 

The above framework could be implemented through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV). The SPV could be at the state level or at the district or at the block level depending on the feasible scale for extension services. To draw-in the best agencies for supply of services, the net needs to be cast wide and public agencies, private agencies, NGOs and cooperatives that qualify on certain eligibility criteria should be encouraged to bid. The contract should be for a period long enough to enable the selected agencies to make complimentary investments and recoup them through provision of the value-added services.

 

Protecting small farmers

 

There is a potential risk of the small farmers being excluded in the framework. But evidence that leads to contra conclusions exists. While individually, the small and marginal farmers are weak, as a group they have significant strength. Eighty-eight per cent of small farmers own almost 50 per cent of cultivated land and more than 50 per cent of irrigated land. They lease-in more than 30 per cent cultivated land (mostly irrigated). Thus it is not surprising that institutional innovations are taking place to cater to the needs of the small farmers. For example, Tata Chemicals Limited is organising a Producer Company for small vegetable growers in Punjab.

 

Panchyati Raj Institutions would have a dual role in this model. First is a two-way interaction with the extension agency in the context of local planning to promote convergence of development activities at the local level. Second is monitoring of services delivery by the extension agency. For the latter, suitable participatory mechanisms need to be created to minimise the chances of corruption in certification of compliance.

 

There is growing awareness in the business sector regarding the potential in the backward linkage chain. However, this potential has not been realised due to the high transaction costs of PPP in rural development activities. Such high costs arise not only because of weak physical infrastructure in large parts of rural India but also on account of unclear and at times restrictive rules governing partnerships. Overall, PPP/PPPP projects are likely to fail if they are handled like any other departmental programme. Thus public policy must focus on resolving the institutional bottlenecks and high transaction costs. Furthermore, currently a lot of reliance is being placed on the voluntary corporate social responsibility type approach. This needs to change to a more formal legal and institutional framework-based approach which carries both carrots and sticks.

The recommendations of the current study entail enhanced public responsibility for rural livelihoods. But the roles of various stakeholders would change with reforms that ease the monopoly of government institutions in implementation of public programmes, and in the use of public assets and financial resources. The report concludes that the rural service enterprise model will create the momentum for a broader systemic change that includes the social sectors. — Courtesy: U.N. Information Centre, New Delhi(Harsh Singh is the head of the Centre on Market Solutions to Poverty at the International Management Institute, New Delhi, and the author of the report referred to above.)

 

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THE HINDU

THE FIRST AID MYTHS THAT COST LIVES

THOUSANDS DIE EVERY YEAR WHEN FIRST AID COULD HAVE SAVED THEM, BUT WIDESPREAD MISCONCEPTIONS OFTEN STOP US FROM DOING WHAT WE CAN.

PHIL DAOUST

 

  1. Rather than lying down, a half-sitting position with their knees bent and head and shoulders supported is best for heart attack victims
  2. Putting any object in the mouth of someone having a seizure is not advisable as they might break the object and choke on the pieces

 

It must be great to know you have saved a life. A couple of years ago student Callum Brown was settling in at university when he came across a group on a night out. "I was going to walk past," he recalls, "when I heard someone say, 'Roll him on his back, then he will stop throwing up'." They had clearly never heard of Jimi Hendrix, who drowned in his own vomit.

 

"Having done a first aid course at work," Mr. Brown continues, "I knew this was absolutely not the right thing to do, and I went over and put the guy in the recovery position. His friends were all drunk and would not have been able to help. Shortly afterwards he threw up on to the road, but since he was in the recovery position this was simply messy. Without my interference he would probably have choked on his vomit." In an ideal world, everyone would have first aid training — and be sober enough to remember it. But according to St. John Ambulance, up to 150,000 people die needlessly in Britain every year; from the 29,000 killed by heart attacks to the 2,500 victims of asphyxiation. That is why the charity has launched The Difference — a campaign to remind us how to cope in common situations. While you get round to educating yourself about recovery positions, CPR and so on, here are 10 widespread misconceptions that often stop us doing what we can.

 

Myth 1: The ambulance will be here in a minute.

 

Not if you have only just called it, it will not. In England, for example, the target response-time for life threatening emergencies is eight minutes, and that is only for 75 per cent of all incidents — which is easily enough time for a casualty to become a corpse.

 

Stop the bleeding

 

Myth 2: It is better to do nothing than risk making things worse. "If someone is bleeding and you do nothing, they'll lose too much blood, go into shock and die," points out St John's Isobel Kearl. "If someone is unconscious and breathing, but not in the recovery position, they could choke on their tongue or vomit. Importantly, if someone is unconscious and not breathing and you do nothing, they will still be unconscious and not breathing."

 

Myth 3: If you have a nosebleed, you should tilt your head back.

 

It is news to 30 per cent of us, according to St. John, but this may cause blood to run into the throat and lead to nausea and vomiting. Instead, tilt your head forward, pinch your nostrils shut and breathe through your mouth. If you are still bleeding 30 minutes later, go to hospital.

 

Myth 4: Heart attack victims should lie down, rather than sit up.

 

One in 10 of us believes this is a good idea, but it can make it harder to breathe. A half-sitting position with their knees bent and head and shoulders supported is best.

 

Myth 5: If an arm or leg is bleeding heavily, you should tie a tight tourniquet above the injury.

 

Although 58 per cent assume we should do this, it could stop all blood flow and cause tissue damage. Instead put pressure on the wound with a dressing, and raise it.

 

Myth 6: You must never, ever move someone after a traffic accident, even if they are not breathing.

 

It is all very well to worry about spinal injuries (as 43 per cent of us would), but it is more important to make sure they are breathing. If they are unconscious check their airway is clear by tilting the head and lifting their chin.

 

Children in accidents

 

Myth 7: If a child drinks bleach, make them vomit.

 

This can cause more damage as the vomit leaves the body. Call the emergency number and let them sip cold milk or water if they have burnt lips from corrosive substances.

 

Myth 8: If someone is choking on a foreign object, they will appreciate a couple of fingers down the throat.

 

This could actually push the obstruction down further. Instead, smack them firmly between the shoulder blades. If that does not clear the blockage, you may have to try the Heimlich manoeuvre, also known as "abdominal thrusts". This can cause internal damage, however, and anyone who has been on the wrong end of it should be checked over afterwards. While we are at it, Joe Mulligan of the British Red Cross points out that it is not a good idea to suspend a choking child by their feet. "Not only can it be very traumatic," he says, "it could also result in head injury if the child is dropped."

 

Myth 9: If someone is having an epileptic seizure, put something in their mouth — a spoon, perhaps.

 

This is supposed to stop them biting their tongue — but, says Ms Kearl, "they're likely to break their teeth, or the object itself — and then choke on the pieces. And you could get bitten while you're doing it". The best thing is to cushion the area with something such as a coat or blanket, and remove bystanders and hazards such as hot drinks. When the convulsions stop, check their breathing and place them in the recovery position.

 

Myth 10: If someone feels faint, put their head between their legs.

 

They may simply fall forwards. Instead, lie them down and raise their legs to increase blood flow to the brain. Make sure they have plenty of fresh air. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

(For first aid advice, go to sja.org.uk)

 

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THE HINDU

FRED HALLIDAY, SCHOLAR OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS, DEAD

AN EXPERT ON WEST ASIA WHO ADVOCATED JUSTICE, HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOCIALIST DEMOCRATIC VALUES.

SAMI ZUBAIDA

 

Halliday, who has died of cancer aged 64, was an Irish academic whose main interest was West Asia and its place in international politics. His first major book, Arabia Without Sultans, was published in 1974. The culmination of adventurous field research in the region, including Oman, it was a study of Arabian regimes, their support from the West and Iran, and the revolutionary forces fighting against them. "The Arab Middle East is the one with the longest history of contact with the West; yet it is probably the one least understood," Fred believed. "Part of the misunderstanding is due to the romantic mythology that has long appeared to shroud the deserts of the peninsula. Where old myths have broken down, new ones have absorbed them or taken their place." A larger-than-life character, Mr. Halliday made an enormous impact in both academia and the media. He always spoke with a sure and lucid voice, backed by extensive knowledge, and knew many languages, of which he was justly proud: Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, French, German and Russian. He had more than 20 books to his name and was professor of international relations at the London School of Economics (LSE) for more than 20 years.

 

Mr. Halliday was born in Dublin to Arthur Halliday, a businessman, and his wife Rita ( nee Finigan). He was educated at the Marist school in Dundalk before going to Ampleforth College in Yorkshire. He graduated from Queen's College, Oxford, in 1967 with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, then went to the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. From 1969 to 1983, he was a member of the editorial board of the New Left Review. The NLR represented the avant garde of the intellectual left, with strong European and cosmopolitan orientations, adopting and developing new strands of European Marxism and engaging with a wide range of issues and personalities in the developing nations. I got to know Mr. Halliday in the mid-70s, when he joined an informal London discussion group on West Asia, which included myself, Roger Owen and Talal Asad, directed to draft critiques of the existing inclinations in that field and working out an alternative, mainly Marxist approach. Mr. Halliday became a regular contributor to the West Asia study group, which continues to this day.

 

Wide connections

 

Mr. Halliday established wide connections with, among others, Arab and Iranian intellectuals and activists, and travelled widely in the region. From these encounters and researches came his book Iran: Dictatorship and Development, in 1978, which aroused great interest as it anticipated Iran's revolution the following year, though he did not foresee the Islamic bent of the revolution, which was not the result of a long established Islamic movement, but the outcome of particular events, including the rise of Khomeini.

 

Further travel and research took Mr. Halliday, with Maxine Molyneux, to Ethiopia and Yemen in 1977 and 1978, resulting in a jointly authored book, The Ethiopian Revolution (1981), tracing the conditions and causes of the 1974 revolution. He married Maxine in 1979. Mr. Halliday's interest in Soviet policy and the Cold War, and his critical stance on U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, were recurrent themes in his writing, evident in Cold War, Third World: Essays On Soviet-American Relations in the 1980s, published in 1989.

 

It was not until 1983 that Mr. Halliday formally entered academia with an appointment to a lectureship at LSE. He obtained his Ph.D. from LSE in 1985, with a thesis on the Democratic Republic of Yemen. At LSE, Mr. Halliday continued to write prolifically, now concentrating on international relations, with fresh and critical treatment of theories in that field. His interest in West Asia acquired a more immediate and topical aspect with the rise of Islamist politics, Afghanistan and 9/11, about which he wrote Two Hours That Shook the World (2001). His interest in Muslim communities in Britain and Europe had begun with his earlier study of the Yemeni community in Sheffield, Arabs in Exile: Yemeni Migrants in Urban Britain (1992). His contribution to the debates on Muslims in the West came in some of the essays in his highly influential Islam and the Myth of Confrontation (1996), with his characteristically incisive arguments against the prevalent ideas of a "clash of civilisations" and the "otherness" of Muslims and their politics.

 

Forthright critic

 

Mr. Halliday never shied away from controversy: he was forthright in his advocacy of justice, human rights and socialist democratic values, and against cultural relativism and apologetics for tyrannies in developing nations in the name of anti-imperialism.

 

This was part of his more general belief that imperialism and capitalism were often progressive forces in many parts of the world, notwithstanding their well-known oppressive and exploitative elements. In this vein, Mr. Halliday considered the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan favourable, on balance, and indeed the period of communist control as a progressive episode in the violence and oppression that preceded and followed it. Equally, Mr. Halliday favoured western interventions in the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq — Saddam Hussein and his regime being by far the greater evil — but criticised what he considered the arrogance and incompetence of the U.S. and British administrations of these policies and their tragic consequences.

 

Mr. Halliday was elected to the British Academy in 2002. In 2008 he left the LSE to take up a position as research professor at the Barcelona Institute of International Studies. Mr. Halliday loved Barcelona, where he was part of a lively social and intellectual network. He was a great teacher and mentor, and numerous students and young colleagues acknowledge their debt to his supervision, mentoring and inspiration. His lectures, both academic and public, were always a great draw and never failed to inspire, stimulate and challenge. His book Caamano in London: The Exile of a Latin American Revolutionary, about the former Dominican President's spell in London in the 1960s, will be published later this year.

 

His brothers Jon and David, and Maxine and their son, Alex, survive him. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2010

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

SAARC, AT 25, MIGHT SEE A ROSIER FUTURE

 

When the 16th summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation commences its two-day deliberations in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, on Wednesday in the silver jubilee year of the organisation's founding, the gathered leaders will need to be mindful of the pace of progress in the regional grouping. They will be called upon to count and promote the positives and agree to strive to negate the negatives. None of this is likely to be easy. Funny histories act as a drag and the initial low base of development — common to all of South Asia — tends to inhibit a faster rate of climb than has hitherto been the case. And yet, it will be churlish to pretend that some of the earlier gloom on Saarc's prospects is not slowly dissipating. Indeed, it is time to note that South Asians are getting away — if ever so slowly — from their habit of uncorking hot air and merely extolling themselves and their ageless value system that promotes cooperation, and are getting down to business. They have entered a phase in Saarc where implementing projects that have been agreed upon is coming into focus. Needless to say, all agreed resolutions and proposals are not acted upon, or all countries — Pakistan included — would have cracked down hard on terrorism, truly the scourge of our region along with poverty and hunger. But there is no question that there is now a tendency to move forward on the development paradigm, and on building Saarc-wide institutions. The whole point about cooperation is being far better understood than was earlier the case.


When viewing Saarc's less than vibrant record, it has to be considered that it is a collection of countries in one of the poorest parts of the world. There is only that much they can trade and exchange, and even lower is their capacity to generate as capital flows and investible resources. Half of the member-states of the grouping are in the category of least developed countries, referred to with derision as "basket cases" by the more uncharitable. To make matters worse, when Saarc was formed in 1985, three of the original members were riven by bitterness, being fragments of undivided India. There was also a time in India when the very idea of Saarc was seen as a waste of time. It was viewed as a gang-up of military dictators and feudal heads of state that delighted in giving this country a hard time. It is a small miracle that the grouping was only partially jolted from time to time in pursuit of its development aims and agenda of broad regional cooperation from which all could benefit; it didn't in the end run into sand. The atmosphere of mistrust between India and Pakistan, the largest two of the group, was a special retarding factor for South Asia's regional body.


There is, however, a change now discernible. The suspicions between India and Pakistan are no less than they were before, and still the Saarc countries are not hesitating to put their best foot forward, unlike in the past. Perhaps an important reason for this is India's higher growth path in spite of the odds imposed by a couple of distinctly unfriendly neighbours. With its improved economic fortunes, this country appears ready to invest in Saarc, and all fellow-travellers are happy about this. They cannot match India's financial contributions, but this country is happy to embrace the principle of "assist, as able", something that can sometimes be seen in UN aid arrangements; it easily accepts non-reciprocity as a working principle. The India-Pakistan paradigm remains a limiting factor, but it no longer cripples the dynamics of cooperation.

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

POWER OF PARIKRAMA

 

Elders often remind children to go round the temple from left to right with folded hands, saying silent prayers. Is this just a jaded ritual or is circumambulation beneficial to devotees in any way other than evoking fulfilment of having accomplished a pious act?


In olden days, temples were large structures that were built on large plots of land. Walking around the temple barefoot provided the devotees good exercise. One visits temple in the morning and evenings and the rays of the rising sun and the setting sun both provide us health.


The reverential circumambulation, lying prostrate before the idol, kneeling before the deity are all, in a way, exercises for joints and muscles.


Going around an object from left to right is absolutely in harmony with the system of the brain. If one goes in the opposite direction, the system disapproves of it and the devotee does not feel comfortable. Science has proved this.


Theology states that circumambulation around a temple takes the devotee closer to the Lord. He is redeemed of his sins, even those that he had committed in his previous births. Such is the power of this observance.
"Prachtchinathi prakara: Agham

Dakaro vanjtchitha prada:

Kshikarath Ksheeyathe Karma —

nakaaro mukthidaayakam."

 

This is what is said about circumambulation in Skanda Purana: The practise of circumambulation rids one of all sins and fulfils his will; it weakens his karma, liability to karma, and grants salvation.


We usually go round the sanctum sanctorum within the premises of a temple. However, if you circumambulate along the pavement outside the main wall of the temple, it gives added benefits. The effect is still higher if you manage to go around the whole temple, along a path not belonging to the temple!


Imagine the heart as a lotus. Keep folded hands close to the chest as a lotus bud and walk around the temple slowly, chanting the hymns of the deity. As you complete the first circumambulation, all major sins get redeemed. The second one wins the devotee the due right to worship the deity. With the third round, one is granted blessings for material prospects.


The number of circumambulations prescribed for each deity are thus: For Lord Ganesha, one, for the Sun God two, for Devi and Lord Vishnu four, and for the holy Banyan tree, seven.


The circumambulation in the morning is meant for cure of diseases, that of the noon for fulfilment of desires, that of evening for mitigation of sins and that of in the night, for attainment of salvation. After completing the circumambulation, the devotee must come before the deity and worship with folded hands.


Our ancestors, who recommended different numbers of circumambulations for different deities have, however, strongly denied all this in Shiva temples.

This is because Lord Shiva is considered an absolute deity. And a circumambulation around his temple will go against this concept. His eternity cannot be undermined. Further, Goddess Ganga, whom the Lord bears in His head, is believed to be flowing out along the holy drain from the temple. Devotees are not supposed to cross this water. For this reason also, a complete circumambulation is prevented in Shiva temples.


— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author

of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals.

He has also written books on the Vedas

and Upanishads. The author can be reached

at drvenganoor@yahoo.co.in This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

V. Balakrishnan

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

LHC: THE LARGE HYPE CREATOR

 

Since last year, 2009, newspaper headlines and TV channels with their breaking news are telling us that we stand on the threshold of knowing how our universe began in a gigantic explosion called the Big Bang. Cosmologists who study questions related to the origin, evolution and the end of the universe have come up with a generally accepted belief that the universe started with the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. The theory underlying this belief contains a lot of speculation that has not been independently verified. Let us see why such speculation is unavoidable once we put all our eggs in the Big Bang basket.


The observations of galaxies out to large distances build a fairly convincing picture that the universe is expanding. If we seek to describe the phenomenon within the framework of the best known theory of gravitation, namely Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, we are led to the conclusion that the universe had a point-like state sometime in the past. The relativity theory breaks down at this stage, and it is assumed that this singular state represents the origin of the universe in a big bang. The physicist starts the universal clock ticking at this instant. 


The astronomer, on the other hand, measures the "look-back time". If he observes a galaxy at a distance of a billion light years, he is seeing it as it was a billion years ago, for light has taken a billion years to travel from the galaxy to here. The expanding universe provides a convenient measure of this past epoch. We ask, by how much has the universe grown in linear size since the light left that galaxy. If the answer is, say, five, then it means that the universe has become six times (five plus one) its original size in that period. This growth fraction can be measured in the spectrum of light received from the galaxy and is known, for technical reasons, as redshift. So in the above example the redshift of the galaxy is five. Clearly, the larger the redshift of an astronomical source, the farther is it located from us and the smaller was the universe at the epoch when light left that source in order to travel to us.


By this reckoning, the Big Bang epoch has infinite redshift and it is tempting to visualise a super-telescope capable of seeing as far as that epoch. Unfortunately, this is not possible. The Big Bang theory itself provides the reason why. By the time we try to probe sources beyond a redshift of a thousand, we encounter an opaque universe. Estimates put the age of the universe at that epoch at around a lakh of years. So what lay beyond that epoch cannot be seen by the astronomer.  Necessarily, therefore, the astronomer is forced to rely on extrapolations of his theoretical model coupled with speculation to guess what the universe was like before that epoch. This is much like a spectator trying to guess what is going on behind the stage-curtain which has come down between two acts of a play.


To help his speculation the astronomer has turned to the physicist for guidance. As he tries to imagine what the universe was like closer to the big bang epoch, he finds that its constituents were moving with greater and greater speed as the Big Bang was approached. To figure out what happens to them the astronomer therefore needs information on how particles of matter behave at increasing energy. The physicist can provide help because he has built particle accelerators which make them collide at very high energies. Two major particle accelerator labs have been providing useful information on this topic: one CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, and the other, Fermilab, near Chicago, in the US.


It should be noted that these labs have been in existence for several decades and their main purpose is to study the behaviour of sub-atomic particles at higher and higher energies. The quantum theory which became established as the correct framework for studying particles on a small scale tells us that if we need to probe the structure of matter at very very small scales, we will correspondingly need particles of higher and higher energy.  Indeed these labs have contributed significantly to our understanding of how particles interact at energies as high as several hundred giga electron volts (an energy measuring unit often written as GeV). For example, the verification of the framework unifying the weak theory with the electromagnetic theory was carried out at CERN by generating collisions of particles of energies of the order of 100 GeV.


The next landmark in high energy particle physics aims very high: it is the energy required for unification of the above electroweak theory with the strong interaction, an achievement that will show that three of the four basic interactions of physics are part of a "grand unified theory", or GUT. Can one augment the capacity of the present accelerator to test the properties of GUT? It will also help the cosmologist in his quest for the state of the universe very close to the Big Bang for, many of the crucial issues of the present universe are related to how the universe operated in the GUT era and shortly thereafter. The recent much hyped Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is planned to reach energies of 7,000 GeV, about seven times the capacity of the previous top accelerators. To date it has reached half that target.


Unfortunately, that holy grail of particle physics is well beyond the present technology or even the technology of the foreseeable future. For the energy needed to be reached is some 1,400 billion times the aimed energy of the LHC!


So why is the LHC so hyped? Certainly if it fulfils its objectives of verifying some details of present theories of particle physics, it will have served its purpose. For example, if it provides evidence for the existence of a speculated particle, the Higgs boson, or gives support to some conjectures of the so-called super-symmetric theory, it will have made a significant advance in our understanding of high energy particle physics.  But it is still a long way to go for simulating the Big Bang, as so avidly claimed. Nor does it stand in any danger of accidentally producing world-gobbling black holes. 


I wish scientists could forward and correct the media-generated frenzy; otherwise the LHC may stand for a large hype creator.

 

 Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus at Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist


Jayant V. Narlikar

 

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THE ASIAN AGE

EDITORIAL

A DARK MONEY MAZE

 

QUICK ON the heels of the virtual explosion over the "money maze, dubious deals, and Mauritius and Dubai connection" of that shadowy combination of cricket, politics, big business and Bollywood, otherwise called the Indian Premier League (IPL), has come another depressing event that is no less alarming. It is the arrest of the president of the Medical Council of India (MCI), Ketan Desai, for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 2 crores from a Punjab medical college to give it a year's extension to run a 100-seat MBBS course. Two other men arrested at the same time are a professor of the college concerned, Dr Kanwaljit Singh, and Jitendra Pal Singh, described by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as "the middleman". The two Singhs were taken into custody when the professor from Punjab arrived at the Vasant Vihar house of the go-between with a sum of Rs 2 crores packed in cardboard containers. The CBI seized the money, too.


Of course, Dr Desai has denied the charge emphatically, and pointed out that he was "nowhere near the cash". Doubtless the "innocent-until-proved-guilty" doctrine must prevail. But the trouble is that thanks to unending judicial delays, such high-profile cases rarely, if ever, reach the stage of finality. The public and the peers of the arraigned can therefore shout themselves hoarse but to no avail.


There is a pressing reason to be particularly concerned about the functioning of the MCI, the institution that regulates and thus practically runs the country's medical education: widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of teaching in this vital area in the mushrooming private medical colleges that now number 160 out of a total of 290. Reportedly, it costs Rs 500 crores to set up a private medical college that usually sells seats for anything between Rs 25 lakhs and three times that amount.


Since the present case concerns a college in Punjab, it is relevant to record what important functionaries of the Punjab chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and other prominent members of the profession in that state are saying. All of them are already demanding a "re-inspection" of "all the private medical colleges of the country which were granted recognition during the tenure of Dr Desai". Chairman of the in-service wing of IMA Punjab has even said: "Dr Desai's arrest should have come long ago. A person like him should not be spared at any cost. He has jeopardised the future of a large number of students by giving accreditation to colleges that did not fulfil the requisite conditions". According to the chairman of the Punjab Medical Services Association, Dr Hardeep Singh, the "deteriorating standard of the medical colleges opened during (Dr) Desai's time was evident from their poor infrastructure and negligible attendance of the faculty".
Some eminent and highly respected members of the medical profession, speaking on condition of anonymity, have claimed that no individual could have lasted for so long and functioned with impunity without at lease the tacit support of the government that nominates a certain number of MCI members. Nothing should be pre-judged. But an impartial, transparent and speedy investigation into the MCI's working over the years is imperative. For, pollution of education in such sensitive spheres as medicine, engineering and science cannot but imperil the country's future.


Sadly, the current developments are of a piece with what has gone on so far. The powers that be are unwilling or unable to do anything about corruption that is not just rampant but sweeping the country like a tidal wave. Let me cite just a few very recent instances, never mind the plethora of those dating back many years and lost in the politico-administrative-judicial labyrinth. Has anyone heard a word about Madhu Koda and his Rs 4,000 crores allegedly accumulated in just two years when this lone Independent in the Jharkhand Assembly was the state's chief minister, courtesy the Indian National Congress? It is only fair to add that before changing his political allegiance, Mr Koda was minister for mining in the BJP-led Jharkhand government!
Since Mr Koda's arrest and those of his henchmen, what else have we witnessed? The Postmaster-General of Goa being arrested allegedly red-handed while accepting a huge bribe in Mumbai? In Bhopal two relatively junior IAS officers, husband and wife, were suspended after Rs 3 crores in cash were found in their home and the CBI had estimated that the known value of their properties was Rs 40 crores — assets disproportionate to their sources of income. This was by no means a stray example of what has come to be nicknamed "DA" (disproportionate assets) cases. A few months ago a mere inspector of Delhi Police went to jail because his assets were valued at Rs 12 crores. But since no chargesheet was filed against him during the stipulated 60 days, he must be out on bail.


Particularly scandalous is the record of the CBI itself and the government that controls it, especially where disproportionate assets cases against powerful politicians are concerned. On April 16, the premier investigating agency had reaffirmed to the Supreme Court it had enough evidence in the case against the Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayawati. Exactly a week later the agency informed the apex court that it was "examining" her representation for closing the case! And consider this: In May 2009, the Indian ambassador to the United States, Meera Shankar, had written to the Union government about a number of its civilian and military officers that had accepted bribes from American companies doing business with their departments. No further proof was needed because under US laws the companies concerned had reported these tainted transactions to relevant courts. Nothing happened until October when the media raised a hue and cry. On a TV talk show Admiral (Retd) Vishnu Bhagwat declared that the Chief of the Naval Staff needed just five days to name the naval officers that had received big dollops of dollars. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced that it had ordered prompt action. It is for the PMO to explain why nothing has happened yet. The media should also feel ashamed. After shouting for a few days it has forgotten the sordid episode.


Inder Malhotra

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN DILEMMA

 

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai's discussions with prime minister Manmohan Singh on Monday in New Delhi underscores a certain helplessness on the part of the two leaders.

 

Karzai has promised full security to Indians working in his war-ravaged country, which is as yet unable to get out of the shadow of Taliban terror; but his assurance does not carry much credibility.

 

It is not because Karzai is insincere, but that he is not fully in control of the situation. It seems he has shared his perception of the situation with Singh.

 

India, on its part, cannot peremptorily pull out of Afghanistan because of threats from the Taliban or because Pakistan is not too happy with the Indian presence in the country.

 

The US, of course, has been tilting towards Islamabad and indirectly hinting to India that it should not play too great a role in Afghanistan. Karzai has no choice but to deal with the Taliban as well as Pakistan.

 

It is in this hostile situation that India and Afghanistan are forced to define their bilateral relations which are important for the two countries in their own right.

 

Afghanistan is in need of Indian aid and help in building roads, hospitals, schools, and training police and civilian officers.

 

Karzai is keenly aware of the importance of the Indian role in the reconstruction of his country, an area in which Pakistan does not have either the desire or the capacity to help its neighbour to become a stable democracy. Islamabad is only keen on regaining the military influence it had during the blighted Taliban years.

 

India will have to be sympathetic towards Karzai when he speaks of reintegrating those Taliban groups which are willing to work within the constitutional framework that came into existence in 2002.

 

There are, of course, issues of governance and allegations of corruption against the Karzai government.

 

New Delhi can only hope to advise and exhort the Afghan president on these issues in private. It would be to India's advantage if Karzai is not seen as a puppet of either the United States, Nato or of India.

 

New Delhi has to do all it can to strengthen the democratic and civil institutions in Afghanistan, but it would also need to remain a neutral outsider. That would help that country and Karzai.

 

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DNA

EDITORIAL

CHANGE IN THE AIR

 

Mumbai: The British general elections appear to be headed for a way familiar to the Indian electorate — a hung Parliament.

 

The mother of the parliamentary system — the Westminster system — finds that its largely two-party system is facing a strong challenge from a third contender.

 

The Whigs and Tories of old gave way to Labour and Conservatives in the 30s, but now the Liberal Democrats appear to be a serious threat to the big two.

 

This week, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, indicated that he would be willing to support a Labour government, provided they dumped current prime minister Gordon Brown.

 

This gives an interesting twist to the election and with just under 10 days of campaigning left, no one can be sure what the final dispensation will be.

 

The election process in Britain has seen significant changes this year, especially the introduction of American-style television debates between the leaders of the parties, which shows how change must come even to very traditional systems of democracy.

 

Incorporating TV audiences into the election is perhaps vital in a society where voting numbers have been declining every election. Watching their politicians may just inspire couch potatoes to get out to polling booths.

 

The British have an unwritten constitution which works on precedent and this year gives its democracy a new fillip.

 

The apparent clamour for change harks back to unhappiness with Labour which has a direct bearing on former prime minister Tony Blair's decision to support the US and George W Bush in the Iraq war.

 

Although Blair did win an election after that, it was partially because people did not want a mid-war change — much like the way Bush won a second term. But there was anger about the dubious evidence with which he justified the war, especially weapons of mass destruction which weren't there.

 

Growing unhappiness meant Blair had to hand over charge to his chancellor of the exchequer, current prime minister Brown.

 

Since then the economic recession has not helped Labour's case. Nor have the revelations about corruption among MPs, who blatantly misused their privileges.

 

There have, of course, been discussions about coalition governments in Britain before, even in the recent past, but ultimately British voters have plumped for one or the other. Is this time going to be different?

 

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DNA

THE TECHNOLOGY DIMENSION

PR CHARI

 

US president Obama has fast-forwarded the global nuclear non-proliferation agenda by initiating several related events over the last few weeks.

 

They include the US Nuclear Posture Review, which envisions Obama's hopes of reducing the salience of nuclear weapons in American strategy; a new arms limitation agreement between the United States and Russia (new START) that would drastically reduce the long-range nuclear missiles in their arsenals; and, finally, the Nuclear Security Summit, which identifies the security and safety of nuclear materials as constituting an imminent threat to nuclear non-proliferation.

 

The Iranians held their own 'spoiler' summit, thereafter, to publicise the double standards of the West on these issues, protest its own innocence, and lay down the new battle lines in this debate.The United States could now move towards ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), but this is quite uncertain. All these events are, of course, a prelude to a major event next month — the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.

 

So, what is missing in these gatherings?Briefly, the implications of evolving nuclear technology have yet to be addressed. The Nuclear Security Summit approved the need to "encourage the conversion of reactors from highly enriched to low enriched uranium fuels and minimisation of the use of highly enriched uranium where technically and economically feasible. The work plan urges participating states to collaborate on research to develop new technologies that will not use highly enriched uranium fuel for reactor operations or the production of medical and other isotopes.

 

In truth, nuclear technology has both positive and negative aspects. What is germane here are the problems that nuclear technology raises for nuclear non-proliferation.

 

Two identifiables that are of immediate relevance: First, the issue of breeder technology, which has inspired several national atomic energy programmes, including that of India.

 

A report by the International Panel on Fissile Materials argues that, contrary to what has been assiduously

claimed, sodium-cooled fast-breeder reactors cannot become the solution to either the power generation or nuclear waste disposal problems.

 

Despite $50 billion having been spent on their development, we are nowhere near producing a breeder reactor that is economically competitive.

 

Besides, these reactors are plagued by high costs, long downtime for repairs and maintenance, unresolved proliferation, and safety and security risks. Whether the pursuit of the chimera of breeder technology is worthwhile needs serious consideration by the world community to, at least, save good money following bad.

Second, official interest has been evinced in small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs) to generate electricity. They could serve the needs of isolated communities and function as dedicated power plants for industrial enterprises.

 

The SMR alternative has been approved by Steven Chu, secretary for energy in the Obama administration. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Chu has argued that SMRs, being less than one-third the size of current atomic power plants, can be manufactured in factories and transported to sites.

 

They can be cost-effective too. SMRs have little environmental impact, and could replace aging thermal power plants that are recognised environmental hazards.

 

So, what is the downside? SMRs require highly skilled engineers to be working in remote locations, adding to the present problem of getting qualified personnel in large enough numbers. Moreover, these reactors require cooling by a liquid metal like sodium to enable fast neutron fission, which is an inherently dangerous technology. There is the attendant problem of nuclear wastes for which a permanent repository is required.

 

The US has been unable to operate its Yucca Mountain storage site in Nevada due to unresolved technical issues compounded by strong local opposition. There are serious safety and security issues involved with guarding SMRS scattered around the country, and in transporting fuel supplies and nuclear wastes to and from them. Consequently, the generic problems for the non-proliferation regime are greatly complicated by SMRs.

 

The forthcoming NPT Review Conference forebodes increased tensions between its developed and developing signatories. The developed West will argue that nuclear truants North Korea and Iran be chastised. The developing countries will urge the need for the nuclear weapon states to meaningfully reduce their nuclear arsenals to reach the elusive 'global zero goal'. The imperative of technological advance interrogates both these positions and must enter the debate.

 

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DNA

A MAHATMA AND A MAO IN YOUR POCKET

 

Barely two weeks from now, perhaps the biggest, most significant, economic news story of this year will begin to unfold. In the way it plays out, it might appear mind-numbingly 'unsexy': compared to the adrenaline rush of the recent IPL series (or the crorepati wheeling-dealing), it will seem as exciting as watching grass grow in slow-mo.

 

But don't mistake placidity for ineffectualness: the upcoming mega-event has already triggered a global stampeding of moneybags, some of which could find their way to India. It opens up a range of challenges for policymakers, but also opportunities that savvy investors can profit from.

 

The 'event' is, of course, the breathlessly anticipated 'de-pegging' of the Chinese renminbi (yuan) from the US dollar. To understand its significance, a bit of historical perspective is useful. China, the world's third largest economy, has built up its export muscle over the years by keeping its currency artificially low.

 

And although it effectively de-pegged the yuan from the dollar in 2005, and allowed its currency to appreciate by about 20% over three years, it reverted to the dollar peg in 2008, when the global financial crisis caused its export economy to collapse.

 

That knee-jerk, survivalist response had a knock-on effect on other low-wage economies, including India. It rendered their exports less competitive; it also cramped the policymaking space for inflation-battling central bankers by forcing them to resort to a partial peg of their currencies — or see a sharper fall in exports and a flood of potentially ruinous 'hot money' inflows.

 

More critically, at a time when consumer spending in developed economies is down and out, China's dollar-peg drew criticism for accentuating global trade imbalances by sending out into the world even more finished goods. Additionally, its pegged currency smothered domestic Chinese consumption, by effectively 'transferring wealth' from Chinese households to exporters.

 

After much badgering — from the US — and some mild-mannered cajoling — by others, including India — the yuan is likely to be de-pegged, perhaps in the second week of May. Nobody expects a dramatic revaluation: the consensus among economists is that the yuan might appreciate by 4-5% this year. But even that, and the prospect of greater appreciation over time, could reverse some of the negative influences of a pegged yuan.

 

First, it could render Indian exports, particularly at the low-value end, marginally more competitive, which should help improve India's trade balance.

 

Second, it would give the RBI a bit of elbow room in its effort to combat inflation without rising growth-sapping interest rates again. A moderate rupee appreciation, combined with India's high-orbit economic growth, could be a magnet for higher portfolio inflows into Indian stock and real estate markets, although they come with the risk of feeding bubbles. Each of these possibilities offers opportunities for savvy investors.

 

A stronger yuan would also 'enrich' domestic Chinese consumers and companies, and make overseas acquisitions relatively cheap, so expect to see a rash of hysterical reports about how Chinese are "buying up the world". One downside is that given China's ravenous appetite, commodity prices could spike, with inflationary impact.

 

The yuan is, of course, not a freely convertible currency, and reports last year that it would rapidly emerge as a global reserve currency have proven to be greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, the trend towards a gradual internationalisation of the yuan is unmistakable; starting mid-May, Indian travellers to China can purchase yuan-denominated travellers' cheques. It will still be a while before Mao Zedong nestles alongside Mahatma Gandhi in your wallets, but next month's 'big event' could be a milestone towards that.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

PAKISTAN'S CRAZY IDEA

SEEKING KASAB'S CUSTODY WON'T DO

 

Pakistan has given a new twist to India's demand that Islamabad should speed up the process of punishing the masterminds behind the Mumbai terrorist attack after having got three dossiers from New Delhi to prove their crime. Instead of taking any credible action to improve its record, Pakistan now wants India to hand over the lone terrorist captured alive by the police in Mumbai, Ajmal Kasab, contending that this will help the trial of Lashkar-e-Toiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others arrested for their role in the Mumbai massacre. Seeking Kasab's custody from India, where he along with other terrorists committed the heinous crime, is a crazy idea. Yet the insidious demand has been made ostensibly to justify Pakistan's dithering about bringing to justice the perpetrators of 26/11. This may also be aimed at conveying the false message to the international community that Pakistan is ready to act against the 26/11 plotters, but can go ahead only when India cooperates by handing over Kasab to Islamabad.

 

Interestingly, Pakistan's pointless demand has been timed with the April 28-29 SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) summit in Bhutan in the belief that this may facilitate a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of the regional gathering. Islamabad hopes to underline the need for getting the stalled composite dialogue process restarted. Pakistan, it seems, is unable to understand that unless it takes credible action against the terrorist outfits working against India from Pakistani soil, it will not be easy for any government in New Delhi to go in for a full-fledged resumption of the peace process.

 

Of course, the cause of peace in South Asia demands that India and Pakistan should keep talking to each other to find solutions to the problems coming in the way of normalisation of their relations. With the emergence of Prime Minister Gilani as the most powerful political figure in Pakistan, India now knows who to deal with to put across its viewpoint to Pakistan. But Pakistan has to prove that it is really serious about taking the dialogue process to its logical conclusion once it is restarted. One way to do so is for Islamabad to renounce the use of terrorism to achieve its policy objectives.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

THE SATLUJ STINKS

POLITICAL LEADERSHIP MUST ACT

 

THE Punjab Pollution Control Board has rightly taken up the issue of pollution of the Satluj by industries in Himachal Pradesh with its counterpart in the hill state. As experience shows, this is not enough. The contamination of the Satluj is too serious a matter to be left to the pollution control boards, especially when their track record for action has been so uninspiring. Perhaps, they are hamstrung by a thriving industrialist-politician nexus.

 

The flow of municipal and industrial waste into the Satluj as well as other rivulets and wetlands in the two neighbouring states will remain unchecked unless the political leadership takes steps to end the menace. In the absence of political initiatives at the state level, the Central authorities should intervene and get the licences of all such industries that throw their toxic waste into water bodies cancelled. The Centre announced Rs 220 crore for Punjab in January to save the Satluj. It must now ensure that the money is used for the purpose it is meant for.

 

Money is not a problem in any project of public interest in Punjab. If Baba Seechewal could clear the holy rivulet, Kali Bein, with community effort, why can't state machinery clean up the rivers and other water resources with public cooperation? It is because of the lack of an enlightened and far-sighted political leadership in both states. How the efforts of such selfless and devoted conservationists as Seechewal are defeated by profit-driven industrialists in connivance with ruling politicians is clear from the failure on the Buddha Nullah front. Things will not move unless the owners of the polluting units are arrested and proceeded against as has been suggested by a committee of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha. The toxic Satluj waters pose a serious threat to human and animal health as well as the ecological balance.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

EDITORIAL

BIOMETRIC PASSPORTS

NEED FOR VIGILANCE AGAINST FORGERIES

 

Forged documents, especially those used in international travel, are a major security breach since monitoring people after they have disembarked is very difficult in any democratic nation. As such, it is a matter of concern that according to the Home Ministry, 865 such cases were detected at international airports in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Amritsar in 2008. While the number appears to be falling — it was 1,251 in 2007 and 1,492 in 2006— it is still alarming, given the heightened security threats that the nation faces.

 

The government's comfort bid regarding issuing of machine-readable passports, installation of passport-reading machines and immigration control system software to verify the details of passengers and to prevent impersonation notwithstanding, there is an urgent need to be more alert at our airports, which are effectively our borders for international travellers. Foreign nationals overstaying or entering the country illegally have to be tackled in a different manner. They need to be identified by strengthening the intelligence network, and ensuring more coordination between various security agencies and greater vigilance by local police forces in different states and cities.

 

A significant number of Indians go abroad on forged documents. Many of them are poor people who sell off their lands and more to try to find work abroad. Often they are duped by unscrupulous agents. Such fraud could be combated by using passports with biometric identifiers, fingerprints, iris scans, facial recognition data stored on a chip. The International Civil Aviation Organisation promotes the use of biometric passports and travel documents. Many nations, notably the US, the UK and other European countries follow the advice of this UN-level body for the standardisation of travel documents.

 

In India, till now, only diplomatic passports are biometric. We need to ensure that all passports are biometric and thus tamper free. The struggle to secure the nation should include both harnessing of the latest technologies and keen vigilance

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

FRAGILE RECOVERY

GLOBAL ECONOMIC UPTURN MAY HELP INDIA

BY JAYSHREE SENGUPTA

 

INDIA has a few serious economic problems that are surfacing clearly as we are coming out of the global financial crisis. Number one is inflation, which is almost double digit at 9.9. First only food articles were getting expensive, but now all other items in the basket for the wholesale price index are becoming dearer. The only way out for the government was to let the RBI raise the interest rates and the cash reserve ratio of banks to act as a brake on inflation. The RBI recently hiked the repo and reverse repo rates (overnight lending and borrowing rates) to 5.25 per cent and 3.25 per cent. These can be translated later to a hike in bank lending and deposit rates.

 

The cash reserve ratio or the portion of deposits that banks park with the RBI has been raised to 6 per cent. This may have the effect of sucking out liquidity from the market as less cash would be available for lending. People will be putting money in the banks instead of consuming more goods, and thus the demand push inflation will be controlled.

 

Second, many manufacturers are facing a cut-throat competition from China. The Indian rupee has been rising against the dollar, but no amount of pressure is working on China's determination not to revalue the yuan against the dollar. China has a $16 billion trade surplus against India.

 

Recently when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna went to China he complained about the burgeoning trade surplus China has with India. Chinese exports have been growing at 17 per cent. China has to import more from India, the US and other countries. Recently it has declared that after six years it is experiencing a trade deficit of $7.2 billion. This probably goes to show that China is importing a lot of raw materials and other inputs needed for its manufacturing industries from the rest of the world. Its GDP growth has been impressive at 11 per cent in March.

 

Many economists are sounding alarm bells regarding the deteriorating current account situation (the summary of trade flows of goods and services, including remittances from Indian migrant workers abroad), and what it would mean in terms of depreciation of the rupee. But contrary to what such a situation demands, the rupee is strengthening. India, however, does not have much to fear because it has nearly $300 billion in reserves. Thus, there is little reason to expect a sovereign bankruptcy but individual pain is possible as companies go bust, especially when they cannot compete with a formidable foreign rival (China).

 

The third problem is that of capital inflows into Indian markets. The problem of high value of the rupee against the dollar originates from the huge inflow of foreign institutional investments (FIIs) into the Indian financial market. This has been happening over the last few months and the government has resisted taking a drastic policy measure to abate the flow. The recent inflow of FIIs has been due to the high interest rates in emerging markets like India.

 

All over the world, the interest rates have been kept low to encourage and sustain recovery. But in India the interest rates have been slowly hiked to contain inflation, which has also made this country an attractive destination for parking funds by foreign investors. Also the stock market has been on an upswing and crossed 17K and, therefore, the returns are relatively higher than in other markets. It is this uncontrolled inflow which is increasing the supply of dollars in the financial system and leading to the hardening of the rupee. If the RBI had intervened, it would have bought dollars from the financial markets. But this has not happened.

 

The hike in the interest rates may further exacerbate the dollar inflows and lead to the hardening of the rupee to less than Rs 44 which will hurt exporters more. If exports slow down from their recent recovery phase - it did so for 13 months --- industrial growth will also decline because 12 per cent of industrial production is exported.

 

India's industrial growth has been impressive at 16.5 per cent in February and manufacturing growth, which is the main component of the index of industrial production, has been growing at 15 per cent in March. The interest rate hike will hurt industry where many units have just started undertaking fresh investments. There is a fear that this initiative will be thwarted. Even the demand for goods can be impacted if food inflation continues.

 

To control food inflation, the supply of essential commodities like pulses, sugar and cereals have to be

enhanced. Otherwise the continued thrust and buoyancy of the consumer demand that even Tim Geithner, US Treasury Secretary, noticed about the Indian economy would peter out.

 

The fact remains that the recovery is still fragile, especially when exports are also dependent on the economic recovery of its global partners. Unless the global economy recovers, India cannot experience robust recovery and, as the Prime minister also hinted at, there is a growing fear of protectionism. The glitches common to all the emerging economies - inflation, exchange rate and capital account problems — will make it harder for the government to attain sustainable development, especially in backward areas. Already there is plenty of disturbing news about the rise of insurgency in these backward regions which is going to be a security threat to investment.

 

Lastly, a rise in the interest rates will increase the debt service payments of the government because of its huge borrowings from the market. Interest payments already comprise 19 per cent of the government's total expenditure. During the last two years since the global financial crisis began, the government has been generously doling out money to boost the consumer demand as a result of which this cost has escalated. With the interest rate hike, the government may find it difficult to increase social spending to counter the ill-effects of inflation on the poor, who have not only suffered from job losses due to the recession of the last two years, but have also fought malnutrition. As is well known, India has the highest number of malnourished children in the world.

 

How to govern the country better with fewer resources and also have inclusive development programmes may

be one of the key challenges before India. Like India, the problem of rising internal debt and its servicing is also plaguing some of the countries of Europe and they are facing a double-dip recession. According to the IMF, India's governmental debt is at 82 per cent of the GDP, up by 3 per cent from what it was two years ago. But India's growth prospects are higher and the country may be saved from the double-dip recession scenario.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

COLUMN

"MOM" AND "DAD" TO EACH OTHER

BY RASHMI TALWAR

 

Nothing transcends geographical borders like the mom, dad, beta, baby syndrome that catches on with a long innings of a couple. I wondered who an elderly woman was addressing as "Abba" a man her own age, in Lahore till he answered "Ammi jaan…waqt par hun".

 

It felt just like home merely 60 km away in Amritsar, where dad used to address mom as "Mummy" and mom vice-versa to dad as "Papa". Now we too were doing that even before our silver wedding anniversary. It is not Lahore and Amritsar's shared culture to be blamed for turning couples into each other's mom-dad but a worldwide trend in marriages nearing a sterling silver.

 

I remember my most beautiful paternal aunt got married to a Merchant Navy guy. Exposed to countries other than "Mera Bharat Mahan" she addressed her husband "darling" and "sweetheart" as grandmother glared and we teenagers giggled. Tickled endlessly by the endearment, from Mills and Boons reading spree, we could not see the "darling" as the TDH (Tall-Dark-Handsome) but the not so familiar "sweet nothing" in Indian domestic circles surely stirred youthful longings.

 

A number of gifts from foreign lands kept granny mum but when a new daughter-in-law started the "darling" routine, granny mumbled her choicest expletives: "Hindustan vich reh ke, pati nu 'darling darling' kardi hai". Our giggles were never ending . That was in 70s when we heard mothers call their husbands "Oh ji, Ay ji or Suno ji" and approving nods by grandmothers, till it became a hearty joke in films. Actually, schooling had changed all.

 

Often peer or parental nicknames either spread warmth of familiarity or turn one glacial in later life. My sister when addressed as Nane Shah felt prickly. 'Petha', 'kaddu', 'nali cho-cho', 'tiddi', 'chiku' ,'drum', 'elachi' and 'ghori' were names of our tennis buddies. I felt that more often childhood names re-bonded the shared pranks but most don't share my enthusiasm. Some even take offence over shortened names as familiarity no more fits them. So when I called my classmate, now a principal, by her short name, she boomed: "Call me Mrs Sandhu".

 

However, my 'darling' aunt had a unique penchant for name-calling and so musical that none felt berated. A stay at her place was indeed enlightening. Early in the morning she exclaimed "Dhoop aa gayi" for the morning maid and "Raat aa gaya" for the evening servant. A vegetable and fruit vendor outside her house in the morning smiled widely when she asked him "Chor, itne din kio nahi aya?" while her grandchildren danced a merry-go-round with "chor aa gaya..chor aa gaya". Why she called him "chor" is a long story.

 

However, some instances can hardly be forgiven. My husband called me by my pet Pomerian's name: "My Guccu". "Am I your dog now", I retorted. "Oh my 'Beta', he said teasingly. Another time when I called my friend on mobile and called out "Dain" and somebody asked Seema who is "dain', she replied: "Rashmi Honi hai…

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

POVERTY OF MIND AND MEDIA

IPL DOES NOT REPRESENT EMERGING INDIA

BY ARUTI NAYAR

 

NOW that it is curtains down on IPL for the time being, we can get on with the business of focussing on real issues. Not only the media space but also precious Parliament time went on to debate the games our politicians play in the garb of sport. Just when we were devouring every sound bite and taking salacious delight in the masala that the IPL controversy had become, there was a tiny news report on how India now has 100 million more people living below the poverty line than in 2004, according to official estimates released last week. The estimates will remain "official", this reality never becomes "personal", thanks to the increasingly insular lives we lead.

 

There is no media space for such news because with the increasing focus on either celebrities or sports icons or politicians and their shenanigans, hard news has been edged out in this race to grab eyeballs. Newspapers compete not only with each other but also with the electronic media. The latter has an edge with its rapid-splice images suited for strapped-for-time individuals.

 

Dismal social indicators should be a cause for concern but they do not make a dent into our consciousness because our preoccupations remain limited to our cocooned interests. Small wonder that this bystander apathy translates into social apathy and the youngsters, who are our resource for the future, too imbibe attitudes that make them self-centred. Such statistics rarely shock them into an awareness of how a vast majority of the populace lives, rather subsists.

 

There were surprised looks when at a get-together, a woman settled in the US for more than 40 years had said that she had specially sent her daughter to India to be aware of how there are people who barely get to eat, "to sensitise her to the plight of the people who do not have privileges which she takes so much for granted. It will help her grow up in the real sense."

 

In the party that post-liberalised India has become, the poor have not only been edged out of the agenda but also out of news space and our mind space as well. The content and form of infotainment is fit for "the pastries" we have got used to (as an acerbic ex-boss would point to the lifestyle-related focus of the newspapers). He would compare this focus on trivia to junk and say the media needs to dish out real food. The dumbing down of content, focus on irrelevant, though seemingly "happening" (oh that buzz word that gives you an illusion of action even though you may be running to stay in the same place) ensure that the marginalised remain on the margins of our consciousness.

 

So comfortable is the middle class in its cocoon that it does not even feel the need to sensitise its children to the world down there, so diametrically opposed to the sheltered and cosy existence that we pull out all stops to provide to our kids. So it is a celebration of life with disposable incomes without ever feeling the presence of a vast economic divide.

 

Not that one can regiment the growth of children but an awareness of the yawning gap would not only generate an awareness of the schism but also ensure that the working professionals who emerge out of this pool are socially aware and at least know about the living conditions of a vast multitude, that a few may choose to act will be a bonus. In the absence of a social conscience and confusion of values, one has to consciously bring up a generation that is not narcissistic and connects to the society it lives in.

There are no absolutes but it is certainly not too much to expect that an effort should be made to inculcate some of this consciousness-raising in the formative years. How does one do it? Obviously through the two primary agents: the family and educational institutions, that is through child-rearing practices and moulding the educational syllabi. The latter are caught in a time warp and the process of sensitisation would go a long way if the policy-makers focus on "emerging India".

 

Showing often works better than telling to the very young. There is no harm in aquainting our children with the filth, squalor and abysmal living conditions. Just as it would do no harm and perhaps a lot of good if we give a break to unbridled consumerism (which has contributed to this disconnect between society and individual) and tell our future citizens that there are so many like them who get no food, medicines or shelter.

 

Unlike the assumption that IPL represents "emerging India", one would like to think and believe that emerging India has much more to offer us than shady deals and wheeling-dealing. It is up to us to channel the vast reservoirs of untapped energy and enthusiasm if we are to ensure they do "social networking" with a difference.

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

HARYANA: ECONOMICALLY UP, SOCIALLY DOWN

BY MAHABIR JAGLAN

 

Despite taking a great leap forward in the economic sphere, Haryana continues to be socially underdeveloped. It lags behind a large number of states in the country in terms of access to education, healthcare, nutrition and sanitation. Social backwardness is also reflected in the discrimination against women in the social, economic and political spheres. In terms of the ratio of female/male child mortality (often taken as an index of gender equity), Haryana is bracketed with the worst-performing areas in the world.

 

Access to education, without doubt, is the most crucial indicator of social development. Women's education in particular plays a vital role in the development process and overall social development. There are a number of studies revealing that it has a direct bearing on the quality of life of a family. It also ensures exceptionally high social returns in terms of lowering the rates of fertility and infant and child mortality. Moreover, the rise in the level of women education is also found to have a positive impact on child nutrition and education.

 

Haryana is among the five states – the other being Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh — which exhibit extreme gender discrimination in the attainment of education. Rural women in the state are in the most disadvantageous position with regard to access to education. It is not a surprise as studies in the demographic and social history divulge that Haryana happens to be the part of the north-western territory of the country that has treated women insensitively. The position of rural women in the region has not improved substantially in the wake of growing prosperity in the rural economy in the last four decades or so. Rather the traditional cultural bias against females has persisted and remained entrenched.

 

The level of literacy may be taken as a broad indicator of social and cultural development in the rural society. The figures of literacy obtained from the 2001 Census reveal that in terms of female literacy 17 states are doing better than Haryana. The literacy level in Haryana is lower than that of Kerala, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh and Goa. Incidentally, all these states are far behind Haryana in economic development. The large gap in the literacy level of males and females (23 percentage points) and the urban and rural females (22 percentage points) in the state indicates the extent of social deprivation of rural women.

 

The north-eastern region of the state comprising the districts of Ambala, Yamunanagar and Panchkula lies beyond the influence zone of khap panchayats. It is not incidental that this region has the highest total literacy rate (73.56 per cent) and rural literacy rate (67.37 per cent) in the state. This region also records the highest female literacy rate (57.45 per cent) and the least gender disparity in rural area. On the other hand, the rural female literacy in the western and southern regions of the state is as low as 45 per cent.

 

When the level of educational attainment is seen in relation to different social groups, it presents interesting revelations. As expected the Scheduled Castes are placed at the bottom as their overall educational attainment rate is 37.89 per cent. But the socially and economically backward castes (artisan communities) are performing better than the socially and economically dominant intermediary (peasant) castes (Jats, Ahirs, Gujjar etc.) in the educational sphere.

 

It goes without saying that in Haryana khap panchayats wield considerable influence on the land-owning communities, particularly the Jats. Claiming to be the representative of the socially and economically dominant communities, these medieval institutions at the collective level carry the bandwagon of patriarchal value system which perpetuates discrimination against women in all spheres of life, including education.

 

Hence, it is no surprise that these communities have failed to maintain the desired pace in the educational sphere. It does not require further elaboration to conclude that the socio-spatial domain of the khap panchayats in Haryana is discernible by social backwardness and utmost gender bias. It does not require satellite imagery to interpret as what lies underneath the canopy of khap panchayats.

 

The writer is an Associate Professor of Geography in Kurukshetra University

 

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THE TRIBUNE

OPED

 

CHENNAI DIARY

DHONI'S TAMIL NEW YEAR

N. RAVIKUMAR

 

WHEN Chennai Super Kings captain MS Dhoni wished a happy Tamil New year last week, there was wild applause from the audience, accompanied by laughter. Dhoni too was pleased. But he was unaware of the reasons for the noisy cheers. Two years have passed since the Tamil Nadu government officially changed the Tamil calendar and fixed January 14 as the Tamil New Year Day instead of April 14.

 

The crowd knew that somebody had played a joke on Dhoni and the captain greeted the people with good intentions. Even though, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and his cabinet colleagues were present in the stadium, none pointed out Dhoni's mistake as the CSK captain is the blue-eyed boy of Chennai fans.

 

"While I went through the busy streets in my motor cycle last year, many people talked to me in Tamil. Though, I did not understand their language, I felt their love and affection for me", he said, while greeting the people.

 

After Haryana's hurricane, Kapil Dev, the present Indian captain is the most loved cricketer in Tamil Nadu. So the fans did not want to embarrass their hero by pointing out his mistake. "When Dhoni wishes, it is really the Tamil New Year for us", quipped one of the fans.

 

Pyramid for the living

 

When Tamil Nadu Finance Minister K Anbazhagan compared the newly constructed state assembly to an Egyptian pyramid, there was an embarrassing silence in the treasury benches. The fact that pyramids are tombs for the dead could have weighed heavily on their minds.

 

Actually, the veteran leader was countering criticism by AIADMK members, who had compared the assembly building to a "circus tent", a remark which annoyed the ruling party members.

 

He went on to compare it with Egyptian pyramids. Immediately realising that his remarks could be misconstrued, he added that the Egyptian pyramids were constructed for the dead, but this assembly building was for the welfare of the living people.

 

However, the opposition members were really amused. One of the AIADMK MLAs, who spoke to reporters outside, said: "Tamil Nadu is the only state which has built a pyramid for the living".

 

Bride airlifted

 

After a long wait of several months, a male crocodile, belonging to the Tomistoma breed at the Madras Crocodile Bank has hopes of finding a mate. Since it is a rare breed, the reptile bank's authorities were finding it tough to get a mate for the Tomistoma male.

 

Finally, it was decided to bring a female from the Ahmedabad zoo.. It was a tough journey for the female croc, which was packed in a wooden crate and airlifted.

 

After a tiresome four-hour journey, the eight-feet long female, landed at Chennai. The bride was not in a good mood as it was not accustomed to the new circumstances. So it has been kept in a separate enclosure, near the male Tomistoma. Now the groom can only watch and wait. Officials say the female will be ready in a few weeks.

 

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MUMBAI MERROR

EDITORIAL

COOK LIKE YOUR AAJI

FORGET DINING OUT AT RESTAURANTS, THIS MAY 1 ENJOY AUTHENTIC MAHARASHTRIAN USING RECIPES IN KAUMUDI MARATHE'S THE ESSENTIAL MARATHI COOKBOOK


Food is the heart of any culture," begins Kaumudi Marathe's introduction to The Essential Marathi Cookbook. Her recipes are authentic. Her family and friends make them that way. In the list she provides of people who have contributed to the book, Konkanastha brahmins predominate. But also present are Deshasthas, Saraswats, CKPs, East Indians and Malvani Muslims. That represents the whole gamut of Marathi cuisine, not exhaustively by any means, but at least as a selection of significant pointers.


The recipes come with delightful memories of what they meant to the writer as she grew up. That life is no longer available to young people because, as she says, "we live farther and farther away from older relatives, obvious and natural teachers of arts such as cooking". In the circumstances, "recording food history is not only critical, it is essential."

 

She can say that again. Not only do we live far away from our "natural teachers", we are well on our way to rejecting their role in our lives altogether. In recent times I have heard a nauseously bubbly voice informing television viewers that a certain manufacturer's packets of readymade gravies will bring the aromas of the restaurant into their homes. But wasn't there a time when manufacturers laboured to convince consumers that their packaged foodstuffs were as good as "grandmother's cooking"? What happened in between to reverse the claim?


Eating out happened. More and more families took more and more children out to dinner. You don't go to a restaurant to eat what you eat at home. It has to be special. So the soft homemade dosa turned into a long roll of paper thin crispness. Vegetables and meat were submerged in thick gravies full of cashew-nut powder and cream. Taste buds were quickly converted from the simple and nutritious to the rich and seductive. Adults and children alike wondered why home-cooked food did not taste like restaurant food. Along comes this manufacturer to assure them that, with a little help from him, it very well could. Grandmothers? Who are they?
This kind of entrepreneurship is where Marathi food takes a knock. To be Marathi is to lack enterprise. To be Marathi is also to oscillate perpetually between thinking you are superior because you have Shivaji, and inferior because you have little money. Your food is actually the best in the world, but will others think so?
 

I was in Nashik at a three-star type hotel. Among its restaurants was one that served thalis. What goes into your thalis, I asked. The usual, said the Marathi man at the desk – Gujarati, Rajasthani. What about Marathi, I asked. The man smiled sheepishly. Are we waiting for the State Government to make Marathi food compulsory in all restaurants?


Many of Marathe's recipes are part of my family's repertoire. And yet I read her book from cover to cover (I did too!), because of the delicious memories it evoked. Marathe speaks in the introduction about collective papad making. On my tongue tingles the taste of dangar (the dough) dunked in oil. The semolina cake recipe (page 321) takes me back to summer holidays in Dahanu when my grandmother would pile the semolina-sugar-dahi-and-milk mix in a deep pan and bake it on a wood-fired chulah with burning coals on the lid. I will leave the resultant aroma to your olfactory imagination.

 The recipe for "Amboli" (page 116) recalls delicious Sunday afternoons when this dosa-type pancake came straight off the cast-iron griddle on to our plates accompanied by a hot coriander chutney. Then comes that heavenly brew, "Haldi-kunku coffee" (page 377). Made with ground coffee, lots of milk and sugar and generous dashes of nutmeg and cardamom powders, it raises a horrified laugh amongst hardcore coffee drinkers but was our ultimate reward for good behaviour.


 On Maharashtra's 50th birth anniversary three days from now, here's wishing everybody happy aamras-puri, vangi bhaat and khamang kakadi!

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

EDITORIAL

WINNER'S CURSE

THE HIGH 3G BIDS COULD CAUSE LARGE EARNINGS RE-RATINGS

The government could end up with Rs 45,000-50,000 crore as revenue from the 3G/BWA (third generation/broadband wireless access) auctions for spectrum; this compares with the Budget estimate of Rs 35,000 crore. Day 14 of the auction for 3G spectrum saw bids reach Rs 33,500 crore, while the BWA auction is scheduled to start two days after the 3G bidding is over.

Most telecom service providers have 7 MHz of spectrum. Getting another 5 MHz from the 3G auction could reduce their operational expenses by as much as 30-40 per cent, as economies of spectrum-scale kick in. With the average revenue per user (or Arpu) falling steadily, firms desperately need new revenue streams. Most of these have to do with higher-speed internet access and other applications that require greater bandwidth. While the incremental Arpu is down to as low as Rs 100 per month for new users of voice telephony, the 3G-like wireless internet dongles sold by Tata Teleservices and RCom fetch monthly revenues that are upwards of Rs 650. The number of internet users is, of course, tiny when compared to the total mobile-customer population, so the key question is whether these higher-paying customers, 90-100 million in another five years, according to estimates, are enough to justify bids that total Rs 45,000-50,000 crore.

 An estimate by Kotak Institutional Equities Research, which projected bids of Rs 51,300 crore ($10.3 billion for 3G and $1.1 billion for BWA) more than a month ago, puts this number in perspective — while firms stand to gain $6.1 billion through the new/better services they can offer on 3G spectrum, they can lose $6.3 billion if they don't have 3G as their best customers will leave them. Going by this logic, if firms bid, say, $9 billion for 3G, that's far in excess of the $6.1 billion they can earn through 3G services. In other words, it's safe to assume a series of earning re-ratings from analysts once the auctions are over.

The equally vital part of the auction is what it says about the damage that Communications Minister A Raja caused to the exchequer by giving away 2G licences for a pittance in 2008. Assuming the 3G auction settles at Rs 40,000 crore for four all-India licences with 5 MHz each, that's a price of Rs 2,000 crore per MHz, whereas Mr Raja gave away the licences at Rs 375 crore per MHz. It is true that 3G spectrum allows firms to service more customers per MHz than 2G spectrum does, but on the other hand the demand for 3G services is constrained by the high cost of handsets. Most estimates look at just 10-15 per cent of the market moving to 3G services. Even if 2G spectrum were to be fairly priced at only half that for 3G (i.e. Rs 1,000 crore per MHz), Mr Raja gifted to a handful of favoured companies government money to the tune of Rs 15,000 crore — the largest such gift in Indian history. The question is, why is Mr Raja still a minister in the government?

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ON RECOVERY ROAD

IT PUTS ITS WORST YEAR BEHIND IT

India's export-oriented software industry has put behind it the toughest year in its history, with its business model intact. The recovery now under way is likely to be broad-based, stretching across geographies, businesses and verticals, according to Wipro Chairman Azim Premji, who is the industry doyen. This is why the stock market's response to the fourth quarter results has been guided more by the forecasts issued, as in the case of Infosys, than by the performance in the last quarter. The expected recovery is likely to walk on two legs. One is the recovery of the global financial majors who are critical to Indian software for being among its largest customers. The other is the incipient overall recovery in the mature economies which is expected to enable firms to again start spending for greater efficiencies. The anticipation of good times ahead is indicated by projections of higher hiring and announcement of pay hikes.

Among the industry leaders, by far the best performance this past year has been by Tata Consultancy Services, which has achieved 17 per cent volume growth in a year of recession. But the even more remarkable feat has been the improvement in its margins. From being behind margin leader Infosys by 10 percentage points in the beginning of the year, it has closed the fourth quarter just 1 percentage point behind. That is why CEO N Chandrasekaran has described 2009-10 as an exceptional year in which the company has been able to build a solid platform for growth. His optimism is based partly on the prospect of getting large orders, the first in the line being a likely $100 million deal with Deutsche Bank to install core banking solutions for its operations in 52 countries. Against this, while Infosys' top line performance has been subdued, Wipro's, with its non-IT businesses, has fluctuated sharply between positive and negative territory. In the last quarter, margins for both Infosys and Wipro had shrunk slightly.

 The key question is whether the industry will go back to exceptional growth as global recovery takes root over the next two to three years, or settle down to a sedate pace in comparison to its own chequered past. Nasscom, the industry lobby group, has projected a compounded annual growth rate for the new decade of no more than 13-14 per cent, or no faster than the expected growth in nominal GDP. This would seem to be unduly modest, and overly influenced by the challenges of the past couple of years. Industry leaders talk privately of aiming for sustained growth of 20 per cent. The good news is that even domestic IT expenditure is going up rapidly, propelled by rising government spending. This is likely to give a top line boost to the industry, though domestic margins are lower than in mature markets. Meanwhile, the rupee's rising exchange value has already dampened performance. However, since further rupee appreciation is likely to be limited, the potential downside on this count is small

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN: THE G-20, POWER, AND IDEAS

THE DISPERSION OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC POWER AUGURS WELL FOR THE ROLE OF IDEAS IN POLICY-MAKING

ARVIND SUBRAMANIAN

The wobbly West and the rising rest. That is now the context to all gatherings of the world's economic policy-makers. The monopoly on power and influence wielded by the hegemon (the United States) and by the other advanced economies is being broken for real and for good. Key decisions will emanate less from conversations amongst a few and more from a wider group. It is difficult to predict whether the theatre of real action will be the G-20 or some other collectivity. But we can be increasingly sure that the "halcyon" days of the G-1 or the G-7 are behind us.

This makes for both bad news and good news. The dispersion of power will probably make international cooperation more difficult to secure, except perhaps in times of crises as we recently witnessed. More countries having a say means more countries having the right to say no. As more vetoes are exercised, efficient and expeditious decision-making at the global level could prove elusive.

 But the unambiguously good news is the impact of the de-monopolisation or de-cartelisation of power and influence on the role of ideas. In the international economic sphere, especially in relations between the West and the rest, power and ideas have interacted in two ways in the past.

In some cases, monopoly power or rather the power monopoly has simply overridden ideas. The best example relates to the intellectual property (IP) negotiations in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations (TRIPs). Then, developing countries, especially the poorest amongst them, had the compelling intellectual case that stronger rules on IP were not in their interest: up to first order, TRIPs was a rent-transfer mechanism from consumers in poor countries to pharmaceutical companies in the rich world. But the combined commercial might of the United States, Europe, Japan and Switzerland overwhelmed the developing country case.

That economic power can affect policy and rules is far from new. The really troubling aspect to the TRIPs saga was the intellectual complicity of the World Bank, especially the deafening silence of its research department. At a time when AIDS was ravaging Africa, and TRIPs was threatening to impede access to HIV-related drugs, the World Bank remained a silent spectator, failing to make a clear and unequivocal case about TRIPs' adverse impact.

We will never know whether the intellectual leaders at the World Bank during the TRIPs saga (circa 1990-2003) attempted to speak up but were muzzled by the Bank's political masters (the power monopolists) or did not even attempt to speak up, imposing self-censorship, in anticipation of the likely political response (We can rule out the third possibility that they did not see the underlying merits of the developing country argument as that would have been incompetence). Regardless, this intellectual blight on the World Bank's record illustrates the ability of power to muzzle good ideas.

A second type of relationship between power and ideas is more subtle. Those who have power work to promote a belief system that will ensure the perpetuation of power. Power influences ideas and absolute power ensures that self-serving ideas stamp out all others. One example of this, of course, relates to the finance fetish, domestic and foreign. The links between Wall Street and academia rocket scientists tempted by the lure of astronomical compensation and the funding by Wall Street of universities in general and finance programmes in business schools in particular, helped play a role in ensuring that there was enough supply of intellectuals who promoted the veneration of domestic and foreign finance. Intellectuals too have a price, and for Wall Street this cost has been chump change.

Thus, Simon Johnson's energetic call for breaking up the large financial houses in his engaging and feisty book 13 Bankers is as much aimed at attenuating the link from economic power to political power as from economic power to idea power (or, in the case of those doing God's work, from economic power to spiritual power).

In short, as power gets dispersed, the hold of power over ideas gets weakened. Good ideas have a better chance of getting a hearing and bad ones face a greater threat of being flushed out. Can these propositions be validated or falsified in the near future? The fate of two bad ideas (there are several others) could serve as a testing ground for the proposition that the G-20 might be better for the marketplace of ideas than the G-7.

Idea 1. The leadership of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank must be a monopoly of the wobbly West. If and when Dominique Strauss-Kahn returns to seek political office in France, there will be a vacancy to fill at the IMF. A class of moderate opinion is lobbying for selection of the IMF's managing director position based on merit without regard to nationality. We must be clear. The selection of a meritorious European simply will not do. There will be no way of distinguishing whether this choice reflected new merit-based procedures or cynical perpetuation of the old. To avoid all doubt, to be more chaste than Caesar's wife, the process must deliver a non-European this time around. Over time, as the process is placed beyond reproach, the focus can be on the process rather than on the outcome.

Idea 2. Completing the Doha Round is indispensable to the credibility of the WTO and the health of the world economy. It is clear to most that the pursuit of Doha recalls the Mallory motive for scaling the Everest: because it has been around (and for a long time). Yet, there is collective public denial on this. The most pressing issues in the trading system are not within the scope of the Doha Round as Aaditya Mattoo of the World Bank and I argued last year in a piece in Foreign Affairs. Addressing these issues expeditiously must be the goal. The immediate and public debate to be had is on whether getting there quickly requires finishing the Doha Round and harvesting the modest gains it offers, burying it with the appropriate diplomatic rites, or creatively re-packaging it.

So, as the road show that is the G-20 moves on, it is time not just to celebrate the economic rise of emerging markets but also to be hopeful about ideas being unshackled from power and hence gaining their rightful role.

The author is senior fellow, Peterson Institute for International Economics and Center for Global Development

 

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

LEARNING TO LIVE WITH HAWKERS

THE EMBATTLED LEFT FRONT HAS DONE ONE MORE VOLTE FACE BY DECIDING TO REGULARISE HAWKERS IN KOLKATA'S BUSIEST STREETS

SUBIR ROY

In the run-up to the municipal polls in Kolkata next month (state assembly elections are due next year), the embattled Left Front government of West Bengal has done one more volte face (it had earlier reintroduced English language teaching in government primary schools) by deciding to regularise street vendors or hawkers whose takeover of large stretches of pavements along the busiest streets has become a defining aspect of the city. The decision has predictably been assailed by the media, particularly the English language papers which have recalled Operation Sunshine — the move by the same government a decade ago to rid the pavements of the same hawkers to much middle class applause. I myself had written a laudatory piece then celebrating regaining of the street-looks of my childhood.

 The issue is of national interest not just because the state government has claimed that it is implementing the national policy on urban street vendors. Kolkata — with its poverty, lack of jobs, congestion and an electorate more interested in its rights than duties — is an extreme case of urban realities across the nation. Make a dent on the hawker problem there and you will have developed a model for application elsewhere.

Several realities need to be grasped at the outset. India is not China and you cannot get rid of hawkers in busy parts of Kolkata by doing a mini Tiananmen Square. (The hawkers have been earlier successfully removed without serious violence because they knew they would be able to get back.) The latest move recognises this, even though the motive, with an eye on elections, is insincere. There is no point in playing around with words like "sunshine" and "sunset" in headlines because Operation Sunshine-I has not and Operation Sunshine-II will not work. It is not an available option. Conversely, regularising hawkers is no real solution to the unemployment problem or poverty. Left unchecked and carried to its logical conclusion, hawkers will cover not just pavements but entire carriageways.

But hawkers (325,000 in Kolkata at the last count) mean livelihood for families at the bottom of the pyramid, made possible by young men with an entrepreneurial spirit which needs celebrating. The middle class cannot want to own cars and simultaneously say it is wrong for hawkers to usurp pavements. Private cars are the biggest usurpers of public (road) space. They gain legitimacy because the public transport system is inadequate, though it is better in Kolkata than in most other Indian cities. But hawkers themselves will go away if people cannot access them via usable roads and pavements. The aim, therefore, must be to find a compromise that is practical, civilised and does not imply the abdication of the state.

One solution not tried so far is use of technology. The hawkers' stalls are both sprawling and ugly. Modern carts on wheels with storage space below the service top and colourful awnings along the sides can do much to give the city a better look while keeping a control on how much space a single hawker can occupy. These carts can be stored for the night in common state-arranged pounds so that pavements can get cleaned between night and morning. As hawkers sell clothes, utensils, toys, food, soft drinks, what have you, there can be a national design competition for a modular cart and variations of it for different uses. Such carts can actually make the derelict city look colourful and can become a plus point. Next, hawker presence has to be intensively coordinated with civil clean-up work so that hawkers, particularly those selling food, do not create an unhygienic mess. If these carts work, then they can be replicated all over the country.

The biggest hurdle is to acceptably ration pavement space between the hawker and the walker. The earlier official directive that hawkers can take up only a third of the pavement space is fair. Well-designed carts can actually generate a few inches of pavement space without hurting the hawker. Municipal corporation staff have to go down pavements with measuring tape and chalk in hand to draw lines which no one can transgress. Under these conditions, it will be possible to accommodate most of the current hawkers while making pavements usable again for pedestrians. The system will work and boundaries will be respected only if the system evolves out of intensive consultation with all stakeholders. What has to be initiated is a culture of consultation before doing anything. Civic staff and hawkers' representatives have to learn to bang heads together and honour commitments. Barcelona, a city that has reinvented itself, holds intensive discussions with the public on even things like where and how to locate a bus shelter.

The new system promises identity cards for hawkers. This is fine, but the hawkers' union demand that the card should also say where and how much space is allotted will not do. The card should entitle a holder to ply his trade, where he will do so will depend on what he has been doing and by seeking new territory. The cardinal duty of the police and the civil staff must be not to allow the hawkers' sprawl to expand further on busy streets. Such a system or its variation identified through discussion can work and be better than what is there on the ground right now.

subirkroy@gmail.com

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS

IF JUDGMENTS DO NOT GIVE REASONS FOR THEIR RULINGS, THEY WOULD BE SUSPECT

M J ANTONY

A judge who silently listens without making any comments is a challenge to the skill and patience of the arguing counsel. He drops no clue as to what goes on in his mind. A worse scenario is when he writes a terse order without discussing the strenuous arguments made before him.

This happens more often than we would like to believe. In four judgments in as many weeks, the Supreme Court criticised the high courts for not following the norms for writing judgments.

 Absence of reasons in a judgment baffles not only the litigants who want to file an appeal but also the Supreme Court judges who are called upon to examine the high court ruling. Moreover, if a judgment does not contain reasons, it would lead to suspicion in public mind that the judges who wrote it did not understand the issues, were careless, whimsical or were swayed by other considerations. Natural justice is a basic principle of law, which enjoins upon the court to hear both sides diligently and give a reasoned order.

Owing to the recurrence of such "non-speaking" orders, as they are called, the Supreme Court last week devoted some 20 pages of its judgment in the Assistant Commissioner vs Shukla & Brothers case, to emphasise the importance of reasons. In this case, the Rajasthan High Court had dismissed the revision petition of the revenue department by a one-line order. It appealed to the Supreme Court alleging that the high court had not recorded reasons for such summary dismissal of its petition without answering the questions of law formulated for its consideration.

The Supreme Court found substance in the argument and remitted the matter to the high court for reconsideration, followed by a speaking order. It acknowledged that the increasing institution of cases in all courts in the country is casting a heavy burden on them. "Despite that, it would be neither permissible nor possible to state as a principle of law that while experiencing the power of judicial review, particularly by the high courts, providing of reasons can be dispensed with."

There are at least three arguments for following the principle of natural justice scrupulously. The rule applies not only to courts but also to all administrative authorities. The judgment said that firstly, a person against whom an order is required to be passed or whose rights are likely to be affected must be granted an opportunity of being heard. He has a legitimate expectation to know the reasons for rejection of his contentions and evaluate the grounds for turning down his prayers. Secondly, the authority concerned should provide a fair and transparent procedure. Finally, the authority concerned must apply its mind which should be reflected in a reasoned order. "Reason," the judgment reiterated, "is the soul of orders."

In another judgment last week, Asst Commercial Tax Officer vs Kansai Nerolac Paints, the court remitted the case to the high court as its judgment had not given reasons for its conclusion. In yet another ruling, Secretary & Curator vs Howrah Nagrik Samity, the court commented: "Reason is the heartbeat of every conclusion. It introduces clarity in an order and without the same, it becomes lifeless. Reasons substitute subjectivity by objectivity. Absence of reasons renders the order indefensible/unsustainable, particularly when the order is subject to further challenge before a higher forum." The court ordered a review of the Calcutta High Court judgment in this case.

A senior citizen recently wrote to an individual judge of the Rajasthan High Court complaining that certain conditions imposed by Air India (AI) for getting concessional fares were arbitrary. The court turned the letter into a public interest litigation (Union of India vs Shankar Lal) and issued notice to AI, Jet Airways and the Railways. Then it quashed the conditions. The government appealed to the Supreme Court which found that the high court judgment had not given the reasons for its order and "appeared to proceed on the basis of its subjective satisfaction".

Procedural laws elaborately explain how to write a judgment. Order 20 Rule 4 of the Civil Procedure Code says that judgments shall contain a concise statement of the case, points for determination, the decision thereon and the reasons for such decision. The Criminal Procedure Code devotes the whole Chapter 27 to the procedure and contents of delivering judgments. High court judges can follow them, but need not go to the other extreme either, and write judgments running to a hundred printed pages, as some Supreme Court judges are tempted to do.

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BUSINESS STANDARD

EDITORIAL

IS A SPORTS REGULATOR NEEDED?

Given the mess in Indian cricket, this will introduce transparency and grievance-redressal for everyone - but since regulators often tend to toe the government line, there are risks involved.

 A sports regulator for governance norms and a dispute-resolution process is vital — this was proposed in 2007 but never implemented

Given the nature of the current allegations surrounding improprieties in cricket administration, Indian sport now faces its biggest financial and political crisis thus far. However, Indian sports federations, across the board, are no strangers to the various issues of transparency, integrity and due process that have been raised in the present instance. As unfortunate as this state of being might be, I feel that some good could still emerge.

Taking a step back, most of our country's sports governing bodies are private membership organisations. They claim monopolistic rights over the administration of their respective sports with the very same vigour with which they assert their autonomy. This is the perfect recipe for fiefdoms where power can be exercised without responsibility. In the lack of basic governance protocols and public accountability, possibly lies the cause of the pitiable state of Indian sport which, in most cases, shows little progress and in a handful of others, has perhaps seen unaccountable growth. With the integrity of sport having been brought to the forefront of national importance, we have now been presented with a prime opportunity to reorient Indian sports administration so that it can focus on its two most important stakeholders — the sportsperson and the sports fan.

Ours is a nation that is not lacking in talent. From my limited experience in the field of sports talent representation, this certainly extends to sports talent. Unfortunately, talent is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition for sporting success. Although many of our most talented sportspersons have brought themselves to the doorstep of success by dint of single-minded pursuit, however hard they try, some doors have remained shut to them. Being an Indian sports fan has, for the most part, been an equally frustrating pursuit.

The role of a sports federation ought to be that of finding the right talent, grooming it over the years, supporting it when support is needed the most and creating the right platforms for it to succeed. This enables talent to deliver, engage with the public imagination and thereby contribute to the development of the sport's ecosystem. Unfortunately, our sports bodies have largely failed to prioritise this core administrative function of connecting sporting talent to sports fans.

A significant change of perspective can sometimes come from introspection but, after a point, is probably best externally enforced. Given the public interest function of sports federations, and the common issues of concern across the whole set of our federations, I believe it is now opportune for the government to step in meaningfully and responsibly. Just as Sebi regulates public markets and public companies, the time is ripe for a public regulator for Indian sports bodies. Whether or not the federations are publicly-funded, they hold public trust and must be accountable and subject to basic checks and balances. In fact, a body of this sort (the "Sports Regulatory Authority of India") was proposed by the sports ministry in the Draft Comprehensive National Sports Policy 2007. At the time, it was summarily rejected for want of political will. Perhaps we have been given a cause to be a little more willing now?

A supervisory body of this sort, even if somewhat unprecedented, can be carefully structured to play a facilitative role rather than one of a micro-manager. It will also need its own internal checks and balances. This sports watchdog can focus on drafting and implementing good governance guidelines for sporting federations, disclosure and reporting standards, disciplinary standards and dispute-resolution procedures. This would include setting and enforcing standards for elections, maximum terms and independence criteria for administrators, professional qualification criteria, institutional transparency and accountability for financial and sporting decisions, controlling corruption in sports, protecting the integrity of results, stadium security and similar matters that contribute to the ultimate objective of delivering value to the sportsperson and the sports fan. This re-prioritisation is a matter of the greatest importance to Indian sport. As things stand, while myopic interests will limit the ability of federations to set their own houses in order, I believe a government regulator can effectively put in place a process that will achieve this goal.

We have reached the tipping point and it is now time we turn the corner. Even though the finish line may not yet be in sight and the course may be full of obstacles known and unknown, this is a race worth running.

GoSports is a sports management firm

Look at the mess in hockey or other games where the government has a role, and decide if you want cricket to suffer the same fate

Indian cricket is reeling from a ferocious onslaught from politicians and media ever since that wonderful brand IPL got itself entangled in the auction mess. From corruption to match-fixing, every conceivable allegation has been made. Some politicians have even demanded that cricket itself be banned. The more magnanimous only want to "nationalise" the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) or appoint a regulatory body. Nothing can be more counter-productive than the suggestion of government intervention.

For, it may make things worse for Indian cricket by making it an outcast in the world scenario. The International Cricket Council (ICC) grants affiliation to national cricket boards and not government institutions just as the Olympic Charter forbids government interference in national sports administration. The Kuwait Olympic Committee was suspended by the International Olympic Committee for suspected government interference in the elections of its national sports bodies. And have we forgotten that South Africa was kept out of the cricket fold because the government insisted that Blacks had no place in the game?

All those who are arguing in favour of government intervention or a regulatory authority need to be reminded that our government has many other priorities to attend to. It has the small matters of running the nation, keeping prices down, dealing with the Maoists in the hinterland and the like.

But you cannot condone corruption. If there are violations of laws of the land, then the government needs to act. Law-enforcement agencies like the Registrar of Societies, the Income Tax department and the Company Affairs Board etcetera can check and prevent financial misdemeanours.

It is strange that at a time when successive governments have emphasised the need to disinvest in the public sector, there should be a campaign for nationalisation of BCCI. Of course, cricket is a national passion but that does not mean the government must take over the running of the cricket Board. Cricket — and more specifically Indian cricket — has always found ways to tackle crises. The best example of this is the match-fixing scandal that broke out in the year 2000. Though there are no laws to deal with sports corruption in India, and though the Central Bureau of Investigation only produced an interim report after its investigation, BCCI went ahead and slapped bans on five individuals. Isn't that strong evidence of its ability to deal with crises?

BCCI has not done a bad job at all. For a nation that had just five "permanent" Test centres, there are at least a dozen-and-a-half venues capable of staging Test matches and One-Day Internationals. In the last few years alone, new cricket stadiums have come up in Delhi, Indore, Dharamshala, Nagpur, Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad. By the end of the year, the cities of Mumbai, Rajkot and Jamshedpur would have brand new stadiums while Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru are refurbishing the existing ones. Many more are on the way. During the same time, the national team has also risen from the ranks.

Today, the Golden Mace for the No 1 Test team sits in the BCCI headquarters in Mumbai. Our one-day side is in the top clutch and India is also the winner of the inaugural T20 World Cup. In recent years, we have also seen the emergence of stars not just from the metros but also from smaller towns like Ranchi, Baroda, Ghaziabad, Allahabad and Rae Bareilly. It is the only sport which has a welfare and pension scheme not just for its international cricketers but also for those who have played first-class cricket. A first-class cricketer who recently retired from Indian Railways informed me that his BCCI pension is more than his last drawn salary! All of this would not have happened with an administration that was either callous or lacked foresight, would it?

Contrast this with other sports that have survived on government dole.

Look at the mess in which Hockey India find itself in, not in the least because the government sought to have a say in how its elections must be held. Look at how our weightlifters have been suspended for dope violations that happen in the camps run by the Sports Authority of India, a government body. And all these sports come closest to being regulated by government since they get their funding from the government. And can anybody explain the mess in the Commonwealth Games?

Indian cricket will be better off wrestling with its problems and finding a solution itself rather than face any form of government intervention in running the sport that binds people better than any religion can.

TCM is a sports management firm

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

ONLY THE RUPEE'S THE HURDLE

 

It can now be said with conviction that the world economy has emerged from the depths of the crisis it had experienced through 2008-09 — that is what India's information technology majors' results show.


Third quarter financial results of the four major IT companies had signalled a recovery, and now the fourth quarter results of these companies confirm the good news.


Infosys reported a 3.5% rise in revenues in Q4, from a quarter ago, TCS 1.2%, Wipro 1.8% and HCL 1.5%.


Profit growth numbers looked more encouraging, despite the strengthening rupee playing a spoilsport. Thus, TCS reported a 9.7% rise in net profits, from a quarter ago. Corresponding growth number for Infosys was 2.6% and HCL 16.2%. Wipro does not provide separate numbers for IT services.

While the latest numbers are definitely not as heady as those reported pre-crisis, what is clear is that global corporations have once again started spending on technology, although cautiously. Client additions have improved and large deals are back on the table.


All four companies reported addition of 27-47 new clients during the quarter, and sectors such as financial services and manufacturing that account for a large chunk of business of Indian companies have started bouncing back. This makes the future look more optimistic. That apart, there are many transformational and integration deals emerging, with many banks and other financial services companies needing logistic support for the organisational restructuring they need to effect. All this means good news for the employment situation in the country. Companies are planning not only to continue hiring, but also to pay their experienced hands better — important to keep consumer confidence high and support growth in the domestic economy.


The sharp appreciation of the rupee will not disappear any time soon. Companies should further accelerate their efforts to move up the value chain, boosting revenue per employee, as also tap the growing domestic market for information technology services.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

OPPOSITION'S SELF-GOAL

 

In an abject display of political mismanagement by the Opposition, its united façade crumbled when it came to the cut motions on the Demands for Grants. The government sailed through easily, dividing the Opposition by hook and by CBI crook.


For the ruling coalition, the message is clear: there are no legislative hindrances to good governance. If it fails to press ahead with the positive agenda the President had outlined in her inaugural address to the newly elected ok Sabha, it has only itself to blame.


The government's job is to press ahead with governance, not be held in thrall by any prospect of Opposition unity. Specifically on petroleum prices, restoration of duties on which had triggered the Opposition's protest inside and outside Parliament, this imperative to govern now translates into decontrol without delay. The global price of crude has, in dollar terms, moved into the mideighties, and if the government continues to keep domestic fuel prices administered and repressed, the result would be to bloat the fiscal deficit and ruin the health of public sector oil companies.


This is the right time to convert price changes of fuels from political actions to automatic, decentralised, commercial ones, determined by costs and moderated by competition. If the government fails to bite the bullet now, it would find it even tougher to act when global crude prices move up higher, as they promise to, on the back of global recovery.


For the Opposition, the message is equally clear. Its divisions are far too deep to be papered over even by a seemingly non-sectarian issue like inflation. For the Left, the spectre of the Third Front now haunts its other parliamentary illusions, with predictably ghoulish results. Some sort of exorcism is clearly in order.


For the BJP, clearly, it has to choose better issues than globally-determined energy prices for taking on the government. May we suggest, for starters, failure to protect forest dwellers' rights, to move ahead on the presidential promise to escalate the right to information to a 'duty to publish', to create a contemporary replacement for the antiquated land acquisition Act?

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

 

When the Indian Premier League (IPL) started on March 12, the TV news channels had dedicated prime-time slots and cricket experts just for analysing the 'big game' of the day. By the time IPL ended on April 25, cricket experts were analysing not the game but the allegations of slush funds, rigged bidding, betting and even match-fixing!

Sometimes, even when nothing really broke, some TV news channels still carried a Breaking News tag for repeating not-so-new headlines like Franchisees back Modi. The cricket itself had taken a back seat on April 25, even if Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings were playing the most important game of the tournament to clinch the title.


Instead of discussing why Sachin had delayed sending in the big-hitting Pollard or Dhoni's strategy of relying on three spinners to prevent the opposition from forcing the pace, even the TV news channels' cricket experts were analysing Modi's move to control the IPL governing council's meeting and the BCCI's counter-move of suspending the commissioner.


One news channel even used cricketing terms to describe these off-field shenanigans by stating that Modi's doosra had been no-balled by the BCCI! Wasn't it Viscount Northcliffe who described journalism as "a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand"!


With the cricket over and with an enquiry committee taking its time to conduct a thorough probe into all IPL-related allegations, the politicians can now expect their fun and games to get due recognition on prime-time TV news. The finance Bill faces a cut motion in Parliament and railway trains running through forested parts of the country are periodically hijacked by Maoists.


Even if a replay of Mayawati versus Mulayam or Jayalalithaa versus Karunanidhi seems old hat, we could be treated to more recent developments like Digvijay versus Chidambaram. And there's always Amar Singh ready to come up with the odd sound bite. There will be no shortage of Breaking News even if this summer's IPL cricket is well and truly over.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

A MYSTICAL STATE COMES OF AGE

ARVIND PANAGARIYA

 

Economically-prosperous states such as Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are 'happening' places and, therefore, enjoy near-continuous coverage in print and electronic media. At the other extreme, when an exceptionally-poor state such as Bihar begins to register growth rates of 8-9%, it catches the eye of not just the national but also international press.


But the achievements of states that are neither at the top nor at the bottom go largely unnoticed. One such state is my own: Rajasthan. Going by the available per-capita income data, Rajasthan was the second poorest state in financial year 1980-81, ranking barely above Bihar. For years, it was pejoratively referred to as a Bimaru state alongside Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.


But quietly, the state's economy has been pulling ahead, catching up with one state after another. Today, it ranks ninth from below, with the large states of Assam, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar ranking below it in per-capita income terms. At 4.1% per annum, the state grew slower than the national average during 1981-82 to 1987-88. But once liberalisation began to take root and the country's growth made a clear break from its slow rate in the first four decades, Rajasthan took off as well. It grew a solid 6.7% per annum from 1988-89 to 2002-03 and then a phenomenal 9.4% per annum during 2003-04 to 2008-09. Among the states for which complete data up to 2008-09 is readily available, only Haryana at 10% and Orissa at 9.4% grew at higher or equal rates during 2003-04 to 2008-09.


Perhaps because a vast territory of the state is desert, weather is extremely hot and dry and its past reputation as a Bimaru state dominates, the images of poverty persist in the minds of many. The reality, however, is that the proportion of those living below the official poverty line in the state is remarkably low when judged against its per-capita income. Whereas the state's per-capita income has been well below the national average throughout the post-Independence era, the poverty ratio at 22.1% in 2004-05 was well below the national average of 27.5%. The poverty ratio in 2004-05 was also below those in far richer states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Rajasthan has done a particularly remarkable job of combating rural poverty, which stood at only 18.7% in 2004-05. Among large states, only Punjab, Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh exhibited lower poverty ratios than Rajasthan in 2004-05. Farmer suicide rate, an important indicator of distress among farmers, is among the lowest in Rajasthan and well behind those in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.

According to most studies, Rajasthan has been among the states with the most effective implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme launched in February 2006. This suggests that an additional significant decline in rural poverty is almost sure to be observed in the state when the results of the next large consumer expenditure survey — conducted by the National Sample Survey and currently under way — are published.


A key distinguishing feature of the economy of Rajasthan has been relatively high and only gradually declining share of agriculture in the net state domestic product (NSDP). This share averaged a little above 30% during 1999-2000 to 2001-02 and about 27.5% during 2005-06 to 2008-09.


INDUSTRY has performed generally poorly in the country and, going by the available data, even worse in Rajasthan . Its share in NSDP of the state fell from about 15% in the early 2000s to 13.2% in 2008-09. These changes have been reflected in about 5-percentagepoint shift in GDP in favour of services between early 2000s and 2008-09. Within services, the fastest-growing sectors during the last six years ended March 31, 2009, have been construction; transport, storage and communication; and trade, hotels and restaurants.


Transformation from a primarily rural and agrarian structure to a largely modern and urban one is an India-wide problem. Despite its impressive growth and rural-poverty alleviation record, Rajasthan remains well behind the average of India in achieving this transformation. If Rajasthan is to modernise and generate well-paid jobs for its young on a sustained basis, it must industrialise faster.


Given the legendry performance of its Marwari, Jain, Maheshwari and other communities as entrepreneurs in the country and around the world, the availability of vast land and a large young and educated workforce, the limited degree of industrialisation in the state is surprising. The state is also well positioned to take advantage of its common border with the rich industrial states of Haryana along the northeastern border and Gujarat along the southwestern border.


One thing the state government could do is to take a more aggressive and proactive role in wooing industrialists. Today, states have come to greatly appreciate the importance of industry in economic transformation and vigorously compete against one another for investment. Recall that when Mr Ratan Tata decided to relocate Nano plant, a contest among several states followed. But it was a contest from which Rajasthan was absent. Given its relatively small organised sector, Rajasthan may also find it easier to create a more flexible labour market, a critical element in creating large-scale labour-intensive manufacturing.


With an endless list of tourist spots — Jaipur, Udaipur, Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner, Delwara Temple in Mount Abu, Ranakpur temple in Pali, Kumbhalgarh and Chittorgarh forts near Udaipur, Abhaneri in Dausa, Keoladeo Ghana National Park, Ranthambhor National Park, the list goes on — Rajasthan remains a grossly under-exploited tourist destination. As incomes in the rest of the country rise and infrastructure improves, the state can expect to reap large revenues from this sector. The government could get a headstart in this area by massively building infrastructure serving the tourist attractions and aggressively promoting a Mystical, Magical Rajasthan at home and abroad.


(The author is a professor at Columbia University and non-resident senior fellow at Brookings Institution.)

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

YOU ARE BORN TO BE LOVED

VITHALC NADKARNI

 

A 25-year-old woman goes to a psychoanalyst seeking treatment for her intense anxiety attacks. The therapist finds the patient highly intelligent, but she also notices that she has these displays of unusually infantile emotional life. After six months of psychotherapy, the patient tells the doctor that nothing that she's being told is having an effect.


"For six months I have been sitting there," she complains, "hoping that you would take me to your heart. Instead, you've been utterly blind to my needs." Unruffled, the therapist concludes that the patient "feels like a child" and notes her obsession with just one idea: "to be mothered and smothered in atender, loving manner".


The therapist, whose name was Anna Terruwe, set out to map the effects of lack of tenderness in people's lives with her colleague Conrad Baars. The duo wanted to check if this made the subjects resistant to therapy. The research led them to the diagnosis of Emotional Deprivation Disorder.


Among the cluster symptoms they uncovered was the fear of hurting others' feelings. This also seemed to make the person overly sensitive to judgments and criticisms, or even what they perceived were slights by other people. Such people also seemed to overcompensate with a tendency to please other people to gain approval, just to avoid rejection or criticism.


The researchers found that the victims of early emotional deprivation also seemed to be assuaged by frequent displays of reassurance. More refractory individuals were beset with feelings of extreme emotional inadequacy: they seemed to believe that they were incapable of being loved or even unable to offer love to another person.


They were also suspicious about displays of affection and reassurance and tended to discount these as flowing from ulterior motives. They also harboured deep feelings of guilt and tended to hoard and collect things as if to compensate for the lack of love in their early emotional life.


The doctors sought therapeutic replacement of the unconditional love. They called it affirmation of the child-like state, which needed to be fulfilled for the person to grow to maturity. The same result could be obtained by transference; with unconditional love being projected and received from a Guru or a Giridhar Gopal, who is Second to None; and whose love knows no bounds.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

INVESTORS TOO WILL HAVE MORE COMFORT


There are two arguments in favour of foreign banks coming through the subsidiary route: managing risks and sharing returns. On the risk front, the need for better control over financial institutions is unequivocally recognised now. The RBI regulates foreign bank branches, but the regulator in the country of incorporation stays primary. The collapse of financial institutions in the supposedly well-regulated jurisdictions in the west has exposed the false comfort of relying on the judgement of foreign regulators.


So how does one exercise more control? Regulation is just one of the instruments. Three other levers have been under active debate: management, ownership and incorporation. Does the bank have 'Indian' management? Does the bank have majority of Indian shareholders? Is the bank incorporated in India? From a control perspective, the third one is the most effective lever. Local incorporation makes sure that the corporate law of the land applies to the entity. Laws determine the standard of governance that is crucial to risk control. Foreign banks incorporated as local subsidiaries and, thus, operating as Indian business entities following Indian laws will be more effective for risk control compared to asking for Indian management or Indian shareholding.

Let us move from risk to returns. The financial performance of foreign banks in India has been defying gravity. During 2004-09, when foreign banks were distracted by crisis in several markets, their share of profits in Indian banking rose from 9% to 14%, and their share in lucrative fee income increased from 17% to 23%. Their profitability, on an average, is double of Indian banks. These profits are not illegal or unfair, they are due to advantages of international network and scale enjoyed by the foreign banks. They can offer some high-margin services that Indian banks cannot. Foreign banks will enjoy this edge till there is consolidation in the Indian banking sector. The branch route reserves value creation by foreign banks in India for foreign investors. If these banks were local subsidiaries with minimum local shareholding, Indian investors, and not just Indian regulator, will have greater comfort.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

YES, FOR BETTER REGULATORY CONTROL

 

The decade-old debate on the mode of foreign banks operating in the country — as a branch or as a wholly-owned subsidiary — received a shot in the arm with the RBI governor's announcement to release a discussion paper on the topic by September 2010. The merits of operating through a locally-incorporated subsidiary for foreign banks include a lower tax rate of 30% against 40% applicable to branches, assuming they redeploy their profits into Indian operations.


This differential will continue under the draft Direct Taxes Code. It has proposed a tax rate of 25% for Indian companies, while the effective tax rate for foreign branches after including branch profits will be 36.25%. The other spinoffs are freedom to set up additional branches, more operational flexibility and impetus to grow inorganically that is significantly constrained under the current regulatory framework.


Despite an enabling framework, there is no precedence of a wholly-owned subsidiary of a foreign bank in India. This is mainly due to lack of clarity on priority sector lending norms: whether they would have to adhere to the limit of 40% of net bank credit applicable on Indian banks or 32% applicable on foreign banks. Another issue is the tax implication of conversion of a branch into subsidiary. This has significant capital gains tax and stamp duty implications.


Drawing lessons from the global financial crisis, it appears that the RBI's policy statement sees more merit in permitting foreign banks to set up subsidiaries in India. Besides allowing for the regulators to exercise greater control over a separate legal entity in India, the Indian subsidiary would perhaps be a little more distant from the difficulties faced by its parent bank in foreign jurisdiction than an India branch of that foreign bank. If there is greater clarity on rules, some of the large foreign banks that have aggressive growth plans for the Indian market, may potentially consider the subsidiary route.


With Indian firms going increasingly global, foreign banks can play a critical role in raising money and connecting them with global clientele and consumers.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

REVAMP FINANCIAL REGULATION

JAIDEEP MISHRA

 

It is useless to close the gates against ideas; they overlap them, noted the visionary contemplating change across borders. That was then, in financially far-more-sedate times. Fast forward to the here and now, and it is clear that in the domain of finance and investment, there are 'challenges of complexity' abroad in the mature markets, and domestically as well, with seeming regulatory overlap much contested in recent weeks. Notice the row between capital markets regulator Sebi and insurance watchdog Irda over unit-linked insurance plans (Ulips) — products hitched to equities and bonds.


The way ahead is forward-looking interregulatory cooperation and coordination in the larger interest of financial stability, and more. What's required is far more focus on the training, practice and knowledge-gathering in the hitherto-neglected field of financial economics. In tandem, we need emphasis on inter-disciplinary thought and action in the realm of law and economics. Perhaps the new national law schools need to launch a thriving working paper series on the emerging areas in finance, regulation and the design of incentives. The idea ought to be to bring about more informed policy-making and regulatory initiatives. Looking ahead, there's also the need for new institutions and proactive institutional mechanisms. For instance, while there is talk to boost financial literacy among the populace, we hardly have data on investment behaviour and attendant attitude towards risk.


Financial markets do after all link the present with the future, and the role of finance is to price, transfer and disintermediate risk. Yet, we lack a national think-tank on financial and experimental economics. For example, we do need to have some idea whether and to what extent commission and fees for agents and distributors help to better diffuse insurance products. And which, in turn, may point at the need for an appropriate policy stance, given the low penetration of insurance here, although Ulips, especially those with little insurance component, may imply excessive risk-taking. And as the financial crisis has shown, path-breaking innovation and speculation may not all be axiomatically-beneficial, socially or otherwise. However, Sebi's ban last year on entry and exit load for investors in mutual funds should boost demand for such products and deepen the capital market. The point is that without a stronger foundation and role for financial economics in market and incentive design, it would be unrealistic to expect sound policy and regulatory action. In parallel, court benches need to be well informed by the bar, for the greater good.


For relevant intervention in the financial marketplace, to disincentivise and debar rent extraction, say, what's required is better domestic articulation of notions of market efficiency , behaviour and completeness. Note that the extant high-level coordinatory committee, chaired by the Reserve Bank governor, has not quite been able to resolve the seeming regulatory turf battle over Ulips. A more participatory and forward-looking body like the proposed Financial Stability and Development Council may make sense: the Union finance minister has already announced that the council will not evolve as a super-regulator .


But then it might not and, in effect, lead to sub-optimal regulation and veritable 'regulatory capture' without varied and fertile professional financial economics, up-to-date thinktank output and regular loud thinking on ways and means to tackle avenues for rent-seeking and information imperfections.


The way ahead is to be better equipped to take into account and internalise the fact that financial markets can be irrational and 'overshoot', while rallying, how much such proclivities matter in our context, and what gainfully can be done about it in terms of regulation on the ground. The situational, growth context is important: one hypothesis in economics has it that if growth in value-added in the macroeconomy goes up by so much, asset prices including those at the bourses — usually the best developed markets — cannot but be positively correlated. It is a related matter that financial regulation in India has primarily been rulebased, complete with a panoply of controls, rigidities and onerous restrictions. Such a financial architecture would increasingly constrain corporates and households, in a general scenario of heightened risks, and so needlessly add to costs and overheads. Hence the need for domestic financial sector reforms and opening up for active bond, currency and interest-rate products, never mind that fancy recent practices abroad like securitisation and resale of mortgage receivables spectacularly bombed and precipitated the financial crisis.


Achange of track for more principles-based financial regulation would be increasingly appropriate in the future. The Sebi-Irda stand-off is already in the courts, but the principle of inter-regulatory panels to resolve differences and come to terms with such phenomenon as lack of symmetry of information between market participants clearly needs to be institutionalised. Likewise, while it makes no sense to remove banking supervision from the purview of the RBI — as in the UK — in financial market segments like currency and interest-rate futures, an inter-regulatory collegium approach would seem thoroughly warranted.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

WE PLAN TO EXPAND CLINICAL RESEARCH IN INDIA: NOVO NORDISK PRESIDENT AND CEO

SARAH JACOB

 

Leader in diabetes care, Novo Nordisk, owns the largest insulin plant in the world. It ships its active ingredients from Denmark to Indian partner Torrent Pharma's Ahmedabad facility, where the final drug is put together for the Indian market. It's not too different from the way Coca Cola is bottled world over, says Novo Nordisk's president and CEO Lars Rebien Sorensen, turning to the Coke can in his hand. In a recent visit to India Mr Sorensen sees the India subsidiary's role in its global framework increasing. In an interview with ET's Sarah Jacob, he talks of the growing transfer of accounting and patenting work to India and expansion of clinical research in this market. Excerpts:


India is home to a substantial number of diabetics and is likely to be a market where you would want to achieve the greatest strides. What does the roadmap look like?

For Novo Nordisk, international markets have been the fastest growing, at 20%, compared to the US, which is growing at 15%, and Europe, which is growing at 5-10%. This region is increasing in relative importance with markets, such as China, Algeria and India, expected to grow. We are focused on expanding clinical research for the registration of products in India and are increasingly recruiting Indian patients to participate in core clinical trials for registering products globally. We have also established a service centre in India to transfer financial and accounting, patenting and clinical data management work. We currently employ 150 people for service functions and as we increasingly transfer more global functions, this number will significantly multiply.


Both China and India are large countries. The existence of the generic industry in India has meant that there has historically been a lack of respect for intellectual property rights has had implications on the pricing structure in India as compared to China. Although diabetes has been recognised as an escalating problem in both countries, there are differences in abilities to implement it and reaching essential drugs are varied at the regional level. As a result, while Novo Nrodisk is growing at 30% in China, India is clocking around 20% growth.


A number of multinational pharma firms has retained stake in their Indian subsidiaries at 51% for years. Why do you think this is the case?

Historically, most western pharma companies have been under represented in China, Japan and India. The limited investment of MNCs in India could be a reflection of the major investments that these firms have recently made in China and Japan. I would suspect that in the future, growth opportunities would push more investments in India. At the same time, India has the lowest prices of pharmaceuticals in the world. Ironically, that means some companies tend to invest less in the market.

 


Indian generic companies were poised to grow into innovative pharma giants, but that hasn't happened. What do you think are the reasons?

Since generic companies have been limited to making bio-equivalents, they may fall short of competencies required for discovery, development or regulatory procedures to take on innovation. Companies must realise that discovery and development projects often fail. There is a reason why they are expensive. Not only do we have to pay for every drug that gets into market, but also the other hundred that failed. I suspect there are many Indian firms that do not have the financial capacity to buy existing innovative drug companies. Novo Nordisk has actually done what the Indian firms have been trying to do. We've graduated from a generic-based company into an innovative one also because the market for insulin is very niche.

Western drug companies seem to be finding it difficult to develop block buster drugs. What future do you envisage for such firms?

It is certainly becoming more difficult to develop block buster drugs. Novo Nordisk was established on the discovery that the lack of insulin leads to diabetes. Initially, we extracted insulin from animal tissues. In the mid 80's, it was discovered that you could take a gene from human insulin and stick it into a mammalian cell or yeast cell to produce unlimited quantities of human insulin. We then developed modern insulin that was a more efficient version and increases patient's convenience. There are possibilities of further development in modern insulin. But the risk of our research is lesser than other big pharmas, which are trying to identify new drugs for unvalidated targets. This is also why several big pharmas are developing 'me-too' or 'me-better' drugs. This has created a big challenge in developing block buster drugs.


What are the solutions for this?

The movement towards generics is a short term desperate solution. It is not likely to generate the sort of growth that international pharma companies are expecting. Science and innovation is the only way they can continue to grow as they have in the past. Companies have tried multiple routes, one of which is to build research capabilities in India, China and Japan.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

RECKITT BENCKISER OPERATING UNDER COST PRESSURES: CMD

RATNA BHUSHAN

 

Reckitt Benckiser, makers of Dettol, Harpic, Cherry Blossom and Disprin, has just completed a decade as a single entity after the merger of Reckitt & Coleman plc and Benckiser NV in 1999. The 7.5 billion-pound UK-based company managed to keep its growth intact during last year's slowdown in India by increasing its marketing spend and pushing small-sized units of its brands, according to Chander Mohan Sethi, chairman and managing director (India) and regional director (South Asia) of Reckitt Benckiser. India is now the seventh largest market of the multinational in terms of turnover and the Dettol brand has "more or less" becoming a Rs 1,000-crore brand here. While it has doubled turnover in five years, Reckitt Benckiser is operating under huge cost pressures. Mr Sethi told ET's Ratna Bhushan in an interview. Excerpts:


How much did the economic downturn last year impact Reckitt Benckiser? How did you deal with it?

To be honest, last year just got tough and tougher. The slowdown was, of course, not as bad here as it was in Europe or the US. But here it was more of a consumer sentiment issue. In an environment like this, the consumer slows down on spending because of weak sentiment, competition keeps getting more aggressive, and there's downtrading (consumers switch to lower-priced brands). So if you want to maintain market shares, you have to focus that much more on marketing investments. Which is what we did. This meant not only increasing advertising and promotional spends but also spending innovatively and stretching the rupee that much more. What we also did was driving small sizes of most of our brands. That was a key initiative. We went all out to push Harpic and Lizol cleaners in 200-ml packs, hair-removal brand Veet in 25-gm and shoe polish Cherry Blossom in 15-gm packs. Then there is Dettol soap at 35-gm – priced at Rs 7 – it has been flying off the shelves. Some of these packs were there earlier, but we focused on these a lot more, beginning last year. It worked for us. Not only did we give the consumer a reason to stay with the same quality of brands she was used to, but also prevented downtrading.


Does that mean you altered your strategy, considering that Reckitt Benckiser has typically targeted urban consumers?

You are right. By definition, we have always been a company targeting the SEC-A, B and C consumer. Our price points have been generally higher. But we found that since SEC-C and D towns and cities had also begun generating demand. That's when we started tapping smaller markets with heightened focus. I would say that last year was the first time we pushed lower-priced smaller packs so aggressively. We were not so focused on semi-urban markets before. We have added about a thousand more towns in the recent past as far as our distribution footprint goes and are now present in 65-70% of roughly 5,500 towns present in the country.

 

Dettol remains your biggest growth driver. Do you see that as over-dependence on one brand?

I don't think so. Dettol is a mega brand for us. But Harpic, Mortein, Cherry Blossom, Colin —each one of these are category leaders by themselves. Coming back to Dettol, it contributes upwards of 25% to our overall sales. We keep adding more consumers to Dettol because awareness of the need for germ protection is increasing. We have been promoting healthy habits through our 'surakshit parivar' programme. Some brands built on the swine flu scare last year. While we did not duck the issue, we continued to position use of Dettol as a healthy habit. I don't think it's corporate responsibility to play on the consumer's fear psychosis.

 

What about margin pressures?

It's a fact that we are operating under huge cost pressures and margins are getting squeezed. But we haven't had too many price increases – I feel that's the easy route to counter pressure on margins. What we've done is, get a lot more aggressive on sourcing raw materials, entering into long-term contracts with our suppliers and working on establishing partnerships with suppliers. I'm not in favour of across-the-board price increases but we'll have to wait and watch.


Any capacity expansion?

Yes, we have just added another plant at Uttaranchal — we already had one there. It's a greenfield plant, on which we have invested Rs 100 crore. Production began rolling in February this year. It will manufacture Harpic and Lizol, among others.


Are you satisfied with the performance of Strepsils and Clearasil –brands Reckitt acquired from Boots in '06? What about Sweetex?

These brands have done well since we relaunched them. But if you ask me if I am satisfied, the answer is, no — we have a long way to go. As for Sweetex, it's less of a priority for us, at least for the time being.


After Airwick airfreshners in 2008, Reckitt hasn't brought in any global brands. Any such plans for this year?
We are in the process of rolling out Finish dishwashing detergent — one of our big global brands. It's already available in some stores. We have tied up with LG Electronics to increase the penetration of dishwashers in India. The tie-up is to spread the awareness about dishwashers here. As is the case with most of our brands — Vanish, Veet, Easy Off Bang — it's about category creation and not just the launch of a brand.

 

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THE ECONOMIC TIMES

EDITORIAL

M&A STREET'S GETTING CROWDED AGAIN'

RAKHI MAZUMDAR

 

Manisha Girotra is no stranger to deal making. As managing director & head of the Swiss bank UBS in India, she has been involved in the $12-billion Vodafone-Hutch deal, the $6-billion Hindalco-Novelis acquisition and the Essar Steel-Algoma deal, among others. Starting out in 1992 with Grindlay's, she cut her teeth in the IPCL disinvestment in 1996. Referred to as the 'Queen Bee of M&A activity', she has also been listed among the 'women to watch' in banking by Fortune magazine. Manisha Girotra was in Kolkata recently to participate in a meeting organised by the Ladies Study Group on Women @ Work. ET caught up with her to get an idea of how the M&A space looks like in a post-recession world and also get her views on corporate sport deals.


How does the deal space look like after the recession? Is M&A activity picking up?

I would say M&A has started happening once again and is gradually picking up across the world. We are seeing more out-bound activity by Indian corporates than in-bound deals. Take the recent deals like Zain -Bharti or Religare, for instance. However, such activity is nowhere near the levels reached in 2007. As far as India is concerned, in-bound M&A is still slow. Perhaps, it will be some time before such M&A activity gathers steam across the world.


Going forward, what are the sectors in which you expect M&A activity to take place?

Information technology (IT), telecom and pharma sectors look promising as far as deal making action is concerned.

You have said earlier that you enjoyed working in India since it is one of the most exciting places in your area of work. Given a chance, which other country would you have preferred to work?


Apart from India, the other country where I would have preferred to work is the US. The scale of activity there is so much bigger. But India is more exciting because it is where one belongs.


UBS India has attracted a lot of women in its workforce. Was it a deliberate move?

In terms of workforce, we have found that women are more loyal and stick to a company longer. In our company, women tend to stay for an average of 7-10 years. In our job, which is a client-oriented service industry, longevity matters in the sense that clients are more comfortable seeing familiar faces.


As a woman in the hard-nosed world of investment banking, how has your journey been so far?

It is easier for the next generation of girls who are now in the investment banking field as women bankers. There are a lot more women in banking now. When we started out, it was much tougher. I remember when I first started working in Delhi way back in 1992, few people in the ministries would even shake my hand. They often mistook me for the banker's secretary. It took a lot of perseverance and a lot of hard work to convince them. So, I would say, the initial 5-7 years were quite tough.

 

With IPL issues dominating the airwaves, I wanted to get your views on corporate sport deals. Has sport as a medium suffered in India because of the lack of transparency in such deals?

I would not like to comment specifically on the IPL. But corporate structures often tend to be multi-layered because some of the corporate groups are family owned and so the ownership is often layered. Hence, they tend to appear complex. Even the Tata Corus deal went through some 14 layers. Sports as a medium is still in its infancy in our country. Perhaps, that is why we see personality-led deal making take place. As the medium matures, I am sure we will see more transparency and more process led.

 

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                                                                                                               DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

SAARC, AT 25, MIGHT SEE A ROSIER FUTURE

 

When the 16th summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation commences its two-day deliberations in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, on Wednesday in the silver jubilee year of the organisation's founding, the gathered leaders will need to be mindful of the pace of progress in the regional grouping. They will be called upon to count and promote the positives and agree to strive to negate the negatives. None of this is likely to be easy. Funny histories act as a drag and the initial low base of development — common to all of South Asia — tends to inhibit a faster rate of climb than has hitherto been the case. And yet, it will be churlish to pretend that some of the earlier gloom on Saarc's prospects is not slowly dissipating. Indeed, it is time to note that South Asians are getting away — if ever so slowly — from their habit of uncorking hot air and merely extolling themselves and their ageless value system that promotes cooperation, and are getting down to business. They have entered a phase in Saarc where implementing projects that have been agreed upon is coming into focus. Needless to say, all agreed resolutions and proposals are not acted upon, or all countries — Pakistan included — would have cracked down hard on terrorism, truly the scourge of our region along with poverty and hunger. But there is no question that there is now a tendency to move forward on the development paradigm, and on building Saarc-wide institutions. The whole point about cooperation is being far better understood than was earlier the case. When viewing Saarc's less than vibrant record, it has to be considered that it is a collection of countries in one of the poorest parts of the world. There is only that much they can trade and exchange, and even lower is their capacity to generate as capital flows and investable resources. Half of the member-states of the grouping are in the category of least developed countries, referred to with derision as "basket cases" by the more uncharitable. To make matters worse, when Saarc was formed in 1985, three of the original members were riven by bitterness, being fragments of undivided India. There was also a time in India when the very idea of Saarc was seen as a waste of time. It is a small miracle that the grouping was only partially jolted from time to time in pursuit of its development aims and agenda of broad regional cooperation from which all could benefit; it didn't in the end run into sand. The atmosphere of mistrust between India and Pakistan, the largest two of the group, was a special retarding factor for South Asia's regional body. The suspicions between India and Pakistan are no less than they were before, and still the Saarc countries are not hesitating to put their best foot forward, unlike in the past. Perhaps an important reason for this is India's higher growth path in spite of the odds imposed by a couple of distinctly unfriendly neighbours. With its improved economic fortunes, this country appears ready to invest in Saarc, and all fellow-travellers are happy about this. They cannot match India's financial contributions, but this country is happy to embrace the principle of "assist, as able", something that can sometimes be seen in UN aid arrangements; it easily accepts non-reciprocity as a working principle.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

A DARK MONEY MAZE

BY INDER MALHOTRA

QUICK ON the heels of the virtual explosion over the "money maze, dubious deals, and Mauritius and Dubai connection" of that shadowy combination of cricket, politics, big business and Bollywood, otherwise called the Indian Premier League (IPL) has come another depressing event that is no less alarming. It is the arrest of the president of the Medical Council of India (MCI), Ketan Desai, for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 2 crore from a Punjab medical college to give it a year's extension to run a 100-seat MBBS course. Two other men arrested at the same time are a professor of the college concerned, Dr Kanwaljit Singh, and Mr Jitendra Pal Singh, described by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as "the middleman". The two Singhs were taken into custody when the professor from Punjab arrived at the Vasant Vihar house of the go-between with a sum of Rs 2 crore packed in cardboard containers. The CBI seized the money, too.

Of course, Dr Desai has denied the charge emphatically, and pointed out that he was "nowhere near the cash". Doubtless the "innocent-until-proved-guilty" doctrine must prevail. But the trouble is that thanks to unending judicial delays, such high-profile cases rarely, if ever, reach the stage of finality. The public and the peers of the arraigned can therefore shout themselves hoarse but to no avail.

There is a pressing reason to be particularly concerned about the functioning of the MCI, the institution that regulates and thus practically runs the country's medical education: widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of teaching in this vital area in the mushrooming private medical colleges that now number 160 out of a total of 290. Reportedly, it costs Rs 500 crore to set up a private medical college usually sells seats for anything between Rs 25 lakh and three times that amount.

Since the present case concerns a college in Punjab, it is relevant to record what important functionaries of the Punjab chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) and other prominent members of the profession in that state are saying. All of them are already demanding a "re-inspection" of "all the private medical colleges of the country, which were granted recognition during the tenure of Dr Desai. Chairman of the in-service wing of the IMA Punjab has even said: "Dr Desai's arrest should have come long ago. A person like him should not be spared at any cost. He has jeopardised the future of a large number of students by giving accreditation to colleges that did not fulfil the requisite conditions". According to the chairman of the Punjab Medical Services Association, Dr Hardeep Singh, the "deteriorating standard of the medical colleges opened during (Dr) Desai's time was evident from their poor infrastructure and negligible attendance of the faculty".

Some eminent and highly respected members of the medical profession, speaking on condition of anonymity, have claimed that no individual could have lasted for so long and functioned with impunity without at lease the tacit support of the government that nominates a certain number of MCI members. Nothing should be pre-judged. But an impartial, transparent and speedy investigation into the MCI's working over the years is imperative. For, pollution of education in such sensitive spheres as medicine, engineering and science cannot but imperil the country's future.

Sadly, the current developments are of a piece with what has gone on so far. The powers that be are unwilling or unable to do anything about corruption that is not just rampant but sweeping the country like a tidal wave. Let me cite just a few very recent instances, never mind the plethora of those dating back many years and lost in the politico-administrative-judicial labyrinth. Has anyone heard a word about Madhu Koda and his Rs 4,000 crore allegedly accumulated in just two years when this lone independent in the Jharkhand Assembly was the state's chief minister, courtesy the Indian National Congress? It is only fair to add that before changing his political allegiance, Mr Koda was minister for mining in the BJP-led Jharkhand government!

Since Mr Koda's arrest and those of his henchmen, what else have we witnessed? The Postmaster-General of Goa being arrested allegedly red-handed while accepting a huge bribe in Mumbai? In Bhopal two relatively junior IAS officers, husband and wife, were suspended after Rs 3 crore in cash were found in their home and the CBI had estimated that the known value of their properties was Rs 40 crore — assets disproportionate to their sources of income. This was by no means a stray example of what has come to be nicknamed "DA" (disproportionate assets) cases. A few months ago a mere inspector of Delhi police went to jail because his assets were valued at Rs 12 crore. But since no chargesheet was filed against him during the stipulated 60 days, he must be out on bail.

Particularly scandalous is the record of the CBI itself and the government that controls it, especially where disproportionate assets cases against powerful politicians are concerned. On April 16, the premier investigative agency had reaffirmed to the Supreme Court it had enough evidence in the case against the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Ms Mayawati. Exactly a week later the agency informed the apex court that it was "examining" her representation for closing the case! And consider this: In May 2009, the Indian ambassador to the United States, Ms Meera Shankar, had written to the Union government about a number of its civilian and military officers that had accepted bribes from American companies doing business with their departments. No further proof was needed because under US laws the companies concerned had reported these tainted transactions to relevant courts. Nothing happened until October when the media raised a hue and cry. On a TV talk show Admiral (Retd) Vishnu Bhagwat declared that the Chief of the Naval Staff needed just five days to name the naval officers that had received big dollops of dollars. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) announced that it had ordered prompt action. It is for the PMO to explain why nothing has happened yet. The media should also feel ashamed. After shouting for a few days it has forgotten the sordid episode.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

DUMB BUT DECENT MEETS SMART AND SLEAZY

BY DAVID BROOKS

Between 1997 and 2006, consumers, lenders and builders created a housing bubble, and pretty much the entire establishment missed it. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the people who regulate them missed it. The big commercial banks and the people who regulate them missed it. The Federal Reserve missed it, as did the ratings agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the political class in general.

It's easy to see why this happened. People who make it into the establishment work and play well with others. They are part of the same overlapping social networks, and inevitably begin to perceive the world in similar, conventional ways. They thrive in institutions where people are not rewarded for being cantankerous intellectual bomb-throwers.

Outside the establishment herd, on the other hand, there were contrarians who understood the bubble (which was the easy part) and who figured out how to take counteraction (which was hard). Michael Burry worked at a small hedge fund in Northern California. John Paulson ran an obscure fund in New York. Eventually, there were even a few traders at the big investment banks who also foresaw the imminent collapse. One of them was "Fabulous" Fabrice Tourre of Goldman Sachs.

If this were a Hollywood movie, the prescient outsiders would be good-looking, just and true, and we could all root for them as they outfoxed the smug establishment. But this is real life, so things are more complicated. According to Gregory Zuckerman's book, The Greatest Trade Ever, Burry was a solitary small-time operator far away. Paulson was cold and diffident.

And as for Fabulous Fab, he seems to be the product of the current amoral Wall Street culture in which impersonal trading is more important than personal service to clients, and in which any product you can sell to some poor sucker is deemed to be admirable and OK.

In this drama, in other words, the establishment was pleasant, respectable and stupid, while the contrarians were smart but hard to love, and sometimes sleazy.

This week the drama comes to Washington in two different ways. First, as is traditional in our culture, the elected leaders of the clueless establishment have summoned the leaders of Goldman Sachs to a hearing so they can have a post-hoc televised conniption fit on the amorality of Wall Street.

This spectacle presents Goldman with an interesting public relations choice. The firm can claim to be dumb but decent, like the rest of the establishment, and emphasise the times it lost money. Or it can present itself as smart and sleazy, and emphasise the times it made money at the expense of its clients. Goldman seems to have chosen dumb but decent, which is probably the smart narrative to get back in the establishment's good graces, even if it is less accurate.

The second big event in Washington this week is the jostling over a financial reform bill. One might have thought that one of the lessons of this episode was that establishments are prone to groupthink, and that it would be smart to decentralise authority in order to head off future bubbles.

Both N. Gregory Mankiw of Harvard and Sebastian Mallaby of the Council on Foreign Relations have been promoting a way to do this: Force the big financial institutions to issue bonds that would be converted into equity when a regulator deems them to have insufficient capital. Thousands of traders would buy and sell these bonds as a way to measure and reinforce the stability of the firms.

But, alas, we are living in the great age of centralisation. Some Democrats regard federal commissions with the same sort of awe and wonder that I feel while watching LeBron James and Alex Ovechkin.

The premise of the current financial regulatory reform is that the establishment missed the last bubble and, therefore, more power should be vested in the establishment to foresee and prevent the next one.

If you take this as your premise, the Democratic bill is fine and reasonable. It would force derivative trading out into the open. It would create a structure so the government could break down failing firms in an orderly manner. But the bill doesn't solve the basic epistemic problem, which is that members of the establishment herd are always the last to know when something unexpected happens.

If this were a movie, everybody would learn the obvious lessons.

The folks in the big investment banks would learn that it's valuable to have an ethical culture, in which traders' behaviour is restricted by something other than the desire to find the next sucker.

The folks in Washington would learn that centralised decision-making is often unimaginative decision-making, and that decentralised markets are often better at anticipating the future.

But, again, this is not a Hollywood movie. Those lessons are not being learned. I can't wait for the sequel.

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

THE LARGE HYPE CREATOR

BY JAYANT V. NARLIKAR

Since last year, 2009, newspaper headlines and TV channels with their breaking news are telling us that we stand on the threshold of knowing how our universe began in a gigantic explosion called the Big Bang. Cosmologists who study questions related to the origin, evolution and the end of the universe have come up with a generally accepted belief that the universe started with the Big Bang some 13.7 billion years ago. The theory underlying this belief contains a lot of speculation that has not been independently verified. Let us see why such speculation is unavoidable once we put all our eggs in the Big Bang basket.

The observations of galaxies out to large distances build a fairly convincing picture that the universe is expanding. If we seek to describe the phenomenon within the framework of the best known theory of gravitation, namely Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, we are led to the conclusion that the universe had a point-like state sometime in the past. The relativity theory breaks down at this stage, and it is assumed that this singular state represents the origin of the universe in a big bang. The physicist starts the universal clock ticking at this instant.

The astronomer, on the other hand, measures the "look-back time". If he observes a galaxy at a distance of a billion light years, he is seeing it as it was a billion years ago, for light has taken a billion years to travel from the galaxy to here. The expanding universe provides a convenient measure of this past epoch. We ask, by how much has the universe grown in linear size since the light left that galaxy. If the answer is, say, five, then it means that the universe has become six times (five plus one) its original size in that period. This growth fraction can be measured in the spectrum of light received from the galaxy and is known, for technical reasons, as redshift. So in the above example the redshift of the galaxy is five. Clearly, the larger the redshift of an astronomical source, the farther is it located from us and the smaller was the universe at the epoch when light left that source in order to travel to us.

By this reckoning, the Big Bang epoch has infinite redshift and it is tempting to visualise a super-telescope capable of seeing as far as that epoch. Unfortunately, this is not possible. The Big Bang theory itself provides the reason why. By the time we try to probe sources beyond a redshift of a thousand, we encounter an opaque universe. Estimates put the age of the universe at that epoch at around a lakh of years. So what lay beyond that epoch cannot be seen by the astronomer. Necessarily, therefore, the astronomer is forced to rely on extrapolations of his theoretical model coupled with speculation to guess what the universe was like before that epoch. This is much like a spectator trying to guess what is going on behind the stage-curtain which has come down between two acts of a play.

To help his speculation the astronomer has turned to the physicist for guidance. As he tries to imagine what the universe was like closer to the big bang epoch, he finds that its constituents were moving with greater and greater speed as the Big Bang was approached. To figure out what happens to them the astronomer therefore needs information on how particles of matter behave at increasing energy. The physicist can provide help because he has built particle accelerators which make them collide at very high energies. Two major particle accelerator labs have been providing useful information on this topic: one CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland, and the other, Fermilab, near Chicago, in the US.

It should be noted that these labs have been in existence for several decades and their main purpose is to study the behaviour of sub-atomic particles at higher and higher energies. The quantum theory which became established as the correct framework for studying particles on a small scale tells us that if we need to probe the structure of matter at very very small scales, we will correspondingly need particles of higher and higher energy. Indeed these labs have contributed significantly to our understanding of how particles interact at energies as high as several hundred giga electron volts (an energy measuring unit often written as GeV). For example, the verification of the framework unifying the weak theory with the electromagnetic theory was carried out at CERN by generating collisions of particles of energies of the order of 100 GeV.

The next landmark in high energy particle physics aims very high: it is the energy required for unification of the above electroweak theory with the strong interaction, an achievement that will show that three of the four basic interactions of physics are part of a "grand unified theory", or GUT. Can one augment the capacity of the present accelerator to test the properties of GUT? It will also help the cosmologist in his quest for the state of the universe very close to the Big Bang for, many of the crucial issues of the present universe are related to how the universe operated in the GUT era and shortly thereafter. The recent much hyped Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is planned to reach energies of 7,000 GeV, about seven times the capacity of the previous top accelerators. To date it has reached half that target.

Unfortunately, that holy grail of particle physics is well beyond the present technology or even the technology of the foreseeable future. For the energy needed to be reached is some 1,400 billion times the aimed energy of the LHC!

So why is the LHC so hyped? Certainly if it fulfils its objectives of verifying some details of present theories of particle physics, it will have served its purpose. For example, if it provides evidence for the existence of a speculated particle, the Higgs boson, or gives support to some conjectures of the so-called super-symmetric theory, it will have made a significant advance in our understanding of high energy particle physics. But it is still a long way to go for simulating the Big Bang, as so avidly claimed. Nor does it stand in any danger of accidentally producing world-gobbling black holes.

I wish scientists could forward and correct the media-generated frenzy; otherwise the LHC may stand for a large hype creator.

- Jayant V. Narlikar is a professor emiritus atInter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics, Pune University Campus, and a renowned astrophysicist

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DECCAN CHRONICAL

EDITORIAL

POWER OF PARIKRAMA

BY V. BALAKRISHNAN

Elders often remind children to go round the temple from left to right with folded hands, saying silent prayers. Is this just a jaded ritual or is circumambulation beneficial to devotees in any way other than evoking fulfilment of having accomplished a pious act?

In olden days, temples were large structures that were built on large plots of land. Walking around the temple barefoot provided the devotees good exercise. The reverential circumambulation, lying prostrate before the idol, kneeling before the deity are all, in a way, exercises for joints and muscles.

Going around an object from left to right is absolutely in harmony with the system of the brain. If one goes in the opposite direction, the system disapproves of it and the devotee does not feel comfortable. Theology states that circumambulation around a temple takes the devotee closer to the Lord. He is redeemed of his sins, even those that he had committed in his previous births. Such is the power of this observance.

"Prachtchinathi prakara: Agham

Dakaro vanjtchitha prada:

Kshikarath Ksheeyathe Karma —nakaaro mukthidaayakam."

This is what is said about circumambulation in Skanda Purana: The practise of circumambulation rids one of all sins and fulfils his will; it weakens his karma, liability to karma, and grants salvation.

We usually go round the sanctum sanctorum within the premises of a temple. However, if you circumambulate along the pavement outside the main wall of the temple, it gives added benefits. Imagine the heart as a lotus. Keep folded hands close to the chest as a lotus bud and walk around the temple slowly, chanting the hymns of the deity. As you complete the first circumambulation, all major sins get redeemed. The second one wins the devotee the due right to worship the deity. With the third round, one is granted blessings for material prospects.

The number of circumambulations prescribed for each deity are thus: For Lord Ganesha, one, for the Sun God two, for Devi and Lord Vishnu four, and for the holy Banyan tree, seven.

The circumambulation in the morning is meant for cure of diseases, that of the noon for fulfilment of desires, that of evening for mitigation of sins and that of in the night, for attainment of salvation. After completing the circumambulation, the devotee must come before the deity and worship with folded hands.

Our ancestors, who recommended different numbers of circumambulations for different deities have, however, strongly denied all this in Shiva temples.

This is because Lord Shiva is considered an absolute deity. And a circumambulation around his temple will go against this concept. His eternity cannot be undermined.

Further, Goddess Ganga, whom the Lord bears in His head, is believed to be flowing out along the holy drain from the temple. Devotees are not supposed to cross this water. For this reason also, a complete circumambulation is prevented in Shiva temples.

— Dr Venganoor Balakrishnan is the author of Thaliyola, a book on Hindu beliefs and rituals. The author can be reached at: drvenganoor@yahoo.co.in [1]

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

URBAN VARIANT

LIMITED REPLICATION OF A HOAX

 

NO, it can't inspire optimism. Considering that the NREGS has been a gigantic public sector failure, its urban variant may only extend the loop of municipal disasters. And all the more so in West Bengal with its shoddy work culture. The concept is as out-of-the box as it is out-of-the-budget, and with no indication of the fund outlay. And yet the daily rates have been fixed for an indeterminate group. While details are yet to be worked out ~ it hinges on the outcome of 30 May ~ the scheme is meant primarily for municipalities and corporations. Theoretically, it is intended to spur development and generate employment. However, the fact of the matter is that all if not most municipalities, led by the KMC, are horribly overstaffed with "ghost workers" on the payroll. This is an absurdity, bizarrely municipal. Manpower shortage has never been cited as the reason for failure of local bodies. Traditionally ~ whether the Mayor-in-Council is under the CPI-M or Trinamul ~ the sluggish development or non-utilisation of funds is embedded in administrative ineptitude. To the extent that KMC has stalled all JNNURM projects, and now has no option but to return the funds.


Clearly, the state government has exploited the delay in issuing the formal election notification to its advantage. Employment generation is, therefore, only a figleaf to package an electoral gimmick. Which begs a simple query: Do the KMC and other municipalities lack supervisors on the staff to oversee civil construction? For even this category will be taken care of in the guaranteed employment (phase II). The earmarked schemes are those for which any municipality exists ~ water supply, roads, drainage and so on. As regards waterbodies and canals, there is little that can be "preserved" or "excavated" considering the extent of the illegality spread and not merely in Salt Lake. And the ruling party has only the real estate lobby ~ its unofficial front unit ~ to blame for the ecological damage since the Eighties. As yet without a name, the scheme in urban/semi-urban Bengal may turn out to be as much a hoax as in rural India. KMC, for instance, has a record of a changing of the guard. Whether the next Mayor-in-Council is the CPI-M's or Trinamul's, it will have to contend with the red herrings on the trail towards guaranteed employment. For both parties, it might be politically convenient to simply docket the file.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

STERLING SIGNAL

ARMY CHIEF LOOKS WITHIN

 

RIGHTLY the action was little publicised, for the aim was to correct rather than merely create an impression of doing so. The "quiet" directions from the Chief of the Army Staff to replace the commanding officers of two Rashtriya Rifles units for failing to prevent avoidable civilian deaths in the Kashmir Valley ought to caution his men that no lapses in professionalism will be acceptable. For far too long have alibis like "collateral damage, mistaken identity" and so on camouflaged inadequacies in operational conduct, and so elderly persons, suspected smugglers and what have you have been neutralised and then portrayed as militants. That has eroded the credibility of the army, aroused the ire of the both the local people and the civilian administration, as well as given the separatists and militants ammunition in their campaign to slam the Army as ruthless. Having personal experience of counter-insurgency operations General VK Singh is fully aware of the adverse fallout of what can be projected as human rights violations. A single killing can write off the gains secured in a series of goodwill missions. It is true that in the past too have top Army commanders spoken in that vein, but this would be a rare instance of in-house action being taken quickly, before an ugly incident became a political issue.
There can be no making light of the demanding conditions under which the Army operates against militants who do not play by any rules. The field commanders have a difficult balance to maintain ~ keeping morale and commitment to duty high yet also ensuring the men do not go overboard when the bullets fly. It becomes very tricky when there is limited popular support or appreciation of the task in hand. The men in the thick of action are often unable to see the bigger picture, or distinguish between "adversary" and "enemy". But that is when leadership, training and discipline come into play, there can be no compromise. The Army has very good reason to redouble its efforts to uphold human rights, maintain a degree of restraint. Securing the confidence of the people that its counter-insurgency operations in border regions are neither oppressive nor high-handed would be both sword and shield in its battle to prevent any dilution of the protection it receives under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.  

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

AFGHAN DILEMMA

MR BROWN'S UNFULFILLED AGENDA


AFGHANISTAN is the primary foreign policy issue in next month's British elections, but Mr George Brown may have to contend with the dilemma of an unfulfilled agenda. Despite the strong electoral commitment on a pullout by the end of this year in view of the mounting casualties, the outward march may not exactly be calendar-driven. If the proceedings of the recent Nato foreign ministers' meeting is any indication, conditions on the ground will be the singular determinant for the handover and not the domestic underpinning of any Nato constituent. Ergo, it is the military perception of the alliance that will prevail; the election on 6 May is unlikely to advance the British timetable for withdrawal.  Despite the groundswell of resentment against the country's engagement in Iraq and now Afghanistan, it will not be easy for Labour to convince the electorate on the overriding interest of Nato that has clearly overshadowed the Prime Minister's exit strategy. Mr Brown's campaign pledge that Hamid Karzai will be able to take charge of security in at least five provinces, notably Helmand, by the end of this year is unlikely to fructify. Nato leaders ~ Hillary Clinton was present at the meeting ~ have made it implicit that the British election is of lesser moment in the overall construct. Conditions alone will influence the continued presence or withdrawal of Isaf (International Security and Assistance Force).  Despite Mr Brown's political pledge, the message of the Nato meeting is far from reassuring for the domestic constituency.


Indeed, senior Nato leaders are said to be puzzled over the Prime Minister's pledge. Which may have prompted them to set Mr Brown's clock back. The first Nato meeting on the areas to be handed over ~ let alone a pullout ~ is not scheduled before next December. And a definite framework will have to be devised before the actual transfer of authority over security begins. There is hope, however faint, in the statement of the Nato Secretary-General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, that the prospects of the Afghans taking over security was "the light at the end of the tunnel". That light may yet be further away than what the Labour leadership imagines. And crucially, Britain's military brass shares Nato's perception.

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

WOES OF NARENDRA MODI

THE 2002 RIOTS REMAIN A RECURRING NIGHTMARE

BY AMULYA GANGULI

 

NARENDRA Modi seems to have woken up rather belatedly to the ignominy of his appearance before the Supreme Court's Special Investigation Team probing the Gujarat riots. As the first chief minister to stand in the dock for questioning by the police, he did not bring any glory to Gujarat, which, he claims, is his life's ambition. At first, he may have thought that he will demonstrate his previously unknown constitutional side by appearing before the SIT. This show of compliance to the law-enforcing machinery was probably considered necessary after his suspected unconstitutional role during the riots.


But if he has had second thoughts, the reason apparently is the uncomfortable nature of the investigation, whose focus is on the orders he gave to the police on the evening of 27 February 2002. Did he, or did he not, tell them to let the Hindus, viz. the saffron outfits, give vent to their anger? Since the SIT may summon him again, and since the Nanavati Commission has hinted that it, too, may ask the chief minister to depose before it, the state government has called into question the SIT's authority to summon the chief minister. As an add-on, the government also wants to know whether the Supreme Court can stay the ongoing trials in Gujarat, as it did following the hasty closure of nearly 2,000 cases by the courts in the state.


BJP & the judiciary

Even as the state government's affidavits are pending before the apex court, it may be worthwhile examining the BJP's attitude towards the judicial system in general. The first doubts about the party's commitment to the laws of the land, as interpreted by the judiciary, were raised when it declared at the height of the Ramjanmabhoomi movement that the courts had no jurisdiction over a matter of faith. If a sufficiently large number of people believed that a mosque had been built on the putative birthplace of one of their gods, they could demolish the offending structure irrespective of what the law said. It was this belief in the restricted powers of the courts which made Kalyan Singh smilingly accept the token punishment of a day's incarceration by the Supreme Court for having failed to abide by the judicial directive to save the Babari Masjid. 
What the former UP chief minister intended to convey by his insolent grin as he emerged from prison was that he was upholding the cause of the Hindurashtra in defiance of the judiciary of a secular state. It may have also been his intent to suggest that a time was coming when the rights of the Hindus would gain precedence over the prevailing pluralist concept of the equality of all citizens, including the minorities. Now, another BJP chief minister is virtually throwing down the gauntlet to the Supreme Court with the articulation of a similar view ~ that the latter had no right to ascertain what happened in February-March 2002 when about 1,200 people died in communal violence.


However, there is nothing surprising about Modi's attempts to keep the outbreak under wraps. For a start, one of his most audacious moves to fob off any probe was to write a letter to President APJ Abdul Kalam soon after the riots, alleging that the interventions by the National Human Rights Commission and others, including the non-government organisations, were an attempt to tarnish Gujarat's image by "exaggerating … stray incidents". Incidentally, it has been one of the longstanding ploys of Modi to dub any reference to the riots as an attempt to smear Gujarat's name and hurt its asmita. What is noteworthy, however, is his casual description of the deaths of 1,200 people as "stray incidents". This crudity can only be matched by his reference to the refugee camps housing Muslim victims of the riots as "child-producing factories".


A curious aspect of Modi's letter to the President was the call for the compilation of the statistics of all the "terrorist or extremist attacks, group clashes and communal violence" that had taken place since 1947 ! Modi's belief apparently was that this massive array of data will help to put the riots in Gujarat in the right perspective by suggesting that it was nothing out of the ordinary. He probably also believed that the Gujarat riots will be forgotten by the time all these figures were collected and published.


Public outcry

Since there was no response from Kalam, Modi tried to prevent the truth from emerging, especially about his orders on the evening of 27 February 2002, by choosing KG Shah to head a commission of inquiry although this judge was indicted by the Supreme Court for his suspected anti-Muslim bias. Following a pubic outcry, GT Nanavati was included in the commission although Shah stayed on till his death.
  But, now, Modi's third attempt to scuttle any viable inquiry into his acts of omission and commission during the riots is undoubtedly the most serious one, for he has virtually challenged the Supreme Court's authority to investigate the matter in any way. 


In doing so, he has evidently crossed the Lakshmanrekha of political propriety, but his desperation is understandable. Any hint from the SIT that he connived at the riots will be hugely damaging for a person who is occasionally touted by the BJP and sections of the corporate sector as a possible prime minister. If Modi has seemingly acted somewhat recklessly, therefore, the reason is his inability to comprehend why his electoral successes ~ he has won two assembly elections after 2002 ~ have brought him no respite from the after-effects of the riots. Nor has the support of virtually the entire upper and middle class Gujarati Hindus been of any help where his image outside the party at the national level is concerned.


The riots have tainted his reputation even more than what the Babari Masjid demolition did to LK Advani. Yet, if social scientist and psychologist Ashis Nandy's description of Modi as "a textbook case of a fascist" is accepted, then it will be easy to understand why he remains mired in unsavoury controversy.
The writer is a former Assistant Editor, The Statesman

 

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER

 

Hillary Clinton may have lost her bid for the US presidency ~ but even her critics admit she has shone as Secretary of State. Rupert Cornwell on the real comeback kidFor a brief moment, you imagined that history had taken a different course. There was Hillary Clinton, stepping up to the rostrum in the White House press room one day last month, to expound on the virtues of the new nuclear arms limitation treaty between the USA and Russia. She performed with her customary authority and command of the facts, as well as the sense of humour, often overlooked, that is another of her trademarks. Might there be problems over ratification in the Duma, the Moscow parliament, a reporter asked. Well, she replied with a giggle, the USA had offered to send White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel over to use his legendary (and foul-mouthed) powers of persuasion on recalcitrant Russian legislators. "If President Medvedev wants to take us up on it, we're ready".


Hillary, in other words, looked a President. But as we all know, she wasn't one. Rahm Emanuel was not her man, he was Barack Obama's. Hers was no more than a supporting act, filling in the details after the man who defeated her in that epic battle for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination had made the big announcement himself, before leaving the room without taking a single question. Yet in a way, it was remarkable she was there at all.


If Barack Obama had not come along and rewritten history, the passage of Hillary Clinton from brilliant lawyer to controversial First Lady to admired United States senator to the woman who went on to win the White House in her own right, would have been the most astonishing story of modern American politics. However, no less remarkable is her current incarnation as America's 67th Secretary of State, an office first held by Thomas Jefferson between 1790 and 1793.


The surprise is not that, by common consent, she's doing the job pretty well. The truly astounding thing, when you remember the length, intensity and ferocity of that 2008 primary struggle, was that Obama offered it to her in the first place.


What was going on, everyone wondered, when word of the appointment first surfaced. Was Obama trying to recreate the "Team of Rivals" whom his idol Abraham Lincoln had put in his cabinet almost 150 years earlier? What about the national psychodrama of the Clinton marriage, and what about Bill, with the ego of a man who had been president and a reputation as a loose cannon? Surely a new President would not let a former one near the wheel room. And how could Hillary's pride allow her to subordinate herself to the man who had bested her?
In reality, the calculations on both sides were more complicated. In fact, the really hard feelings were held by their staffs, not the candidates. Once those were set aside, a deal had considerable attractions. With Hillary, Obama was enlisting one of the world's most famous and popular women to promote the tarnished Brand America. At the same time, he was largely neutralising a potential re-election threat, should the lady have plans of picking up in 2012 where she left off in 2008.


For Hillary too, the change made sense. A failed presidential campaign wins no points in the Senate. She might have been its best-known member and one of its most assiduous. But in the tradition-bound Senate, hard work and celebrity are no substitute for seniority. She was already 61, but would have had to wait years, maybe decades, before one of the plum Senate posts opened up. The most prestigious post in the cabinet was therefore not one to be turned down lightly.


Most striking, perhaps, has been the harmony within the Obama national security team ~ a sea change from the administration of George W Bush, when the dour Dick Cheney became the most powerful vice-president in US history and, during its first term especially, public feuds between Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon and Colin Powell's State Department made constant headlines.


Some feared a variation on the theme under Obama, with the Clintons stirring the pot. Nor was Hillary's presidential campaign a good omen, handicapped by clashes of egos, by sometimes less than helpful intrusions by her husband, and the Praetorian Guard of loyal retainers known as "Hillaryland", that kept the most well-intentioned outsider at arm's length. But it hasn't worked out that way.


Apart from his trip to North Korea to bring home two jailed American reporters last summer, Bill has scarcely been a factor. Certainly, he was not to blame for the supposedly mistranslated question, while his wife was visiting Africa last summer, which asked what Mr Clinton thought of a Chinese trade deal with the Congo. To which Hillary snapped: "My husband is not Secretary of State, I am."


She has set out to rebuild the State Department from within, boosting its budget and expanding its staff in an effort to recapture the clout lost to the Pentagon under George W Bush. In fact, Hillary has been the model team player, in a team bristling with foreign policy heavyweights. These "competitors" include Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before becoming Vice President, as well as his successor as chairman, John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 White House candidate, not to mention the Secretary of Defence Robert Gates, a top national security adviser to the first President Bush and the sole holdover from the administration of the second.


Most important of all, though, are Hillary's relations with her boss. Plainly, they get on well, if only from a mutual respect born of the shared trial of the 2008 campaign. In public, Hillary is always deferential. Privately, the 44th President and his Secretary of State meet once a week for 45 minutes. So important is the session for her that when her plane ran into mechanical problems during a February visit to Saudi Arabia, she abandoned her travelling entourage and hitched a ride home with General David Petraeus, who had also been in Riyadh, in order to keep her White House date.


And whatever her power, her popularity is indisputable ~ her approval ratings are better than Obama's. One reason, of course, is that her job keeps her at a safe distance from the President's bitterly contested domestic agenda, and from a polarised, staggeringly unpopular Congress. Another is that Democrats and Republicans are basically agreed on key foreign policy issues. Take it from none other than Chavez, Venezuela's President and a constant thorn in Washington's flesh, who recently described Hillary as "a blonde Condoleezza Rice".
If her first year was a crash course in global affairs, Hillary has stepped up the pace during her second year. In 2009, she made 15 foreign trips, visiting 44 countries; she has already made 11 this year, travelling to 19 countries and spending 30 days on the road. What this gruelling schedule has achieved is open to debate. The most frequent criticism is that in her ubiquity, she has made no issue recognisably her own.


The Afghanistan and Iraq wars probably should not be counted, since they have been run out of the White House. But Iran has ignored every overture and every warning from Washington, pressing ahead with its nuclear programme regardless. Thus far at least, her labours have not brought the US much closer to securing UN "sanctions that bite". As for China, divisions have if anything grown, on issues ranging from trade and currency policy to human rights and nuclear proliferation ~ though blame can hardly be laid at Hillary's door.
Where she did make a gaffe was in the Middle East. Progress towards peace was the tallest of orders, given the intransigence of Benjamin Netanyahu and the weakness of the Palestinian leadership. But she and the President allowed the Israeli Prime Minister to call their bluff over US demands for an outright settlements freeze, then Hillary compounded the error by describing Netanyahu's vague promise to suspend construction as "unprecedented" – a remark that enraged the Arab world. Since then, US relations with Israel have gone from bad to worse.

This year, she set off a mini-storm in London when she declared her readiness to mediate between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands. But the reaction reflected less US clumsiness than the tender sensibilities of sections of the British press over the "special relationship".


Her most concrete achievement has been the "resetting" of relations with Moscow, culminating in the new Start treaty, cutting the countries' nuclear arsenals. A contributory factor is the better personal relationship she has developed with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, who could barely abide Condoleezza Rice.
One day, of course, Hillary will no longer be Secretary of State. So what then? The surprising answer may be: not a great deal. Political disclaimers should normally be taken with a generous pinch of salt. But in Hillary's case there is no reason to disbelieve her when she insists she will not run for president again ~ and when she says she does not see herself sticking in her present job beyond the end Obama's first term.

The Independent

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

VOICES AGAINST TERRORISM

 

Apart from individuals and religious organisations, Islamic scholars have started raising their voices against terrorist forces, says Sohail Arshad


The world has been witnessing a rare phenomenon of individual and collective acts of introspection on the part of Islamic scholars to find out what ails Muslim society today and the reasons why Muslim youth are being driven towards violence. They have been wanting to go to the root of the philosophy inspiring professors of radicalism and, more specifically, terrorism in the name of jihad.


Scholars today have realised, though belatedly, that the fatwa had been a source of inspiration for extremist, radical and sectarian schools of thought in the Muslim world and had given birth to Al Qaida, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba, Al Shahab and other terrorist organisations. Acts of violence have not only harmed non-combatants among Muslims but have also damaged the image of Islam as a religion of peace because even during a war, Islam is against assaulting or harming non-combatants, women, children, the elderly and unarmed persons. The so-called jihad had its political consequences as well.


Therefore, local religious bodies and individuals have started criticising the jihadists and pronouncing fatwas against them. In 2009, Darul Uloom Deoband, the largest Islamic seminary in India, was probably the first to declare the violence unleashed by the jihadi forces like Al Qaida, Lashkar-e-Taiyyaba and others unIslamic and condemned it in the strongest terms. Last month a prominent mufti of Pakistan, Maulana Tahir ul Qadri came out with a 600-page fatwa against terrorism and militancy which was hailed across the globe.
Then there are scholars like Habib Ali of Egypt who is a proponent of the moderate path and has been vocal against the doctrine of violence. Apart from individuals and religious organisations, other Islamic leaders have also raised their voices against terrorist forces.


The most important development in the war against terrorism was the holding of two conferences of Islamic scholars ~ one in Medina and the other in Mardin in Turkey ~ which are expected to have far-reaching influence on the Muslim psyche. According to reports, a four-day conference of Islamic scholars was held in Medina in Saudi Arabia to denounce acts of terrorism. The conference was attended by some 500 scholars of Islsm from all over the world who unanimously asked the extremists to "return to their senses and follow the path of groups that have announced repentance and rejected acts of terrorism". Significantly, the anti-terrorism conferences was sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia which has been accused of pumping petro-dollars into Muslim majority countries to promote extremism.


Another conference was held in Turkey in which prominent Islamic scholars from 15 Muslim countries participated. Here scholars jointly declared that the fatwa issued by a 14th century Islamic scholar no longer applied. A statement issued by the conference said: "Anyone who seeks support from this fatwa for killing Muslims or non-Muslims has erred in his interpretation... It is not for a Muslim individual or group to declare war or engage in combative jihad ... on their own".


Last month an anti-terrorism declaration was issued for Somalia by leading global Islamic scholars in a conference organised by the Global Centre of Renewal and Guidance (GCRG) which was attended by renowned Muslim scholars from Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Mauritania, Yemen, Libya and the UAE. The declaration though issued with special reference to Somalia is a path-breaking move since it condemns religious justification of violence.

Therefore, the emergence of a united group of the Muslim scholars against the menace of terrorism should succeed in creating a terror-free world.

The writer is a freelance contributor

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THE STATESMAN

EDITORIAL

100 YEARS AGO TODAY

WHISKY TRADE MARK CASE


A case involving questions of commercial interest came up on Tuesday in the Court of Mr Swinhoe, Officiating Chief Presidency Magistrate, when Messrs Kellner & Co., wine and spirit merchants, charged Babus Jotindranath Shaw and Benode Behari Shaw, carrying on wine business in co-partnership at 28 Banstollah Lane, with having fraudulently used certain trade marks of the complainant with intent to induce purchasers to believe that the liquor sold thereunder was of the complainant's manufacture or merchandise.

It is notified that a competitive examination for the selection of probationers for one vacancy in the enrolled list of the Finance Department and two vacancies in the Superior Accounts Branch of the Public Works Department will be held in Calcutta during the last week of July 1910. Only nominated candidates can appear at the examination.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

JOINT EFFORT

 

The brief stopover of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, at New Delhi en route Bhutan was necessitated as much by the strategic concerns of his administration as those of India. The Karzai government has had India as one of its most steadfast friends, whose support becomes crucial at a time when Afghanistan is about to make one of its most significant and controversial attempts to bring peace to the country in the form of the reconciliation process with the Taliban. Since its declaration at the London conference, Mr Karzai's proposed policy has drawn mixed responses from his Western allies. Over the past month, a greater scepticism has seeped into the West's discourse on this issue, forcing Mr Karzai to postpone the reconciliation drive, which was about to start with a national meet on the matter that was cancelled at the last moment. India, on its part, has consistently pointed out the pitfalls of negotiating with the Taliban and accommodating them in the government. Given their links and cross-border associations, the Taliban in power would not only give Pakistan greater leverage in the internal governance of the country but also keep the region perpetually destabilized. This is a fact, borne out by experience, which India has tried its best to impress upon both the president of Afghanistan and the international community at each of the international fora it has attended since the policy was made public. It reiterated its stand in the prime minister's brief meeting with Mr Karzai in New Delhi before the two nations face their common neighbour — Pakistan — at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation meet in Thimpu.

 

India, of course, also pledged its commitment to the rebuilding and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and elicited an expected response from Mr Karzai in the form of the promise of greater security for Indian workers. It is not that Mr Karzai had been expecting to hear anything different from India. But a month ahead of the much-publicized assembling of the loya jirga in Afghanistan, Mr Karzai needed to convince his neighbours as much as himself that the peace initiative remains in the hands of Afghans. For India, this meeting, as also the Saarc meet, is part of a continuous effort to convince neighbours that regional security is a joint project.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

WITHOUT CREDIT

 

Everybody seems to agree that quality control is of capital importance in higher education in India. Yet confusion prevails over the question as to who should play the controller. Common sense says that it should be the responsibility, if not the priority, of every institution to ensure that the best faculty and infrastructure are made available to its students. It could only be advantageous for an institution if its students go on to scale rare heights. The aura of success would not only enhance the prestige of the institution but also attract other intelligent students, faculty, and more funds to it. Based on this sound logic of market economy, hundreds of young people every year aspire to enter some particular institution, where, they believe, their interests would be best served. It is evident, therefore, that most students have their own accreditation system which helps them sort out various colleges and universities according to a personal hierarchy of priorities. The State, however, seems to put greater faith in the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (which evaluates the performance of institutions across the country) than in individual instincts.

 

Yet a body like Naac is redundant for more reasons than one. The fear of Naac only inspires periodic, frenzied cleaning up among the colleges, just before a team of evaluators is scheduled to visit. For the rest of the year, it is business as usual, as faculty and students remain mired in politics, or laboratories and libraries lie in a shambles. It also appears that many institutions do not even care much about the Naac, considering the 108 colleges in West Bengal alone that are yet to apply for evaluation. This indifference is explained by the prevailing laissez-faire ethos in Indian higher education. As long as the State makes sure that teachers get their salaries every month, and pampers institutions with monetary grants from time to time, no sense of accountability can be fostered among the academic community. A sharp rap on the knuckles cannot be delivered by the Naac alone. It would be a good lesson for colleges if they are deprived of State funds and forced to subsist solely on students' fees and donations. That should take care of errant teachers. Unless they do their duty, teachers would fail to attract quality students, and thus endanger their jobs — as it would be impossible to run the colleges without further enrolment. And so, everyone will get their money's worth.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

 

 

THE EDGE OF A PRECIPICE

EVERYTHING THAT IS ROTTEN IN INDIA HAS A DUBAI ANGLE

K.P. NAYAR

 

The sleaze from the Indian Premier League's gutter, which has significantly diminished the country's political class and others in authority — such as the chairman and managing director of Air India, Arvind Jadhav, who willingly converted the airline into a private carrier for the IPL — is a warning that for the Indian State, Dubai continues to be a curse.

 

My first direct exposure as a young journalist to the depth and range of corruption and wrong-doing in the Indian government was in Dubai, where I lived in the 1980s. I used to frequent the office of the owner of a big bank in Dubai. His chief hatchet man, his CEO of sorts — although such fancy corporate designations were unknown in Dubai then — was an Indian from Kerala, who constituted my access to the bank owner, a multi-billionaire businessman whose sprawling global business empire included everything from hotels and car dealerships to newspapers and real estate.

 

It is only an incidental aside to the main narrative of this column that at that time, the bank owner, whose family had huge business and personal stakes in Pakistan, was providing refuge to an exiled Benazir Bhutto in one of his three houses off London's Mayfair and simultaneously running businesses under various names for the head of one of the 22 families which controlled 66 per cent of Pakistani industry and owned 87 per cent of that country's banking and insurance prior to nationalization of those by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. While Benazir was running her campaign against General Zia-ul-Haq from this Dubai businessman's London property — where I first met her — the irony is that the man for whom the same entrepreneur was running benami ventures was one of the most powerful ministers in General Zia's cabinet.

 

The general manager of the bank owned by the Dubai businessman was an amiable Scotsman, who was totally trusted by the owner to look after his wide-ranging interests. One day, the general manager was summoned by the owner and told that a fairly large sum of money needed to be withdrawn from the account of 'Mr Crow' and that the Scotsman should deliver the money to the owner. It would be collected by 'Mr Crow' whom the owner would be seeing in the next two days while he was visiting the Emirate.

 

I sat quietly in a corner of the room, sipping gahwa, a ritual coffee preparation in Arab communities, and wondering who 'Mr Crow' may be. I did not have to wait long to discover his identity: 'Mr Crow' was a very senior civil servant who later became India's foreign secretary.

 

For a journalist with a 'nose' for information, Dubai is one of the most open places in the world. Once a newsman has won the trust of an Arab, howsoever sensitive his position may be, he will share information with you which will be wrapped in multiple layers of secrecy in most other countries. In my decade-long experience in Dubai, people share information with trusted journalists in the full knowledge that it will not be written about — until after decades, as in the case of this narrative. Unless, of course, the journalist is seeking a one-way plane ticket out of the Emirate.

 

So, I found out that the arrangement with 'Mr Crow' was merely the tip of an iceberg of questionable activities in this once-thriving bank, which fell on bad times during one of the Gulf region's cyclical downturns and was taken over by the Emirate's government to be merged with a bigger bank, which was wholly owned by the sheikhdom of Dubai. It is not known what subsequently happened to the secret account of 'Mr Crow'. But the future foreign secretary was not the only prominent Indian to have his illicit wealth stashed away in undisclosed accounts abroad in those days of severe foreign exchange controls at home.

 

Only a few people at the top in the family-owned, poorly-regulated, unaudited banks in Dubai in those days knew the true identity of account-holders like 'Mr Crow'. I have heard the general manager and the owner of the bank in question discuss with the Malayali CEO of the conglomerate the accounts of a 'Mr Frog' or a 'Mr Cat'. I was told in absolute confidence 25 years ago that a rising politician then, who subsequently became a member of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's cabinet, was the holder of one such account while another member of Singh's previous council of ministers had a fat account under a similarly fictitious name.

 

During much of the 13 years when Win Chadha, arms-agent-turned-accused in the Bofors scandal, lived as an absconder in Dubai, India's emissaries who went to the Emirate ostensibly to have him repatriated repeatedly told Dubai authorities that although they were serving papers seeking Chadha's return, in reality they did not want to lay their hands on him. Over the years, such duplicity by New Delhi has cost India the respect of the Dubai government. When Chadha finally returned to India in 2000 during National Democratic Alliance's rule, the then Indian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, K.C. Singh, successfully used his persuasive powers, not legal coercion to facilitate his return. By then, New Delhi had so completely lost credibility with Dubai in the Chadha case that no Indian official with a modicum of integrity or sensitivity could look the Emirate's authorities in the eye or demand the repatriation of the former Bofors agent.

 

It is no surprise that Dubai became home to the so-called D-Company, the gang of fugitive smuggler and drug dealer, Dawood Ibrahim, who eventually contracted his services to organize terrorist attacks on India on behalf of Pakistan. Or that Dubai was the transit point from India to Pakistan for some members of the Memon family, who planned the serial bomb attacks on Mumbai in 1993. How could the Dubai government be expected to believe that India was serious about getting Dawood back to Mumbai when it has been plain as daylight to the UAE and to Bahrain that at least on two occasions in the 1990s when there was real chance that Dawood — and his brother Anees Ibrahim in the case on Bahrain — would be extradited, New Delhi blew the opportunities to do so.

 

Everything that is rotten in India has a Dubai angle: human trafficking, gold smuggling, money laundering and terrorist financing through the hawala or parallel banking system, and now, the IPL. It is symptomatic of Dubai's dubious importance for India's political class that during every election season in India, the value of the rupee shoots up in the Emirate's money market where the Indian currency is freely available and is actively traded. Not only does its value go up: currency notes of Rs 1,000 denomination suddenly become short in supply, obviously because they are physically transported to India to finance the elections with black money.

 

In the 1980s, when a surge in complaints about exploitation and mistreatment of Indian workers forced New Delhi to offer more institutional protection to immigrant workers, an Indian consul-general in Dubai who sought to ensure such protection was threatened by recruiting agents, Indians who supply labour to the Gulf states. When the consul-general stood his ground, the agents plainly told him that they would go to New Delhi and get their way. Not only did they get their way, but soon enough, the ministry of external affairs instituted several enquiries against the consul-general who eventually left his post under a cloud.

 

The situation has only got worse and more serious since then as Dubai's hold over India deteriorates into a stranglehold. More recently, another consul-general in Dubai, a very senior officer who is currently serving elsewhere abroad, paid with his reputation after South Block instituted investigations against him based — believe it or not — on allegations levelled against him by known frontmen for Dawood Ibrahim. Relying on 'evidence' provided by Dawood's henchmen in moving against the senior diplomat was like relying on a thief's testimony in a case of robbery against himself!

 

Last week, speaking about the rot in the IPL and Indian cricket's Dubai connection in the Lok Sabha, Abdul Rahman, the MP from Vellore, singled out for praise two officers, Yash Sinha and Venu Rajamony, who were recently consuls-general in the Emirate. Given the unfair treatment of some of their predecessors by New Delhi which surrendered to cabals in Dubai, it was just as well that Rahman, who lived in Dubai before contesting from Vellore last year, put his impressions on record.

 

Because more and more of India's rich and powerful are increasingly beholden to Dubai one way or another, the Emirate has now come to believe that India can be treated like another banana republic that Dubai, in fact, is. Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai's ruler, accepted an invitation to be a keynote speaker at a conclave organized by a media group, then used that invitation to wangle a meeting with the prime minister and left without addressing the conclave. True, the government had nothing to do with the conclave, but the Dubai ruler's behaviour betrays a lack of decency which ought to inject an element of caution in any future dealings with the sheikh whose policies have brought Dubai to the edge of a precipice.

 

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THE TELEGRAPH

EDITORIAL

HACKS AND THEIR SPELLING

STEPHEN HUGH-JONES

 

It was an odd letter, even by letters-to-the-editor standards. "Interestingly," wrote one Rebecca Angelini-Hurll to the London Sunday Times, apropos of an article on dyslexia, "I am a fantastic speller." Well indeed, thought I. "Interestingly" merely? Too modest, surely — not every fantastic speller, plainly, is equally deft in the nuances of modesty. Fascinatingly, maybe? Grippingly? World-shakingly, why not?

 

But let's not be too unkind to Ms A-H. What she said next was indeed of interest — in its way. She'd worked for six years at The Economist, it seems, and "every single writer who had a modicum of talent could not spell for toffee — fortunately, they had a PA (me) who could both spell and correct grammar."

 

Well indeed, thought I again. In 35 years at The Economist, I subedited the work of umpteen highly talented journalists, in the home, foreign and business sections alike. Maybe one or two were less than brilliant spellers. But all of them? Most, even? No way. So am I to believe that in whatever section Ms A-H worked for not one could spell, let alone "for toffee" (a nice old expression; I don't doubt her English)? Frankly, phooey.

 

Yet the idea, a humble version of 'genius is to madness near allied', is not in itself absurd. One certainly can have writing talents and yet be unable to spell. Go back a few centuries, and to today's eyes that was true of every writer of English, hugely talented as some were, because spelling was not yet standardised.

 

Oops, I mean standardized, as The Telegraph insists — and is perfectly entitled to, since, as that word shows, there is no absolute, global standard of spelling even now. And back then it was chaos: even Shakespeare couldn't even spell his own name consistently (which, for the record, doesn't prove his plays were really written by Francis Bacon or ghosted for him by Hamlet's father). Spelling was astonishingly unimportant.

 

Fantastic notion

 

Or is that so astonishing? Most languages must have gone through chaos like this. Yet remember the West's formerly huge academic industry of editing ancient Greek and Latin texts. This could lead to fierce clashes: A.E. Housman, a classical scholar as well as a poet, once opined that a certain bad German editor, perusing the work of a worse follower, must have felt "like Sin when she gave birth to Death". And the clashes might arise over tiny differences in ancient manuscripts. Scholars could blame some rival readings on the sheer obscurity of the text, or on the ignorance or plain error of copyists. They recognized regional differences of dialect. They knew spelling had altered over the centuries. But I don't recall any suggestion that variant readings could arise simply because, at a given place and time — say, Athens in the fifth century BC — people disagreed on how to spell.

 

Why not? Maybe because by the 19th century the idea was so alien: by then, all educated people spelt English (or German) the same way. As they do today. True, English has no strict global standard. But the permitted variations are minor and well known. Those apart, almost all serious users of English, unless they truly are dyslexic, almost always spell it the same way; that is, correctly. And in my trade they'd risk their jobs if they didn't.

 

So even if I'd never set foot in The Economist, I'd challenge any fantastic notion that its talented writers, little as I shared some of their views, were all dunces at spelling. Not just do I know they weren't, but it's impossible they could have been, at that magazine or any other. Shakespeare maybe did not worry about spelling; today's journalists have to.

 

THEWORDCAGE@YAHOO.CO.UK

 

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

EDITORIAL

FALL FROM GRACE

''IPL WILL SURVIVE AS IT HAS SO MUCH TO OFFER''

 

With the suspension of Lalit Modi from all positions in the Board of Control for Cricket in India, including as the high-flying chairman of the Indian Premier League, the curtain has come down on act one of a controversy that has driven a massive knife into the heart of Indian cricket. An ill-advised tweet making the share-holding patterns in the Kochi franchisee public, triggered a rapid chain of events culminating in Modi's suspension and a show cause notice to him. The brash Modi's role in making the IPL the brand it is today is unquestionable, but in his mistaken belief that he is the IPL and that the IPL is Modi lay the genesis of his dramatic fall from grace.

Modi's admirable vision and undiluted passion, coupled with a shrewd business mind and the ability to identify novel means of selling the IPL, made him popular with players and officials, but his arrogance and utter disdain of any dissenting voice, however justified, won him few friends. His autocratic ways of functioning, tacitly approved by a mute and ignorant governing council, are only just beginning to come to light, as are sharp practices involving sums allegedly running into millions of dollars. His unshakeable belief that he was bigger than the product he created has eventually left him in the wilderness. The suspension is but the first step in a long process that, should it take its logical course, will see Modi left to fend for himself, even as the creation that thrust him into the limelight will continue to flourish.


Serious as the recent taints, including the allegations of match-fixing are, the IPL will remain upwardly mobile simply because as a product, it has so much to offer. Over the first three seasons, fans have lapped it up with unconcealed glee, packing stadiums to the rafters and soaking in the heady mix of outstanding cricket and wholesome entertainment. Unlike Modi, the fans realise that what makes the IPL is not its creator but the parade of stars of different nationalities who set friendships aside and engage in no-holds-barred battles for six and a half weeks. Cricket has shown remarkable resilience in overcoming the match-fixing scandal of the early 2000s; rest assured, this is one more setback it will take effortlessly in its stride. It might be Endgame Modi, but the IPL is far from history.

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

TAMIL LEAD

''A LANGUAGE DEVELOPS WHEN FACED WITH CHALLENGES.''

 

The argument for using mother tongue as the medium of instruction at all levels of education is strong in the country. The issue has been hotly debated by educationists and other stake-holders like teachers and parents. But there has not yet been a widely accepted consensus on it. Governments have changed policies on the language of education and the trends in schools have changed according to times. The benefits of education in mother tongue are accepted at least in theory by most people, though in practice the number of English medium schools are exponentially increasing and more and more parents seek admission for their children in them. But even those who advocate the need for education in mother tongue have accepted the desirability of higher education, especially technical education, being offered in English.


But the Anna University in Tamil Nadu has taken a major step by deciding to introduce Tamil as the medium of instruction in civil and mechanical engineering degree courses in colleges affiliated to the university from the next academic year. One aim is to encourage students from Tamil medium schools to take up technical education. The urban and elitist bias of technical education can be corrected with this. There is also a feeling that students with a Tamil medium background are at a disadvantage when they pursue higher education in English. Promotion and development of mother tongue may be another aim. A language develops when it has to cope with challenges like finding new words and ways of expression. The government, institutions and the people of Tamil Nadu are known for the love of their language and they cannot be faulted for this.
Infrastructure like textbooks, and teachers well versed both in Tamil and the subjects, will have to be readied. This can be done but it is not known if the authorities have given sufficient thought to the job prospects of those who graduate without a working knowledge of English outside the state. Some of them may want to go for higher education also. Communication of technical ideas and concepts will be difficult for them, and they will find it difficult to access technical literature in English. The experiment may be commendable as a sign of pride in mother tongue but it should not hurt the interests of students.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

A POLITICAL MISFIT

HE COMPLETELY MISREAD NEW DELHI AND ITS SOCIAL SEDUCTIONS WHICH CAN SO EASILY LULL EAGER BEAVERS INTO A SENSE OF FALSE SECURITY.

BY SAEED NAQVI

 

It was clear as daylight that Shashi Tharoor, junior minister in the ministry of external affairs, would not last on the lofty perch provided for him by the ruling Congress party.


Slopes are meant to ascend, of course, but also to descend. However, gliding from the higher echelons of the United Nations to public life in India, a mind of insufficient suppleness may be forgiven for being a little confused between ascent and descent, status enhancement or status reversal. Tharoor was never certain whether Indian politics was a good enough fallback position once he had lost the top job at the UN. This uncertainty was at the bottom of his casual attitude towards politics.


IPL was only the trigger. Tharoor fell victim to a common failing. He completely misread New Delhi, its social seductions which can so easily lull eager beavers into a sense of false security. If feet are not planted firmly on the ground, the heady social swing, the pretentious sham of shallow movers and shakers, can sweep you off your feet. And feet can never be firmly planted either in Thiruvanthapuram or New Delhi, if you have lived half your life in the US. Tharoor fell because he could not adjust.


The case of Shashi Tharoor has lessons for the political establishment. Lateral inductions from the corporate sector and elsewhere into parties have come under scrutiny particularly since the days of Rajiv Gandhi. It is commonly known that politics was more or less thrust on Rajiv after Sanjay Gandhi's death in an air crash.


An IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, V S Tripathi was identified to guide him into the ways of the world during Indira Gandhi's lifetime. At that stage Rajiv was comfortable with a small circle of friends like 'Thud' (abbreviation for Thadani) Arun Singh and Vijay Dhar. 'Doscos' (from Doon School) crawled out of the woodworks to take up slots in journalism, tourism and advisory positions around Rajiv Gandhi only after he became prime minister.


The list of those who made a career out of sharing the dormitory with Rajiv Gandhi at Doon School is long. But some talents did surface. Among them Mani Shankar Aiyar — successful IFS officer in his own right, qualified to be Rajiv's mediaman for many reasons. An excellent speaker, writer, and, unlike the apolitical 'baba log,' political to the core, having dabbled in left politics at Cambridge.


The point I am making is that youngsters who clustered around Rajiv were largely political careerists, but for the exceptions I have mentioned. Surely careerists could not be expected to inject idealism into Indian public life. In fact not many of them even had the stamina to survive in politics, exceptions like Kamal Nath notwithstanding.

Breeding ground

Intellectual ideas during the freedom struggle were mostly nurtured in leftist crucibles, with Jawaharlal Nehru as the secular symbol of this school. Tilak, Sardar Patel, Purshottam Das Tandon, Morarji Desai represented Indian nationalism, finely poised on the edge of 'Hindu nationalism.'


The context of the breakdown of feudalism, concurrent with the national movement, strengthened the appeal of the left to the educated and in many cases unemployed youth who gravitated towards left parties and the socialists. Some of them sparkled in parliament as Hiren Mukerjee, H V Kamath, Bhupesh Gupta, Ram Manohar Lohia, Nath Pai. The Hindi belt sent up its own brilliant speakers like Atal Behari Vajpayee and Prakash Veer Shastri.


Subsequent to this generation, the intake of idealistic youth into public life dried up with the onset of political corruption of which the IPL is only the tiniest tributary.


The second generation rural elite, new to wealth and power, concentrated on contracts for canals, culverts and coal mines.


The Maruti-plus middle class, part of the celebrated 300 million Indians on the make, was completely oblivious of the 70 per cent of Indians living in poverty.


For the new political class, the catchment area for young political recruits was restricted to the above categories. Since recruits from these group were creatures of market avarice, the handful of 'decent' leaders left in, say the Congress party, encouraged lateral inductions, like Tharoor, for instance, to give the party a wholesome visage.
These inductions were resisted by the party lineup (quietly, slyly) which since Independence has acquired a positive and a negative characteristic: it is increasingly homespun and aggressively corrupt. 'Good schooling' therefore sticks out like a sore thumb in this grouping.


I am not for a moment suggesting that Tharoor does not know Malayalam or that he is not familiar with Swati Thirunal. My point is that the young inductees to have credibility will have to know more about the debt trap which drives farmers to suicides rather than the garish razzle dazzle of IPL. They will have to vibe with the tribals of Chhattisgarh and Orissa who are holding onto their lands rich in minerals on which are set the eyes of the corporate world.


A national poll in universities and colleges on the tribal-Maoist combine versus the state may throw up a new catchment area for durable political inductees.

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

THE FIGHT AGAINST PATENT MONOPOLIES

THERE ARE BILATERAL AGREEMENTS THAT PUSH THE CENTRE TO INCREASE PATENT DURATION BEYOND 20 YEARS.

BY GOPAL DABADE


On April 26, the world celebrated the World Intellectual Property Day to mark the 10th anniversary of Wipo (World Intellectual Property Organisation). Wipo is an agency of the United Nations established with the objective that its member countries can be assisted in developing appropriate patent laws.


Patents give absolute monopoly for a certain period of time to the inventor and this monopoly is given by the government under the assumption that the inventor has spent time and money in making the discovery. Each country has its own laws governing patent issues and they play an extremely important role on several aspects of our daily life, including access to food and life-saving medicines.


Indian patent laws were amended in 2005, as India is a member of the WTO (World Trade Organisation). The period of patent duration, which was for seven years (for medicines) was increased to 20 years and also from process patent, India changed to product patent. These and many other changes that were incorporated in the patent act were discussed and debated in parliament.


Many of these changes were opposed by several people's organisations not only in India but all over the world, as Indian generic drug companies export affordable medicines to around 200 developing countries. And in addition, these changes would benefit the companies in the rich countries and in several ways would create a burden for generic companies in the Indian context.


Harmful trends

Even after having amended the Indian Patent Act as per the minimum requirements of the WTO, it does not seem to have satisfied the corporate greed. Among the many issues at stake here are two glaring examples: During February 2010, Bayer, the German multinational company, approached the supreme court challenging how an Indian drug company (Cipla) could be granted permission by the Drug Controller of India, to manufacture a drug on which Bayer had patent rights.


Linking patents (that is, the Indian Patent Office) with drug regulating authorities (that is, Drug Controller of India) is a trick used by the big pharmaceutical companies so that the Indian generic companies would not be able to manufacture the drug immediately after the expiry of the patent period and thus the brand company will have a monopoly for greater duration of time.


The drug in this case is Sorafenib Tosylate, which is used to treat kidney cancer and is sold by Bayer at Rs 2.85 lakh for 120 tablets for a month's dosage. Indian generic companies can make it at a much lower cost.


In another example, in Sept 2009, Novartis, a Swiss multinational company approached the supreme court challenging the rejection of its patent on Gleevec. It is a useful medicine which is used to treat a variety of blood cancer and needed to be taken life long to not only increase longevity but also improve the quality of life. Treatment with Gleevec, the one manufactured and marketed by Novartis, costs Rs 1.20 lakh a month, whereas Indian companies — nine of them — are making and marketing it at a price of about Rs 8,000 to Rs 9,000 per month. If Novartis wins the case then Indian generics will have to stop manufacturing it.


In addition to the court case, Novartis is also challenging the provisions like section 3(d) of the Indian Patent Act, which was introduced by parliament after recognising the public health concerns regarding 'ever greening' tactics of pharma companies. It is a common practice of pharma giants to extend their patent monopolies on known medicines by making insignificant or minor changes. This provision acts as a check on patent monopolies for medicines that are not actually inventions, but mere combinations or slightly modified formulations of existing medicines.


In addition there are bilateral agreements (the recent one being between India and EU) that are further pushing the Indian government to increase the patent duration beyond 20 years. Many of these conditions are known as TRIPS plus provisions.


Given this scenario, one wonders how one would celebrate the World Intellectual Property Day in a country that has the largest number of people (649 million) without having access to essential medicines, according to WHO estimates. Ideally, the patents should have created a situation where medicines would be made accessible to a large number of people, but the reverse seems to be the case. Patenting regime is, in fact, depriving millions of people of accessing the life-saving medicines. One wonders if UN authorities have thought of a remedy.


(The writer is co-convener, All India Drug Action Network)

 

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DECCAN HERALD

EDITORIAL

CLACKETY-CLACK

THE SUDDEN CLATTER OF THE OLD REMINGTON WOKE THE ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD.

BY SUNIL GUPTA

 

The typewriter once belonged to my great-grandfather. It is a portable Remington from the early 1920s. The burnished black frame still glints. The keys — pale yellow discs on thin metal strips are as sprightly as ever. Years after great-grandpa's demise, my grandfather retrieved the typewriter from the attic and handed over to my father who went to work on it — oiling, replacing worn-out springs, fixing the latches on its case. He brought the typewriter back to life late one night and the sudden clatter of the old Remington woke the entire household.
  
As long as the typewriter was working, my father refused to buy a new one, a more efficient model. I recall him saying that he did not want the Remington to go back into the attic. So he nursed it along with a silent tenacity. He stubbornly kept the machine from sinking to disrepair and obsolescence.


The little portable is a living bit of my father's past. He associates the machine with a time I can only glimpse through sepia-tinted photographs in the family album: our ancestral country home, grandpa during his school years and great-grandpa standing straight-backed and mustachioed — the portrait of a patriarch.


When my relationship with my father matured into friendship, I realised that much of my father had rubbed off on me. His writing, for instance. I began by helping him check facts in his pieces by scrounging for information in libraries and later on the google. As my father transferred his stories from longhand to type, I would proof the pages. Between us the Remington rang with its busy staccato as the typefaces crashed on to the white foolscap and left their indelible impressions.


My dad gave me the typewriter when I left home to study at St Xaviers in Calcutta. Faced with a busy academic schedule, I worked long hours to complete research assignments. I became adept at using computers and text files. Software packages took over the chore of setting columns and paragraphs. But I continued to use the Remington sparingly mainly to correspond with my father.


Our exchanges continue, even as I settle into a job in another city. The old typewriter has accompanied me. Somehow, I don't perceive it as just a utilitarian piece of machinery anymore. The old portable has become part of the familiar and reassuring in my life. Perhaps, my grandpa felt the same when he took the Remington out of the attic years ago.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LION'S DEN: UNDERSTANDING EUROPE

BY DANIEL PIPES

 

A newly translated book by French novelist Pascal Bruckner shows how Europeans see themselves as "the sick man of the planet."

 

 

"Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West." So writes French novelist and essayist Pascal Bruckner in his book La tyrannie de la pénitence (2006), translated into English by Steven Rendall and recently published by Princeton University Press as The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism. "All of modern thought," he adds, "can be reduced to mechanical denunciations of the West, emphasizing the latter's hypocrisy, violence and abomination."


He exaggerates, but not by much.


He shows how Europeans see themselves as "the sick man of the planet" whose pestilence causes every problem in the non-Western world (what he calls the South). When the white man set foot in Asia, Africa or America, death, chaos and destruction followed. Europeans feel themselves born with stigmata: "The white man has sown grief and ruin wherever he has gone." His pale skin signals his moral defectiveness.


These provocative statements undergird Bruckner's brilliant polemic arguing that European remorse for the sins of imperialism, fascism and racism have gripped the continent to the point of stifling its creativity, destroying its self-confidence and depleting its optimism.


Bruckner himself concedes Europe's blemishes, but also praises it for self-criticism: "There is no doubt that Europe has given birth to monsters, but at the same time it has given birth to theories that make it possible to understand and destroy these monsters." The continent, he maintains, cannot be just a curse, for its sublime achievements complement its worst atrocities. This he calls "proof of grandeur."


Paradoxically, it is Europe's very readiness to acknowledge its faults that prompts self-hatred, for societies that do not engage in such introspection do not lacerate themselves. Europe's strength is thus its weakness. Although the continent has "more or less vanquished its monsters" such as slavery, colonialism and fascism, it chooses to dwell on the worst of its record.


Thus, his book's title, The Tyranny of Guilt. The past, with its violence and aggression, is frozen in time – a burden Europeans expect never to be able to throw off.


THE SOUTH, in contrast, is deemed perpetually innocent. Even as colonialism fades into the past, Europeans righteously blame themselves for the plight of once-colonized peoples. Eternal innocence means infantilizing non-Westerners; Europeans flatter themselves as the only adults – itself a form of racism. It also offers a way to preempt criticism.


This explains why Europeans ask what they "can do for the South rather than asking what the South can do for itself." It also explains why, after the Madrid bombings of 2004, a million Spaniards marched against, not the Islamist perpetrators, but their own prime minister. And worse, why they saw Spanish civilians "torn apart by steel and fire" as the guilty party.


As shown by the Madrid bombing and countless other acts of violence, Muslims tend to have the most hostile attitudes toward the West, and Palestinians rank as the most hostile of Muslims. That Palestinians face off against Jews, the extreme victims of Western murderousness, makes them a perversely ideal vehicle for rebutting Western guilt. Making matters worse, even as Europeans disarm themselves, Jews take up the sword and wield it unashamedly.


Europe exonerates itself of crimes against Jews by extolling Palestinians as victims no matter how viciously they act, and by portraying Israelis as latter-day Nazis no matter how necessary their self-defense. Thus has the Palestinian question "quietly relegitimated hatred of the Jews." Europeans focus on Israel with such an intensity that one could think the fate of the planet will be determined "in a tiny stretch of land between Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Gaza."

 

And America? Just as "Europe relieves itself of the crime of the Shoah by blaming Israel, [so] it relieves itself of the sin of colonialism by blaming the United States." Excommunicating its American child permits Europe to preen.

Bruckner rejects this easy out, and admires American confidence and pride of country. "Whereas America asserts itself, Europe questions itself."


He also notes that, in time of need, the wretched of the Earth invariably turn to the US, not the European Union. To him, the US is "the last great nation in the West." He hopes that Europe and America will cooperate again, for when they do, they "achieve marvelous results."


But his own evidence points to the unlikelihood of that prospect.



The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

FROM HUNGARY AND AUSTRIA, COME TO ISRAEL!

 

Austria has managed to avoid blame for the Holocaust by claiming it was a victim of Nazi aggression, even though the Anschluss was well-received.

 

 

On Sunday, Hungarian voters transformed the anti-Semitic Jobbik Party into a political power to be reckoned with.

Jobbik, or the Movement for a Better Hungary, was catapulted to 47 seats in the 386-seat legislature in the second of round of voting. In parallel, the ruling Socialist Party was dethroned, falling from 190 to just 59 seats while its coalition partner, the Liberal Party, which enjoyed strong Jewish support, lost its parliamentary presence altogether.


In Austria on Monday, meanwhile, Barbara Rosenkranz, the Freedom Party candidate for presidency, who is also known also as the "Reich mother," earned 13 percent of the nation's votes. She was never expected to win the presidential race, which went to incumbent Heinz Fischer. In fact, Rosenkranz's showing was lower than the expected 17%. Nevertheless, the present Austrian political climate is hardly congenial to Jews.


Right-wing elements in Austria are already attempting to delegitimize Fischer, voted in on an extremely low voter turnout of just over 50%, with the claim that he represents less than half of the voters. They hope Rosenkranz's high profile campaign will pave the way for FP leader Heinz-Christian Strache to be voted the next mayor of Vienna later in the year.


The very fact that Fischer's only plausible rival in the race was the far-right challenger from a party repeatedly tarnished by Nazi associations is indicative of a "terrifying shift to the right" across Europe, according to Germany's Central Council of Jews.


There is nothing new about anti-Semitism in Austria and Hungary. Austrians have managed to avoid culpability for the Holocaust by claiming they were victims of Nazi aggression, even though the 1938 Anschluss was positively received and Austrians were disproportionately represented in Nazi leadership.


What has become the "founding myth" of Austria's Second Republic has facilitated the integration of former Nazis into key positions over the years. In February 2000, after the FP, then headed by the late neo-Nazi Jorg Haider, was included in the country's government coalition, Chaim Chesler, then-treasurer of the Jewish Agency, called on the Jews of Austria to immigrate to Israel immediately.


In post-communist Hungary, anti-Semitism has been fueled primarily by claims of a Judeo-Bolshevik nexus. Historically, Jews played key roles in the short-lived Bolshevik Revolution of 1919 led by Bela Kun and after 1945 a small clique of Hungarian "Muscovite Jews" rallied around the ultra-Stalinist Matyas Rakosi, whose rule ended with the 1956 popular uprising against Soviet rule.


In 1990, after the fall of communism, the vice president of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, a popular political party at the time, openly blamed "Jewish Stalinists" for having destroyed the self-esteem of the Hungarian people.

THERE ARE an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 Jews in Hungary and 9,000 to 20,000 in Austria. What's keeping them there?


As historian Matti Bunzl has pointed out, post-Holocaust Jews of Austria have throughout the years disavowed any Austrian identity. They may have Austrian citizenship, but this is rarely experienced as anything but a formal arrangement. It is safe to assume that many Hungarian Jews feel the same, which explains the high rates of aliya from both of countries until the end of the 20th century.


In the last decade, though, a strong Zionism has gradually been replaced by hopes that the European Union would offer a political entity that provides affiliation regardless of ethnic belonging or nationality – similar, ironically, to what was offered in the 19th century by the Austro-Hungarian Hapsburg Empire.


Jews might have difficulty integrating themselves in a specific European state characterized by a distinct culture, history and religion. But they would find it easier to define themselves more generically as "Europeans," a term devoid of all the ethnically charged particularism surrounding "Austrian" or "Hungarian."


Now, perhaps the time has come for the Jews of Austria and Hungary to reassess the European reality. Between the influx of large numbers of Muslims, who are gradually becoming the main perpetrators of anti-Semitic violence in Europe, and the rise of a rabidly xenophobic Right, as evidenced in the recent elections in Hungary and Austria, Europe, or at least a goodly part of it, is becoming a very unwelcoming place for Jews.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

REJECTING THE BURKA

THE BURKA CAN'T BE PERMITTED UNDER THE FREEDOM OF RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION, JUST AS FULL NUDITY CAN'T.

 

 

The burka ban debate raging in Europe has made it to Israel. MK Marina Solodkin (Kadima) announced this week her intention to initiate a bill that would prohibit the wearing of a full-body and face covering for women. Solodkin said that her bill would not differentiate between Muslims and Jews.


The burka is most commonly tied to Islam. It is worn in more extremist Muslim traditions as part of a conscientious adherence to hijab – the Islamic requirement to dress and behave modestly in public. But in recent years a zealot sect of haredi women, numbering perhaps a dozen or two, has also adopted the burka as part of their understanding of tzniut – Judaism's modesty requirements. The most prominent member of this splinter group, who became known as the "Taliban lady," was charged with sexually abusing her children.


Solodkin, inspired by a recent anti-burka campaign launched by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, argues that the burka is an attack on the dignity of women. We agree.


Whether there are in Israel enough burka-wearing women to justify devoting the energy and resources needed to legally discourage the phenomenon is unclear. But in principle, a strong argument can be made for banning the burka and what it represents.


First, the custom is misogynistic. The aim of covering a woman from head to toe is to blot out her feminine presence in the public domain; to turn her into a nonentity that cannot express her desires and her thoughts; to deny basic human interaction. Religious freedom, like any other right, is granted on condition that it is not exploited for destructive goals, such as the subjugation of women.


Muslim women who say they choose to wear the burka might argue that they are no more a product of male domination than anorexic western women vainly striving to meet men's prurient demands for a perfect body. But while the objectification of women is wrong, it cannot be compared to the brutal erasing of their very presence. The burka deviates so radically from accepted Western norms that it cannot be permitted under the pretext of freedom of religious expression, just as full nudity can't. That's why the vast majority of moderate Muslims oppose the burka.


The burka also undermines social cohesion. Women who wear the burka in Western countries send out a strongly anti-integrationist message. It is part of a wider rejection of Western values by radical Islamists who insist on full communal autonomy and the official recognition of Sharia law, including the imposition of the niqab (full veiling of the female face), and sometimes the right to perform female genital mutilation.


In Britain, for instance, this total lack of willingness to integrate on the part of some Muslims has become an obstacle to the formal learning of English, has heightened inter-communal tensions, and has reinforced the ghettoization of Asian Muslims into separate enclaves with high unemployment and increased social alienation.


Finally, the burka can be a security or crime risk: It hides the identity of a potential terrorist or criminal.


FOR THESE reasons, lawmakers in several European countries, including Holland, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and France are pondering anti-burka legislation. In January, Denmark decided to restrict niqab in public institutions.

 

Those who support such legislation realize that an easygoing multiculturalism works only when there are basic shared values and a willingness to integrate. But European multiculturalism has deteriorated into rudderless moral relativism and a pusillanimous reluctance to criticize radical Islamic customs for fear of being branded an Islamophobe.

Sadly, some Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, chief rabbi of Moscow and leader of the Conference of European Rabbis, have helped foster such unfounded fears. "Sixty-five years after the liberation of Auschwitz," wrote Goldschmidt in the New York Times in February, in an op-ed opposing the idea of bans on the burka, "Europeans can permit themselves to be squeamish about how things start and how things, if left unabated, can end." As a rabbi, he added, "I am made uncomfortable when any religious expression is restricted, not only my own."


Goldschmidt has got it wrong. Europeans have a right to feel uncomfortable. But not, as Goldschmidt argues, because Europeans are being too hard on Muslims. Rather, because they are being too soft.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

HYPOCRISY ALL AROUND

BY YOSSI ALPHER

 

When Palestinians name streets after terrorists, then deny this is incitement, this is hypocrisy. But Israel is no less hypocritical.

 

The incitement issue is rife with hypocrisy on both sides. It is exaggerated by both Israelis and Palestinians so as to excuse their refusal to negotiate and to "score points," particularly with the international community. While the latter should be tough on incitement, it should not permit that issue to obfuscate the need for immediate progress toward a solution in more pragmatic spheres of the conflict.


When Palestinians name streets and squares after out-and-out terrorists, label them freedom fighters and glorify them in their school curriculum, then deny this is incitement, this is hypocrisy. But when Israel focuses on this phenomenon and ignores the progress made by the Palestinian Authority in cleaning up its textbooks and Friday mosque sermons, this is no less hypocritical.


MOREOVER, THE Netanyahu government appears to be willfully ignoring the increase in incitement against Palestinians and Arabs in general in Israel's school system – particularly the religious schools, where 80 percent of high school students recently supported denying equal rights to Arab citizens of Israel – and in the rhetoric of religious leaders like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, leader of Shas. Indeed, there are features of the Israeli media that for years have "incited" against the Palestinian Authority without anyone taking conscious notice. Take, for example, the television and newspaper weather maps that obliterate the Palestinian Authority much the way Palestinian textbook maps ignore Israel.


The point is not that incitement in Israel is as bad as in Palestine (it isn't), or that it began under the current Israeli government (it didn't – decades ago we named squares after Jewish terrorists who murdered Arab civilians before 1948).


Rather, the point is that the government of Israel appears uninterested in countering Israeli incitement even as it goes out of its way to excoriate Palestinian incitement. Needless to say, Palestinian complaints about Israeli incitement hardly serve the cause of objectivity when they focus on issues like the very name of Ben-Gurion Airport.

Yet the incitement issue goes far beyond Israeli-Palestinian relations, and here too hypocrisy reigns. Throughout the Arab world and much of the Muslim world there is vile, racist incitement against Israelis and Jews in general.

From newspaper cartoons to school curricula, from Friday sermons to the sale of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, from Iran to Algeria, Jews and Israelis are vilified daily and pervasively. Egypt and Jordan, Arab states at peace with Israel, are no exception.


We do virtually nothing about this. Nor have we ever allowed it to interfere with otherwise peaceful relations with our neighbors. We understand that even a cold peace rife with incitement against us is far better than war. Those of us who take the trouble to discuss the issue with our Arab neighbors discover very quickly that peace has not brought about the slightest readiness in Cairo to acknowledge the Jews as a Middle East people with the right to self-determination in its historic homeland. Many Muslims everywhere continue to view Jews as, at best, adherents of a second-class religion to be tolerated only if it abandons territorial and sovereign aspirations. In coexisting with Israel, they practice their own form of hypocrisy.



So why do we concentrate on the Palestinians? Is it because we and they are fighting over the same territory and the same historic-religious sites that we demand more of them as a condition for negotiating or ending the conflict? Is the intimacy of our conflict the reason for demanding a host of security constraints that we also don't seek to impose on our other neighbors? Or is it because Palestinians have never had a state of their own and were scarcely considered a people until a few decades ago that we feel we can impose additional conditions?

To be sure, these are all legitimate Israeli concerns when it comes to dealing with the Palestinians. But they don't justify the hypocrisy over incitement.


The writer is co-editor of the bitterlemons family of internet publications. He is former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. This article was first published on www.bitterlemons.org and is reprinted with permission.

 

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

LION'S DEN: UNDERSTANDING EUROPE

BY DANIEL PIPES

 

A newly translated book by French novelist Pascal Bruckner shows how Europeans see themselves as "the sick man of the planet."

 

 

"Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West." So writes French novelist and essayist Pascal Bruckner in his book La tyrannie de la pénitence (2006), translated into English by Steven Rendall and recently published by Princeton University Press as The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism. "All of modern thought," he adds, "can be reduced to mechanical denunciations of the West, emphasizing the latter's hypocrisy, violence and abomination."


He exaggerates, but not by much.


He shows how Europeans see themselves as "the sick man of the planet" whose pestilence causes every problem in the non-Western world (what he calls the South). When the white man set foot in Asia, Africa or America, death, chaos and destruction followed. Europeans feel themselves born with stigmata: "The white man has sown grief and ruin wherever he has gone." His pale skin signals his moral defectiveness.


These provocative statements undergird Bruckner's brilliant polemic arguing that European remorse for the sins of imperialism, fascism and racism have gripped the continent to the point of stifling its creativity, destroying its self-confidence and depleting its optimism.


Bruckner himself concedes Europe's blemishes, but also praises it for self-criticism: "There is no doubt that Europe has given birth to monsters, but at the same time it has given birth to theories that make it possible to understand and destroy these monsters." The continent, he maintains, cannot be just a curse, for its sublime achievements complement its worst atrocities. This he calls "proof of grandeur."


Paradoxically, it is Europe's very readiness to acknowledge its faults that prompts self-hatred, for societies that do not engage in such introspection do not lacerate themselves. Europe's strength is thus its weakness. Although the continent has "more or less vanquished its monsters" such as slavery, colonialism and fascism, it chooses to dwell on the worst of its record.


Thus, his book's title, The Tyranny of Guilt. The past, with its violence and aggression, is frozen in time – a burden Europeans expect never to be able to throw off.


THE SOUTH, in contrast, is deemed perpetually innocent. Even as colonialism fades into the past, Europeans righteously blame themselves for the plight of once-colonized peoples. Eternal innocence means infantilizing non-Westerners; Europeans flatter themselves as the only adults – itself a form of racism. It also offers a way to preempt criticism.


This explains why Europeans ask what they "can do for the South rather than asking what the South can do for itself." It also explains why, after the Madrid bombings of 2004, a million Spaniards marched against, not the Islamist perpetrators, but their own prime minister. And worse, why they saw Spanish civilians "torn apart by steel and fire" as the guilty party.

As shown by the Madrid bombing and countless other acts of violence, Muslims tend to have the most hostile attitudes toward the West, and Palestinians rank as the most hostile of Muslims. That Palestinians face off against Jews, the extreme victims of Western murderousness, makes them a perversely ideal vehicle for rebutting Western guilt. Making matters worse, even as Europeans disarm themselves, Jews take up the sword and wield it unashamedly.


Europe exonerates itself of crimes against Jews by extolling Palestinians as victims no matter how viciously they act, and by portraying Israelis as latter-day Nazis no matter how necessary their self-defense. Thus has the Palestinian question "quietly relegitimated hatred of the Jews." Europeans focus on Israel with such an intensity that one could think the fate of the planet will be determined "in a tiny stretch of land between Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Gaza."


And America? Just as "Europe relieves itself of the crime of the Shoah by blaming Israel, [so] it relieves itself of the sin of colonialism by blaming the United States." Excommunicating its American child permits Europe to preen.

Bruckner rejects this easy out, and admires American confidence and pride of country. "Whereas America asserts itself, Europe questions itself."


He also notes that, in time of need, the wretched of the Earth invariably turn to the US, not the European Union. To him, the US is "the last great nation in the West." He hopes that Europe and America will cooperate again, for when they do, they "achieve marvelous results."


But his own evidence points to the unlikelihood of that prospect.

 

The writer (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University.

.

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THE JERUSALEM POST

EDITORIAL

YALLA PEACE: STOP SAYING TOLERANCE

BY RAY HANANIA


Until everyone starts accepting the other's views and even their historical narratives, I am not sure either side should be building museums of tolerance.

 

 

I met Simon Wiesenthal as a cub reporter in the early 1980s. I was one of the only Palestinian Americans working as a full-time reporter at a daily paper in the country. My editor, who was Jewish, must have thought it funny to assign a Palestinian reporter to cover Jewish American and Holocaust events.


I didn't mind, though. Wiesenthal received an honor from the Decalogue Society, the association for Jewish lawyers in Chicago. I interviewed him and we had a great conversation. He was fixated on me being Palestinian, but in a positive way.


At the end of the evening, he gave me his autograph, which I put alongside autographs from other Middle East luminaries including Abba Eban (whom I debated on national television when I was 25), Menachem Begin and Yasser Arafat.


Wiesenthal told me he believed the Palestinians deserved a state, and hoped violence would be overcome by peace. He said Palestinians needed a visionary leader who could see peace and work toward it, and not be distracted by the ongoing violence.


Wiesenthal, to me, was a very tolerant person who seemed to consider the feelings of others in his quest to hunt down Nazi war criminals. That's why I am concerned, as are all Arabs and Muslims, with the Wiesenthal Center's plans to build a "Museum of Tolerance" on land adjacent to what was once a prominent Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem.


The Wiesenthal Center defends the decision, arguing the land was used as a municipal parking lot by the government for many years and no Muslims complained.


Well, they did complain, but who listens when a Palestinian complains about anything in Israel? (No one listened when Israel bulldozed dozens of Arab homes and expelled the residents around the Western Wall in order to expand it.) It's not a good defense to argue, "well, Muslims didn't complain when concrete was laid on top of the cemetery and cars were parked there."


The other argument is that Muslims planned to build something on it years ago under the British Mandate, but are opposed now because it's the "Jews" who want to build on it.


MY ATTITUDE is simple, and I am a very tolerant person. If Muslims want to do something with a Muslim cemetery, that is their business and their right. Jews don't have a right to do anything with a Muslim cemetery. And Muslims don't have a right to do anything with a Jewish cemetery, either. Sadly, that has happened, too. Arabs have desecrated Jewish cemeteries.


These acts of desecration have been the result of our unending conflict.


It's not unusual to have an Israeli institution built on top of something the Arabs and Muslims hold sacred.

Israel rarely worries about what Arabs think, whether they are citizens or neighbors.


Yad Vashem, for example, is built in close proximity of the land of Deir Yassin where the pre-state organizations, the Stern Gang and the Irgun, killed about 100 Palestinian civilians.


I understand the building of a memorial to the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. But to do so on a spot sacred to others, and where others were killed? Some might not see that as being very tolerant at all.


Certainly, there is no equivalency between a mass campaign to murder 6 million Jews and the killing of "only" 100 civilians.


The sad truth is, intolerance is rampant on both sides. Palestinians' continued support of extremism and violence against Israeli civilians gives Israel its best defense: Hey, the Arabs do it! Palestinians and Arabs have massacred Jews.


That is not a good defense. It is an intolerable defense. You can't defend a crime, a killing, an unethical or immoral act or policy by saying, "Well, the other side did the same thing."


I'm not just picking on the Israelis. As I have said, Palestinians do it too.


Here's a great idea. Maybe we should all stop. Maybe Palestinians and Israelis should spend a little less time on intolerance and a little more time showing compassion and concern. Yes, tolerance for each other.


What Palestinians and Israelis clearly seem to lack is tolerance. Until everyone starts tolerating each other better and tolerating their views, grievances, claims for justice and even their conflicting historical narratives, I am not sure either side should be building museums of tolerance. Or claiming to be more tolerant than the other.

We can't claim to be tolerant of challenges facing the world when we can't even be tolerant of the challenges that face us in our own little space in Israel and Palestine.


Maybe the Wiesenthal Center might consider building a Museum of Palestinian-Israeli Tolerance and Peace.


I'd support that. I bet the late Simon Wiesenthal would have supported it, too.


Named Best Ethnic Columnist in America by New America Media, the writer is a Palestinian- American columnist and peace activist. He can be reached at www.YallaPeace.com

 

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

HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

SHAME AT SAHARONIM

 

Haaretz reported that refugee children who come to Israel with or without their parents - sometimes their parents die along the arduous route from Africa - are held in Saharonim Prison in the south along with adult prisoners. Detaining children there violates state regulations requiring the separation of minors and adults, trained psychological staff and educational activities.

The Justice Ministry's legal aid department, which represents the "unaccompanied minors," those in Israel without their parents, determined that they are being held in Saharonim illegally. A department representative who toured the facility was horrified to find that children over 3 are held in tents and prefab homes with adult detainees and in overcrowded conditions, "and may therefore be exposed to harassment and dangers."

 

The facility is not equipped to deal with children and youth and lacks the appropriate psychological staff and educational activities. The Givon facility in central Israel, where most minor refugees are held, does have a separate wing, although conditions are harsh.


The complaint about the disgraceful treatment didn't come from aid organizations this time, but from a state entity that deals with refugee rights and is now demanding that the responsible authorities find an appropriate place to hold these minors. They are neither criminals nor terrorists, but victims of persecution - people in distress who do not belong in jail but in a suitable facility that can treat them appropriately and provide for their needs, such as a boarding school.


The Israel Prison Service's explanations that the minors were held temporarily with adults at Saharonim due to a shortage of places does not suffice. The refugee children deserve humane treatment like any other person, even if they entered Israel without a visa, and the government is obligated to see to their welfare. Forcing harsh detention conditions on them, while subverting procedures, is not the way to handle illegal immigration from Africa.

 

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

PUSHING FOR A PROVISIONAL PALESTINIAN STATE

BY ALUF BENN

 

The announcement of upcoming "proximity talks" between Israel and the Palestinians raises a number of questions - what exactly will they talk about? What else can be renewed in the peace process, where everything seems to have been tried while peace remains elusive? What trick does George Mitchell, the mediator of the hour, have up his sleeve that was kept from his frustrated predecessors?


Israel wants to extract itself from the morass of control over the Palestinians, who accuse it of apartheid and force it to choose between its Jewish identity and its democracy. But Israel also wants to keep most of the West Bank, the settlements and security control, and to enjoy exclusive rights over Jerusalem.


Israel's answer to this stagnation calls for upgrading the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad to a body responsible for a polity within provisional borders. This dwarf state would be created by a special UN vote, effectively absolving Israel of responsibility. The dispute over the remaining territories, refugees and Jerusalem would be settled later in talks between two sovereign states, Israel and Palestine, not between an occupier and its subjects.

 

The Palestinians want as much of their historical homeland as possible, to be rid of Israeli soldiers and settlers, and to maintain international support. The Palestinians are calling for the creation of a state within the 1967 borders, with small land swaps that would leave the large settlements on the Israeli side, Jerusalem divided as the capital of two states, and the return of an undetermined number of refugees to Israel. They fear that unless they receive the maximum now and instead settle for a mini-state, the world will lose interest in them just as it ultimately came to terms with Israeli control over the Golan Heights.


Leaders on both sides must prove they have not given up, that it was the other side that reneged. Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas see negotiations as a zero-sum game rather than a give-and-take in which both sides benefit from a redistribution of resources.


Abbas opposes an interim arrangement, and Netanyahu is unwilling to sign on to a final-status deal. Each has adopted a strategy of attrition, locking into his position and battering the other with accusations in an attempt to win over the American mediator. The Palestinians are hoping Barack Obama will blame Netanyahu for the diplomatic stagnation and force Israel into a favorable final-status agreement. Israel expects that the U.S. president, hungry for foreign-policy achievements but restricted by Netanyahu's supporters in Congress, will settle for an interim agreement and impose it on the Palestinians, just as he retreated from his demands for a complete settlement freeze and a halt to Israeli construction in East Jerusalem.


Can the sides be bridged? A year ago the Reut Institute recommended that Washington present a vision for a final-status agreement to give the Palestinians a "diplomatic horizon," after which a Palestinian state would arise within provisional borders. President Shimon Peres has presented a similar initiative, calling for separate talks on an interim arrangement and a final-status agreement respectively.


After a year of fruitless wrangling over a settlement evacuation, a provisional Palestinian state seems like the most practicable arrangement, either through mutual agreement or a unilateral Israeli decision. It is, of course, subject to political limitations, but Israel could settle for a limited evacuation of settlements and outposts, retain security control and not even negotiate over Jerusalem for now. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are not being ordered to offer anything in return - not to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or relinquish the right of return, both of which Netanyahu is demanding as conditions for a final-status agreement. But here, too, lie the initiative's weak points. Disputes over the most sensitive issues will remain, ever threatening to bubble over, and Israel will be drawn into internal clashes over settlers - all without an actual solution to the wider conflict.


Netanyahu believes that the only answer to the current diplomatic stagnation is an interim agreement based on a Palestinian state within provisional borders, but he is hesitant to openly state his support for the idea. He would rather reach that result for lack of an alternative, under heavy U.S. pressure, and if possible, in exchange for an American attack on Iran - just as his predecessor Ariel Sharon evacuated Gaza only after George W. Bush conquered Iraq.

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ISRAEL MUST PREPARE FOR NUCLEAR TERROR THREAT

BY CHUCK FREILICH

Nuclear terrorism is one of the gravest threats to the world's security - so says United States President Barack Obama, who recently convened an international conference on the issue. In Israel, sunk in its own troubles, nuclear terrorism has elicited little interest until now. Beyond the dimensions of the threat, nuclear terrorism poses two unique problems in terms of deterrence. One is that the elements liable to employ nuclear terrorism are nihilist in nature - they are prepared to pay any price for Israel's destruction and are therefore not given to deterrence. The other is the absence of an "address" for purposes of deterrence and retaliation.


Nuclear terrorism is liable to be employed against Israel with the aim of causing unprecedented destruction, deterring it from offensive moves like striking at the Iranian atom or defeating Hezbollah and Syria, imposing diplomatic-security dictates, weakening its national strength, and more. Hezbollah and Hamas, extremist though they may be, have thus far evinced a clear ability to weigh advantages and disadvantages in their conduct, i.e. characteristics of a "rational player," and therefore are apparently given to deterrence. Most observers believe that Iran, too, is basically "rational" and given to deterrence.

 

However, the ability to employ nuclear terrorism is liable to change those patterns of action and, above all, there is the problem of nihilist elements like Al-Qaida, which has operated intensively to obtain a nuclear capability and presumably is continuing to do so today. Clearly, Israel should act on the diplomatic and intelligence level, on its own and in cooperation with the United States and other countries, to foil any possibility of the threat emerging. The main question is how it should act if it finds out that a plan to develop a nuclear terrorism capability already exists or has reached an advanced and even operational stage.

 

In face of these possibilities Israel must adopt a tough and unambiguous deterrence policy. It has to be clear to all that Israel will act immediately, without restraint and with all the means at its disposal, both against those directly involved and against those who are only suspected, on the principle of "shoot first, ask later."


However, while this deterrent approach could well be effective against Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, it is very doubtful it would influence Al-Qaida. The accepted wisdom to the effect that this organization is not subject to deterrence is liable to be correct, but it has not yet been proven and the implications are grave. Therefore, there is no alternative but to examine whether there really does exist a threat, no matter how grave, that could serve as a basis for deterring Al-Qaida, such as the destruction of population centers and sites of symbolic and religious importance to Islam. The very thought is repugnant, but possibly only such threats have the potential to prevent an unprecedented threat to Israel.


The good news is that insofar as is known, no terrorist organization has succeeded in obtaining nuclear capability. The technological obstacles are many, the international community, under the leadership of the United States, is increasingly on the alert and apparently Israel is in no immediate danger. Therefore, we have time ahead of us to prepare and formulate a comprehensive thwarting and deterrence policy. One thing is clear: The dimensions of the threat are intolerable and necessitate pertinent preparation, the sooner the better.

The writer served as deputy national security adviser. An extensive study of this issue has been published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.

 

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


HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ARE THEY ALL REALLY ANTI-SEMITES?

BY GABRIEL SHEFFER

 

Most Israelis are not fond of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan or other foreign figures who criticize Israel. However, it is well worth listening carefully to some of the things they are saying. One of Erdogan's criticisms, for example, is that Israel cannot shake off responsibility for the continuation of the conflict and Iran's plans to develop nuclear weapons.


There is truth in this criticism, insofar as it concerns the positions of Israel's governments and most of its people. Israel looks at itself in a one-way mirror. It tends to attribute all its troubles to the other side and protest that its hands are clean. This tendency became much more marked after the Holocaust, declined somewhat after the establishment of the state and has gained pace since the 1970s. It has strengthened considerably in recent years, especially under rightist governments.


On the international plane, this one-sided approach is evident in the attitude toward the United Nations and international organizations in general. The origin of this approach goes back to David Ben-Gurion's time. In fact, the tendency to accuse the UN and other international organizations of anti-Israeli positions has not changed at all since then - as witnessed by the reaction to the Goldstone report, which has been described as a clearly anti-Semitic document.

 

The one-sided Israeli approach that accuses personages, political parties and non-Jewish organizations of anti-Semitism when they criticize Israel ignores Israel's contribution to these manifestations. Immoral behavior by Israel and Israelis - for example, conducting relations with and selling arms to "leper states" in South America, Africa and South Asia - is directly related to the criticism.


The Israeli one-sidedness is also seen in the crude accusations by Israelis and Diaspora Jews about U.S. President Barack Obama and his administration. They are accused of being anti-Semitic, anti-Israeli and preferring Muslims and Arabs. But Obama and his administration, in which there are many Jewish appointees, are very far from those positions. And if criticism of Israel is expressed, this comes in reaction to Israeli moves and derelictions.


With respect to the Israeli-Arab-Palestinian conflict, Israel has contributed and is contributing to the inability to reach a solution; it is also contributing to the inability to manage the conflict reasonably and fairly. The gap between Israeli politicians' statements and deeds is large, and contributes a great deal to the continuation and exacerbation of the conflict, parallel to the other side's contribution. Note, for example, the decision to approve military orders enabling the deportation of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank. These things also apply to Israel's position concerning Iran's aspiration - and perhaps also Syria's - to obtain nuclear weapons. Iran's development of nuclear weapons is in part a response to the nuclear capability that foreign media reports attribute to Israel. It's clear that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu understands this, so he did not attend the nuclear conference that Obama convened. These are just some of Israel's major contributions to the criticism of it. If the government really intends to change Israel's attitude in a fundamental way - and this is very doubtful - it must cast off its blinkers. This is because every conflict and clash is two-sided, and because Israel - as well as the other side - has significantly contributed to the processes taking place around it.

 

The writer is a professor of political science at Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

 

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HAARETZ

EDITORIAL

ANOTHER KIND OF CAPITAL

BY MERAV MICHAELI

 

The battle over salary caps for top corporate executives is directly linked to the corruption affairs currently being investigated, not only because the two cases involve substantial corruption, but also because they reflect the current state of things in Israel. The only thing that matters here is money. The corruption affairs have revealed that people in public positions did not view the assets and capital under their control as a means to shape society, the state and the people who live here. They viewed it as a vehicle for lining their pockets.


The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu once suggested that various types of capital could be converted into other kinds of capital. Society is built on a variety of types of capital and power, each with its own value. Money is only one of them, and it can be converted into other kinds of capital and power such as education, social status and beauty.


This means that a person with no money can possess a different kind of power, which he can exchange for money. No less important, however, he can decide not to exchange it for money because his nonmonetary capital is capital and power in its own right, and some people prefer it to money. This includes public stature that shapes a person's way of life, education that shapes ways of thinking and provides new options, art that is appreciated for its beauty and creativity, and a whole range of other possibilities.

 

Israel has undergone a transition to extreme neoliberalism, during which the public has been intimidated. Haaretz journalist Aluf Benn has called this process "national capitalism." Money has become the only power that matters. Not education, not ability, not excellence, not uniqueness, not reputation. In addition, even holding public office is not really valued anymore, not even social status and background. (Beauty, meanwhile, is as plentiful as garbage, and is treated accordingly). The only thing that determines your status in today's Israel, what you are worth and what you can attain, is how much money you have.


So the race for money is in full swing, in all its insanity. Almost any symbolic, cultural, social or other kind of capital is up for sale, and its value is constantly declining. It's also clear that people with money find it much easier to obtain the means to make even more money.


In the process, money is concentrated in the hands of the wealthy, giving them more power to do what they want and serving their interests in every field of endeavor. This leaves less money and power in the hands of most members of society. (Simply for illustrative purposes, a report by the Adva Center to be released today shows that employers' share of national income has risen over the past decade to 17 percent, while employees' share has fallen to 60 percent.)


Earlier this week I spent hours trying to find one "senior executive" willing to talk about the proposed law to cap his salary. I didn't find one. Everyone politely declined. A senior media expert told me, with justification, that if someone has butter on his head, he doesn't go out in the sun. It's also clear that there really is no way to justify a salary of NIS 1.5 million a month, even if it's being paid to an executive whose company has huge earnings.

The monumental support for salary caps for top executives, which is coming from some totally unexpected sources, is evidence of a backlash against greed, arrogance, ostentation and exploitation. Too many people have exploited too many other people for too long. The camel's back is beginning to break.

The battle for limits on the salaries of senior executives is not "only" a battle over a more egalitarian distribution of money. It marks the beginning of Israeli society's battle to recover its positions of power that don't necessarily depend on money. It's a battle by parts of society for the right to hold capital that is not monetary and still be a powerful player in society. There are other kinds of capital, and each variety has value in its own right. And they are beginning to come to the fore.

 

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

EDITORIAL

WALL STREET CASINO

 

Congressional Republicans have concluded that screaming foul about the banking bailout and blocking financial reform is a clever strategy for the fall elections.

 

This approach ignores some pretty basic history: that the banks imploded while Republicans held Congress and

the White House; that President George W. Bush started the rescue; that many Republicans voted for the bailouts; and that they stabilized a financial system that was perilously close to collapse.

 

More important, it's a distraction from the very real reasons the nation needs to tighten the rules governing finance. They were on vivid display on Tuesday in a hearing room just down the hall from the Senate floor where Republicans voted the day before to block debate on a Democratic financial reform bill.

 

Current and former Goldman Sachs officials tried to defend their practice of trading incomprehensible mortgage-based investments of little demonstrable economic value and enormous destructive capacity. Instead, they underscored why much of this work should be curtailed.

 

The Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Goldman of defrauding clients by selling them a complex instrument without telling them it was designed so another client could bet against it. Testifying before the Senate subcommittee on investigations, Goldman executives denied withholding information. They insisted there was nothing wrong with selling mortgage-backed products while placing bets against them.

 

They called it "risk management." Most people call it stacking the deck.

 

We do not know whether Goldman broke the law, but we know this gambling is too dangerous. Banks like Goldman turned the financial system into a casino. Like gambling, the transactions mostly just shifted money around. Unlike gambling, they packed an enormous capacity for economic destruction — hobbling banks that made bad bets, freezing credit and economic activity. Society — not the bankers — bore the cost.

 

That's why objecting to financial regulation overhaul on the grounds that it might allow future bailouts is such a specious argument.

 

The bailouts, which many Republicans acknowledged were necessary at the time, cost taxpayers about $87 billion, or 1 percent of gross domestic product. The crisis cost more. Falling tax revenues, unemployment insurance for millions of jobless workers and a fiscal stimulus to stop the economy's slide is projected to boost the federal debt to more than 65 percent of G.D.P. next year.

 

Financial reform is needed to try to ensure such a crisis never happens again, and the bill cobbled together by Senate Democrats is reasonably tough. It would ban many — unfortunately not all — of the private, custom-made derivatives at the center of the financial meltdown and force most derivative trading onto open exchanges. Banks trading in custom-made products would have to build larger cushions of capital to protect themselves.

 

The bill would establish a consumer protection agency to stop predatory lending, impose new oversight on hedge funds and make it possible for regulators to dismantle big banks that were deemed to pose an imminent risk of failure. And it would create a $50 billion fund, by the nation's largest banks, to cover commitments of a failing institution that was being wound down.

 

Whatever Republican campaign mailings may say, the fund was designed to avoid bailouts. The bill's failing is not that it's too weak. It's that it could be stronger.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

WHAT'S MORE COMPROMISING THAN MONEY?

 

The Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to address fundamental questions of ethics and fairness when it declined to review the case of Charles Dean Hood, an inmate on death row in Texas.

 

The one-line order, issued without comment from any of the justices, left in place an egregiously tainted 1990 double-murder conviction. Eighteen years after Mr. Hood was sentenced to death, the state trial judge, Verla Sue Holland, and Tom O'Connell, then the Collin County district attorney, admitted that they had had a secret affair that appears to have ended not long before the trial.

 

After considering these seamy circumstances, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals last year denied Mr. Hood's request for a new trial, ruling — incredibly — that he took too long to raise the conflict of interest and should be executed. Yet it took a court-issued subpoena to get the two officials to confirm their long-rumored affair. Their success in hiding their relationship should not count against Mr. Hood.

 

In a separate appeal, Mr. Hood was granted a new punishment trial on grounds that jurors were not allowed to properly consider mitigating evidence that might have persuaded them that he didn't deserve a death sentence. The ruling made no mention of their entanglement. That trial is pending.

 

Judge Holland's failure to recuse herself violates the most basic, and obvious, principles of judicial ethics and due process. The Supreme Court should have grabbed the case to say so and order a new trial for Mr. Hood. That was the course urged by 21 former judges and prosecutors and 30 experts on legal ethics who supported Mr. Hood's petition to the Supreme Court.

 

The Supreme Court correctly ruled last year that millions of dollars in campaign spending on behalf of a judge's election bid created an intolerable "probability of actual bias." The court decided that Chief Justice Brent Benjamin, of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, was required to recuse himself from a case involving Massey Energy, one of the country's biggest coal companies, after Massey's chief executive spent $3 million to help get Justice Benjamin elected.

 

The right to a fair hearing, before an impartial judge, is at the heart of the nation's judicial system. If money raises a serious question about that impartiality, love seems to be at least as worrisome. The Supreme Court, sadly, failed in its duty to clearly draw that line.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK CITY'S INSPECTION SCANDAL

 

New Yorkers are rightly alarmed at the ease with which an inspector who was licensed to test buildings and construction sites for lead or asbestos risks got away with filing hundreds of false reports for at least a decade. The Bloomberg administration says reforms that were already in progress when the deception was uncovered will make it less likely to happen in the future.

 

But the jaw-dropping scope of the fraud carried out by just one inspector raises legitimate concerns about city oversight. It also raises the possibility of collusion between builders and property owners and the inspectors they hire to perform legally required safety tests.

 

The inspector, Saverio Todaro, who was at one point certified by city, state and federal agencies, operated a company through which he claimed to perform environmental inspection and testing services, including lead clearance testing, asbestos air monitoring and asbestos inspection in the New York City area. Favorable reports allow property owners to certify that their apartments presented no lead risks to young children or that proposed demolition projects would be asbestos-free. That means they do not require special filings with the city or costly abatement efforts.

 

As William K. Rashbaum reported in The Times on Tuesday, Mr. Todaro submitted results for more than 200 buildings and apartments, including some renovated for the city's affordable housing initiative, without performing a single test.

 

The city environmental agency suspended Mr. Todaro's license in 2004 but failed to notify other public agencies for which he did asbestos-related work. As a result, he continued to file reports until 2008, when an employee of the city's health department noticed a suspicious pattern in his work.

 

City officials say that they would notify other agencies of suspensions and irregularities in the future. The city also says it is well on the way to a system that will make it impossible for inspectors who have been suspended from filing subsequent reports.

 

City Hall should also consider strengthening and consolidating oversight of the testing regime, which currently is spread across several city agencies.

 

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


THE NEW YORK TIMES

GETTING OUT

BY VERLYN KLINKENBORG

 

Nine Angus bulls are moving down the fence line in a pasture along Clear Creek, north central Wyoming. I can see only their backs, black and as powerfully angled as the mounded coal in the hopper cars running north to Montana. There is a man on horseback ahead of the bulls and another behind them. They turn the bulls, out onto the asphalt just at the highway crossroads.

 

It is, to use an old word, a viridescent day. The cottonwoods stopped moaning in the rain overnight. Every creature is suddenly addled with the season. A pair of sandhill cranes stand motionless against the hills. A bald eagle circles higher and higher. A tom turkey works the fence line, making Kabuki moves, his eye on some invisible hen. The deer are trapped in their winter coats, looking disreputable. The air is full of the ticking of red-winge blackbirds, full of the soft spring sun.

 

But what I hear myself thinking is, "The bulls are out." They make for Clearmont then change their minds. They head toward me, Sheridan way, before the riders veer them off, whooping and swinging great, stiff team-roping loops. The bulls are not belligerent, only confused. They don't know the question they're being asked, much less the answer. The correct direction, as it happens, is Buffalo, and soon the nine are strung out in an amiable line along the ditch, snatching mouthfuls of grass as they make their way down the road.

 

My worst dreams are the ones in which the horses or the pigs get out. I like tight fences and good working gates. I like to see animals with deep grass and their heads down in it, grazing contentedly. I think I share my sense of order with those nine Angus bulls, who are being driven from home with too many choices. They go the right way at last just to calm the men on horseback.

 

That's when I know where I am. The road stretches for miles into the low hills in every direction. The fences are tight, all the gates closed but two: the one the bulls came from, and the one where they're heading. There is nothing but pasture and creek bottom, nothing but green grass and the highway and the sound of bird song. There was no getting out for those bulls. They crest a hill to the west, and I can feel the whooping and hollering inside me dying down.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

OLIVE OIL AND SNAKE OIL

BY MAUREEN DOWD

 

WASHINGTON

 

You kept expecting Tom Hagen to jump up and object to a senator's question on behalf of his Don.

 

The wood-paneled Senate committee room had an old-school look. The combed-over committee chairman, Carl Levin, had an old-school look. And the Congressional hearing trying to illuminate surreptitious and avaricious behavior by an amoral, macho gang was the 2010 equivalent of the 1950s Mafia hearing depicted in "Godfather II."

 

"Government Sachs," as the well-connected Goldman Sachs is known, was called to account by the actual government on Tuesday. And the traders and executives who dreamed up the idea of packaging smoke were every bit as slick, evasive and dismissively unapologetic as Michael Corleone. He only claimed to trade in olive oil; they actually delivered the snake oil.

 

You know you're ethically compromised when Senator John Ensign scolds you about ethics. The Nevada Republican is under investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee and the F.B.I. for chicanery surrounding an affair with a staffer. His wealthy parents paid off the mistress and her husband, who was also on Ensign's payroll.

 

"I think most people in Las Vegas would take offense at having Wall Street compared to Las Vegas. Because in Las Vegas, actually people know that the odds are against them. They play anyway," said the righteous Ensign. "On Wall Street, they manipulate the odds while you're playing the game. And I would say that it's actually much more dishonest."

 

There was a bipartisan jackpot in casino metaphors.

 

"How does that differ from going out to Caesar's Palace, the sports book, and making a wager on the outcome of an athletic contest?" Senator John McCain of Arizona asked C.E.O. Lloyd Blankfein.

 

But the Republicans' whacking of Wall Street's wise guys lost a little of its punch when you knew that they were ducking out to the Senate floor, trying to thwart Democrats' efforts to pass a bill tightening regulation of Wall Street. Republicans ignored the contradiction in this, the same way Goldman Sachs ignored the conflict in betting against the product it sold to clients.

 

President Obama bashed Wall Street to pose as a tough populist. The S.E.C. dragged itself away from porn long enough to make an example of Goldman Sachs to shore up its image as a strict enforcer. And Goldman Sachs came to Washington to try to recover an image for integrity.

 

As Americans lost homes and lined up for jobs, Goldman made $13 billion in 2009, and Blankfein got a bonus of, as he haltingly admitted to McCain, "um, um, nine million."

 

"The idea that Wall Street came out of this thing just fine, thank you, is something that just grates on people," Delaware Senator Ted Kaufman told Blankfein. "They think that you didn't just come out fine because it was luck. They think that you guys just really gamed this thing real, real well."

 

Baby-faced Josh Birnbaum, the former managing director who urged betting against subprime mortgages, did not polish the firm's reputation with his elitist smirk and name-dropping of Wharton.

 

"Mr. Birnbaum, do you know what a stated income loan is?" Senator Kaufman asked.

 

"I think it's just what it sounds like," Birnbaum replied, like a petulant schoolboy in detention.

 

The Goldman crowd was certainly cosmopolitan. Blankfein dropped a Latin phrase (Goldman had a "de minimis" business in direct home loan mortgages) and French peppered Senate Exhibit No. 62, from the petite, handsome Fabrice Tourre, the S.E.C. target who called himself "the fabulous Fab" in a 2007 e-mail.

 

"More and more leverage in the system, l'edifice entier risqué de s'effondrer a tout moment. ... Seul survivant potentiel," gushed the highflying Frenchman charged with creating subprime mortgage investment deals intended to fail. That translates loosely to: the cheese stands alone.

 

Continuing to talk about himself in the third person, he wrote, "Standing in the middle of all these complex, highly levered, exotic trades he created without necessarily understanding all the implications of those monstruosities!!! Anyway, not feeling too guilty about this. ..."

 

In an e-mail to his girlfriend, he called his "Frankenstein" creation "a product of pure intellectual masturbation, the type of thing which you invent telling yourself: 'Well, what if we created a "thing," which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?' "

 

In another e-mail to her, he blithely joked that he was selling toxic bonds "to widows and orphans that I ran into at the airport." At least the Fabulous Fab had the good manners to cloak his feelings of fabulousness in front of the committee and put on an earnest mask. Luckily for Goldman, greed may trump ethics. The firm's stock closed higher Tuesday. Wholesale olive oil closed higher as well.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION

BY THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN

 

China is having a good week in America. Yes it is. I'd even suggest that there is some high-fiving going on in Beijing. I mean, wouldn't you if you saw America's Democratic and Republican leaders conspiring to ensure that America cedes the next great global industry — E.T., energy technology — to China?

 

But, before I get to that, here's a little news item to chew on: Applied Materials, a U.S. Silicon Valley company that makes the machines that make sophisticated solar panels, opened the world's largest commercial solar research and development center in Xian, China, in October. It initially sought applicants for 260 scientist/technologist jobs. Howard Clabo, a company spokesman, told me that the Xian center received 26,000 Chinese applications and hired 330 people — 31 percent with master's or Ph.D. degrees. "Roughly 50 percent of the solar panels in the world were made in China last year," explained Clabo. "We need to be where the customers are."

 

 

After all the work that has gone into knitting together this bipartisan bill, which has the support of key industry players, it would be insane to let this effort fail. Fortunately, on Tuesday, Reid was hinting about a compromise. But, ultimately, the issue isn't just about introducing a bill. It's about getting it passed. And there we are going to need the president's sustained leadership.

 

President Obama has done a superb job in securing stimulus money for green-technology and in using his regulatory powers to compel the auto industry to improve mileage standards to a whole new level. But he has always been rather coy when it comes to when and how much he will personally push an energy/climate bill that would fix a price on carbon-emitting fuels. Without that price signal, you will never get sustained consumer demand for, or sustained private investment in, clean-power technologies. All you will get are hobbies.

 

The president clearly wants this energy bill to pass, but his advisers are worried that because the bill will likely result in higher electricity or gasoline charges, Republicans will run around screaming "carbon tax" and hurt Democrats in the midterm elections. I appreciate the president's dilemma. But I don't think hanging back and letting the Senate take the lead is the right answer. This is a big leadership moment. He needs to confront it head-on, because — call me crazy — I think doing the right and hard thing here will actually be good politics, too.

 

I'd love to see the president come out, guns blazing with this message:

 

"Yes, if we pass this energy legislation, a small price on carbon will likely show up on your gasoline or electricity bill. I'm not going to lie. But it is an investment that will pay off in so many ways. It will spur innovation in energy efficiency that will actually lower the total amount you pay for driving, heating or cooling. It will reduce carbon pollution in the air we breathe and make us healthier as a country. It will reduce the money we are sending to nations that crush democracy and promote intolerance. It will strengthen the dollar. It will make us more energy secure, environmentally secure and strategically secure. Sure, our opponents will scream 'carbon tax!' Well, what do you think you're paying now to OPEC? The only difference between me and my opponents is that I want to keep any revenue we generate here to build American schools, American highways, American high-speed rail, American research labs and American economic strength. It's just a little tick I have: I like to see our spending build our country. They don't care. They are perfectly happy to see all the money you spend to fill your tank or heat your home go overseas, so we end up funding both sides in the war on terrorism — our military and their extremists."

 

Much of our politics today is designed to make people stupid, confused and afraid of change. The G.O.P. has been particularly egregious on energy and climate. I believe if you talk straight to the American people on energy and climate, they will give you the right answers, and, ultimately, the support needed to trump the vested interests and lobbyists who have kept us addicted to oil. Obama has all the right instincts on this issue. He just needs to trust them. If he brings his A-game to energy legislation, Americans will follow — and then maybe we can have a good century.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

POWER FROM TRASH ...

BY NORMAN STEISEL AND BENJAMIN MILLER

 

IT'S been 25 years since the New York City Board of Estimate, under Mayor Edward Koch's leadership, approved a plan to reduce the need for putting municipal garbage in landfills by developing facilities to burn it to create energy. At the same time, the city took the first steps toward creating a recycling program. Since then, disposal costs have risen faster than inflation, and the need to find better methods of getting rid of wastes is even greater.

 

That fledgling recycling program evolved into the effective system the city has in place today, but no waste-to-energy plants were ever built. Instead, in 2001, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani closed the city's last remaining landfill, and since then the city has sent every pound of nonrecycled municipally collected trash out of the city — about 15 percent of it to a waste-to-energy plant in Newark, but most of it to destinations in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina. In such places, New York's waste despoils the landscape at a rate of 140 acres a year.

 

As New York City's garbage decomposes, it releases some 1.2 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide and its equivalents — primarily methane — into the atmosphere. On top of that, the fuel it takes to haul 11,000 tons of waste hundreds of miles six days a week releases an additional 55,000 tons of greenhouse gas per year.

 

When commercial waste collected by private carters is added to the total, hauling New York City's waste to landfills uses half as much fuel every year as the city's taxi fleet running 24/7. The combined annual greenhouse emissions from hauling and putting this waste in landfills amount to half as much as Con Edison releases to produce the city's electricity.

 

Since New York began exporting its garbage, the Sanitation Department's budget has more than doubled, to $1.3 billion in the current fiscal year from less than $600 million in 1997. And in the past seven years, the costs of the city's landfill contracts have gone up more than $90 million, enough to pay 1,000 full-time firefighters, nurses or teachers.

 

So what should we do? For starters, New York should try to reduce the amount of waste its citizens produce — for example, by imposing a fee for collection of waste but not recyclables. Much of what remains could be recycled or composted; these are the most cost-effective and environmentally benign ways to deal with waste. But they cannot handle everything that people throw out.

 

The city's Solid Waste Management Plan calls for hauling the rest of the garbage away by train rather than by truck. But while trains use only a third as much fuel as trucks do, and produce only about a third of the emissions, they will still burn some 3.5 million gallons of diesel fuel, emit 50,000 tons of greenhouse gases and cost tens of millions of dollars — all to carry away New York's garbage every year.

 

We can do better. The fraction of New York's garbage that requires disposal should be processed in waste-to-energy plants — which not only produce energy but are also cheaper and less polluting than landfills. (The city's Newark contract is its least costly disposal arrangement, and it produces only one-forty-fifth of the greenhouse gases that putting the same amount of garbage in landfills would.) If all of the city's nonrecycled waste were sent to local energy recovery facilities instead of distant landfills, the city would save diesel fuel and generate enough energy to supply 145,000 homes — thus avoiding the combustion of nearly three million barrels of oil to generate electricity.

 

The main impediment to moving ahead on waste-to-energy plans has been a lack of political will. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his final term and free of electoral constraints, has the opportunity to make new plans to build a sustainable waste-management system that could serve for decades.

 

Since not all of the facilities could be built at one time, the plan could include a mix of both long-established technologies and some whose advantages are just beginning to be demonstrated. The most widely used kinds of waste-to-energy facilities — mass-burn, steam-turbine electric generators that use waste for fuel (rather than gas, oil or coal) — are typically relatively large. Newer kinds of facilities — like those that subject waste to hot plasma to produce a synthetic fuel gas, or those that use anaerobic digestion to make methane — could be built on smaller sites.

 

More than a decade ago, countries in the European Union committed themselves to stop burying anything other than inert materials (like broken glass and construction rubble) that are not easily recycled, biodegraded or burned. By immediately taking steps to do the same, New York City could reduce its use of costly landfills — ultimately by 90 percent or more. It's the only responsible way for the city to manage its waste.

 

Norman Steisel was the New York City sanitation commissioner from 1978 to 1986. Benjamin Miller, the author of "Fat of the Land: Garbage in New York, the Last Two Hundred Years," was the Sanitation Department's director of policy planning from 1989 to 1992.

 

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THE NEW YORK TIMES

... AND SEWAGE, TOO

BY ROSE GEORGE

 

Leeds, England

 

ON several quiet streets in Sheffield, a northern English city an hour from here, are street lamps that look like ordinary gas lamps, but do not burn ordinary gas. Instead, their light comes from gas released from the sewers that run beneath them. Thus, they are both relics of the past, when gas lamps lighted our streets, and of the future, when excrement and wastewater will again be seen as a resource, not a waste.

 

"Wastewater" has always been recognized to have some value. In 1860, as waterborne sewer systems were becoming the norm, an alderman named Mechi told Farmer's Magazine that "if the money value of our sewers could be shown to the British farmer in bright and glittering heaps of sovereigns, he would gasp at the enormous wealth, and make great efforts to obtain the treasure." Mechi was talking about the fertilizing nutrients in human "waste," which he thought were needlessly ruined by mixing excrement with water, but he might also have been talking about its wasted energy potential.

 

Sludge, the solids that remain after sewage has been cleaned into effluent, has a high B.T.U. content (a measurement of fuel's energy); it burns efficiently and well. Other aspects of wastewater treatment can also reap energy: anaerobic digestion (whereby bacteria munch on the organic contents) produces methane, which with turbines can become combined heat or power. Microbial fuel cells can use bacteria to get electricity from sewage, while gasification, a high-temperature process, can reap fuel-ready gas from sludge.

 

When it comes to harnessing energy from wastewater treatment, it sounds as if we are spoiled for choice. Then you look at the numbers. Of the 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States, about 1,000 process enough gallons (five million daily) to be able to generate cost-effective energy using anaerobic digestion. Yet only 544 use anaerobic digestion, and only 106 of those do anything more with the gas produced than to flare it.

 

If those 544 treatment plants generated energy from their sewage, the E.P.A. concluded in a 2007 report, they could provide 340 megawatts of electricity (enough to power 340,000 homes), and offset 2.3 million tons of carbon dioxide that would be produced through traditional electricity generation. In the effort to reduce greenhouse gases, the E.P.A. said, this would be equivalent to planting 640,000 acres of forest or taking some 430,000 cars off the road.

 

Gasification, like anaerobic digestion, is an age-old process. It used to supply gas lamps in some American towns, too, before piped gas became the norm. The process — a thermal conversion at high temperatures — could probably be done in a garbage can. But the utilities haven't been eager to push the technology. The sewage treatment process — essentially, filter, settle, digest — hasn't changed much since the early 1900s, because it works. And drying out sludge enough to make it burnable takes money and energy. Pilot projects may take several years to pay for themselves, which can clash with short-term budget cycles.

 

Other factors may force the industry's hand. It takes considerable energy to clean sewage, and energy costs have risen along with global temperatures. Now isolated pioneers are showing how investing in "waste" can pay off: London's Thames Water utility now generates 14 percent of the power it needs from burning sludge or methane, saving $23 million a year in electricity bills.

Also, it's green to burn the brown stuff. Resource recovery from wastewater counts as renewable energy, which makes sense: we're hardly likely to stop providing the raw material anytime soon. So why continue to flush away a resource whose value, even under the dim light of a sewer gas lamp, should be blindingly obvious?

 

Rose George is the author of "The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

Our view on border control: Arizona's ugly immigration law reflects price of inaction

 

Rarely does ignoring a pressing problem — be it medical, financial or that ka-thunk in your car — make it go away. And so it is with illegal immigration.

 

Three years after comprehensive immigration reform collapsed in Congress, the nation's southern border remains porous. About 10.8 million illegal immigrants still make the USA their home, and businesses across the nation hire them in droves. Many states and communities, fed up with Washington's inaction, have taken immigration enforcement into their own hands — often with draconian measures of dubious constitutionality.

 

The latest, and perhaps ugliest, is the law enacted in Arizona last week that requires local police to question the legal status of anyone they "reasonably suspect" of being in this country illegally. That's an open invitation to racial profiling of Hispanics, and it has set off protests from the Phoenix statehouse to the U.S. Capitol.

 

Legal challenges might ultimately overturn the law, but they'll do nothing to dent the legitimate frustrations behind it. Arizona and other border states bear the brunt of the nation's failed immigration policies. It's sad, but not surprising, that 70% of Arizonans favored the law, according to a Rasmussen poll earlier this month. Even during the recession, illegal immigrants made up nearly 10% of the state's labor force.

 

Arizona taxpayers spend hundreds of millions of dollars to educate and provide medical treatment for illegal immigrants and their children. And violence by smugglers and Mexican drug cartels has reached such proportions that Arizona's U.S. senators last week called for the National Guard to protect the state's southern border.

 

The tool that Arizona lawmakers fashioned to address those problems is crude by any measure, though not quite as crude as critics claim. It specifically bars ethnic profiling, and it does not give police authority to stop people arbitrarily on the street and demand their papers.

 

But in practice it's hard to believe the law won't lead to harassment of citizens and legal residents. Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Calif., suggested on MSNBC that along with "behavior," police will look at someone's "type of attire ... right down to the shoes" to determine if they raise suspicions.

 

Supporters have yet to explain satisfactorily just what will give police reasonable suspicion that someone they stop, say for a traffic violation, is an illegal immigrant. And, in fact, one way to stop police questions is to present some specified form of government ID — an idea that smacks of having to carry your "papers" to be safe. But only if you happen to look Hispanic.

 

Just the prospect of the law, scheduled to take effect in about three months, is sowing suspicion of police in migrant communities, which could prevent people from reporting crimes or cooperating with investigations.

 

And all just because of stubborn opposition in Congress to reasonable compromise. The outlines of a solution have long been recognized: sealing the border, sanctioning employers, allowing temporary workers, and providing a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already here who work, stay out of trouble and pay taxes.

 

Until Washington makes the tough decisions to fix the nation's intolerable, unjust and mostly ignored immigration system, bad solutions like Arizona's will just keep on filling the vacuum.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

Even now, world fails Rwanda

By Andrew Wallis

 

NYANZA, Rwanda — The killers had gathered them together at night, thousands of men, women and children, at the garbage dump outside town. When they began to throw grenades into the terrified throng, 8-year-old Marlene Maniraho scurried for her life, meeting a young mother and her child as they fled into nearby undergrowth. Both had lost limbs, but the militia soon caught up with them. Marlene was forced to watch as her beloved brother was hacked to death with machetes. The young mother and child later shared the same fate.

 

She cheated death only by pretending to be dead. As Marlene recounted her story recently, a large crowd's audible groan of anguish cut the night silence. They came to this massacre site on the outskirts of Kigali, the capital, to mark the 16th anniversary on April 7 of the genocide that ripped apart this central African country of 11 million people in 1994. During those 100 days of hell, more than 800,000 were killed. The nation erupted as the Hutu government determined that in order to stay in power, it must exterminate minority Tutsis.

 

It was a shameful moment for the United Nations, which decided to do nothing. Or, more precisely, the U.N. "peacekeepers" there were reduced from 2,500 to a meager 450 as the blood-letting began. As a result, all that the helpless blue helmets left in Rwanda could do was stand by and watch the killings.

 

How has the world responded to this historic negligence in the heart of Africa? With tragic indifference. For even today, the perpetrators run free while the wheels of international justice barely move. The people of Rwanda deserve better, and the world by now should certainly know better.

 

Hunting the killers

At the time, the Clinton White House ignored pleas for intervention. Fours years later, President Clinton issued a reputation-saving apology: "We in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred."

 

Only France got involved, but unfortunately for the Tutsis, it was on the side of the genocidal government. Afterward, many of the culprits fled to Europe and North America. They still dream of a comeback, but for now they use old skills to get new work as academics, doctors or even priests. At least 20 fled to Italy to new parishes with unsuspecting flocks. Life is good.

 

After the Holocaust, Simon Wiesenthal set up his center in Vienna to track down Nazi fugitives. Fed up with official state apathy, Wiesenthal's detective work has, in the ensuing 60 years, uncovered perpetrators in their comfortable new lives. Wiesenthal succeeded when politicians turned their back on the 1948 Genocide Convention. This convention, set up in response to the Holocaust, promised to prevent and punish "acts committed with the intent to destroy ... a national, ethnic, racial or religious group." The 140 ratifying countries assured the world that perpetrators of such monstrous crimes against humanity would never again be allowed to settle undisturbed.

 

In his home outside Paris, Alain Gauthier has taken on a Wiesenthal-esque mantle. By day he is a teacher, but by night and in every moment of spare time, this quietly spoken Frenchman tracks down the Rwandan killers. While his government shows no will to prosecute the alleged perpetrators it allows to remain on its territory, Gauthier and his tiny, voluntary organization — the Collective of Civil Parties — searches them out and issues legal writs against them. It's a start. But many of the accused have been released by seemingly indifferent judges, while others, now French citizens, are free to travel away. After more than a decade before the French courts, some cases are still no nearer to a judgment and have taken on an almost Dickensian aura.

 

At the Nuremberg trials, leading Nazis were swiftly put before the allies and hanged. For Rwanda's victims, there is no Nuremberg. There is only the U.N. court set up in 1995 with much American government money — and guilt — in Arusha, Tanzania. But U.N. justice is painfully slow. The trials have already cost over a billion and the court has only completed a meager 50 cases, or roughly one case every four months. The trial of the genocide mastermind, Theoneste Bagosora, took six years before he was given life in December 2008.Others have received sentences of eight or 15 years — not much for atrocities of this scale.

 

Is this justice?

In Arusha, light sentences or acquittals due to technical errors and feeble prosecutions are all too common. As Robert Jackson, the U.S. chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, wrote, such sentences only "mock the dead and make cynics of the living."

 

Meanwhile, Rwandan survivors still travel from their villages to the U.N. court to testify against the accused. Many suffer from AIDS, and the journey and court interrogation are physically as well as emotionally traumatizing. Most have no anti-retroviral drugs — unlike the accused who get a U.N. treatment.

 

Is this justice, they ask? It seems as though the West has failed them again. It failed to stop the genocide, and now it fails to bring those responsible to task for their appalling crimes. In Kigali, U.N. and embassy flags have been flown at half-staff marking the 16th anniversary of the genocide. It becomes just another empty token of half-felt regret, unless the global political will is found to search out and punish the culprits in their comfortable Western exiles.

 

Those politicians who ignore the killers in their midst in Europe and North America must wake up to their moral responsibilities. After all, justice delayed is, indeed, justice denied.

 

Andrew Wallis is a freelance journalist and author of Silent Accomplice: The untold story of France's role in Rwandan genocide.

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

Don't dismiss early education as just cute; it's critical

By Lisa Guernsey

 

Picture an arborist puzzled by an ailing tree. He has tried giving it more water. He has protected it from blight. Why won't it grow?

 

If the tree stands for public education, the arborist is today's education reformer. Ideas continue to pour forth on

how to help students, fix schools and revamp No Child Left Behind. But none tackles the environments the tree experienced as a sapling, when its roots never got the chance to stretch out and dig in.

 

Few would dispute that public education is in trouble. Last month's reading scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed that two-thirds of U.S. fourth-graders cannot read well enough to do grade-level work. Many schools are not measuring up to federal standards.

 

Now consider what dominates the debate on how to make amends: charter schools, public school choice, dropout prevention programs, linking teacher pay to student performance. President Obama has embraced many of these ideas, which might help some children in some districts.

 

Misplaced focus

But have we forgotten to look underfoot? Experts talk too often about poorly performing middle or high schools and dismiss elementary and preschool time as the "cute" years. But these are the years we should focus on.

 

Science continues to provide insights — and warnings — about how much of a person's capacity for learning is shaped from birth to age 8. Young children need to experience rich interactions with teachers, parents and other adults who read to them, ask questions of them, and encourage their exploration of myriad of subjects.

 

Unfortunately, the state of early education is not good. In a 2007 national study in Science, researchers found that only 7% of children in the elementary grades were getting consistently high-quality instruction and attention to their emotional needs.

 

Kindergarten, which faces unstable funding, is troubled, too. School teachers get little training on the best methods for reaching 5-year-olds.

 

Lag in preschool

And many children are still not getting the benefit of preschool. While a few states, such as Georgia and Oklahoma, offer universal prekindergarten,in others only 10% of children are enrolled in a public preschool program, according to the National Institute for Early Education Research. Expensive private programs are not an option for many working families.

 

To earn the label of true education reform, the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind must recognize these earliest years. The law should include a fund that extends to third grade. It should encourage districts to use their Title I dollars (which go to districts with economically disadvantaged families) to build better programs and partner with existing preschools. It should require districts to integrate data from children's earliest years with K-12 data so that parents, schools and communities can track how their children are progressing relative to the kinds of programs they experienced before and during elementary school. It should ensure that funding for professional development extends to preschool teachers and principals.

 

Above all, the law should reward states, districts and schools that create high-quality programs and have the data to show that they work.

 

If No Child Left Behind cannot help foster better learning environments from the beginning, we will forever be that arborist, scratching his head at why, despite so many fixes, our students still aren't reaching for the sky.

 

Lisa Guernsey is the director of the Early Education Initiative at the New America Foundation. She is the co-author of a new report, "A Next Social Contract for the Primary Years of Education."

 

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USA TODAY

EDITORIAL

Opposing view: We're protecting our citizens

By John Kavanagh

 

Arizona's new anti-illegal immigration law is an effort to "crack down" on illegal immigration and the harm it causes Arizona, including crime and back-breaking public expenses to incarcerate, educate, medically treat and provide other services to illegal immigrants and their children. Arizona has been forced to assume responsibility for immigration enforcement because of the federal government's refusal to secure the border and conduct adequate internal enforcement.

 

Some fear that the law will empower police to challenge the legal presence of all Hispanics, legal and illegal, based solely upon their appearance, but that's not correct. Police officers may only question the immigration status of a person when they have "reasonable suspicion" to believe that the person is in the U.S. illegally. This provision merely extends to immigration offenses a half-century-old tool called "stop and question," created by the U.S. Supreme Court. To prevent racial profiling, the law states that in constructing "reasonable suspicion," police officers "may not solely consider race, color or national origin."

 

Another misconception is that the law requires residents to carry identification papers. Not true. This mistaken belief stems from a provision that creates a presumption of legal presence, if a person voluntarily presents specified forms of government-issued identification. Failing to present identification papers is not grounds for arrest.

 

Nor will the law divert police resources from more pressing matters. Police officers are only required to make "reasonable" legal presence inquiries "when practicable," so that officers will be free to prioritize their time. Likewise, no questioning is required when it would "hinder or obstruct an investigation," so that the police do not have to question all crime victims and witnesses about their immigration status.

 

The sad fact is that the Bush administration dropped the ball on immigration enforcement and that the Obama administration cannot even find it. The primary responsibility of government is to protect its citizens, and illegal immigration poses a growing threat to safety. Until such time as the federal government secures the border and adequately enforces immigration laws internally, Arizona and other states will have no choice but to protect their citizens.

 

John Kavanagh, a Republican, is a member of the Arizona House of Representatives and a sponsor of the new law.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IN DISTRICT 4: WARREN MACKEY

 

Dr. Warren Mackey, the incumbent District 4 Hamilton County commissioner, is caught in a bind. Technically, he's unopposed in his bid for a second term, but legally he could still lose the election and his commission seat. Debbie Gaines, his erstwhile opponent in the May 4 Democratic primary, withdrew from the contest in March. That was too late to have her name removed from the ballot, so ballots cast for Ms. Gaines count. If she should amass more votes than Dr. Mackey, she, according to law, would win the seat. Dr. Mackey obviously prefers a different outcome.

 

He is working industriously to assure District 4 voters that he is taking the election seriously despite Ms. Gaines' withdrawal. He's asking for their votes on May 4 by reminding them of his past service and his continued desire to represent them.

 

He has sound reasons to campaign against an opponent whose name is on the ballot but who is not actively seeking votes. Strange things can and do happen in politics, and that could occur in his race if Mr. Mackey's supporters believe he's automatically got the election nailed and fail to vote for him.

 

Earlier this month, for example, voters in Tracy City in Grundy County elected a deceased man as mayor. The gentleman died after ballots were printed but before Election Day. His name remained on the ballot and he received a majority of votes. The circumstances of that election are quite different from the District 4 primary, but the point is germane. The winner of the District 4 primary will win office. There is no Republican opposition in the August general election.

 

Dr. Mackey deserves a better fate -- and widespread support from district voters. He first won an interim Commission appointment to fill a seat vacated by William Cotton and then was elected to a full term. A history professor at Chattanooga State Technical Community College, he is interested in both education and the welfare of his district. He has served his district and the county well.

 

He's proved to be a highly visible, positive and active community leader. His tenure on the commission has been marked by consistent vision, by adherence to sound fiscal principles, by an ability to focus on important issues and by his willingness to undertake the often unsung but essential work of building foundations and alliances for the county's short and long-term economic, civic and social progress.

 

Mr. Mackey is progressive on issues of taxation and city-county tax equity, the need to properly plan and manage county growth and infrastructure and the possible consolidation of city and county services. In every instance, his guiding principle, he says, is that taxpayers are well served, that their interests protected and that they get the "best bang for their buck."

 

He strongly supports education and good schools, but his support is not unconditional. He rightfully advocates equitable achievement and fiscal standards for schools. He backs scrutiny of school spending and close monitoring of student progress, arguing convincingly that both are necessary to earn and retain public support.

 

He also is interested in improving public health and recreation, civic unity and the quality of life for county residents. He has measurably contributed to that through his office's discretionary fund to support seven increasingly strong neighborhood organizations, youth leagues, Weed and Seed programs, and track and recreation facilities.

 

Dr. Mackey's commendable record and broad-minded view of the county's needs and its future argue persuasively for his re-election in any circumstance, but especially so in a contest against a phantom candidate who has publicly declared disinterest in holding office. We urge his election.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IF WE SPENT TOO MUCH ...

 

What will happen to you if you constantly spend 10 percent more each year than your income?

 

It's no mystery: You'll go broke and be in very deep trouble.

 

Well, the same is true of the federal government when -- year after year -- it spends many billions of dollars more than it has coming in from taxes.

 

The difference is that you can't dodge the inevitable result very long, while the federal government irresponsibly can delay a showdown.

 

Our federal government has piled up a staggering national debt of $12.9 trillion, and rising. Our taxes are paying interest on it, while debt grows!

 

How much is the debt growing? Currently, the national debt is growing close to $1.5 trillion a year!

 

Don't you think it is the responsibility of the president of the United States to present budgets that at least would slow the growth of the national debt, and point toward eventual responsible federal finance?

 

Don't you believe it is the job of Congress to call on the president at least to begin finding solutions to financial irresponsibility?

 

Well, President Barack Obama has decided to dodge his responsibility. Instead of taking the budget deficit and debt problem into his own hands to insist on cutting many unconstitutional, unnecessary, unsound and inflated federal spending items, President Obama has simply appointed a "commission" to give him some deficit-reduction "suggestions."

 

He has appointed the National Commission on Federal Responsibility and Reform. But it is expected to offer solutions that won't be fully implemented until 2015 -- after President Obama's current term of office will be over, and the debt and deficit problems surely will be much worse.

 

Why doesn't the president do his job now? It's because it's a tough problem that he doesn't want to face.

 

So right now -- in 2010 -- the federal government is spending about 10.3 percent more than the total of our entire gross domestic product, or GDP.

 

We've been doing it too long, with bad consequences.

 

Didn't the president ask for the job of leading our country responsibly -- now?

 

The president isn't doing his job.

 

Unfortunately, neither is Congress.

 

Nor do "we" want to face the problem and painfully solve it.

 

That means the deficit and debt and our tax problems will get worse.

 

Do we have the kind of leadership we need?

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IN DISTRICT 4: WARREN MACKEY

 

Dr. Warren Mackey, the incumbent District 4 Hamilton County commissioner, is caught in a bind. Technically, he's unopposed in his bid for a second term, but legally he could still lose the election and his commission seat. Debbie Gaines, his erstwhile opponent in the May 4 Democratic primary, withdrew from the contest in March. That was too late to have her name removed from the ballot, so ballots cast for Ms. Gaines count. If she should amass more votes than Dr. Mackey, she, according to law, would win the seat. Dr. Mackey obviously prefers a different outcome.

 

He is working industriously to assure District 4 voters that he is taking the election seriously despite Ms. Gaines' withdrawal. He's asking for their votes on May 4 by reminding them of his past service and his continued desire to represent them.

 

He has sound reasons to campaign against an opponent whose name is on the ballot but who is not actively seeking votes. Strange things can and do happen in politics, and that could occur in his race if Mr. Mackey's supporters believe he's automatically got the election nailed and fail to vote for him.

 

Earlier this month, for example, voters in Tracy City in Grundy County elected a deceased man as mayor. The gentleman died after ballots were printed but before Election Day. His name remained on the ballot and he received a majority of votes. The circumstances of that election are quite different from the District 4 primary, but the point is germane. The winner of the District 4 primary will win office. There is no Republican opposition in the August general election.

 

Dr. Mackey deserves a better fate -- and widespread support from district voters. He first won an interim Commission appointment to fill a seat vacated by William Cotton and then was elected to a full term. A history professor at Chattanooga State Technical Community College, he is interested in both education and the welfare of his district. He has served his district and the county well.

 

He's proved to be a highly visible, positive and active community leader. His tenure on the commission has been marked by consistent vision, by adherence to sound fiscal principles, by an ability to focus on important issues and by his willingness to undertake the often unsung but essential work of building foundations and alliances for the county's short and long-term economic, civic and social progress.

 

Mr. Mackey is progressive on issues of taxation and city-county tax equity, the need to properly plan and manage county growth and infrastructure and the possible consolidation of city and county services. In every instance, his guiding principle, he says, is that taxpayers are well served, that their interests protected and that they get the "best bang for their buck."

 

He strongly supports education and good schools, but his support is not unconditional. He rightfully advocates equitable achievement and fiscal standards for schools. He backs scrutiny of school spending and close monitoring of student progress, arguing convincingly that both are necessary to earn and retain public support.

 

He also is interested in improving public health and recreation, civic unity and the quality of life for county residents. He has measurably contributed to that through his office's discretionary fund to support seven increasingly strong neighborhood organizations, youth leagues, Weed and Seed programs, and track and recreation facilities.

 

Dr. Mackey's commendable record and broad-minded view of the county's needs and its future argue persuasively for his re-election in any circumstance, but especially so in a contest against a phantom candidate who has publicly declared disinterest in holding office. We urge his election.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

IF WE SPENT TOO MUCH ...

 

What will happen to you if you constantly spend 10 percent more each year than your income?

 

It's no mystery: You'll go broke and be in very deep trouble.

 

Well, the same is true of the federal government when -- year after year -- it spends many billions of dollars more than it has coming in from taxes.

 

The difference is that you can't dodge the inevitable result very long, while the federal government irresponsibly can delay a showdown.

 

Our federal government has piled up a staggering national debt of $12.9 trillion, and rising. Our taxes are paying interest on it, while debt grows!

 

How much is the debt growing? Currently, the national debt is growing close to $1.5 trillion a year!

 

Don't you think it is the responsibility of the president of the United States to present budgets that at least would slow the growth of the national debt, and point toward eventual responsible federal finance?

 

Don't you believe it is the job of Congress to call on the president at least to begin finding solutions to financial irresponsibility?

 

Well, President Barack Obama has decided to dodge his responsibility. Instead of taking the budget deficit and debt problem into his own hands to insist on cutting many unconstitutional, unnecessary, unsound and inflated federal spending items, President Obama has simply appointed a "commission" to give him some deficit-reduction "suggestions."

 

He has appointed the National Commission on Federal Responsibility and Reform. But it is expected to offer solutions that won't be fully implemented until 2015 -- after President Obama's current term of office will be over, and the debt and deficit problems surely will be much worse.

 

Why doesn't the president do his job now? It's because it's a tough problem that he doesn't want to face.

 

So right now -- in 2010 -- the federal government is spending about 10.3 percent more than the total of our entire gross domestic product, or GDP.

 

We've been doing it too long, with bad consequences.

 

Didn't the president ask for the job of leading our country responsibly -- now?

 

The president isn't doing his job.

 

Unfortunately, neither is Congress.

 

Nor do "we" want to face the problem and painfully solve it.

 

That means the deficit and debt and our tax problems will get worse.

 

Do we have the kind of leadership we need?

 

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


TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

CHATTANOOGA MAGLEV CHOO-CHOO?

 

We all remember the world-popular song of the World War II era about the "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."

 

It's a catchy tune with fun words about a make-believe passenger train from New York's Pennsylvania Station to our Chattanooga. Tex Beneke memorably sang about it, somewhat nasally, on 1 million-plus phonograph records with the famed Glenn Miller Orchestra.

 

Chattanooga long had been a railroad center in early years, when trains led to our city's industrial, passenger and War Between the States importance. But while freight trains remain very important here, we haven't had any extensive passenger train service in Chattanooga for a long time, except for the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum's fine local excursions.

 

But from time to time, there is renewed "talk" about the possible development of a "maglev" -- magnetic levitation -- passenger train connecting Chattanooga with Atlanta, and eventually Miami to the south and Chicago to the north.

 

Mayor Ron Littlefield has been talking about a maglev version of a modern Chattanooga Choo-Choo recently.

 

As fast as passenger air flight is, just think of the time it takes to get to the Chattanooga airport, Lovell Field, check in, get through security and then board an aircraft. You can drive to the Atlanta airport in less than a couple of hours and connect with the world. But even that's not very convenient.

 

Just "imagine" boarding a maglev train -- propelled along a rail with magnetic force causing the train to rise above the track and smoothly reach speeds of hundreds of miles an hour!

 

There are some maglev trains in existence now -- for example, between Paris and Marseilles, France, and even out of Shanghai in Communist China, among others. Maglev trains are realities.

 

So there have been dreams of being able to have maglev trains between Miami and Chicago -- via Atlanta and Chattanooga.

 

Mayor Littlefield says Chattanooga and Georgia should be thinking about maglevs.

 

The "catch"? The mayor said, "We've got to come up with the money." Isn't that often the problem? There has been talk of a federal transportation grant to study the idea of having a maglev train ease the Atlanta airport overload by connecting with the under-used Chattanooga airport, for one example.

 

But, "Pardon me, boy," while the maglev idea is intriguing, and could in time become reality, it's an expensive proposition. It's worth studying, but don't expect to buy a ticket on a Chattanooga Choo-Choo to Atlanta very soon.

 

Subscribe Here! German tastes

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

'SHOW ME YOUR PAPERS'

 

Americans have traditionally, vehemently, resisted the notion of requiring citizens to carry national identification papers to verify their citizenship or legal residency status. Arizona's new law requiring immigrants to carry proof of their legal immigration status -- and become subject to police stops and detention on sight if they fail to possess such documents -- effectively and wrongly leaps that long guarded barrier to unprovoked police stops. It also promises to produce the specter of a police state that its conservative anti-immigration otherwise claim to abhor.

 

The new law might scare undocumented immigrants to avoid the sight-line of police, but it will do little to accomplish its goal of reducing illegal immigration. What it is almost certain to do is unleash a wave of racial and ethnic profiling against brown-skin Hispanics, who, whether citizens or not, now must fear leaving home without whatever important documents they need to prove their right to walk the streets.

 

This sort of law, signed last Friday by Gov. Jan Brewer, may be what some citizens wrongly think is needed to thwart a flood of illegal immigration in Arizona But if that's the case, it's hard to imagine that they and Arizona's pandering Republican legislators, who adopted this bill on a strict party-line vote, gave bill SB1070 thorough constitutional scrutiny.

 

The new law, supporters say, will give police "the tools" to do what the federal government has failed to do with regard to stopping illegal immigration. There's just enough of a half-truth in that to fan zealots' ire.

 

It is true that Congress has failed to produce a comprehensive immigration reform bill, mainly because of the virulent partisan divide that infects debate over immigration reform. Yet almost any competent reform bill would be superior to what Arizona's Republican lawmakers cooked up.

 

The law not only requires immigrants to carry documents to validate their legal residency (or citizenship). It also requires police officers, unless they are inhibited by an investigation or medical emergency, to stop anyone who appears to be a possible illegal immigrant and check their documents, and to arrest and expel those found to be without legal documentation. Further, it allows citizens who believe their police and public officials are not enforcing the law to file lawsuits against them.

 

Those provisions, police have argued, will make it hard for police and sheriffs to do their ordinary police work of catching criminals. They also say, with good reason, that the law will make Hispanic citizens and legal immigrants needlessly afraid of police, and inhibit their willingness to share information.

 

Larger concerns involve the trampling of general civil rights because of the inherent racial and ethnic profiling demanded by the law. That seems both self-evident, and intolerable under this nation's Constitution. Arizona's neighbors -- California on its western border and New Mexico to the east -- and Texas are already majority-minority states: fewer than half of their residents are white, and large shares of their minorities are Hispanic. Similarly, Nevada to its north, along with Georgia, Mississippi, New York and Maryland, are now less than 60 percent white.

 

In these circumstances in Western states, that leaves Arizona police looking at half the state's population, mostly brown-skinned, and wondering if they are legal or illegal immigrants, or life-long or naturalized citizens. Whom should they stop to demand to see their legal identity/visa/residency papers? What portion of citizens and legal immigrants may be wrongly stopped, and possibly illegally detained?

 

In short, Arizona's new law cannot stand, and Americans should not want it to stand, regardless of their views on immigration. America does need comprehensive immigration reform. Brown-shirt, police-state laws that foster racism and discrimination do not qualify under any immigration metric.

 

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TIMES FREE PRESS

EDITORIAL

COULD WE STOP AN IRANIAN NUKE?

 

Amid recent reports that the wild Iranian regime may be working on development of a nuclear weapon, several big questions arise.

 

Can Iran produce a nuke? Could it threaten Israel and other neighbors? Could it threaten the United States? And could the United States prevent an Iranian nuclear strike against any potential target?

 

Those are serious questions with no sure answers. The best answer is to be sure Iran never gets a nuclear weapon. How could we do that? Well, the answer to that question is part of the big problem. We can't safely ignore the subject

 

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TEHRAN TIMES

EDITORIAL

NO MORE PEACE CHARADES, MR. PRESIDENT

BY LINDA S. HEARD

 

"Since you, Mr. President and you, the members of the American administration, believe in this, it is your duty to call for steps in order to reach the solution and impose the solution — impose it," he said. "Don't tell me it's a vital national strategic interest, and then, not do anything."

 

It's no wonder that Abbas is frustrated. The Palestinian National Authority has been playing by Washington's rules for many years without result. The Bush White House demanded democratic elections but after confirming that the vote that brought Hamas to power was free and fair, Palestinians were treated like pariahs. Fatah was then told to distance itself from Hamas resulting in Palestinians being split into two feuding camps when Israel promptly announced there was no Palestinian partner for peace.


Successive American administrations have blessed a two-state solution, international conferences have been held, various U.S. envoys have shuttled back and forth, while column inches on the topic could probably circle Earth several times. The proof of the pudding is in the eating and, until now, nothing sweet has emerged.

Reasons for this lack of progress are two-fold. No American leader has been willing to go head-to-head with Congress that never fails to prove its sycophantic stance toward Tel Aviv; mainly because lawmakers fear the wrath of the career-breaking pro-Israel lobby. The only president to show real support for the Palestinian cause is Jimmy Carter who brokered the 1978 Camp David Accords. But, the heat was so great that, last year, he apologized to Israel for stigmatizing the Jewish entity in his book, "Palestinian Peace, Not Apartheid".

The crux of the matter is Israel's unwillingness to exchange occupied land for peace. Why should it? This is a country that was born out of force and has existed in a state of war for more than six decades. Most of U.S. would find this untenable but Israelis have become accustomed to military conscription and spending half their lives as reservists.


They are used to being issued with gas masks and holing up in bunkers. Indeed, they are brought up with an "us against the world" bunker mentality. And, strangely, although Israel is a wealthy nuclear-armed regime with one of the world's most powerful military forces, it is still defined by a victim narrative that has long passed its sell-by date.


In the same way that a person born without a sense of smell can't appreciate the scent of mowed grass, most Israelis cannot understand the concept of peace. Moreover, many are unaware of the immorality of occupation because Israel has never been seriously rapped on the knuckles. And so it gets away with building an illegal apartheid "fence", constructing illegal colonies on the West Bank, evicting Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem and maintaining Gaza under an illegal blockade. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is even attempting to prevent alleged Israeli war criminals being prosecuted in British courts. If this culture of impunity continues with the complicity of the international community, there will never be a state called Palestine.

To quote the words of the late Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, what was taken by force must be returned by force. He may have a point. Some commentators have advised the Palestinians to take a leaf out of Mahatma Gandhi's book but each time Palestinians adopt peaceful protest they are shot at, tear-gassed or arrested.

However, war isn't the answer either because, unlike most countries, Israel would launch its nuclear weapons, which it was on the point of doing during the 1967 and 1973 wars.


This doesn't mean to say that Israel can't be punished in other ways.


Bringing Israel to book and rendering Israelis into a position of discomfort whereby peace might look like an attractive option would require a concerted effort by the U.S. and its allies. Israel should be labeled the rogue state it is. Washington should withdraw its $3 billion annual aid and stop supplying Tel Aviv with weapons, aircraft, missiles and spare parts. The UN Security Council should subject Israel to economic and trade sanctions while the EU should cancel the EU-Israel Association Agreement.


Other countries in the region have their own part to play. For instance, Turkey could cease its military, strategic and diplomatic cooperation with Israel and nullify the free trade agreement between the two countries. Turkish-Israeli relations are already strained following Israel's aggression on Gaza. With Turkish aid boats heading for Gaza on May 15 in an attempt to break the siege, things could get worse.

Jordan and Egypt might threaten to reconsider their bilateral peace treaties with Israel. Peace between Israel and Egypt is already cold to freezing. There is little interaction between the two peoples other than in Red Sea resorts while Egyptians are discouraged from visiting Israel. Indeed, Israel's ambassador to Egypt must be the only diplomat with a sparse social calendar. The comedic movie "Al Safara fil Amara" (The Embassy in the Building) starring Adel Imam says it all.


A few days ago, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak confirmed that Egypt was committed to peace if Israel does the same, but, last Saturday, his Foreign Minister Aboul Gheit referred to Israel as an "enemy" during a press conference held in Beirut. When asked whether he was visiting Lebanon to convey a warning from the Israeli government, he snapped saying his purpose was not to relay messages "from the enemy to a sister Arab state". "Egypt stands by Lebanon under all conditions and in the face of all threats," he said.


The Jordanian monarch King Abdallah has recently warned that the failure of peace talks could trigger war. Under heavy pressure from the White House, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says he's willing to engage in proximity talks and discuss thorny issues. It's not surprising that Palestinians are more inclined to yawn than celebrate. They know this hawkish leader is stalling for time until Jerusalem becomes wholly Jewish and the expansion of Jewish colonies on the West Bank thwart their dreams of a state.


No more charades, President Obama. Do you want to leave behind you a real legacy or will you settle for becoming a footnote in history? The ball is firmly in your court. Please run with it!


(Source: Arab News)

 

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

 

FROM THE BOSPHORUS: STRAIGHT - WHAT'S GOING ON IN TURKEY?

 

It's not surprising to see that the headlines of the newspapers are no longer hit by the news on the constitutional reform proposals. It's not because they have become less important and less attractive for the public opinion, but simply because they were beaten by some very sour news coming from different parts of the country.

 

It was two days ago when the country was shocked by allegations against eight male students ranging in age from 11 and 14 raping two toddlers at a boarding school in Siirt, a southeastern Anatolia town. The shock effect of the incident was not decreased though it was learned that it occurred a year ago.

 

The same town made headlines last week with accusations of broad sexual abuse of teenage girls. It was in fact this media coverage brought last year's blood-chilling incident to light.

 

Yet, another news piece of a terrible incident came from Edirne, a northwestern town bordering Greece and Bulgaria. A man was arrested for allegedly raping his own daughter during the past eight years since the time she was 13, as well as for allegedly sexually abusing the daughter born to his own daughter as a result of the rape.

 

Meanwhile, residents of İzmir, a city on the Aegean cost, were frightened after an alleged serial killer killed three people in three days.

 

These sorts of crimes are not unique to Turkey, thus no need for abrupt conclusions. However, they also deserve scientific attention to find the root of these crimes and a better way to deal with them.

 

Here a few lines from the Daily News' yesterday's story on Siirt's sexual abuse tragedy:

 

"According to data from the Psychiatric Association of Turkey, research made among 16,000 children in Turkey revealed the rate of subjection to abuse was 33 percent. The research showed that factors such as poverty, unemployment, lack of social support, domestic turmoil and violence or too many children in one family increased the possibility of minors being subjected to abuse."

 

The figure is very high and touches on the very bad side of life that requires a comprehensive study on stopping these sorts of inhumane crimes. The government has the main burden on its shoulders but should be backed by scientific research conducted by universities, civil society and the media.

 

Here, we should mention the Education Minister Nimet Çubukçu's reaction against the media for its coverage on the Siirt incidents. She said she could see no use in reporting on a story that occurred a year ago.

 

Unlike the minister, we think we see use in reporting on such issues, if they took place in a relevant time span. That's the only way we can raise the necessary public awareness of such issues. That's how we can be more careful to stop such crimes from being committed elsewhere. And that's the only way we can see how someone's ignorance can make us feel ashamed to be human

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

A SENSITIVE APPOINTMENT TO THE TOP OF THE MİT

SEDAT ERGİN

 

The National Intelligence Organization, or MİT, was under the military's influence until the late President Süleyman Demirel formed a coalition government with the Socialist People's Party, or SHP, at the end of 1991.

 

However, there have been three exceptions, including during the Celalettin Karasapan, Hüseyin Avni Göktürk and Ahmet Korur periods. Karasapan had a diplomacy background and served during the Democratic Party government, and Göktürk had a law and politics background. Both served as the MİT directors for a short time. Korur was the acting director during the Prime Minister Adnan Menderes period.

 

MİT turned more civilian with Köksal

Until the appointment of Ambassador Sönmez Köksal to the top of the organization in 1992, the upper level administration mostly consisted of military members.

 

Although it seems odd today, this was the reality for decades. MİT directors, after 1980 in particular, were always Lt. Gens. whose names were submitted by the General Staff to the government, and that secured the status and weight of MİT directors at the level of corps commander.

 

According to the law, an MİT director answers to the prime minister, but they did see chiefs of the General Staff as superiors.

 

The MİT turned more civil under the former MİT director Köksal, and one of the critical steps taken during that period was the reduction of personnel with origins in the military to a symbolic level. Owing to Köksal, the organization improved human resources policy and set as objectives hiring employees fluent in foreign languages and obtaining a new generation of intelligence gatherers.

 

Erdoğan's closer dialogue with Taner

After Köksal returned to the Foreign Ministry in 1998, the appointment of professional intelligence agents who were raised in the organization became a new tradition. In fact, in replacement of Köksal, the once director of operations Şenkal Atasagun was appointed as the MİT director. And Atasagun left his seat to assistant director Emre Taner in 2005.

 

It's known that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan came together with Taner frequently with regards to the Kurdish question, in particular, while Taner was the assistant director. In the mean time, the organization turned more civil and adopted a rather flexible line of conduct in the Kurdish issue. Mr. Prime Minister extended Taner's tenure twice, for six months each, although it was time for Taner to be retired.

 

This time, a change will take place. Apparently, Erdoğan has decided to appoint the 42-year-old bureaucrat Hakan Fidan who has been closely working with Mr. Prime Minister at the Prime Ministry in the last two-and-a-half years. Fidan was initially appointed as the MİT's new assistant director, and he will be the new director as of late May.

 

Fidan served as a noncommissioned officer in the military for about 15 years while he continued his academic career. During his retirement period, Fidan graduated from the University of Maryland and received masters and doctorate degrees at Bilkent University in Ankara. He was the chairman of the Prime Ministry's Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency, or TİKA, during the ruling Justice and Development Party's, or AKP, first term.

 

Afterwards, Fidan was appointed as the MİT assistant director in Nov. 2007 and became one of the closest working partners of Erdoğan.

 

As a tradition is left behind

Fidan's official appointment to the top seat of the MİT means that a tradition settled after Köksal is now being left. It would be perfect if the tradition had been maintained in order to give a message of confidence to the MİT personnel for the future. However, appointments from outside of the organization are seen quite often in the Western world.

 

Intelligence is a career all along. Though Fidan is an experienced high-level bureaucrat, his accumulation of

intelligence is limited rather to academic studies. For this reason, he will take over the organization without having any experience in intelligence, as was the case with Köksal in 1995.

 

The process of change in the world brings new threats and risks. In this case, change is needed in intelligence organizations as well. There is a need for adaptation. Appointment of Fidan will flare up discussions over MİT reform.

 

One final point is about the MİT's capabilities. Governments have always been attracted to power, so the new MİT director should define the boundaries of his organization very well. Besides, civilian intelligence should be maintained.

 

These are the critical points waiting for Fidan.

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

SHOAH IS ALL RIGHT; HOLOCAUST ISN'T

BURAK BEKDİL

 

Once again, the usual we-must-look-it-up-in-the-Thesaurus season in Washington is over and we all can sigh with relief. The thesaurus must have depleted its alternative entries for the word "genocide," as evidenced by President Barack Obama's repeat of the words "Meds Yeghern" in reference to the 1915 killings of Ottoman Armenians. So, "Great Calamity" is all right. "Genocide" is not.

 

The U.S. president's selection for this year's April 24 menu has confused hearts and minds. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not offended, but his Foreign Ministry was.

 

Some Turks were jubilant that President Obama avoided the term pushed by diaspora Armenians and their congressional allies. Some took to the streets and shouted, in protest, "Allah is the greatest!" as if they were marching for jihad.

 

Apparently there is something sick in the Turkish psyche. Turks are too prickly about being called genocide committers, but wear bitter smiles when they are called "the committers of one of the greatest atrocities of the 20th century," or when their ancestors are accused of causing a "devastating chapter." Bizarre? Just "Turkishly" confusing…

 

Another bullet dodged, and many Turks breathed easily in all corners of America. Some may have told their Turkish-American sons and daughters that they can now take a deep breathe and relax… See, it's just "one of the greatest atrocities of the past century," or merely "Meds Yeghern," but not "genocide."

 

The Armenians, on the other hand, must have thought of Mr. Obama as a leader who ended up just like any other human being – for the second time now, making promises he could not keep. It should not come as a surprise though because presidents George H. Bush and George W. Bush broke similar pledges, and President Bill Clinton leaned on Congress not to pass genocide commemoration measures. Hearts and minds tend to break.

 

Hence the Armenian National Committee of America's statement, describing Mr. Obama's declaration as "yet another disgraceful capitulation to Turkey's threats, offering euphemisms and evasive terminology to characterize this crime against humanity."

 

Mr. Obama was probably cute enough when he also mentioned how encouraged he was about the Armenian-Turkish dialogue, and the Turkish domestic debate about the issue. He was fair and unfair, depending on which side of the Alican border one lives, when he mentioned the Turks who helped the victims of other Turks' atrocities. All in all, his abstention from the dangerous word was sufficient for many to be content on the western side of the border, if not all together jubilant; and sad and disappointed on the other side, if not angered.

 

As always, the Turks look divided. Serious faces in the corridors of grey buildings; prickly, less prickly and too prickly statements in reaction to the word "atrocities;" increased security around the Turkish embassy and consulates in the United States; but for the time being the Turkish ambassador to Washington seems not to be packing up once again for another lengthy stay in Ankara.

 

President Obama's speech was grey. Armenians were heart-broken and felt cheated yet again. They believed the Turkish powers on the U.S. were deep. Turks were not happy that the issue did not disappear from the face of the earth, along with the victims' bones, and that Mr. Obama's speech was ambiguous and not supportive enough of their cause.

 

But there was some good coming out of this sad day. More and more Turks are making attempts to understand the issue and the scientific proof of atrocities, or genocide, depending on which part you belong. Three outdoor commemorations of the "Armenian Genocide" on April 24, a lecture by a diaspora Armenian journalist in Istanbul and a two-day conference on the "Armenian Genocide" in Ankara took place, while obstacles, counter-protests and fascist rhetoric tried to disrupt the events and reminded the few hundred participants of the long way ahead.

 

Is it genocide? Will the much-spoken archives help? Will there be a film soon, an adapted version of "Schindler's List," which not only shows the torment but also those on the other side who helped the victims? If the person who had coined the term genocide, Raphael Lemkin, declares the Armenian tragedy as "genocide," will that suffice?

 

One thing is clear though. Whether or not we like the Obama speech, it indicates that the president still opposes the "genocide" resolution, and its likelihood to pass is now slimmer than before.

 

Could human nature not help us here to provide a convincing argument? Could we not say: "Dear Armenians; we know you expect an apology but apologies come from nations – in majority at least – who can accept their faults, attempt to change and take lessons from their wrongs… Sorry, that's not yet us. See, just a day before your 'commemoration,' which was our Children's Day, our beloved prime minister told the 'child prime minister of the day:' 'You can do whatever you please, you can hang them or use your sword, the choice is yours…' So do not take it personally, dear Armenians, it is not personal, this is us, your neighbors. Hello!"

 

But let's try to derive some crisis resolution methodology from the "Obama jurisprudence" on the "genocide" dispute. Because for two years in a row, Mr. Obama's preferred term for the tragedies of 1915-1920 is "Meds Yeghern," will the president agree to a Turkish apology for "Meds Yeghern," instead of "genocide?" Why should he not propose to Congress a resolution recognizing "Meds Yeghern" instead of "genocide?" Not many Turks would care if they are accused of having ancestors who had caused "Meds Yeghern."

 

"Shoah" is all right; "genocide" is not

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHY ARE OUR AZERBAIJANI FRIENDS SO CRANKY?

MEHMET ALİ BİRAND

 

You'll remember when some time ago I wrote an article without any bad intentions what-so-ever about our Azerbaijani siblings pointing out that they suffice with only watching from a distance how Turkey struggles with respect to genocide allegations.

 

I asked, "Where are you?"

 

Be it in the U.S. Congress or in different places of the European Parliament in which Turkey fights a battle, the Azerbaijani are never to be seen. It is not necessary that they act in unison with Turkey but they could continue lobbying, spend money, advertise in papers like the Armenians do or write books.

 

I said, "You don't do any of these and when Turkey finds a formula to get rid of the heavy load on its shoulders you revolt and overreact with words like 'This does not suit Turkey.' Is this attitude just?"

 

Again I encountered strong reactions from our Azerbaijani siblings. 

 

To be honest, I can't understand this crankiness reaching even the ranks of the presidency.

 

Why?

 

If we can't talk about it among friends, where else would we be able to do so?

 

Shall we keep it to ourselves?

 

And I took care not to behave awkward in these discussions.

 

For instance, I do not say, "You perceive Turkey as a sibling but why don't you recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus?"

For, I know the reason.

 

Or I don't write about concerns of Turkish businessmen saying: "Guys, last year 110 business men abandoned Baku because your bureaucracy hindered them. Why do you pursue politics hindering Turkish business men from conducting their business?"

 

For, I am aware that some businessmen conduct businesses other than what they're supposed to do.

 

They need to know that there is a limit to their crankiness and stop setting their partisan media on me.

 

One of the biggest mistakes of those sitting in glass mansions is throwing with stones at others.

 

Just a brotherly (friendly) reminder.

 

            

 

First do your jobs right, then call the media for account

There is no need for me to tell you about how disgusting the incident in Siirt is. It has been argued about in the media for days now.

 

The murders have surfaced one and a half years ago.

 

When it was reflected in public recently, hell broke lose.

 

This incident was so scary that the media maybe for the first time behaved extremely cautious. There were no pictures of the accused children. No shots related to the incident. The families were not bothered. No speculations made.

 

Our politicians became so upset all of a sudden that you wouldn't believe it.

 

They thought publishing such news would not go well with journalism.

 

I am astonished about reactions by our Minister of Education. I know her sensitivity in such matters.

 

But this time she just overreacted.

 

She just complained.

 

I do not agree with you.

 

I think this incident is the duty of journalism.

It is the duty of a journalist to make Turkey talk about it in order to prevent such incidence from happening again.

 

To tell the truth, instead of asking why did you publish the Siirt incidence they should have said you are late by one and a half years. They should have criticized us for not making it public earlier.

 

Can you imagine, one and a half years past since the incidence and there has been no court case as of yet.

 

And our politicians worry about Siirt receiving a bad reputation and traumata to be experienced by the families

and children.

 

Whereas this incidence should be open for discussion in public in order to prevent a reoccurrence.

 

Who will be accountable for the children's death?

 

 And who will interrogate those covering up this incidence?

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

COLLECTIVE SHAME

YUSUF KANLI

 

As if the latest reports regarding the sexual abuse of children in a remote Anatolian city was the product of a systemic campaign by the media to hurt the reputation of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government - as if such cases have never ever happened in any part of this country of 73 million people, but some news people with ulterior motives against the AKP forged such stories - as if kids as small as two years old were not mass-raped and one killed, the lady minister in charge education (and who in the previous government was in charge of women and childrens' affairs) accused the media of rehashing old stories to create an image in the Turkish public that, under AKP rule, pedophile crimes and the sexual abuse of children have increased.

 

The lady minister, unfortunately, was wrong in assuming that this is a campaign aimed at hurting her government. This is not a campaign to hurt the AKP, but the bitter reality that surfaced in a remote Anatolian city. It is unfortunately not confined to just to that remote city, but rather a collective shame of the entire Turkish society. Because of peer pressure, closed family structures and the very fact that often those involved in the sexual abuse of children are either members of the family or close neighbors, unfortunately child abuse, like domestic violence cases, are often not reported. Furthermore, there are no statistics available in Turkey on this very painful issue and therefore no one can say for sure what the dimension of the problem really is.

 

Yet, it is a fact that there are thousands of homeless children in the streets of this country's cities. These children are employed by some dark figures. Look around, you will see many of them begging, selling tissue paper or chewing gum almost at every junction of Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Diyarbakır and elsewhere. In the first four months of this year, well over sixty kids were stolen from their families, some were found dead, the vast majority of them are still missing.

 

Covering up and not reporting on the issue may help forget the problem and create a feeling as if no such issue exists in Turkey. But such an attitude will not contribute to a resolution of this very serious situation, which is definitely a crime against humanity.

 

Accusing the media of "exaggerating" the child rape problem or "over-exposing" the issue with the intention of harming the government is not an attitude that befits a lady minister who, besides being an education minister now, was in charge of women and children affairs in the previous government. On the contrary, rather than putting the blame of such incidents on the media, as if it was the media that raped the small kids, or imposing censorship on the media, the lady minister must concentrate on identifying why such incidents take place in our society. Furthermore, she should at least order an investigation into such allegations, as well as claims of the use of brutal force against children, at child protection centers affiliated with her ministry.

 

These two cases of "organized sexual abuse of children" in that remote Anatolian city might be presented by the lady minister as "isolated cases" that should not be "generalized." Perhaps she should go through page 3 of newspapers and see how isolated indeed is such horrible use of force, sexual abuse and inhumane treatment on small kids, unprotected women and at worst disabled kids and women. The difference between these two cases of sexual abuse of children in that remote Anatolian city was that for a change the media did not report them on the third pages, but put them on front pages because of the dimensions of such aberration and because such an advanced degree of pervert barbarism was never ever reported in this country.

 

The lady minister would perhaps like to see the media concentrating on the political agenda set by the government. She perhaps would like to see a media glorifying the prime minister, the ministers and the government's policies and shunning all articles on the bitter realities in the country. Her government has partly managed to achieve such a media as almost half of the papers and TV stations have entered or been compelled to enter into an allegiance with the AKP while the rest have been effectively reminded of their limits with various executive actions, particularly by some officious tax men.

 

But, the sexual abuse of children, domestic violence, missing children and kids employed by some dark figures at city squares as beggars are collective shames of this country and definitely a collective effort is needed to overcome them.

 

To say the least this issue is far more important than the constitutional amendment obsession of the prime minister. Rather than trying to trade the blame, it should be the high time to do something to end this collective shame

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

'BLACK SWAN' VOLCANO OFFERS US LESSONS

MATTHEW LYNN

 

For a generation or more, no one ever gave a second thought to Iceland. Now it has shaken up the world twice in a couple of years.

 

First its banks collapsed in the most dramatic illustration of the fragility of our financial system. Now an Icelandic volcano has spewed ash into the sky, prompting a shutdown of European airspace. The continent has been paralyzed.

 

Both happenings are strangely similar. They are, to borrow a phrase from financial theory, "black swan" events: unexpected developments, coming out of nowhere, for which no one has any kind of contingency plan. And they are a warning about the fragility of the modern economy.

 

The lesson, surely, is to be aware of how easily whole industries can be blown apart. And to make sure we build systems robust enough to survive the worst that can be thrown at them. If the flight ban can teach us that, we should welcome it –even though thousands are stranded far from home.

 

The Eyjafjallajökull volcano has caused chaos on a massive scale since the April 14 eruption. Its last major eruption in 1821 lasted more than a year.

 

It can teach us useful lessons, if we want to learn them. 

 

First, we are dependent on air travel. Our economy is kept in motion by fleets of jetliners and a network of airports. Business revolves around meetings in hotels next to the runways. Documents are ferried around by air. Even the food in grocery stores often lands a day before from another continent.

 

But air networks are very delicate. They are constantly at the mercy of the weather, mechanical failure, labor strikes and terrorist plots. We should have learned after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington not to depend so much on flying. Likewise, we should listen more to the climate-change scientists warning about the impact of global warming. Perhaps the chaos of the last few days will teach us that our economy needs to be more grounded, both metaphorically and literally.

 

Second, we forget that distance counts. Globalization has made the world seem a very small place. E-mails ping from continent to continent in the blink of an eye. Social networks allow us to be friends with people thousands of miles away as easily as if they lived in the next street. Money flashes from country to country, and ideas and trends zip around the world. 

 

And yet, when the technology breaks down, it is a long way from Helsinki to Madrid, or from New York to Berlin. Try doing that journey the old-fashioned way -- by car, by boat, or on foot -- and you suddenly realize the distance between places still counts for a lot. The world isn't as much of a global village as we think it is. It's still a vast place, and the local can often bite back at the global.

 

Third, we need to prepare for the unexpected. A couple of years ago, it was the financial system that fell to pieces. Right now, it is the transport system. In both cases, the cause was something we didn't expect, or make any plans for. We thought hedge funds might blow up the banks -- instead some rather dull-looking mortgages did. We thought terrorists might spread chaos through the airline system -- it turned out that ash from an Icelandic volcano did that job.

 

'Black swans'

 

In reality, "black swans" are everywhere. Much of Europe's energy is now supplied by Russia. Is that really stable in the long term? Much of our food is now genetically modified. What would happen if we suddenly discovered it wasn't safe anymore? The euro is a relatively new currency. It has struggled to cope with a few deficit issues in Greece, one of the smallest member states. There must be half a dozen different kinds of crises that could mean the money most of the continent relies on doesn't work anymore.

 

All sorts of unexpected events are lurking in the shadows. By definition, we haven't thought about them. It is because they are so unexpected that they are so dangerous. What we can do is think harder about the threats, get better at forecasting them, and find ways of making ourselves less vulnerable.

 

Air travel is useful. It is the quickest and usually the cheapest way of getting around. But we shouldn't depend on it as much as we do. We shouldn't rely so completely on any single network, whether it is financial or technological. That should be obvious to everyone. But sometimes it takes something as powerful as a volcanic eruption to make a simple point.

 

*Matthew Lynn is a Bloomberg News columnist

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

END OF CONSCRIPTION IN SIGHT

JOOST LAGENDİJK

 

I always found it strange that it was possible in this country to buy your way out of the army. In Turkey, military service is compulsory for all male citizens over the age of 20. But Turks who have worked outside the country for at least three years do not have to serve the full 15 months but can return home after a basic military training of only 21 days – on the condition that they pay a certain fee, currently slightly more than 5000 euros.

 

Hundreds of thousands of young men have used this opportunity in the past and many more are ready to accept such a deal now. The Ministry of Finance is happy with it, the General Staff is not. The issue came up again last week when the prime minister announced that, despite the opposition of the military, the present system will be continued. Personally, I think it is unfair to allow men who can afford to spend 5000 euro on this to become essentially draft dodgers. While guys who don't have that money, must serve and run a considerable risk of getting killed or wounded while on duty. But that is not the point I want to make.

 

The whole debate on the pros and cons of the opt-out system distracts from the underlying basic question: how long will Turkey be able to continue with compulsory military service? In the last 20 years, many countries all over the world have switched to a professional army without any conscripts. Examples are the United States, India, Australia and Japan. In Europe, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Spain and Italy have all abolished mandatory service. The only big European Union member state that maintains conscription forces is Germany, for historic reasons that go back to the first half of the 20th century and the devastating consequences of unleashed militarism.

 

Turkey seems to be stuck half way. Since 2007, the Turkish Armed Forces, or TSK, tries to combine the best of both worlds. While maintaining conscription, the military is in the middle of a far-reaching but slow modernization and professionalization process. When successful, the result would be a mixed system in which tasks requiring specialization and brigades expected to bear the brunt of fighting, would be left to professional soldiers. It would increase capability and continuity and it is a logical consequence of a radically changed threat perception. The main tasks of the present Turkish army are participating in international missions and fighting terrorism at or just across the border. Both sorts of operations call for small, flexible and skilled units, not large amounts of poorly trained foot-soldiers.

 

But the logic of modern warfare is just one of the elements in the ongoing debate on the future of the TSK. As military specialist Gareth Jenkins put it: "The gradual professionalization of the army, even if it is initially only in certain units, is likely to weaken the emotional bond formed by military service; raising the possibility that the requirements of improved military efficiency may come at the costs of a reduction in the TSK's ability to influence the political process in Turkey."

 

School textbooks still portray the military as something essential to Turks. It is the reason that many in the TSK are afraid that a fully professional army would sever what they regard as the "sacred bond between the Turkish nation and the profession of soldiering." It is obvious that the choices that have to be made will not only be influenced by rational arguments. Many emotional hurdles will have to be overcome as well.

For me the best outcome of these considerations would be a downsized, professional army that sees no role for itself in politics, that is responsible to the Minister of Defense and whose budget is determined and controlled by the Parliament. That would really be an invaluable service to the country!

 

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HURRIYET DAILY NEWS

EDITORIAL

A REQUIEM FOR ARMENIANS—A SEQUEL

MUSTAFA AKYOL

 

My latest piece in these pages, "For the fear of God: A requiem for Armenians," proved to be quite controversial. And I, as usual, was blamed by some readers for being a bunch of nasty things. (A "traitor" to my own nation who is funded by evil foreigners, a "fake" Turk who hides his crypto-Armenianness, or a deceitful Islamist hell-bent on destroying secular Turkey.)

 

I am not going to waste my time by trying to explain that I am really not the man in these caricatures — or that I really don't have fangs and claws. But let me try to explain why I wrote a requiem on April 24 for the Armenians who perished in 1915. Because I hope that the reasoning (and the sentiment) that I followed might also help other Turks build a more righteous attitude in this poisonous controversy.

 

A tale of two arguments

I have been listening to both sides of this controversy, Turks and Armenians, for years. And I have realized that we Turks often use two major arguments.

 

The first one is what I call the There-Was-A-Reason argument. By this, we are trying to tell the world that the expulsion of Armenians from Anatolia in 1915 was forced by a troublesome political context. The Ottoman Empire was crumbling. It had seen its Muslim populations slaughtered in the Balkans and the Caucasus by the Russians and their allies. The Ottoman elite had reason to suspect that Armenian nationalists were the fifth column of Russia, with which they were at war. The same elite also feared that an independent Armenia in the east would be disastrous for the Turks.

 

Now, this is all true. And I, too, have written about these in this very paper. ("After All, Who Remembers the Ottoman Muslims?" on Feb. 15, 2007, and "Let's Be Honest on Genocide" on March 9, 2010) But understanding the context of something is different from seeing it as justified.

 

What we should honestly ask ourselves here is whether it was justified to expel a million people from four corners of Eastern Anatolia to the Syrian Desert. If this was done simply to "secure the eastern border from Armenian militias," as we often say, then why not only men but also women, children and the elderly were also driven out of their homes? Was it too hard to see that most of those innocents could not survive the hundreds of miles of marching under the brazing sun without food, water and shelter? Was it too hard to see that some could even be pillaged, raped and murdered?

 

These questions make me suspect that the "tehcir" (expulsion) law of the young Turkish government of the time was something more than a security measure. It rather seems to me as an ethnic cleansing for some political design. And I don't know you, but I, as a rule, am passionately against all ethnic cleansings — whether they might be committed by the Serbs against the Bosnians, the Israelis against the Palestinians (see episodes such as Deir Yassin), or by my own country against the Armenians.

 

At this point, I am sure, some of the Turkish readers will raise the objection that I call the second major Turkish argument: But-We-Were-Killed-Too.

 

And this is true as well. Turks suffered horrible massacres at the hands of Armenians militias, in a few incidents before 1915, but in a much larger vengeance campaign in 1916 and 1917, when the Russian forces invaded several cities in northeastern Anatolia. The cruelty inflicted on the Muslim population at that time has become notoriously famous in Turkey, and we keep remembering that. We also rightfully condemn modern-day Armenia for occupying a large portion of Azerbaijani land, and creating a million refugees ("qacqins") living in terrible conditions.

 

Yet still, I believe, the fact that we Turks also suffered should not make us blind and indifferent to the suffering on the other side, whose proportions are undoubtedly much larger. The fact that we remember and honor our own dead, in other words, should not prevent us from feeling mercy and remorse for the hundreds of thousands of perished Armenians.

 

The beginning of wisdom

My intention to speak of a "Muslim conscious" in my previous piece, by referring to some muftis and other devout Ottomans who tried to save the Armenians in 1915, was to bring in some new perspective to this moral side of the issue, which I see as the heart of the matter. I did not say, "Muslims do not commit genocide," as Prime Minister Erdoğan unconvincingly said in another context. I rather implied that Muslims should not do such horrible things if they will remain true to the principles of their faith, as some exemplary figures saw clearly during the Armenian exodus.

 

This is important because a particularly Islamic critique of the tragedy of 1915 might be the key to Turkey's way forward. Until recently, those who questioned the official narrative on this matter were only a bunch of Western-educated secular liberals, whose language looked too alien to the majority of society. But recently some conservative Muslim pundits have also entered debate saying that their values are represented by not the Young Turks, who were secular nationalists, but the muftis who opposed the killings "for the fear of God."

 

So, well, perhaps the Psalmist was really on to something. "The fear of the Lord," might really be, at least once in a while, "the beginning of wisdom."

 

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

 I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

MUSHARRAF IN THE DOCK?

 

The reported withdrawal of security protocol for former president General Pervez Musharraf by UK authorities will please many. This is not necessarily because they believe the former military ruler was involved in the murder of Benazir Bhutto, but because it is generally felt that he has led far too comfortable a life since his 2008 exit from the presidency. There are many crimes people are unwilling to forgive the general for – most notably his 2007 crackdown on the judiciary and the independent media. However, even in the case of Benazir's assassination, Musharraf's role deserves study. This is all the more so given the investigation now on against a serving general, who happens to be a relative of Musharraf. It is of course far too early to suggest that they may have been involved in plotting the crime. But certainly suspicions exist and it would be wise to put these to rest.

General Musharraf's lawyer has denied any action by UK authorities. The matter still needs to be confirmed. But again, regardless of what happens on this count, Musharraf is a man many Pakistanis would like to see answer for his crimes. Indeed demands that he be brought back to the country have been made repeatedly. As a man who has not infrequently spoken of his own courage, perhaps the general should consider a return, face his countrymen and explain to them his various deeds. Today, the shadows cast by a number of these still hang over us. The unfinished business of the NRO and the mess it created remains to be resolved; tensions created between the executive and the judiciary still linger on. The present government has done little to help matters. It is also an irrefutable fact that policies adopted by Musharraf played a big role in weakening mainstream political parties. Both the PML-N and the PPP were victims. This may explain some of the issues facing us on the political playing field today. All those who, through the years, witnessed them will be glad that General Musharraf may face at least some kind of censure. In the past, dictators have escaped scot-free after committing all kinds of crimes. It is time this tradition was ended once and for all. If this were indeed to happen an important precedent would be set in place that would serve us well in the future.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

DODGING THE CENSOR

Freedom of the media is oft-cited by those who project and manage our image around the world, and it is true that compared to many of our neighbours our media enjoys freedoms that many do not – but you do not have to look very deep to find the censor at work. As reported in this newspaper last Monday the internationally renowned filmmaker, Katia Lund, has been denied a Pakistan visa. The reason? Whilst it will never be officially acknowledged her visa has been denied because she was going to make a film about gang-rape victim Mukhtaran Mai. The Musharraf regime did all it could to make life miserable for Ms Mai and to blacken her name but she endured and has gone on to become a global icon for the struggle that women face against oppression and discrimination. A worthy subject for a serious Hollywood film one might think, and moreover one that was said to present Pakistan in a positive light – something we could do with more rather than less of. It would appear that the current dispensation is no more charitably inclined towards Ms Mai than was its predecessor.

Katia Lund visited Pakistan and Ms Mai in 2007 and had no reason to think she would have any difficulty in getting the visas for herself and her crew, but it was not to be. She made all the right applications, bought her ticket (at the request of our mission in Brazil where she lives) – but no visa. In an acidly-worded email to a Pakistani embassy official in Brazil she points out that despite our government's attempts to block physical access to Ms Mai she had been able to circumvent them using Skype to do her interviews and the internet to conduct her research. To quote her directly: "Thanks to the modern world, your power to withhold visas has failed to deprive people of the right to tell their story. You managed to keep nothing but your own silence." Mukhtaran Mai has already been the subject of several documentaries seen around the world, at least one of them an award-winner, and it was only a matter of time before a feature film was made. The small-minded myopic pettiness of whomever it was that denied Ms Lund her visa tells the rest of the world that parts of our government resemble little more than a bunch of petulant infants. High time you grew up, gentlemen.

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

FINDING FAZLULLAH

The question surrounding the whereabouts of the former leader of the Taliban in Swat, Maulana Fazlullah, lingers on. In the aftermath of the successful Swat operation, it had been claimed that he had fled to Afghanistan. Subsequent reports stated he had been injured or was in hiding somewhere within the country. It has been impossible to know what is true. But the fact of the matter is that, in more ways than one, the Taliban in Swat remain a force to be reckoned with. At a recent seminar in Islamabad, researchers who had been to the area reported that women in particular remained fearful of a Taliban return. There is evidence that their apprehensions are not fanciful.


Recent reports from the Swat area have spoken of targeted killings aimed at eliminating anti-Taliban elements, including those who raised a 'lashkar' against them. It is significant too that despite the announcement of a significant sum in head-money for key Taliban figures that include Fazlullah, they have not been given away. If indeed the militant leader is present in the area, as his spokesman has indicated, there must be people who are aware of his whereabouts. Their unwillingness to give him – or other wanted men – away indicates that the terror of the Taliban remains in place. This is an ominous sign. The authorities need the support of people to vanquish militants. This can come only if dread disappears. The cycle of violence and revenge meanwhile continues. There is no knowing when it will end and this sense of uncertainty makes it harder to bring about the kind of change we urgently need to see in Swat and other such areas if a fresh start is to be made there and an end put to the dark reign of obscurantist militants.

 

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I. THE NEWS

LITTLE TO CELEBRATE

PART III

ASIF EZDI


It is not so much those who commit petty crimes who go scot-free but the big-time looters of national wealth and many of them reach the topmost echelons of the power hierarchy. If anyone doubts that, he should try counting the recipients of kickbacks (ten percent being the gold standard), money-launderers, currency smugglers, tax cheats, profiteers, loan defaulters, electricity thieves, holders of fake degrees and others of that ilk who sit in our legislatures or seats of power. Bravo, Qazi Anwar, for pointing your finger at these parasites!


As regards the amended Article 17 which dispenses with the requirement of intra-party elections, Ahsan Iqbal of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) had two explanations, both patently untenable. The deletion was justified, according to him, firstly because the relevant clause had been introduced by a discredited military usurper; and, secondly, because the law on political parties already provides for these elections. He did not explain why he and his party have no problems with retaining some other constitutional changes made by the ousted dictator, such as the lowering of the voting age to 18 years, but are unwilling to accept one that would militate against dynastic rule.


Also, Ahsan Iqbal is evidently unable to appreciate the difference between a constitutional requirement to which all laws must conform and an ordinary law which can be repealed or amended by the government through a simple majority, or even an ordinance. He may also be unaware that a constitutional requirement under Article 17 can be invoked, unlike a simple provision of the law, to make a complaint under the original jurisdiction of the High Courts and the Supreme Court.


Ahsan Iqbal also had a peculiar and convoluted explanation to offer for the amended Article 63A--which empowers the party head, in place of the head of the parliamentary party, as before--to declare a member of parliament to have defected and thus disqualified himself from continuing to sit in the house. The real purpose of this amendment, he explained, was to separate the holders of government posts from those occupying party office, which was a long-standing demand of independent political analysts. If the PML-N is so committed to separation of party and government offices, why then is it that Shahbaz Sharif continues as president of the PML-N as well as Punjab chief minister? And does Ahsan Iqbal seriously expect anyone to believe that his party's Quaid will give up his party post if he fulfils his dream of becoming prime minister again?


For a constitutional reform whose avowed purpose is to restore the parliamentary system and the "trichotomy" of powers, a major priority should have been to curb, if not abolish, the ordinance-making power of the government. This is a legacy of the colonial period and its abuse has become so institutionalised that legislation by ordinance has become the norm rather than the exception. But instead of placing any limits on the issuance of ordinances, the 18th Amendment has doubled the maximum life of ordinances from four to eight months. All that is needed is a resolution by either the Senate or the National Assembly. And our parliamentarians happily went along with this encroachment by the executive on what should be a preserve of the legislature.


Ahsan Iqbal contends that after the 18th Amendment, the government will no longer be able to issue the same ordinance over and over again. He has obviously not read the amendment carefully, because there is nothing in it that prohibits the repeated reissuance of the same ordinance. Ahsan Iqbal is no ordinary MNA. He was also a member of the Constitutional Reform Committee. Yet he too signed the committee's report without bothering to find out what exactly he was putting his signature to. This is typical. He is not the only member of parliament who voted in favour of the amendment without fully understanding the implications.


Nawaz Sharif seems to have given his attention exclusively to the procedure for the appointment of judges. He has had little to say on such trivial matters as the concurrent list, party elections, the defection clause or the ordinance-making powers of the government. After making a few somersaults on the issue of appointment of judges, he too went along in the end with the deeply politicised procedure proposed in the amendment. A judge should never be called upon to cast a vote on a political matter, but that is what each member of the judicial commission, including the serving judges, will now be doing at the nomination stage. Not only the person who is eventually appointed as judge but also the judges who vote on his nomination will become politically tainted. This would affect the public standing of the judiciary and will be harmful to its independence.


The constitutionality of the new Article 175A on judicial appointments has now been challenged in the courts. A system which has become such a highly contentious issue by itself becomes flawed. This does not augur well for political stability. Now that Gilani has got all the powers of a head of government, he should try to defuse the situation by taking two immediate steps. First, he should dismiss Babar Awan and in his place appoint a law minister who will take his orders from the prime minister and cooperate in the enforcement of the Supreme Court's decision on NRO. Second, he should start a dialogue on the issue of judicial appointments with the leaders of the lawyers' movement who have voiced opposition to the new system.


Our legal maestro, Aitzaz Ahsan, has only added fuel to the fire by his warning that if the Supreme Court invalidates Article 175A, there will be a confrontation between the judiciary and the legislature. This amounts to an attempt to intimidate the courts. A confrontation between the institutions is exactly what those affected by the NRO judgment are seeking in the hope of saving their skin.


In Pakistan's history, every major constitutional amendment has begotten another amendment to undo some of its provisions. The 18th Amendment is not going to be an exception to the rule. It was the result of behind-the-scenes deals made between the major parties and their allies, mainly to advance the narrow interests of their leaders. It was pushed through parliament at supersonic speed without due deliberation. Public discussion on it was stifled first by the secretiveness of the committee's proceedings and then by its rushed passage. It is riddled with linguistic, grammatical and editing errors.


Its many flaws are now coming to light thick and fast. The consensus among the political parties clearly does not represent a national consensus. The gap between party goals and national aspirations is crystal-clear. Even Rabbani, the main author of the 18th Amendment, has started talking of the 19th Amendment. The sooner it comes, the better for the country's political health. But, please, not with Rabbani, more so after his attempt in a TV interview on 26 April to justify the continuation of Zardari as the party chief while sitting in the Presidency.

Here is a quick list of what the 19th Amendment should do to strengthen parliamentary democracy and separation of powers:


--Lay down in clear terms that the president will renounce his party affiliation before taking oath of office and will stay above party politics


--Introduce proportional representation for the national and the provincial assemblies


--Introduce direct elections for the Senate and abolish seats for "technocrats"


--Reduce the terms of the president and of the National and provincial Assemblies from five to four years


--Reintroduce a shorter Concurrent List and transfer final control over the subjects to the provinces by giving them the power to override federal legislation through a qualified majority in the provincial assembly


--Abolish the ordinance-making power of the government, except when the national or provincial assembly stands dissolved


--Depoliticise the procedure for making judicial appointments


--Make party elections mandatory


--Disqualify for life corrupt politicians and those guilty of committing crimes


--Restrict the immunity of the president and governors to acts done in their official capacity


--Abolish the defection clause so that members of parliament are freed from the diktat of the party leaders and can vote according to their conscience.

(Concluded)

The writer is a former member of the Pakistan Foreign Service. Email: asif ezdi@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

SUCH IS DEMOCRACY

SYED UMAIR JAVED


The discussion on the 18th Amendment has taken an unfortunate turn in legal and academic circles. Rather than voicing legal and political arguments, both the proponents and opponents of constitutional review have turned the debate into a comedy of threats and doomsday predictions. In doing so, they are avoiding the real issues surrounding the whole debate. There is no denying that the Indian basic structure doctrine is not part of the Pakistani constitutional jurisprudence. Nevertheless, the most important question before the Supreme Court, if it chooses to hear the petitions against the amendment, will be whether parliament has unlimited power to amend the constitution as provided under the Article 239 (6).


There is unlikely to be any serious legal obstacles for the Supreme Court to hear the case if it so desires. It is a well-settled law in Pakistan that ousting clauses in the constitution, similar to that in Article 239 (5), cannot oust the jurisdiction of the superior courts absolutely. It is for the Supreme Court to decide the parameters of any clause that seeks to oust judicial review. A reiteration of this principle can be found in Chief Justice Iftikhar M. Chaurdhry v. President of Pakistan PLD 2010 SC 61 wherein the court, while discussing the ouster of the courts' jurisdiction by Article 211 of the constitution held that a mere incorporation of such a provision does not preclude the court's judicial review power.


It is extremely interesting to note, without passing any judgment, that both the Articles 239 (5) and (6) were inserted into our constitution by General Zia's Constitution (Second Amendment) Order, 1985 (P.O. No. 20 of 1985), just years after the Indian Supreme Court invalidated similar worded amendments in the Indian Constitution in Miverva Mills v. Union of India 1980 AIR 1789.


It can be argued that parliament, itself being a product of the constitution, cannot have unlimited powers to amend the latter. The original constitution, albeit the amendments introduced by a dictator, did not propose that parliament would have unlimited power to amend the former. Taking a view to the contrary would assume that parliament would have the power to do any of the following: hand over sovereignty to another nation, do away with the fundamental rights of the people, make constitutional or legal posts inheritable, disallow women to cast votes and declare the Supreme Court's decision not binding on the executive etc. Such an approach is in agreement with argument which seeks to differentiate between a legislative assembly and a constituent body, parliament being the former rather than the latter.


Proponents of unlimited power invariably base their argument on the principle of parliamentary sovereignty that exists in British common law. It is however, difficult to understand how the principle, which was established to provide stability in an otherwise chaotic, unwritten constitutional arrangement, can be applied in a jurisdiction, like Pakistan, which has a written constitution, wherein no one pillar has supremacy over the other or the constitution.

It, therefore, comes as no surprise that the Supreme Court has time and again referred to the 'basic features' of the Constitution. Mehmood Khan Achakzai v. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 1997 SC 426, Wukala Mahaz Barai Tahaffuz Dastoor v. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 1998 SC 1263, Zafar Ali Shah v. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 2000 SC 869, Pakistan Lawyers Forum v. Federation of Pakistan, PLD 2005 SC 719 and Sindh High Court Bar Association v. Federation of Pakistan PLD 2009 SC 879 all discuss the concept. While it is true that the judiciary has not subscribed to its Indian counterpart's notion of a basic structure till date, it is also equally true that it continues to refer to the concept of 'basic features', however feeble it maybe. It is also correct that the superior judiciary continues to interpret articles harmoniously to crease out potential conflicts between provisions of the constitution. Using the two together, essentially, is a path which may lead to the same result as the Indian basic structure doctrine, even if the effects are not as pronounced. The question that the Supreme Court needs to answer clearly is whether there is a need to adopt the basic structure doctrine to protect the salient features of the constitution, including the fundamental rights and the separation of power.


This is not to say that the 18th Amendment, including the provisions relating to the judiciary, would necessarily be invalid if seen through the lens of the basic structure doctrine. In fact, theoretically, if it is decided that parliament does not have unlimited power to amend the constitution, or that a basic structure exists in the constitution, constitutional review and constitutional interpretation of any amendment thereafter must be done giving the greatest possible latitude to the parliament's will. In other words, even if a basic structure doctrine is adopted, the Supreme Court should not divert from its established practice of not striking down amendments, unless the later present a naked and unavoidable attack on a very small and limited list of basic features, a course that can be reasonably expected given the precedents.


We, as a democratic people, must understand that parliament amending the constitution and the Supreme Court conducting constitutional review, do not lead to a clash of institutions. It is surprising to see lawyers, including Aitzaz Ahsan, Hamid Khan, Babar Sattar and Ali Kurd, giving ultimatums and predicting war if the Supreme Court conducts constitutional review. Such an attitude is extremely irresponsible. Our individual and collectives views aside, we must defer to the constitution and allow the legal process to take its own course. We must also, as a nation, accept the Supreme Court's decision in this matter, whatsoever it may be, whether or not we agree with it. Such is democracy.


The writer is a lawyer. Email: sujaved@ gmail.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

NO MIRACLES IN BHUTAN

SHAMSHAD AHMAD


The 16th SAARC Summit opens in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu, this morning with leaders of its eight member-states already assembled there for two-days of another "landmark" event. Every annual summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation is a "landmark" event ending with a new declaration full of lofty rhetoric. The Thimphu summit is unlikely to do more.


There will be no miracles in Bhutan. We will only have yet another high-sounding but low-yield declaration in which the SAARC leaders will credit themselves for another "comprehensive and forward-looking milestone" in regional cooperation. But in reality, it will be only a rehash of the same old and familiar promises and commitments that have had no meaning to the region's peoples and masses.


SAARC has been described as a talk-shop. An essential part of it is the "retreat" where the participating leaders meet in an informal setting for discussions on the overall regional situation. But the problem is that discussions on bilateral and security-related issues in the region are barred in SAARC.


This year's central theme is climate change, on which the member-states will try to evolve a common SAARC position to be followed at the UN's Climate Change Summit in Mexico later this year. Progress in implementation of outstanding projects, especially operationalisation of the $300-million SAARC Development Fund and a governing mechanism for the proposed SAARC University in Delhi will also be reviewed. The question of food security might figure in the talks.


Besides these routine activities, there will be no new groundbreaking initiatives in South Asia's regional landscape. SAARC is notorious for its paper-loaded and meetings-oriented approach. It holds too many meetings with no results. Postponement of SAARC summits is a regular phenomenon. In 25 years it has held only 15 summits. Other meetings always materialize behind schedule and contribute nothing to regionalisation of trade.


It took ten years for SAARC members to agree on a preferential tariff arrangement and another ten to come round to a consensus on the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA), which became operational in 2006. Although it has been expected to have potential, intraregional trade is less than 2 per cent of GDP.


SAARC leaders have been talking of their organisation's regional potential and stressing the need to make SAARC a "more vibrant institution" so that it becomes a strong voice in international economic forums, meaningfully contributing to regional peace, progress and prosperity. They also do not tire in expressing concern on the "inherent weaknesses and shortcomings" in SAARC's "regional approach" and in calling for more pragmatic action plans in pursuing "attainable" regional cooperation goals. We are familiar with this rhetoric at every summit meeting where the leaders regularly "reaffirm" their commitment to the principles and objectives outlined in the SAARC Charter. This is what the Colombo Declaration adopted at the 15th SAARC Summit in 2008 said, and this is likely to be the sum total of the 16th Summit in Thimphu.


SAARC came into being as an expression of South Asia's collective resolve to develop a regional cooperative framework and for the region to adapt itself to the changing times for the socio-economic well-being of its peoples. Woefully, even in the silver jubilee year of its existence, the desired change is nowhere in sight.

Despite the commonalities and strengths of the region, which is home to one-fifth of humanity, South Asia today remains one of the world's poorest areas, with a vast majority of its peoples still living in grinding poverty and subhuman conditions. Five of SAARC's eight member-states – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives and Nepal – belong to the UN's category of Least Developed Countries, or LDCs. South Asia's total external trade is only a small fraction of the region's GDP while its intraregional trade is equally non-consequential.

With its unbroken legacy of poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy and conflict, SAARC, as a regional cooperation organisation, has not gone beyond declaratory pronouncements, with no tangible achievement to its credit. It has neither helped in improvement of the quality of life in the region, nor accelerated South Asia's economic growth and social progress, nor even to the cultural development of its member-states. With one or two exceptions, SAARC countries also lag behind in development of genuine democracy, rule of law and good governance.

What has gone wrong with SAARC is a question that keeps agitating the minds of policymakers and practitioners of all sorts both within and outside this region. With its negligible output and a yawning gap between its promises and performance, SAARC still has a long way to go before it really comes of age. The common vision upholding the ideals of peace, stability, good-neighbourliness and mutually beneficial cooperation among its member-states remains a distant dream.


To perform, SAARC requires an enabling environment in the region, free of mistrust and hostility, without which no regional arrangement anywhere in the world has worked. In fact, political differences and bilateral disputes have impeded SAARC's performance from the very outset. While many regional organisations around the world, including the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) came into existence to face common external challenges, the main problem of the SAARC region is internal: mutual mistrust.


SAARC, as an organisation, has many faults and weaknesses inherent in its structural and functional architecture, and even some glaring shortcomings in the principles and objectives laid down in its Charter. But the absence of an enabling environment is the biggest and deepest fault line that cuts across the region, leaving South Asia with little regional impulse for any notable process towards genuine regional cooperation.


The absence of an intraregional mechanism for settlement of disputes has also severely limited SAARC's capacity to contribute to regional peace, security and development. Like ASEAN, this region also needs a Regional Forum to reinforce an intraregional process of confidence-building, preventive diplomacy and peaceful settlement of disputes.


SAARC's faults can be removed through the rewriting of its Charter, redefining of its goals and objectives, reordering of its priorities and action plans, redress of its systemic aberrations, restructuring of the Secretariat, rationalisation of the decision-making and budgetary system, reinforcement of the organisation's operational capacity and streamlining of its functional methodology.


But SAARC's fault line will not be removed unless the member-states bring in greater political will, rising above narrow national interests and, instead, assuming joint ownership of their regional effort for mutual benefit.

South Asia needs an exceptional impulse to keep abreast with the changing times. This fresh regional impulse must spring from within South Asia. Only then will our peoples be able to harness the full potential of their region and to join the worldwide quest for economic growth and development.


The absence of any political role in SAARC has had a crippling effect on the organisation's capacity to provide an environment for mutual cooperation. The absence of any political role in SAARC has had a crippling effect on the organisation's capacity to provide an environment for mutual cooperation. No wonder, a former Sri Lankan foreign minister once warned that unless SAARC dealt with bilateral issues, "it will remain a deaf, dumb and blind Association."

 

The writer is a former foreign secretary. Email: shamshad1941@yahoo.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

HARNESS THIS TALENT

MUHAMMAD YASIR KHAN


It was quite heartening to receive positive comments from several academics, economists and researchers in response to my previous column, 'Economists sans research'. It must be made clear that the motive of my article was to encourage economists and public sector experts to engage in some soul-searching. The multilaterals and donors shall keep on doing their programme development and related report writing, while the local experts shall focus on locally developed policy measures, well grounded in research, to answer our social and economic problems and to minimise our reliance on donor-funded policymaking.


Questions have been raised on how to develop this capacity of economists to conduct research, especially in the public sector. The answers are numerous. We are not the first country in the world to do so. There are many examples before us such as the loose group of economists put together by Mahathir Mohamad, the more structured approach of policy research departments in every ministry of the Singapore government, or the independent non-profit think tanks like the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in the US.


The lack of independent research bodies in Pakistan is ubiquitous in all fields. But the dangers of not having one in a field as important as economic policy cannot be clearer. One can argue that we do have centres for research, such as the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), the fact, however, is that the PIDE has not been able to influence the case for research-based policymaking. Instead, we have seen a decline in the quality of work originating from the PIDE over the years, indicating weaknesses in the institution.


Human beings - and more so economists - respond to incentives, and Pakistani economists are no different from their global brethren. Hence, the incentive structure defines their responsiveness to research. Incentives, however, are usually confused with monetary benefits alone which is definitely not the case, at least not for economists. A look at the global fraternity of economists reveals that except for a few "rock stars" most have been content with limited monetary benefits. That does not mean such economists are selfless human beings. Their incentives lie in the recognition they get from academics, policymakers and media for the amazing research work they conduct. On the other hand, the Pakistani economists are faced with an incentive structure in which monetary benefits and recognition alike are associated with non-research work related to donor-funded projects. Thus the primary requirement to develop local research is to change the incentive structure.


The first step to address the problem of incentive structure is to establish an autonomous research body, empowered to advise and assist ministries in policy research. Such a body will not only address the monetary concerns of the researchers but also provide opportunities for recognition. The body shall focus on advising the government on the basis of research through the network of economists that shall be constructed around it. Such a body shall draw from the pool of energetic researchers through yearly fellowships and with the requirement to deliver at least one publishable research article focusing in any area of economic or social policy. This research body shall also be entrusted with the responsibility to periodically ascertain social indicators as well, which will save us from the needless public spats that some economists indulge in to defend the governments of their liking.

A second but related step shall be to engage young students, from various disciplines related to economics and policy, in primary research. The young minds are eager to apply their theoretical knowledge, the opportunities for them are, however, limited. Every year numerous social sector programmes and sub-programmes are introduced by the government, but they are rarely studied in detail or have their impact evaluated in an objective fashion. If we can, through the research centres proposed above, link our undergraduate and graduate students to these projects on impact assessment, monitoring and various other aspects of programmes, we can definitely develop a well-trained cadre of policy researchers in a few years' time.


Any half-baked effort to promote indigenous policy research will surely add to the long list of our failures. But given the current predicament, we are in dire need of local research-based policymaking, which can be achieved by streamlining the amazing talent we have in this country, which may eventually lead to real capacity building within our public sector organisations.


The writer is a policy analyst. Email: myk 2111@columbia.edu

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

WHO IS BEHIND THE HAZARA UNREST?

PART I

MOSHARRAF ZAIDI


The writer advises governments, donors and NGOs on public policy.


"When we are in Mardan or Charsadda, it is "Da Punjabian dey" (we are Punjabi), and when we are in Lahore or Faisalabad, it is "Khan Saab" (i.e., we are Pathans). But we're not Punjabi. And we are not Pathan. We are from Hazara. Why is that so difficult to understand?"


When I first learnt that there was some kind of an adverse reaction to the renaming of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, I was more than slightly miffed. NWFP is a ridiculous name. If Punjabis can inhabit Punjab, Sindhis can inhabit Sindh, and Baloch can inhabit Balochistan, it seemed quite ridiculous that Pakhtuns should be denied that same opportunity. When this controversy emerged as a major story in the national media, around the last week of March, even the addition of the word Khyber was anathema to me, a watering down of the legitimate and rightful name of Pakhtunkhwa.


In fact, in my column on March 30, in which I was unsparingly critical of Nawaz Sharif's dithering on the 18th Amendment, I even wrote that "by opposing the ANP's proposal [the PML-N] claims it is standing up for speakers of the Hindko and Potowari languages. Can speakers of Brohi, Seraiki and Urdu as their first-languages also expect this kind of moral probity from the PML-N for their languages? Of course not."

Until the first week of April the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa renaming controversy seemed to be part of a cynical political game being enacted by the Muslim League opposition parties to delay what would become the crowning achievement of the post-BB-Shaheed PPP--the passage of the transformational 18th Amendment. Just when it seemed to be going pear-shaped, Nawaz Sharif seemed to relent on his position on the name of the province, having won the argument on judicial appointments. On April 8, the National Assembly passed the 18th Amendment, and history was in the making.


Over the weekend of April 9, however, protests in Hazara Division (which is made up of five districts, Abbotabad, Haripur, Mansehra, Battagram and Kohistan) grew visibly louder and angrier. When police firing resulted in the deaths of eight people in Abbotabad on April 11, I was convinced that while the "Noon League" may still be guided by national interest, the PML-Q's incurable cynicism was costing lives and, perhaps as importantly, costing the people of Hazara a chance to celebrate a glorious moment in national history with the rest of the country.


During the past two weeks, I was repeatedly asked a question that is a common Pakistani response to things that we know very little about. "Who is behind it?" The utter absence of a rational and linear tradition in the Pakistani discourse, and the dominance of the military in civilian affairs have produced this involuntary reflex of conspiracy-theorising in the Pakistani mind. When we don't agree with a cause, and we see large crowds protesting that cause, our natural and instinctive response is to question the legitimacy of the cause itself.

Many of us that were involved in the movement for the restoration of the chief justice of Pakistan of course know this feeling all too well. For the better part of two years, the historic movement was repeatedly described as a product of one kind of conspiracy or another. From army officers to PPP jiyalas, anyone that was opposed to the movement had a wild theory to explain the movement. Anything, but to have to accept that the movement was real, and represented real people's real aspirations.

Though tempted to lay into the PML-Q and its desperation as being primarily responsible for stoking a fire among the more than five million people of Hazara Division, I thought it might be worth my while to actually call some of my friends and acquaintances that belong to the region. After speaking to several people from Hazara that come from completely different walks of life, I was even more ambivalent. For some strange reason, people from Hazara, including ethnic Pakthuns, kept expressing a deep-seated disappointment at the renaming of the province. Sooba Hazara (the demand for a separate Hazara province) came up in every conversation.

The next day, determined to explore what was really going on, I decided to make the short trek up to Hazara Division to find out for myself: who is behind the unrest in Hazara?


The answer, I discovered quite quickly and emphatically, is simple. Discounting for all kinds of response biases, the predominant force behind the unrest in Hazara are the people of Hazara themselves.

 

The question of why people from Hazara are so strongly opposed to the name Pakhtunkhwa for their province is not a simple one to answer. The demand for Sooba Hazara is the product of a complicated confluence of factors, rather than a simply linguistic or ethnic issue. The deaths of eight protestors on April 11 has given thrust to the deep sense of resentment that the Pakhtunkhwa debate has ignited in one of the most stable and peaceful regions in the country.


One of the people I met in Abbotabad was Baba Haider Zaman, the former District Nazim of Abbotabad and now the head of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, cross-party rainbow coalition that is articulating and amplifying the demand for Sooba Hazara. Zaman is a frail and saintly old man who seems physically incapable of being angry about anything. A lifelong local politician, Zaman shot to fame in the region when he stood up to Nawaz Sharif in the late 1990s, an era during which Sharif was virtually invincible in the region. Zaman was endorsed by the PML-Q the last time he won an election (as District Nazim of Abbotabad), but is a fiercely independent politician.

That independence is what has helped coalesce every single political party in the region around the coalition that he now leads. Their demand for a separate province seems like a manufactured one at first. Yet when I spoke to ordinary citizens, businessmen, bus conductors and waiters in Abbotabad and in Haripur, there was universal support for the idea. Hazarewals are not making this up. There is real and palpable resentment at the ANP, and a national narrative that seems impervious to the idea that the Hazara region cannot be, by any measure of ethnicity, language, and politics, Pakhtunkhwa.


I repeatedly badgered the people I met, to explain to me why they resented their Pakhtun brothers for being able to live in a province that validates their identity. To a man (and woman), I was told that the people of Hazara have no resentment for Pakhtuns. And to a man I was asked why it was so difficult for me to understand that Hazarewals are not Pakhtuns.


I met local politicians from the PPP, the PML-N, the MQM, the PML-Q, Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiatul Ulema-e-Islam. Every single one wants a separate Hazara province. The two ANP MPAs from the region (Gohar Nawaz Khan and Qazi Asad) are even further ahead of the field. They have already filed resolutions in the provincial assembly for a Hazara province.


There should be no doubt. The autocratic leaders of the political parties might now attempt to get mileage from the issue of Sooba Hazara (as Chaudhry Shujaat is attempting), but they stand widely discredited in Hazara.

The unrest in Hazara is the product of a complex and long-standing cocktail of administrative, political, social, ethnic and linguistic issues. It is organic and unlikely to disappear from the radar of regional and provincial politics for a long time.

(To be continued)

www.mosharrafzaidi.com

 

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I. THE NEWS

EDITORIAL

LET THEM KNOW

TAYYAB SIDDIQUI


Pakistan's involvement in the war on terror as a front-line state has, over the last eight years, played havoc with its economy which was already in a bad shape due to many factors including the Afghan war and the resultant influx of three million Afghan refugees. It had to bear, yet again, an awful burden. The war has cost Pakistan enormously and will have far-reaching consequences on its political and strategic future. The tragic part of the whole exercise is that neither the people of Pakistan have been taken into confidence with regard to the range and extent of their country's involvement in the war or the consequences thereof, nor the international community has been briefed on the magnitude of Pakistan's suffering.


The operation against militants in the tribal areas, besides entailing huge losses, has led to the exodus of about half a million civilians from those areas, disrupting their lives forever. There has been a lot of talk of economic assistance and aid provided to Pakistan but no accurate figures are available from any source. It appears from the condescending manner in which aid to Pakistan, particularly from the US, is announced, that a great favour has been done to Pakistan. Also, there is a lot of confusion on the issue of disbursement of aid. The US administration has informed Congress that Pakistan has received $18 billion including $11.5 billion as "military assistance" since September 2001. Of this amount, $7 billion are on account of the Coalition Support Fund. While the amount cannot be verified, its designation is grossly misleading. The payments on account of the CSF are reimbursement of the services rendered and facilities provided by Pakistan and should not be mentioned as assistance.

Pakistan's role in the war led the country to near financial collapse in 2008 and it had to ask its friends to bail it out from the crisis. Strangely enough none came forward. President Zardari in his naiveté expected $10 billion from international donors but not a single cent was committed until Pakistan agreed to the humiliating terms of the IMF. A group was formed by the name of 'Friends of Pakistan' and a conference was held in Tokyo in 2008 in which pledges to provide $5.638 billion to the country were made. Till date only $251 million have been received against the actual commitment. This should have been an eye-opener for our government.


Also, much hype was created about the strategic dialogue but regrettably none of Pakistan's request was given any tangible response except for announcing $125 million for the energy sector. Pakistan must make it clear to the world in general, and to the US and the European Union in particular, that it will continue its cooperation in fighting terrorism only if it is provided full international support on various fronts including the economic front.

So far the government has failed miserably in letting the international community know the enormous price Pakistan has been paying to make the region terrorism-free and to promote global peace and security. If terrorism is a threat to world peace and security, as indeed it is, other countries must also come forward and take the strain in order to eradicate the menace of terrorism from this world.


The writer is a former ambassador. Email: m.tayyab.siddiqui @gmail.com

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

FLEECING SCHOOL FEE SYSTEM

 

THERE are, of course, some private schools which are, by and large, service-oriented with motivated people running them with the mission to spread quality and modern education. These schools are contributing significantly to the promotion of education and students of these institutions have shined in different spheres of life.

But these are exceptions and the fact remains that the vast majority of private schools are nothing but money minting dens, run by non-professional and greedy individuals, who know nothing about education but use their institutions to fleece the general public. Missionary spirit is totally lacking and these are considered by their owners as an industry and have become so-called education tycoons. A survey conducted by the APP, the leading news agency of the country, has pinpointed the pathetic situation prevailing in private education sector, where students and parents are forced to pay heavy fees for poor learning. Apart from a number of drawbacks and deficiencies, they have become another source of financial burden on the hard-pressed people as fees are hiked every now and then and suddenly without any justification. They charge hefty fees comparable to those imparting quality education and extending a number of facilities to students but are far behind in ensuring delivery of the required service. They receive exorbitant fee from students but pay pitiably low salary to teachers and even do not make them payment for summer vacation despite getting full fee from students for these holidays. They also get heavy amounts in the name of annual charges, registration fee, library fee, sports fee, security and laboratory fee but have no such facility or negligible set-up for the purpose. Their teachers are also non-qualified and by the time they get necessary experience they move out to greener pastures. The survey has also rightly pointed out that the students are advised to buy school uniform and stationery from the fixed stores from where the owners get commission. Uniforms and syllabus are also changed very frequently, adding to the burden of the poor parents. We have education ministries both at federal and provincial levels but regrettably they have closed their eyes to this broad daylight robbery that takes place everywhere in the country. The present Government, which claims to be people's Government, should please listen to the plight of the parents and devise a transparent and effective mechanism to regulate working of the private educational institutions. Parents should also have a say in this mechanism.

 

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

THANK YOU CIA!

 

ACCORDING to a report by Washington Post, the CIA has magnanimously changed its tactics of killing people through the dreaded drone attacks. It reportedly is using new, smaller missiles and advanced surveillance techniques to 'minimise civilian casualties in its targeted killings of people in Pakistan's tribal areas'. We are thankful to the American intelligence agency for its humane, considerate and caring view of its mission to kill innocent people.


Shouldn't this show that ultimately the CIA has started thinking about the woes of the people and has come out with a perfect mechanism for precision killing of terrorists and militants? In the first place it makes no difference whether you kill people with sword or bullet. Murder is murder by whatever means you carry it out. Secondly, the CIA claims that the technological improvements have resulted in more accurate operations that have provoked relatively little public outrage but the claim is rebutted by two counter-terrorism officials of the United States who have been quoted to have said that the number of civilian deaths is 'extremely low' meaning thereby that innocent people continue to become target of these attacks. You can't justify or compensate the loss of even one human being and here thousands of people have been killed mercilessly for no fault of theirs. Thirdly, it is not the only question of use of sophisticated technology and better ground coordination to avoid collateral damage but the real issue is that of violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan. People of Pakistan have been condemning these attacks and urging the United States to respect the former's sovereignty. There has also been demand that the United States should transfer the technology to Pakistan and the mission to target terrorists should be left to the latter's forces but there is no visible progress. The only solution to this problem is to halt these attacks altogether, as sophistication in technology is a mere gimmick, which would not satisfy the people of Pakistan.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

MAKE PEOPLE AWARE OF VAT'S IMPLICATIONS

 

WHILE the country is passing through a difficult period where it is accepting worst type of dictation from the IMF, the Government is in a hurry to get approval of Parliament and Provincial Assemblies for enforcement of Value Added Tax (VAT) from the next financial year, which is one of the conditions of the Fund. However there is opposition to its imposition from business community and Sindh Province has adopted a different course making it known to the Federation that it would collect the VAT on Services on its own.


It appears that the stakeholders are either not fully aware of the VAT or they are interpreting it for their own advantage. VAT is a general consumption tax levied on goods and services. It has become a pivotal component of the tax systems of both developing and transition economies and seen as a key instrument for securing macroeconomic stability and growth. The Government had committed to the IMF that integrated VAT regime would be enforced on goods and services with its collection through FBR. However in the 7th NFC Award, the Federal Government had accepted the right of provinces of taxing services. As a result Sindh Province compelled not only the Federal Government but also the IMF to accept its demand. According to experts, if Sindh's demand was accepted, there would be disputes on origin and destination between Karachi and Islamabad, double tax burden and high collection cost. We think there is a need to inform the people, particularly the business community about the implications of the imposition of VAT so that their misunderstandings could be removed, otherwise there would be again protests and shutdowns that would further dent our economy already under stress due to prolonged load-shedding. VAT being an indirect tax is a regressive tax and the main challenge for economists and tax designers would be to mitigate its regressiveness and make it consumer-friendly. At the same time we would impress upon the Federal Government to make Sindh agree on the imposition of an integrated VAT on goods and services otherwise it would be difficult to implement it.

 

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PAKISTAN OBSERVER

EDITORIAL

WAR ON TERROR, SOME FOOD FOR THOUGHT

FRIENDLY FIRE

KHALID SALEEM

 

On the outskirts of the beautiful city of Algiers a visitor would find the very well maintained Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery. Buried there are servicemen who lost their lives fighting for the ultimate victors during World War II. Etched on the gravestone of one young soldier one finds the epitaph: "Some day we shall know the reason why". Could there be a more apt summing up of man's anguish over the insanity of war than this poignant outcry of the distraught family of this young victim?


Despite the so-called march of civilization and the staggering advance of technology, the tragic fact remains that, try as they might, no one has so far been able to accurately pinpoint 'the reason why'. Over the years men have gone to war against other men at the behest of ambitious leaders, killing and maiming their fellow beings in the process. And yet, when history was at last writ –by the victors – nothing but nothing emerged to justify the carnage, the cruelty and the havoc wrought as a result of these horrendous campaigns.


History of man's march toward civilization (?) is replete with vivid instances of man's inhumanity to man; of man's greed, rapaciousness and untold ambition. All to what end? Man's inherent mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong is, instead, utilized to justify the unjustifiable; man's covetousness of what is not his but rather the veritable right of his fellow beings. This has ever been the tragedy of humankind that appears to have lost its way in the labyrinth of rapaciousness and untold ambition. Each war that has been fought has had its own peculiar justification and its own particular set of advocates. These advocates (spin-doctors in modern lexicon) take pains and go to any extreme not only to justify the conflict but also to glorify the gory details in ways only these individuals are capable of. In the current conflicts the powers that be have coined a brand new pretext: preemption. This pretext is based on the philosophy that a mighty power has the inherent right to hunt down and destroy any hapless minion that in its opinion could one day be a threat to its own selfish interests. It is all a bit wooly but then it is not for the victims to reason why. The two wars being waged in Afghanistan and I